the emerging artist

A devil of an information session for the Jerome Foundation travel grant tonight. You'd think going to Nigeria to research a novel would be interesting, but I had to be about the fifth person "going to Africa" to "do research" on something "interesting." So I asked the session facilitator whether it was important that the applicant have a connection to the culture in question, and the answer was "yes and no." Interesting. So I might have just as good a shot applying for a grant to go to Iceland to study whales than Akwa Ibom to study my people? That notion gave me a moment of pause, thinking, Maybe I should reconsider?

I also wonder about this phrase "emerging artist," like I am hatching from an egg. I do not know what it means. My brain thinks "artist in the rough who has not found her way yet." I feel very confused and conflicted creatively. Slightly immature or maybe amateur. But I think the phrase is supposed to be empowering. Then the facilitator drops a name, a choreographer who's been at it for at least a decade, but is still "emerging." I am confused again. He tries to explain the delicate tension between having not yet emerged, but having a strong enough body of work to be "competitive" for the grant (their words, not mine). I feel an inherent contradiction there.

I look around at the other emerging artists, the rabid New Yorkers and misunderstood Eastern Europeans, couple of fresh-off-the-boat Chinese video installation heads, the handful of sistahs (mostly from Brooklyn), and the overwhelming majority of white female choreographers. All on the edge of our seats, clamoring for the same money (and what the hell can you really do with $5K?), thinking the same thoughts of our superior/inferiority, having long since become irrelevant to the world-at-large living in this damn fishbowl NYC. Mostly left wanting to be rid of the strange phenomenon of the New York artist all together. (You know, there is a world in which to live out there.) I am having a cynical moment. My apologies.

Oddly enough, today I ran into one of my friends who says she left her job and is now writing full time. I asked if she got a grant and she said that she had some "savings" so she's working full-time on two book projects. I was speechless. Here I am running to work every morning, never finding any time to write, and seeing the days of my "emergence" stretch on in perpetuity. I am extremely frustrated that I do not own my time. My boss does.

1 comments:

{ Anna Renee } | February 25, 2010 at 12:05 AM said...

Hi there Alligator! What you are pondering is interesting...an
"emerging" artist. hmmm. What is the end result of emergence, though? Fame? Finished work? A body of work? A continual process of creating art?
I admire those who throw "caution" to the wind and go for it. It seems so dangerously exciting.

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