ANIMAL’s new feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their idea sketch next to a finished piece. This week, New York artist William Powhida narrates the conception and development of his biting infographic-style piece Why Are Artists So Fucking Poor. Taking the guts out of the Art World for you to examine, he is at once “a complicit skeptic and a doomsday preacher.” Now, learn!
I usually carry a sketchbook with me, but particularly when I am going to lectures or meetings. When W.A.G.E approached me to do a drawing for their series of lectures and discussions at Artists Space, I ended up taking a few pages of notes based on Hans Abbing’s lecture. I then based my sketch of Why Are Artists So Fucking Poor on the structure and flow of the original notes, in part to reflect that W.A.G.E. and Abbing are asking us as an art community to think through a complex problem that isn’t going to be solved in a drawing, lecture, or a series of discussions.
In the process of making the final drawing I added different graphs and charts after reading W.A.G.E.’s survey results regarding artist payment by different non-profit arts institutions in New York, which I was already thinking about in the sketch. I am fascinated by infographics and data visualization, but I was also trying to show how important it was for W.A.G.E to prove their case with statistical, socio-economic data. While I realize how important that data is, I also felt a little ambivalent about reducing art to a set of quantifiable data. W.A.G.E. did a beautiful job visualizing all of the data, where I ended up focusing more on how it feels to know what that data means; what it means to struggle, compete, and worry about money and opportunity as artist and most of the time, know that outside the market you won’t be paid for it.