We finally have warmer temperatures and no more fresh snow here in the south of Bavaria! It is even warm enough to sit outside on the balcony :). Can't wait for all the snow to melt away. I love to go for long hikes and really feel blue when I can't in the winter due to slippery conditions. It will be so good to hike up the mountains again in a few weeks time!
Unfortunately, last week I got some bad news from the Künstler Sozialkasse: my appeal has been dismissed. I tried to gain official artist status with this organisation as it would mean that I get cheaper health insurance and a modest pension plan. The state now sees me as an entrepreneur who makes tons of money each year. The high rates for health insurance and my private pension plan reflect this. You can read my first blog post on this here.
The long letter explaining to me why I am not an artist is written in beautiful lawyer's German. I am so glad that I have a doctorate; it really helps to understand what they are saying. It mainly boils down to: embroidery has never been an artform historically speaking and can thus now not be an art form either. It is simply a craft. That's HUGE!!! This means that unless I am changing my medium, I am never going to be recognised as an artist. Over the past months, several artistic friends have indeed suggested that I should incorporate at least a little paint as that would mean that I can brand my pieces as mixed media. For laypeople: that's one step up from 'textile art' :).
The other point they are making is that my pieces don't have a deeper layer of meaning. And therefore they are no art. Plainly not true. I made the above piece in 2011 for my RSN Diploma. It translates the key-Buddhist principle of 'doing the right thing at the right time' into textile. This was one of the pieces which I submitted to the Künstler Sozialkasse to proof that I am making at least some pieces with this 'deeper layer of meaning'. My RSN advanced goldwork piece, also from 2011, is full of Christian symbolism explaining who St. Alanus was. And my most recent piece of Pope Francis certainly has a whole bunch of layers. I submitted the plans for this piece too. I don't know why they don't acknowledge these points.
But, the whole thing about a deeper layer of meaning = automatically art has a disturbing consequence. What about the hyper-realistic portraits of painters like Holbein? The naturalistic still lives of many famous painters since the Renaissance? Is that not art? Just craftmanship? I also submitted various needle paintings made from photographs of flowers I had taken myself. They were dismissed as not being art.
And what about the wood carvers here in the Ammertal that mainly copy historical wood carvings which sell well to tourists? Most of them are in the Künstler Sozialkasse. My interpretation of a historical orphrey (St. Laurence) was not seen as art either.
My conclusion thus is that my embroidered pieces will never officially been seen as art: I simply use the wrong medium. I now have three options left: 1) take the Künstler Sozialkasse to court and fight the dismissal, 2) change my medium & start a fresh application or 3) become a famous textile artist accepted by peers & start a fresh application. The first option is something I cannot afford and I doubt that I will be able to plead my case successfully. After all, I can't change the history of embroidery. The second option is something I am simply not willing to do. My medium is embroidery, I don't feel comfortable working in paint. The third option is the way I will be going. However, I will probably not submit a new application. As a successful textile artist, I hopefully will be able to pay the full fees for my health insurance and decent pension plan myself. I was raised to be a responsible citizen: you don't ask for benefits unless you really need them.
As suggested by some after my first blog post on this whole matter, I did contact the German embroidery guild to see if they could help. They never replied to my emails.
On the upside: I am now getting health insurance through my husband's employer and don't pay a penny for it. Our family income has fallen below a certain point and that made me eligible. I also met the deadline for finishing my Pope Francis piece (you'll meet him next week!) and submitting it for the Fiber Artist Network emerging fiber artists grant. I just hope that they see me as just starting out and not as somebody who has been a full-blown textile artist all these years without knowing it herself. That would just be too bittersweet....
Oh, for goodness' sake! *fumes* An artist uses their preferred medium to tell the stories they want to tell. Period.
Thanks for your support Rachel! And I'll promise to keep away from plastic fishing net and rope :). That totally cracked me up! And I am afraid you are right: abstract seems to be king at the moment.
How very frustrating Jessica! I have been following your journey with interest and mulling in my mind. While I cannot say if your work is art or not as I am no expert, I am very curious why our societies have decided an artist is more valued than an artisan? I find this even in the most casual of circumstances; I love to embroider and am skilled in many techniques but feel a subtle pressure, from within and without, to create my own design and persue an artists path. This does not appeal to me and I wonder why being an excellent artisan is not good enough, for myself and others? What makes art more worthy than skill?
Thanks for your support Sarah! We in the Western world are so obsessed with this devision between art and craftmanship. Whereas in Asian countries, the one does not go without the other. For me personally, I love to put a 'deeper layer of meaning' into my pieces and becomming a little political with them. That suits my personality; I don't like talking about the weather either :). I hope you will find the right way which makes you happy!
As they say, success is the best revenge. Go for it!
Thank you for your support Irene!
Thank you for your support Meri!
And it is exhausting Dima! But I hope my struggle will inspire and benefit others too. Fingers crossed.
Jessica, my friend and I talk about your case and are so sorry, so dissapointed in the people who just don’t understand your art. It is an ancient prejudice, I think.
Thanks for your support Rebecca! It seems to be a bit like the situation with the cooks. Most women cook, but most high-end cooks are male...
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