An artist in Cleveland muses on the years of no selling

A dad in North Carolina let his kids
go wild on the picnic table.
Then sealed it for posterity.


The other day I met an artist in Cleveland I hadn’t seen in person since the crash years. She looked phenomenal for the wear and tear of the previous 7 years.

It’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed. Those who grow from trauma speak with a certain fondness about what they’ve learned. Those who shrivel from trauma curse the fates.

There we were, she and I, discussing how we got through the Great Art Depression. It was the Great Recession to the culture. To the art world it was cataclysmic. Four-fifths of the galleries in our immediate vicinity went belly up. That’s an 80% die-off rate.

Our area was unusual in that it was hit by the recession and the Madoff fraud. The death spiral accelerated faster than in other areas. Still . . .

My artist friend noted she took a part time job.

“Basically, my art wasn’t selling. But I kept painting. It was weirdly freeing. Since no one was buying the art anyway I began to experiment more.”

Commercial pressures didn’t apply anymore . . . which freed her to do work that felt deeper and more rewarding. She drifted away from her previous galleries and toward more urban galleries that felt in line with the new work.

For her, the years of few sales inspired her most satisfying creative evolution since her early days — when she was grappling her way toward a unique artistic vision.

Contrast this with the artists who shut down, who stopped creating. There can be no growth without movement, even if the direction is at first too murky to discern.

If you stop in the dark you stay in the dark.

The dark path always comes out into the light, a sometimes dazzling light. But only if you travel it.

For you 

Evan Griffith
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