Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Is it possible to promote your art too much?

2017 . 02 . 09 - Comments / Commentaires (4)

Can you talk about your art so much that you end up turning people off instead of getting them interested? The simple answer is: probably not.

The more complex explanation takes us back to September 2008 and to Portland, Oregon, where I first showed Apple Pie, a series of portraits of first and second generation Americans.



a Mexican-American as a different kind of Superman

Gwenn Seemel
This looks like a job for a chicano! (Mexican-American)
2008
acrylic on bird’s eye
19 x 25 inches
(For more information about the making of this painting, visit this post.)

These paintings were personal. I am the child of an immigrant, and, over the years, I have felt like that makes me more American than people whose families had been in the US for a while.



Raha The Riveter

Gwenn Seemel
Raha the riveter (Iranian-German-American)
2008
acrylic on canvas
41 x 38 inches
(For more information about the making of this painting, visit this post.)

But the timing of the series launch turned the personal into something political. Because, in the months before President Obama was elected, immigration was a hot topic, more so than it usually is when we are auditioning a new commander-in-chief. It was the first time in history that one of the candidates was brown.



a Vietnamese-American as Uncle Sam

Gwenn Seemel
Chú Xam (Vietnamese-American)
2008
acrylic on canvas and eyelet
36 x 24 inches
(For more information about the making of this painting, visit this post.)

Fast forward to 2017 and New Jersey, where I now live. We’ve just installed a new President, one who’s focused on ridding the United States of the brown people who already live here and on keeping any new ones from coming in.



remake of American Gothic

Gwenn Seemel
Amazigh Gothic (Algerian-American)
2008
acrylic on panel
25 x 30 inches
(For more information about the making of this painting, visit this post.)

I’m showing some of my paintings from Apple Pie at the Long Beach Island Foundation.



remake of American Gothic

At the opening for this exhibit, a friend, someone who’s been to my studio on multiple occasions, sees my Apple Pie work differently now that it’s on the gallery wall. They ask me if the work is new because the topic is so timely.



Vietnamese-American Uncle Sam

Moral of the story: your audience is always growing and shifting, meaning that not everyone in it has seen everything you’ve ever done. Promote your old work if you feel it’s still relevant, either politically or personally.



status

I was doing just that the other night when I posted this status about Crime Against Nature on Facebook. The response comes from someone I met in 2003. They’ve been on my mailing list for years and they’ve been my friend on social media for almost as long.

We’re all overstimulated in today’s world, with more information coming at us all the time. If artists want to promote their art effectively, they need to get over the idea that people might tire of their marketing.

In all my years as a professional artist, I remember only two occasions when people have told me I’m overdoing it. Maybe more have complained and I’ve conveniently forgotten; maybe others feel the same and they haven’t told me. Nevertheless, there are far more instances of people being excited to learn about my art. The two examples in this post are just what has happened in this last week.


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(4) Comments / Commentaires: Is it possible to promote your art too much?

-- Libby Fife -- 2017 . 02 . 09 --

Gwenn,

So, I only read your blog and see your posts on Instagram. I am not sure how you couldn’t talk about your art, really, since it’s what you do. From my perspective, the timing of the messages is consistent with just the right level of reminding me that you have this or that going on and with just the right referencing to past work and how that is still relevant to right now. I’d say it is more obtrusive to not get messages for a long time and then all of a sudden, bam, there is a message.

And your art looks great hanging in that gallery. It stands out in a very good way:)
Libby

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 02 . 10 --

@Libby: I love it! I love the idea that me not talking about art would be the thing you notice!

When I’ve felt like an artist over-promoted, I think it’s had less to do with how much they talked about their art and more to do with how I felt about it. As in: it felt like too much when I was not a fan of the work or I found the art boring. Have you every felt like an artist was talking too much about their art?

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-- Libby Fife -- 2017 . 02 . 10 --

Gwenn,

I hadn’t thought of it that way. If I don’t care for the art so much I suppose constantly talking about sales might do me in.

I can’t recall having run across anyone who focused on promoting their art to the point where I got turned off. I think I have been more affected by artists whose sole focus is on selling their art-meaning they don’t talk or write about anything but that. Or the only communication I get from them has to do with sales. I like all of the extraneous and peripheral things.

By the way, would anyone knock McDonald’s for constantly promoting their menu items? How about Amazon for their Prime direct service? See what I mean? why would it be different for an artist?

Longer answer than you probably wanted! (I had a long time in the car today!)
Thanks,
Libby

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 02 . 10 --

@Libby: YES! Not to the answer being too long which it’s not but to the rest. smile That difference between promotion and salesy-ness is key, isn’t it?

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