Wet Stuff : The Art of Painting a Business

Guest Starring Danielle Rae Miller

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Wet Stuff: The Art of Painting a Business
Episode 6
Guest-Starring Danielle Rae Miller


KD, “Welcome to today’s podcast. I’m here with Danielle Rae Miller, who is a teaching artist at CNM and IAIA. Danielle, thank you for being on the Podcast.”

Danielle Rae Miller, “My pleasure.”

KD, “So Danielle, how long have you been a teacher?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “In some ways it feels like my whole life, but officially. at least twenty years—twenty-five years—something like that.”

KD, “When did you become an artist?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “I tend to say that I was born an artist, but I think that it became something I practiced regularly when I was 13 and I’m 46 now, so what is that? 33 years? Did I do that math right?”

KD, “(laughing) What things should a professional artist have prepared for their career?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “Oh gosh. There’s all different ways to look at that question. On one level you just—and the answer that most artists will give you is you just need to love your work. You just need to make work and love your work, but to get it out there into the world, there are these specific art world standards that are just the way that the art world works. You might call it an artists packet. You need a resume, even if it’s very simple, you need a bio, which is like a narrative of the basic highlights of your resume written in the third person: so, KD Neeley is an artist who lives in Albuquerque NM, might be the first line. And then three or four more lines, that’s your artist bio. An artist statement about your current body of work, and/or your work in general. Those things are key, in addition to excellent photo documentation of your work that you can email out at any moment. So those documents: photographs of your work, digital images of your work that are excellent high quality representations, a bio, a resume, an artists statement, you should have ready to go at any moment. Drop of the hat. That’s the basic stuff. Beyond that, there’s more. I think a website of some kind, internet presence is really necessary. It doesn’t have to be a formal website, but a collection where people can easily just go look up what you do, or find you online. I think social media interaction is also really important now.”

KD, “Do you have any tips you are willing to share about preparing and participating in public art?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “Yes. My tip would be to never hesitate to call the people at the public art office. If you’re looking at a call for entries for a public art proposal there’s usually a contact number to get information or ask questions. Call the number. Talk to the people in the office. They are there to be helpful. They’re often just super, easy, wonderful, people who are really excited to have new people apply to their calls for entry. They want to be helpful, that’s what they do, so call. Use the number. Contact people and the more you can do it in person, in this case, the better. So call. Don’t email, call and talk to someone. it is, I think, that’s the place where I’ve made wonderful relationships with people. Just having conversations, and where I’ve gotten a lot of good information that I wouldn’t have gotten had I not actually picked up the phone and made the phone call. So that’s the tip. Beyond that, I think it goes back to those documents that we just talked about, high quality representations of your work. If you want to be doing public art proposals consistently, you probably need Photoshop or someone in your life who really does well with Photoshop, so you can put together proposals that look professional. You want your images that are proposing a future work of art that’s not yet made, to really seem like a possibility. You want to build that believability into it. Here’s what it’s gonna look like.”

KD, “The reason I ended up going to CNM in the first place was because I came across a class that I could not find anywhere else, Career Art Concerns, that is the entire reason I went to CNM, so that I could get into that class and you were the instructor of that class.”

Danielle Rae Miller, “I actually teach a similar class at IAIA now which is called, The Business of Art. It’s slightly different, but it’s basically the same material.”

KD, “Do you think that business is a subject detrimentally neglected in an artists’s educational curriculum?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “Yes. The simple answer is yes. I think that for artists business is really hard, and so I think that it is something that we don’t really want to think about. And the truth is that most academic artists, teaching artists, artists who are college teachers, don’t have to think about the business of artists so they’ve chosen a different path. They probably don’t feel strongly about the need to professionally sell your work in the world. Their focus really is on the creative part of it. It often feels like two totally separate things, the creative part and the business part. For many artists it is. For you, it may not be, I think you’re doing this wonderful thing here building community and showing your work, showing others’ work. For me, it really is separate. The business stuff really is separate from my creative production. I think most artists are like that. So it’s difficult, but I think yeah, some really basic fundamentals. Not everyone needs to know how to run a gallery. Not everyone needs to know how to have a business license. Not every artist is gonna need a business license, but just some basic stuff for sure, yeah, like even just how to do your taxes.”

KD, “What’s the most important subject that aspiring independent artists should research and focus on?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “in terms of business?”

KD, “In terms of being an independent visual artist. Do you think business is the most important thing to focus on?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “No, I mean I think that there are many pathways for artists. Some artists really want to make a living selling their work, that’s one pathway. For other artists they want other ways to work. They might want there to be some sales of work, but they want to teach, they want to do murals, they want to do community projects. Maybe as an artist you’d rather just be in the studio making work, having shows when you have them, and work in a cafe in the morning. That’s fine too, you know? A million different pathways. I think what’s key for artists, who want to have a life as an artist, is to be absolutely self honest, to accept the fact that they have to do this. This is not just like, ‘Oh I’m gonna make a million dollars if I get the next famous painting!’ No. It’s gonna be a hard life if this is really what you want, for most of us. Most of us are not gonna be millionaires. Most of us are not interested in that pathway. Ultimately, what we need to know is who we are as an artist, what we want, and what the best pathway for us is—and then finding that way. If it is selling your work, then you’ve got to really look at how to make that happen. If it really is about the making of things that are not necessarily sellable in the world, then that’s a different path and then you’ve gotta get that information. Then there are lots of variables inside all of those things. So I think it’s just that self acknowledgement of, ‘I make this type of work. I’m not really that interested in making this kind of work,’ and it’s either gonna sell or not sell. And, ‘I like to engage with galleries,’ or, ‘I don’t,’ and whatever that is, there are so many ways to do it. But to know yourself and what you want is key because you can’t—I think that the thing that where people might go wrong is some idea that you have to make a different kind of work in order to live or survive, and that’s the place that’s gonna kill your soul. So, we do this as artists because we have something we want to express, right? I hope. And inside of that, our best place, or our most powerful place, will be the place where we’re making the work that we have to make, not because we’re slightly tempering that to make it sellable. Right? Does that make sense?”

KD, “Yes. Can you talk briefly about the history of women in art?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “(laughing) Briefly! I don’t think I can talk briefly about the history of women in art. Can you ask a more specific question?”

KD, “Why should women artists participate in women artists’ groups?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “Groups of women that get together to talk about things, or group shows, or—?”

KD, “Like a show that’s only for women artists, for example.”

Danielle Rae Miller, “Oh, okay, specific for an exhibition?”

KD, “Yeah.”

Danielle Rae Miller, “I feel like that’s a really individual decision right now. I wouldn’t say that that’s what women should do. I don’t think there’s anything in particular that women should do. I think that women should believe in themselves and follow their own path, that’s the only should that there might be. For some women having a women’s only show might really make sense. For some women it might not. For some women at certain points in your career that might make sense, at certain times it may not. Many women artists—very, very, famous ones—historically, one that comes to mind is Georgia O’Keeffe—hated being considered a woman artist because it was a category. We all, of any different incarnation, race, gender, sexuality, whatever you are, none of us, as an artist, wants to be labeled as the best black artist, the best woman artist, the best gay artist. We just want to be the best artist. That’s it. You know? So, that’s hard given that, there’s still a culture that is not fully equitable in any way. Not just gender based, but in all the ways. The art world is just a tiny microcosm of the larger world, with some other issues at play that are probably more hidden, and part of the feminist movement in the arts was to sort of put those things on the table. Right? Is to say, ‘Wait a minute here, this is not just about aesthetics, or drive, or ability, that’s just as much’—can I swear?”

KD, “Yes.”

Danielle Rae Miller, “That’s just as much bullshit as in any other industry. No. Women have all the drive, they have all the talent, they have—they’re not biologically unfit to be artists. That’s bullshit, right? So what the feminist movement was about was saying, ‘Okay, no.’ And in order for women to start understanding who they could be as women artists, independent from a patriarchal system, they started to have shows and schools and places that were women only. Right? That’s just part of the women’s movement in the 70’s in general, but it definitely was part of the sort of art revolution that happened at that time. There was an art school in CalArts, it was the feminist art program that was run by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, and they did an installation called ‘Womanhouse’. Womanhouse, for the first, I believe it was the first day that it was open—it was all installations by artists in the feminist art program in a house that was donated to them, so it was these sort of domestic style installations—the first day only allowed women into the exhibition. What they said was that, as women-only were walking through the exhibition, the comments were completely different than in the subsequent days when they opened it up to anybody and there would be groups of women and men together. When women and men were together, women didn’t make the same kinds of comments, and I’ve seen that over and over again at play. I’ve seen it in the classroom, I’ve seen it in small group situations, at parties—and this is also with women who are very outspoken, intellectual—there’s just something that shifts. I think it’s one of the things that we don’t even understand about gender dynamics. I don’t know if that happens for men because I’m a woman. I don’t know if men shift what they say. I think they do, actually. I think that men probably say different things when they’re only among other men. Right? And it’s the same for women. In that context there’s kind of a safety, there’s an understanding, there’s a place where women artists in a women’s only show—a situation that’s only women—really makes sense. But I think, more and more, it’s limiting and it’s definitely career-wise, just in terms of basic professionalism, it’s probably—I don’t know a single woman artist who would ever want to be limited that way. I think when it makes sense, it makes sense, and there’s no reason to shy away from it necessarily, if it’s something that seems good, and feels good, and is a positive situation. I think there are, kind of groups, where women might get together and talk about work, and support each other as artists, and support each other professionally. I think those are awesome. I think those are super important. I just—The women’s-only group show is a little bit challenging sometimes.”

KD, “What do you say to women who believe that it is as equally sexist to perpetuate women’s groups as it was to have women banned from men’s groups?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “I would say that—I’m just gonna say it super straight-forwardly—we live in a patriarchy. This is a patriarchal culture. Across the board, worldwide, there is not a single place on our planet that is not male dominated. Not one. And the entire recorded history, every time when there is a written history, it is patriarchal. We have no recorded time in history, nothing that we can solidly point-to to say there was any equal balance of power, to say that there was anything except a patriarchy. Now, do I believe there was? I do. I think before recorded history things were probably much more equal, but we have no record of that, so I’m just gonna call bullshit on that one. I think that when people are living in a situation where there is one dominant culture that actively, or inactively, creates and perpetuates a power dynamic, it’s necessary to address that. Whether it’s gender, or race, or economic inequality, or any of it. It’s always interesting to me when, if we switch just the conversation of gender over to race, it’s a lot more obvious when we start to speak about some of that stuff.”

KD, “Okay. When opportunity in the arts is equal, what does that look like?”

Danielle Rae Miller, “We don’t know. We don’t know anything about equality. We’ll never know—well I don’t think we’ll know in our lifetimes, KD. I don’t think we’ll probably know in the next few lifetimes.”

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