Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Artist Abroad

Catching Up
Catching up with the NYC artworld from a beach bungalow in Thailand – discussions with artists via Jerry Saltz [art critic] on Facebook, and Edward Winkleman’s blog [gallerist]

Ten years ago as I finished my last year of art school, I realized that to ‘make it’ as an artist, whatever that meant, I had to move to New York City.  And a few years later, I did, though I’d never even visited before.

I did a few things right once I got there: worked with artists and photographers in the gallery-filled Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, went to museums and openings all over town, lived in the hipster neighborhood of South Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

And I did a lot wrong: didn’t make an effort to meet other artists, didn’t make any memorable work in the claustrophobic apartment I shared with two tense roommates, a place we’d rented sight unseen, where bars sliced up the view from our bedroom windows and fat cockroaches wandered our halls.

But really, I wanted to be somewhere else. Not back in the midwest with my family, but somewhere different, somewhere outside the Americas. I’d studied and worked in Europe and wanted to go back there for more. I dreamed of going to Morocco. Was intrigued by Asia.

But New York was where I was supposed to be. That was the only place to make it, went the refrain in my head. Then I lost my job in Chelsea after two planes hit two buildings downtown, and along with thousands of others I walked down Manhattan over the Williamsburg bridge to my home, which I now knew could never be home again.

I knew my future lay elsewhere, was finally able to admit that I’d never really been interested in climbing the Artworld Ladder. It’s a rat-race like any other, starting with University –> to Group shows –> to Solo shows –> to Gallery representation –> to Museum shows and Retrospectives and if you’re lucky, a spot in the art history books.

There are a lot of rules and assumptions along the way, and the most fundamental is that you live where the biggest art scenes are.  Right now, that’s London, Berlin, New York and Beijing.  But I’m not interested in following rules if they don’t match my priorities, and don’t plan to live full-time in any of those places.

So where’s my future? Eventually it’ll be in many places, but for now it’s on the internet, where I can talk to artists in New York and Melbourne and Shanghai, artists I might never meet otherwise. Best of all, thanks to Google Translate, I can communicate with people in dozens of languages that I can’t even speak – yet.  It’s the next-best thing to Esperanto.

And best of all, it lets me work from different studios, anywhere in the world.

[Click to see photos of past studios here]

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