Every two years The New York Foundation of the Arts offers a $7,000.00 grant to artists of several disciplines, of which painting is one. I have been applying since 2008. It is very competitive and tends to award where the competition is clustered—the five boroughs of NYC. I don’t think anyone from my county has ever been granted this generosity.
I no longer protect delusions of hope in this state of the art. Here is the cover letter anyway. No judge is supposed to read it before judging (but I know they do:)
“These are all recent works painted within the last year. I paint every day but Sunday. My wife supports my financial needs. I am also a writer, and like Kenneth Patchen, will sneak text into my work, even if it only repeats the title. Unlike Kenneth, and more like Picasso I would prefer to be a rich man so that I could live like a pauper. These paintings have energy. They are vibrant and moving. I don’t wish to be clever. I need to commune. I live next door to a college in a poor county. I have house shows to expose my work. I invite faculty. Even the art professors make a wide berth on opening night. I am not tired of rejection. I just expect it. Like the Beat poets of 1950’s San Francisco, these paintings need to be read aloud with jugs of wine passed around. So please, get up from your chairs and have a drink.
Emerson wrote that the future novels will tend more towards autobiography, one person talking to another about the concerns of her own heart. Painters are their own culture, never one drawn along national, racial or ethnic lines. The great art houses, promoters, gallerists, and art historians have warped the joy of painting into categories of success or failure both determined by finance. We forget that van Gogh was destitute all his professional life. We know the story of he and Gauguin in Arles. Men. Dreamers. But above all, painters in determination. There are no more movements as long as we allow this pandering to the unartists, Koons and Hirst. Just clever-Eddies with their billionaire Dubai cohorts. A great American art collector today owns a football team. Enough said about culture. His life alone makes certain that the art market turns the humble painter into an impractical beggar. Impressionists roll in their graves. They used to meet in cafes to discuss their work, but also subjects on politics, rage and love. Culture for the first modern painters was to be among others of like mind. Not so much today. After a brief jag mixing and applying color to canvas, the hyper-individual artist visits the cafe to pick up a latte to go. Reality T.V. tonight. Netflix has a new series. Maybe he’ll get inspired in the morning with a great idea for another gnostic artist statement to present alone, in an e-mail, from his computer, in a room, with nobody. Some culture! I dream a future for the painter that connects him to others of like mind. Not on Facebook either. Not that dystopian billionaire’s dream. No, we meet in the cafe to give the college grads of tomorrow an essay on art that doesn’t read like a tax write off.
I am just so tired of the make-believe network! Damn you! Look at my work with me standing beside it!”