The Real Starving Artists

New York is the city where you make it or break it. Where you are put up against your biggest challenge and get to prove to the world that you can conquer it. If you can't then better luck next time but if you do then you are a champion, at least for a moment in time. When you're 20-something working in the visual arts in this god-forsaken-haven of a city it can feel like climbing Mount Everest and yet we all are still here, groveling our way up the ladder, around the corner, and over the bridge in hopes that a chance will be given. 

I recently read an article on i-D where five 20-somethings from the fashion industry and five 20-somethings from the fine-art industry were interviewed about their realities financially and job-opportunity wise in New York in 2015. Perhaps two of the interviews were realistically reflective of the majority of friends and colleagues I have met in my time in the city.

Realizing that this is a main media source the rest of the world is reading and trusting as an honest perspective of what is happening in the arts in New York has inspired a series I have decided to embark on about the real "starving artists" of New York. Though I am certainly not the most unfortunate of souls out there and New York's "starving artist" scene is nothing like what it was in the '60's or '70's there are sacrifices still being made and artists being cast in the shadows of the broken industries. 

I know what it's like to sacrifice for my work even though I knew it's wasn't going to make me any money, at least at that very moment. I know what it's like to not want to make work but to need to make work. When it screams from your bones and you can't rest until it comes out in some way or another. And I know what it's like to have to work jobs that have nothing to do with your work but its the only way to be able to stay in the place that your work needs to be created in and to be able to pay for the production of its creation. 

In return I have had to live off of Ramen and peanut butter for weeks at a time in order to buy props or paint or studio time or compensate models/MUA's/etc or whatever it was that was needed. I know that I'm not the only person out there that has done that and more for their work, their dreams, their bleeding soul. Not because anyone wants to live the life of a "starving artist" (there is nothing romantic about working for free for a title on your resume or eating peanut butter because that's all you could afford) but because you have no choice but to create your work, because it is eating inside of you, and you and are willing to do anything to get it out. 

These are the creative souls that make up the foundation of the industry and are often over looked in reflection to those that are given free _____ for an Instagram promotion on their 80K follower page full of selfies and other generic, surface-value promotions. There is so much talking being done and content being produced and filtered into the social media bloodstreams and yet I feel like nothing is being said. 

What are you to do as an artist when you don't care about how many "likes" you get on social media and don't want to have to tie yourself to a brand in order to bring attention to your own "brand"? 

"This industry is hurting and counter-intuitively degrading itself by keeping quiet and not having some type of 'internal anarchy'; by the looks of others getting paid sponsorship's for some detox tea on their Instagram feed as opposed to the dying-Renaissance men like Nick Knight who is still producing visual collectives that make your bones chill."

- Samayah Jaramillo

Banal and mediocre work is gaining colossal amounts of popularity, and why? Because it is easy to process, it is easy to consume quickly and move onto the next thing. The reason that it is so easy to process is because there is only so much depth to it; only so much that even can be taken away. And that banal work is getting sponsored by brands and getting budgets and platforms that are reaching out to even more and more people each day.

Before you know it that banal work is the industry standard and mediocre technicians who have no conceptual mindset or finger on the pulse of societies emotional or spiritual capacity are getting hired to create it. The real artists are getting lost in the mix because they were creating work that took time to process. Work that needed you to stop, for even just a moment, and get consumed by it in a way that leads to self discovery, understanding, curiosity, creative inspiration, and dynamic thinking.

This is the type of work that has elevated society - look at the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans - times in history where art was appreciated not just as something used to decorate the walls but as a medium to connect with the invisible world around us and try to understand it. 

I flip through the magazines and books they sell at the local bodegas and news stand's and I am appalled at what I see. It bores me to tears and I don't walk away feeling better about myself but worse rather. There is a false reality happening in our highly distributed media that feels disconnected from real life in a very empty way. This false reality with celebrities celebrated for nothing but being celebrities, artwork that speaks on nothing but regurgitated pop culture or over-saturated abstract expressionism because there is no actual depth to it, ads on top of ads on top of ads; this is not a reality I want to be apart of. This is not a reality I expected to be apart of.

"We need a revolution. We need to break the store window, raid the insides and spray-paint all over the false exterior that is the Faux-Art and Social Media Realm of this day and age. We need a Revelation on the Filth of this Generation and how Diluted and Benign we have all become." 

- Samayah Jaramillo

There are many stories that need to be told; many perspectives that need to be seen; many words that need to be heard and many changes that need to be made. There is an Epidemic upon us. You see it in art critics quitting all together, top fashion designers leaving top DNA fashion houses within less than 3 years, and murmurings of change happening in every corner of the industries. 

It's time to start a new chapter in the world of the visual arts and I hope that these forthcoming stories may be an enlightening precursor to it.