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Should You Disguise Your Artistic Identity to Sell Art?

Should You Disguise Your Artistic Identity to Sell Art?

Eric Maisel

Just as unfortunately, many artist’s statements have that vague, mind-numbingly abstract quality, such that the artist could be talking about any work or no work, that a viewer can’t help but presume mirrors the artist’s woolly-headed, indecisive, unconfident inner reality. The artist’s intelligence, wit, and humanity do not show through and all the viewer is left with—irrespective of the actual imagery—is a stifled yawn. In both cases the artist has not made a sufficient effort to do the inner work that would result in personality growth, on the one hand, and the creation of an appropriate public persona, on the other.

Janet, a painter, explained, “Whether by nature or nurture, I am a shy person who prefers to spend her time in the studio and who will do almost anything to avoid marketplace interactions. This way of being suited me better when I was learning my craft, as I really did need to focus on what was going on in the studio. But now that I have a body of work—an overflowing body of work at that—I need to step out into the world in ways that I find strange and uncomfortable. I have to make myself do it—it does not come naturally. I actually have a checklist of the qualities that I want to manifest that I keep by the computer, so that every e-mail I send out is coming from my public persona and not my shy studio personality.”

Jack, a sculptor, said, “I’ve been in recovery for eight years now. Before that, when I was actively drinking, I always led with my feverish temper. I had an attacking style—I would interrupt you, contradict you, fight you over every detail and the smallest perceived grievance, and always get in the last word. I was angry all the time, which was maybe a good thing with respect to the sculptures, as they had a lot of angry energy to them, but which was not good anywhere else in my life. Over these eight years of recovery I’ve cultivated a way of being that is more temperate, centered, and essentially gentle. Actually, I’m really still as hard as nails and people really ought not to cross me; but that part of me is kept under lock-and-key and almost never appears in public.”

An artist ought to make her public persona a thoughtful, measured presentation of herself as she puts forward those qualities that she has identified as serving her best in the public arena. What qualities would you like to lead with in your public interactions? How would you like to be perceived? What public persona would allow you to advocate for your artwork most effectively? Build that persona and try it out—in public, naturally!

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