Alec Soth's Archived Blog

September 23, 2007

This post is not about sex machines

Filed under: artists,artists & family,editorial photo,education,the sentence — alecsothblog @ 12:57 pm

Not every photographer finds his or her subject through moody introspection. One of the goals of my recent SFAI class (‘Finding Your Subject’) was to show students the possibilities of assignment photography. While I would never say it is right for everyone, editorial work can be useful in exposing photographers to new subjects. I often use the example of Larry Sultan. After he made his brilliant book Pictures From Home, Sultan did an assignment for Maxim Magazine that led to his book, The Valley.

One of the photographers I invited to my SFAI class was Timothy Archibald. Archibald makes his living almost exclusively through commercial and editorial photography. Perhaps because he is removed from academia, Archibald spoke to the class with a rare mix of honesty and enthusiasm.

Archibald explained that a lot of his editorial work focused on middle-class, domestic life. Inspired by one assignment that had him photographing a man in his garage who’d invented a new kind of foosball table, Archibald began looking for other kinds of inventors. This led Archibald to the subject of his book, Sex Machines.

After publishing this provocative book, Archibald’s “sentence” was pretty much carved in stone. This seems to be one of the side effects of photographing something especially juicy. (“He’s the guy who photographed Christ in piss,” etc). Don’t get me wrong. Sex Machines is a remarkable book. I urge you to learn more about it (here, here, here). But this isn’t the only thing you should know about Timothy Archibald.

I’m pretty sure that Archibald agrees. If you go to his website, you won’t find a single reference to Sex Machines. But then, Archibald’s website seems pretty much geared to getting jobs. While the pictures on his site are well produced, it all feels pretty slick. To get the good stuff, I recommend going to Archibald’s blog. In an inversion of Sultan’s trajectory, Archibald’s new work is about his family.

As with his class presentation, Archibald writes about his work with honesty:

So what is with all these weird images of my kid?

I’m not sure myself. I do feel like I’m trying to create, with photographs, a map, a diagram, a sentence that somehow communicates all the stuff that arises when dealing with my 5 year old boy. Wonder, discovery, emotional chaos, and a feral sense of physical randomness are the words I use when trying to describe the project to myself or others. The pictures may be communicating something else…I just don’t know yet.

Archibald is clearly in the early, experimental stages of this work. But he is getting some interesting results:

With this image, Archibald writes: “My eldest son was sick last week for 48 hours. He found a stick and bent it in three places, making a perfect square. Yesterday I found a message I wrote to my wife on a post it note.”

Again, there is something thrilling in this honesty. Archibald isn’t afraid to explore the emotional ambivalence involved in mixing photography and parenting. In a post that I definitely relate to, Archibald recently wrote:

It’s kind of tricky to switch gears from days in which my only obligation is to take photographs and stick a fork with food in my mouth, to these days at home that involve waking up with the kids, getting them what they need emotionally and physically, having a relationship with Cheri, with the kids, and dealing with all the real relationships that exist outside of the bubble of the long, on-the-road photo shoot. Its an adjustment, and I find myself anxious for the simplicity of the photo shoot: someone is there to work out the details, food is always around, the subjects are new and we are all fascinated with each other….we are all in love with each other for the bubble of the shoot, and then it’s time to go. Then home, the adjustment starts. It takes a few days home for the pleasures and satisfactions of all the rich stuff, the complex emotions that are what home is about to really sink in.

The reason I brought Timothy Archibald to my class was to promote the possibilities of assignment work. I believe it can be a good source of inspiration. But Archibald taught me something else. As the cliché goes, genius is 1% inspiration. It really doesn’t matter what you do for a living. Whether you teach, sell furniture or produce commercials, the important part of making art is digging into “all the rich stuff, the complex emotions.”

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September 19, 2007

Image Makers / Image Takers

Filed under: books,education — alecsothblog @ 6:34 am

When I assemble reading lists for photo classes, I prefer to use texts by other photographers. My all-time must-read essay for students is Robert Adams’ ‘Making Art New’ from Beauty in Photography. I’m also crazy about David Hurn and Bill Jay’s conversation, ‘Selecting A Subject’ from On Being a Photographer (free PDF here).

There is a great new book featuring a huge number of photographic voices. The author, Anne-Celine Jaeger, selected twenty photographers to interview. The diverse group includes William Eggleston, Eugene Richards, Mario Sorrenti, Rineke Dijkstra and yours truly. You can read Thomas Demand talk about Titian and read me talk about, um, sweating:

Q: How did you overcome your fear of photographing people?

Soth: I started out with kids because that was less threatening. I eventually worked my way up to every type of person. At first, I trembled every time I took a picture. My confidence grew, but it took a long time. I still get nervous today. When I shoot assignments I’m notorious amongst my assistants for sweating. It’s very embarrassing. I did a picture for the The New Yorker recently and I was drenched in sweat by the end and it was the middle of winter.

Did I say that? Is there a publicist (or dermatologist) out there that help me?

In addition to the photographers, Jaeger interviews 10 professionals from the world of photography. I was particularly happy to read Jaeger’s interview with Gerhard Steidl. After talking about his experience as a printmaker for legendary artists like Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik, Steidl talks about why he gave up his own photography:

After printing for several years, I looked at what I’d done and was never really satisfied with myself. I thought I wasn’t talented enough and didn’t want to end up as a third rate artist in some Hicksville town and only ever look up to others better than me. I thought it would be much more exciting to work with and for those great artists…

I see myself as the artist’s servant. I help the artist turn his vision into reality by offering the technical know how…Every book is produced a la carte and developed individually according to the artist. I’m not interested in knowing how much a book costs; I just want to do it the best possible way.

Too good to be true? Nope. As my friend Donovan Wylie said, being a photographer at Steidl right now is like being a musician at Stax Records in the 60’s.

How do you get a book published by Steidl? Anne-Celine Jaeger asks Gerhard Steidl this very question. The great thing about Image Makers / Image Takers is that Jaeger isn’t afraid to ask the simple things you want to know. “What advice would you give a young photographer,” she asks Stephen Shore. “Is it hard to balance personal work with editorial work,” she asks Mary Ellen Mark. “What advice would you give to photographers who would love to see their work published?” she asks Kathy Ryan.

Want to know the answers? Buy the book here.

September 7, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: education,poetry — alecsothblog @ 9:11 am

The Correspondence-School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students
by Galway Kinnell

Goodbye, lady in Bangor, who sent me
snapshots of yourself, after definitely hinting
you were beautiful; goodbye,
Miami Beach urologist, who enclosed plain
brown envelopes for the return of your very
“Clinical Sonnets”; goodbye, manufacturer
of brassieres on the Coast, whose eclogues
give the fullest treatment in literature yet
to the sagging breast motif; goodbye, you in San Quentin,
who wrote, “Being German my hero is Hitler,”
instead of “Sincerely yours,” at the end of long,
neat-scripted letters extolling the Pre-Raphaelites:

I swear to you, it was just my way
of cheering myself up, as I licked
the stamped, self-addressed envelopes,
the game I had of trying to guess
which one of you, this time,
had poisoned his glue. I did care.
I did read each poem entire.
I did say everything I thought
in the mildest words I knew. And now,
in this poem, or chopped prose, no better,
I realize, than those troubled lines
I kept sending back to you,
I have to say I am relieved it is over:
at the end I could feel only pity
for that urge toward more life
your poems kept smothering in words, the smell
of which, days later, tingled in your nostrils
as new, God-given impulses
to write.

Goodbye,
you who are, for me, the postmarks again
of imaginary towns—Xenia, Burnt Cabins, Hornell—
their solitude given away in poems, only their loneliness kept.

September 6, 2007

Schjeldahl on Teaching

Filed under: education — alecsothblog @ 9:35 pm

I had a lot of fun with Schjeldahl Week last January. Today a reader brought to my attention Peter Schjeldahl’s lecture, Why Artists Make the Worst Students. At first he sounds a bit cynical:

A college education is, and should be, people wanting typical careers in the structure of the world. Education must not distort itself in service to the tiny minority of narcissistic and ungrateful misfits who are, or might be, artists.

But Schjeldahl ends sweetly:

A lot of education is like teaching marching; I try to make it more like dancing. Education is this funny thing. You deal for several years with organized information, and then you go out into the world and you never see any of that ever again. There’s no more organized information. I’m trying to establish within my seminars disorganized information, which students can start practicing their moves on.

Sounds like a great class. Read the whole lecture here.

Quiz: Name the senior

Filed under: artists,education,quizes & assignments — alecsothblog @ 3:11 pm

Back to School week continues with a pop quiz. Name this senior:

Charles H. Traub’s Do’s and Don’ts of Graduate Studies

Filed under: artists,education — alecsothblog @ 6:22 am


by Charles H. Traub from the ‘The Chicago Years’ (1970-1977)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Graduate Studies: Maxims from the Chair
from the book The Education of a Photographer
by Charles H Traub, Chair of photography at SVA

The Do’s

  • Do something old in a new way
  • Do something new in an old way
  • Do something new in a new way, Whatever works . . . works
  • Do it sharp, if you can’t, call it art
  • Do it in the computer—if it can be done there
  • Do fifty of them—you will definitely get a show
  • Do it big, if you cant do it big, do it red
  • If all else fails turn it upside down, if it looks good it might work
  • Do Bend your knees
  • If you don’t know what to do, look up or down—but continue looking
  • Do celebrities—if you do a lot of them, you’ll get a book
  • Connect with others—network
  • Edit it yourself
  • Design it yourself
  • Publish it yourself
  • Edit, When in doubt shoot more
  • Edit again
  • Read Darwin, Marx, Joyce, Freud, Einstein, Benjamin, McLuhan, and Barth
  • See Citizen Kane ten times
  • Look at everything—stare
  • Construct your images from the edge inward
  • If it’s the “real world,” do it in color
  • If it can be done digitally—do it
  • Be self centered, self involved, and generally entitled and always pushing—and damned to hell for doing it
  • Break all rules, except the chairman’s


by Charles H. Traub from ‘Indecent Exposure’ (1980’s)

The Don’ts

  • Don’t do it about yourself—or your friend—or your family
  • Don’t dare photograph yourself nude
  • Don’t look at old family albums
  • Don’t hand color it
  • Don’t write on it
  • Don’t use alternative process—if it ain’t straight do it in the computer
  • Don’t gild the lily—AKA less is more
  • Don’t go to video when you don’t know what else to do
  • Don’t photograph indigent people, particularly in foreign lands
  • Don’t whine, just produce


by Charles H. Traub from ‘About’ (2003-2006)

The Truisms

  • Good work sooner or later gets recognized
  • There are a lot of good photographers who need it
  • before they are dead
  • If you walk the walk, sooner or later you’ll learn to talk the talk
  • If you talk the talk too much, sooner or later you are probably not
  • walking the walk (don’t bullshit)
  • Photographers are the only creative people that don’t pay attention to their predecessors work—if you imitate something good, you are more likely to succeed
  • Whoever originated the idea will surely be forgotten until he or she’s dead—corollary: steal someone else’s idea before they die
  • If you have to imitate, at least imitate something good
  • Know the difference
  • Critics never know what they really like
  • Critics are the first to recognize the importance of that which is already known in the community at large
  • The best critics are the ones who like your work
  • Theoreticians don’t like to look—they’re generally too busy writing about themselves
  • Given enough time, theoreticians will contradict and reverse themselves
  • Practice does not follow theory
  • Theory follows practice
  • All artists think they’re self taught
  • All artists lie, particularly about their dates and who taught them
  • No artist has ever seen the work of another artist (the exception being the post-modernists who’ve adapted appropriation as another means of reinventing the history)
  • The curator or the director is the one in black
  • The artist is the messy one in black
  • The owner is the one with the Prada bag
  • The gallery director is the one who recently uncovered the work of a forgotten person from his or her widower
  • Every galleriest has to discover someone
  • Every curator has to re-discover someone
  • The best of them is the one who shows your work
  • Every generation re-discovers the art of photography
  • Photography history gets reinvented every ten years
  • New galleries discover old photographers
  • Galleries need to fill their walls—corollary: thus new talents will always be found
  • Galleriests say hanging pictures is an art
  • There are no collectors, only people with money
  • Anyone who buys your work is a collector—your parents don’t count
  • All photographers are voyeurs
  • Admit it and get on with looking
  • Everyone, is narcissistic, anyone can be photographed
  • Photography is about looking
  • Learning how to look takes practice
  • All photography, in the right context at the right time is valuable
  • It is always a historical document
  • Sooner or later someone will say it is art
  • Any photographer can call himself an artist,
  • But not every artist can call himself a photographer
  • Compulsivness Helps
  • Neatness helps too
  • Hard work helps the most
  • The style is felt—fashion is fad
  • Remember, its usually about who, what, where, when, why, and how
  • It is who you know
  • Many a good idea is found in a garbage can
  • But darkrooms are dark. . . and dank, forgidaboudit
  • The best exposure is the one that works
  • Expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights
  • Or better yet, shoot digitally.
  • Cameras don’t think, they don’t have memories
  • But digital cameras have something called memory
  • Learn to see as the camera sees, don’t try to make it see as the human eye sees
  • Remember digital point and shoots are faster than Leicas
  • Though the computer can correct anything, a bad image is a bad image
  • If all else fails, you can remember, again, to either do it large or red
  • Or, tear it up and tape it together
  • It always looks better on the wall framed
  • If they don’t sell, raise your price
  • Self-importance rises with the prices of your images on the wall
  • The work of a dead artist is always more valuable than the work of a live one
  • You can always pretend to kill yourself and start all over.

September 4, 2007

Can/should art be taught?

Filed under: education — alecsothblog @ 9:28 pm

I recently dipped my toes into the art education industry. After several waves of exhilaration and despair, I’m happy to find myself back on the relative terra firma of this blog. But I’m struggling to bring any coherence to my impressions. With only two weeks spent at the San Francisco Art Institute, I’m not qualified to offer much on the topic of arts education. But something is nagging at me. Something seems wrong.

In a recent article in Art in America entitled ‘Art schools: A Group Crit,’ my unease is validated by a couple of educators with a lot more experience than me:

Cocteau said that poetry is a machine for the manufacture of love and that all of its other properties were lost on him. The acknowledgment of art’s powers of intimacy is too dicey for the business of college.

Art occurs in a state of grace. This can be patiently explained and somehow understood–there are enough artists to verify it–but then you are asked to teach. This can be exhausting. So it is more convenient to have an educational methodology. However, the result of this compromise is a lowering of expectations.
Archie Rand

Dave Hickey made the boldest comments. I don’t agree with everything he says, but his comments are worth quoting in full:

1. In the present moment, artists are better off training themselves at home and acquiring the benefit of a good liberal arts or art historical education. This, because the model for graduate art education, established in the early ’70s by John Baldessari and others (myself included), is 40 years old and virtually obsolete.

2. Art schools are unhappy, ugly places. They tend to inculcate philistine, institutional habits of mind and to teach young artists more about teaching than about art. Since teaching art has been destructive to the practice of every artist I know who teaches, I try never to forget that the few good, serious teachers of art pay a price that’s way too high for the privilege of doing it.

3. Teaching art, in my experience, is a genuine privilege that comes with its own oath to “do no harm.” It also breaks your heart.

4. Art is a cosmopolitan practice best taught in cities near the water. Teaching art in a provincial cultural environment that does not celebrate and embrace change is totally self-defeating. It transforms art into a compensatory discourse that can help a stranded student maintain his or her sanity for few years in the boonies. It cannot, however, help people who teach under these conditions maintain their sanity. These people are doomed….

5. Teachers of art practice have one overriding obligation to their students: to be intimately familiar with the contemporary standards of art practice, discourse, trade and exhibition against which their students’ work will be measured–so their students will know the unspoken rules they are choosing to break or not to break. The art market itself should be dealt with evenhandedly and explained in detail. It is a fact and an option from which students should not be cloistered. Demonizing the art marketplace does more damage to students than exposing them to collectors and dealers who are irrevocably a part of the art world.

6. Art school must be free or cheap. It is virtually impossible for a young artist to establish a mature, courageous practice with a six-figure educational debt.

7. Art students should not be placed under the authority of older practicing artists whose work they are mandated to render obsolete. This guarantees bad advice and destructive criticism.

8. Any teacher of art who conceives his or her job to be “teaching young artists to think critically” should be fired immediately for intellectual dishonesty.

9. All group crits with faculty and students in attendance should be abolished immediately. These crucibles privilege the verbal over the visual and allow faculty members to poison and manipulate peer relations among their students.

10. Nurturing attention paid to an art student should never be confused with attention paid to nurturing art.

11. Unfinished work should be presumed not to exist.

12. Art in the context of an art school always looks bad, especially when it’s very good.

13. Regular supervision and oversight of young artists’ practice should be suppressed. My rule: “If you’re not sick, don’t call the doctor.”

14. If art students want to study Continental theory, they should learn German and French and study it in a philosophy department. Because (1) art schools are incapable of distinguishing properly between theory and practice; (2) art school classes in these subjects are little more than uncritical “slow pitch” indoctrinations taught by advocates rather than scholarly adepts; (3) all of the American translations of this work are poisoned by the moment of their making; (4) this entire discourse is now “historical”–a dated, conservative, academic field of study and no longer live talk.

15. Only saints can nurture real talent. I am a writer, not even an artist, and even I can’t avoid feeling a twinge of resentment when a pimple-faced twerp with a skateboard under his arm shows me a mature and persuasive work of art. I can see, much more clearly than the twerp, the road opening before him, the obstacles falling away, and it’s all I can do not to stick out my foot and trip him. If I were an artist, with a stake in the game, I would probably trip him, and tell myself that it’s for his own good. It wouldn’t be. Better to buy the damned art and take your profit on the back end.

The longest ‘Art Schools Group Crit’ was made by Robert Storr. But Storr’s solution for creating a good program seems quite simple: “You can’t go wrong hiring John Baldessari.”

Baldessari’s secret to teaching also seems pretty simple. In the current issue of Modern Painters, he says to Michael Craig-Martin, “You can’t teach art; that’s my premise.”

Craig-Martin, formerly of Goldsmith’s College in London, agrees:

I sometimes said to students, “I could tell you everything I know, everything I could think of saying to you in a day or two. But it wouldn’t make any difference, because you’d understand all the words, you’d write it all down, it would all make sense, and it would be absolutely useless to you. The thing you have to do is you have to act it out.

Bill Jay said something similar while reflecting on his twenty-five years of teaching (pdf):

In my own experience, the only learning which has been meaningful has been self-motivated, self-taught, self-appropriated, self-discovered. As the old saying goes, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.”

How can the needs of the student be better served? I wish I knew. All I do know is that the biggest single factor inhibiting education is the educational system. The problem is that as soon as alternatives are suggested, these alternatives become ossified into a different, but equally rigid, system – and I am well aware that criticism alone is not very constructive. Ideally, I would eliminate all examinations, the credit system, grades, and the declaration of majors. I would even dispense with degrees.

My recent teaching experience had wonderful moments. Some encounters with students were so good that I was ready to quit my day job. But this exhilaration was more than matched by some serious angst. It is dangerous, and for me devastating, to share my greatest passion in an atmosphere of wasteful apathy. Like a small drop of fixer spilled into the developer bath, this apathy threatens to spoil the whole creative process.

At the end of the two weeks I found myself asking the same questions that Robert Adams asked in his essay on teaching: Can Photography Be taught? Ought it to be taught? If so, am I the one to teach it?:

Can Photography Be taught? If this means the history and techniques of the medium, I think it can. The latter, particularly, are straightforward. If, however, teaching photography means bringing students to find their own individual photographic visions, I think it is impossible. We would be pretending to offer the students, in William Stafford’s phrase, “a wilderness with a map.” We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery.

Ought photography to be taught? If at the beginning of my own photography I had taken a course in the mechanics, it would have saved time. Learning the history of the medium might also have been done more systematically in a class, but it was fun and easy to do on my own. As for the studio courses in “seeing” – which usually place student work up for evaluation by both classmates and teachers – I was never tempted to take one, and so am not attracted to teaching one. Arrogantly I believed right from the start that I could see. That was the compulsion, to make a record of what I saw. And so listening to most other people speak didn’t seem helpful. Even now I don’t like to discuss work that isn’t finished, because until it is revised over the span of a year or several years there are crucial parts that are present only in my mind’s eye, pieces intended but not yet realized. If I were forced to pay attention, as one would be in a class, to a dozen different understandings and assessments of what I was putting together it would amount to an intolerable distraction, however well mean. Architect Luis Barragan was right, I think: “Art is made by the alone for the alone.”

Am I one to teach photography? When I consider the possibility I can’t help remembering a question put to me by an affectionate and funny uncle when I told him I might become a minister – “Do you have to?” Experience later as an English teacher brought up the same issue. Teachers must, I discovered, have a gift to teach and the compulsion to use it. And faith. Anything less won’t carry you through.

When I ask art students what they want to do after graduation, 9 out of 10 respond with some variation of “teach, I guess.” Forgetting that there will never be enough teaching positions to support all of these graduates, I’m skeptical. Along with teaching creative thinking, art schools should encourage creative ways of making a living. If students are interested in art education, they should approach it creatively and critically. It is certainly worthwhile to ask a variation of Adams’ three questions:

Can art be taught? Should art be taught? Who should teach it?

September 3, 2007

Careers in Photography

Filed under: career,education — alecsothblog @ 10:19 pm

Today is the first anniversary of this blog. I’m happy to have made it this far, but I’m feeling a little guilty. With an average of 2,000 unique visitors per day (and 220,000 visitors in total), I fear I’ve squandered the opportunity to provide much of a public service. Too many of my 310 posts have been devoted to subjects like Erotic Baseball Photography, Pamela Anderson, Rabbits n’ Circles, Jesse ‘the body’ Ventura and, of course, Sandwich Jumping. So in hopes of doing some good for the photo-blog community, I’m posting something that might be helpful:

January 15, 2007

Mr. Cotter

Filed under: critics & curators,education — alecsothblog @ 11:24 pm

kotter1

It is not exactly Rosie vs. Trump, but critics Tyler Green and Regina Hackett have tried to suggest a philosophical difference between NYTimes critic Holland Cotter and myself. For the record, Mr. Cotter gave me one of my first national reviews. It was a good one. I forever kiss his critical feet. If he wants art to be educational, I’m ready to be his Vinnie Barbarino.

All joking aside, I don’t think there is a big battle between beauty vs. education. To quote another critic, Peter Schjeldahl, “Beauty is not a concept. It is the animal joy of the mind.”

October 18, 2006

FAQ: advice regarding MFA degree

Filed under: education,FAQ\'s — alecsothblog @ 10:06 am

In the last week I’ve been asked three times for advice about grad school. As much as I’d like to offer up some sage words, I know very little about that world. I didn’t get an MFA and haven’t taught at a grad school. I have some preconceptions about various programs, but I’m honestly pretty ignorant.

One should be wary of taking advice from Mark Kostabi, but this is how he answered the MFA question in his perversely calculating (but equally entertaining) Artnet Column:

Dear Mark: I am a sculptor living in New York and have an unusual background. “Unusual” meaning that I didn’t go to grad school. And without the proper connections in the art world, I have struggled. I missed out on the opportunity to benefit from the practice of “art studentism,” as you call it. But lately I have been invited to better and better shows and seemed to be on the verge of something, and I thought the pain was over. My good friend, who is a pretty successful artist, “confessed” to me she really thinks everyone thinks an artist with no MFA on the bio looks sloppy. I would love to go to grad school but I can’t afford it. Is there no other way?
signed ‘Anonymous’

Dear Anonymous: Sometimes I wonder if I had gone to grad school, would I now have billions, instead of mere millions, in the bank? But then I remember that I’m often asked to lecture to grad students, so in a way I am in grad school. I’m definitely not against formal education — I went to art school and loved it, but I didn’t get any kind of degree, except a high school diploma. I was taught, at Cal State Fullerton in 1980, that a degree didn’t matter to make it in the art world. So before finishing college, I left California and enrolled in the New York art world, which was like going back to high school, with all its cliques and social games about whom you’re seen with and what dinners and parties you’re invited to.

But that was then and this is now. Except for occasional reverent musings about guru John Baldessari at Cal Arts, few people in the 1980s ever talked about the importance of art school or which school you went to. That was contrary to the opulent ‘80s party mood. To put the words “Basquiat” and “Yale” in the same sentence would have been like writing gibberish in two completely different languages.

Today, however, I’d say that you should arm yourself with anything you can to make you, your art and your resume as impressive as possible. The climate has changed. Collectors and dealers now respond to words like “Yale,” “Columbia” and “Hunter.” But it’s not mandatory. Ultimately collectors are not hanging your diploma. It’s true we all know that John Currin went to Yale, but how many people can tell you what school Picasso, de Chirico or Caravaggio went to?

Artists are ultimately remembered for their original artistic achievement, not for the prestige of their degree. Art Studentism really isn’t the only way to enter the art market. Since you’re already in shows and can’t afford grad school, focus on those shows. Build on those relationships and the successes you already have. Talk to the people who are already supporting your art and let them know you’d like to work together to amplify the business — but not just for you — help them succeed with your work too.

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