For me, to be an artist is an intellectual choice and a carefully chosen commitment. There is no intoxication.
Being an artist is a way of life rather than a career. Life seems arbitrary and senseless, unless I make a meaning of it myself. Art is a making-meaning activity for me, as well as a communication method with people. In my studio, I make sure I am challenging myself and keeping my total freedom. Although I often struggle in my process of making art, there is satisfaction and happiness. This is the basis of being an artist for me.
Financial success, career and recognition are rather sources of frustration and pain, because I cannot control them too much. I am human and sometimes those things bother me but I try not to be affected. I designate a small amount of time to think about them and shift my focus to more important things.
For the past thirty years, I have made art and exhibited when I had opportunities in commercial galleries, alternative spaces, university galleries and museums. Actually, my first exhibition was in a library. When you are seriously pursuing art, a career accumulates over the years. Whatever small reputation I have now, it didn't happen over night. It developed extremely slowly for me.
I have made relatively little money from selling artwork so far. Some years, it looked good, but the next year, not so good. It has been very unpredictable. It seems to me not so realistic to depend on selling especially if you want to keep your freedom in your studio. Of course, I know there are some exceptions.
I did many things to support myself especially when I was just out of school, from office cleaning to working in a factory while keeping my studio practice. After several years of being active in the art field, painting, exhibiting and being a board member of an artist-run space, I was invited to teach part-time. At one point, I was teaching part-time in four different institutions. It took several more years until I obtained full time teaching.
Again, art is my way of life. I emphasize the process of making art: reading, research, collecting materials, writing, making diagrams and the physical process of making objects. It is my challenge and my reward. I don't think of anything else while I am in my studio.
Michiko Itatani's work has been seen in more than 100 one-person and group exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally since 1973. Public and private collections, include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Olympic Museum, Switzerland, Villa Haiss Museum, Germany; Musée du Quebec, Canada, Museu D'art Contemporani (MACBA), Spain, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea. Michiko Itatani is a Professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has received the Illinois Arts Council Artist's Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.