Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thoughts About Getting an MFA

My artist friend, Honey McMoney asks for my thoughts on getting an MFA. Here is his account:

I went up to Bard for their mfa info session yesterday, almost six hours of driving in the rain and then the dark in my brother's family's minivan. I felt like a scene out of a cautionary tale.
As I sat there watching the professors (3, plus program director, current student/straight boy art jock!?) and the attendees (about 20), I realized 1. That I would never get in. On the drive back and since I've decided 2. I'd already done their program in essence, just not with them, but with you and everyone I've been having art experiences with over the last 5 years. 3. Were I 28-32yo this would have been an excellent experience. 4. If I stop giving energy - time, imagination, psyche - to the mfa vision what else can I do with it? 5. What do I want to be learning? 6. By my reckoning I actually have 3 of these things they call mfa and one of those is a double degree. 7. The thing I'm not actually good at is the business, the politicking. 8. It's bigger and richer outside than inside and it's time to stop feeling ashamed of raising ourselves in the wild. Or maybe that's just my projection of shame - my sense that I've failed for not being what? rich and famous? I don't even know! 9. I love making art and damn the torpedoes. 10. I don't think any of us need this degree. That said, I encourage you both in any way that uplifts you!


Here is my answer:

Hang on...jumbled thoughts tumbling around, I'm attempting to catch some of the slower ones.

1. No, an MFA is not needed. There are many artists that are "successful" that do not have MFA's.
2. Define successful and once one has an inkling, this may give guidance or a lighthouse to warn of treacherous waters.
3. I hate the art world here in the States right now. It seems it's about who you know and where you got your degree.
4. An MFA would help me keep completely focused and engaged in creativity, instead of feeling sorrow and unhappiness with the way the art world operates.
5. I have no idea how the art world REALLY works, so all of these ideas, are based on my own shit.
6. "Where did they go to school?" I even ask this. As if the institution has given the artist some special power or secret knowledge.
7. Working in isolation is more difficult for me, so an environment, where creativity is encouraged, would be amazing.
8. I'm not willing to go into serious debt for a "career" that will realistically reward me for my efforts.
9. My art is often dependent on creating a forum that encourages exploration on taboo subjects and uncomfortable feelings. This requires an audience...and audience comes to galleries...galleries often represent people with degrees.
10. Galleries often exhibit safe subjects or artworks that sell.
11. Within MFA programs, it is often encouraged to explore ideas, even to the point of making oneself uncomfortable.
12. I'm tired of applying to things and constantly getting rejected. As a result, I judge myself harshly.
13. I'm not usually one to sell myself, but I do think I have ideas that are valuable to society.
14. Perhaps society is not interested in my subject matter.
15. The art world is mostly made of the upper class and they avoid exploring the things I'm interested in.
16. I make many assumptions and resort to stereotyping. I make grand gestures that may not be based in reality.
17. My feelings and ideas are all I have.
18. I feel past my prime when I see young artists around me.
19. I often feel like giving up. Lately, I have given up.
20. I haven't visited my studio in many, many months. I have not been excited about making art in a long time. So what makes me think that if I were to get into an MFA program, it would be any different?
21. I'm not in a mental state, to think clearly about any of this–my mind is somewhat broken lately.
22. I have an attitude that borders on downright crassness.
23. I like the number 23.

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