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Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Artists Draw on Facebook to Connect or Sell Their Work

Established collage artist Michael Anderson with his work on display at the Claire Oliver Gallery in Manhattan, where he currently has a solo show. (Photo By Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

USA Today

March 21, 2011

Connecting with a job

But being a good self-promoter helped Elyce Abrams, a painter from Philadelphia with 1,932 Facebook “friends,” land a show in New York last year. “One of my friends on Facebook was showing at their gallery, and he had commented on my work and his gallery saw his comment. That’s how we connected,” she says.

But even while savvy social media use can help an artist’s career, those who seem to sit on Facebook and post all day long may not be taken seriously, says painter Amanda Church of New York. “I sometimes think ‘Get to work’ when I see people posting and commenting a lot.”

Artists and critics agree that social media sites have expanded opportunities for artists in smaller fields and unified them.

Typeface designer Chris Lozos of Falls Church, Va., says the font design world consists of about 500 professionals, many based in Europe. He uses Facebook and Twitter daily to keep up with colleagues and clients.

“Most of us are one-person shops and can’t afford blitz media. This is the poor man’s marketing,” he says.

Animators like it for the same reasons. “We are like moles sitting in separate holes,” says New York animator Signe Baumane, who shares works in progress on Facebook. “I get to see a lot of very fresh movies.”

Artists who move far from home, such as Victor Ekpuk, a Nigerian-born painter who has lived in Washington, D.C., for the past 12 years, says his website and Facebook page help keep his Nigerian family, friends and fellow artists up to date on his blossoming career, including a recent sale to the Smithsonian. It also has helped him reach out to young people.

“There’s a group of artists I connected with on Facebook called Take Me to the River. We’re collaborating with artists from around the world — professional poets and visual artists — to help at-risk youth who are poets and artists,” Ekpuk says.

Social media sites also are spurring vibrant conversations about the arts. The recent Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery controversy over the museum’s decision to pull a video excerpt of an ant-covered Jesus on a Crucifix generated a heated debate on Facebook and Twitter, Greene says.

Ironically, those same social media sites sometimes censor art. Earlier this year, Facebook pulled down a drawing of a nude female torso — mistaken for a photo — posted on a page by the New York Academy of Arts.

“It happens on YouTube all the time, too. Classic works of video art have been posted that contain nudity and they’ve been taken down — these are works by well-known artists who are in museum collections, and they end up getting booted,” says Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight.

“Social networking sites create the illusion of being public spaces, but they are corporate and they’re owned. Any freedom is an illusion,” he says.

Though the free-for-all sharing of art on the Web can draw positive attention and unite artists worldwide, it can work against an artist, too, says Paddy Johnson, a popular New York-based art critic and blogger.

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