Searching for My Schtick

I don’t know what my work is about. I’m not sure that I ever did. I am comfortable in a variety of media, and I have experimented with many different concepts. I grow bored or frustrated when I limit myself to one idea for too long. This is problematic for marketing (or even explaining) my work—to be sellable, an artist’s work must be recognizable. And unfortunately, there isn’t much that ties my work together. I don’t do one thing; I do several. That goes for my life outside of art as well. I either need to figure out the common threads within my work, or I have to lock myself down to a concrete concept. In essence, I need to find my schtick.

I attended an event where a young woman working at a gallery discussed how she was expected to know the work of represented artists well enough to authenticate pieces. She said there is a Dorothea Lange photograph that she knows “better than [her] social security number.” I imagined all of the Dorothea Lange photographs that are never sold or displayed because they do not conform to the others. I wonder how much of an artist’s style or subject matter is dictated by an art dealer.

With all of this in mind, I am embarking on a new project. I am going to make 30 works in 30 days. During junior year of college, I had to make 30 paintings in 30 days as an assignment. It was difficult, and there were tons of pieces that I really hated, but it was a great exercise. There were also tons of pieces that I really loved and still hold in my possession today. Most of them were quite small, for obvious reasons. Producing a lot of work in a short time forced me to reuse colors and motifs until I was ready for a new idea. It also (temporarily) prevented me from becoming angsty when I was unhappy with the result, because I had to move on in order to finish the project.

Unlike my undergraduate project, I will not be limiting myself to a single medium. I have no intention of ever discontinuing a medium (even for purposes of defining my schtick), but I would like to find ways that my different pieces are related. For example, I often use photography to capture subject matter for a painting, but is that all? There must be elements of composition, light, color, or concept that joins my pure photographs with my paintings. I need to de-compartmentalize myself and allow my ideas to bleed across the artificial boundaries in which I have trapped them. And maybe after all of this is done, I will be able to write a decent artist statement—because that’s all about the schtick, right?