A pair of oars slips into the water. My son and I face each other. The lake is at least 20 feet deep, and my heart sinks. Fortunately, the wind was blowing in our favor. It pushed us towards the shore, and yes, not far behind were the oars. We were both relieved.
The art world is like that lake. The oars are your tools of experience and the wind, a potential obstacle. Trusting the wind to move you in the right direction takes courage and patience. Nothing is guaranteed. But you take the risk anyway, and off you go. Not knowing if today the oars will slip from under you.
When I made a decision to become an artist, I did not know where I was going. I did not go to art school until ten years after my career began. I did not have specific instructions in hand to follow. I just made it up as I went along. Now, almost thirty years later, I am witness to a life filled with decisions - some good, some bad. The creative process gives you permission to be yourself. But you have to give over to it completely.
Making decisions about galleries and exhibitions is easy if you just say "yes" to everything. But not every exhibit is complementary. So move slowly when you think you should move fast, trusting your instincts along the way, not your ego. In order to make the job easier you have to do your homework. Find out about what galleries are showing, read their press releases, and if you can, go and visit them often. This way you are not wasting your time, or the dealers time, provided they even have the time to look. If you live in a place like Chicago where there is no "scene" be grateful that you can invent your own thing. I founded SubCity projects in an old elevator carriage in order to show artists. As artists you can create an exhibition space anywhere. Just use your imagination!
Never give up on yourself because then what is the point. Commit to your dreams and figure out a way to get them out there in the world. The art world is one kind of place, and yes, a lot of money can be made there. Go for it, push hard, but you have to have interesting ideas. Don't take no for an answer. And if you commit for the rest of your life, there should be a special joy that follows you, even when doubt sets in and wants to live with you. You can only transform doubt with will power and patience. So if a strong wind blows, you'll be ready to ride the tide out, and not panic because the idea of drowning overpowers you.
Candida Alvarez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Alvarez received her BA from Fordham University, Lincoln Center and a MFA from the Yale School of Art in Painting and Printmaking. She is an alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and was an artist in residence at PS 1 Long Island City, Queens. Her work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world and is represented in numerous public and private collections including The Addison Gallery of American Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and El Museo del Barrio. Reviews of her work have appeared in various publications including Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times. Alvarez has taught at the School of the Art Institute since 1998. She is a tenured full professor in the Painting and Drawing department.