Imagine your biggest dream. 

Now imagine a bigger one, really allowing yourself to release the ceilings of your imagination. 

Look beyond your own existence, beyond your own life, beyond money and fame, and flirt with the big picture of your art however you define it.

Look beyond this generation, or however many years you believe you have left on this planet, and think: What will your art have left the world? 

Consider that your creations, your pieces, will outlast you in years, and that your art takes on a life of it's own beyond your hands as it travels from owner to owner. Who will it effect and how? Where will it go, where could it end up? By what method is your art able to change other people's lives just by existing?

 

- - -

 

Now switch from dreaming it, to being it. 

 

Tim Curry, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

 

More times than not, discussions about building a legacy begins with people writing their own obituaries and pretending to be dead. And for good reason- it helps release our minds from the material motives and reasons we make up for doing what we do. 

Too abstract? Start with something small, for example, "Once I leave that room full of people, how will they remember me?" Usually we fall into the realm of 'Out of sight out of mind'. The key is to have your art, actions, thoughts, and presence be so long lasting that it ripples around the people you interact with, much longer after you've left.

 

- - -

And now the switch from existentialism to artistry.

I admit, the aforementioned suggestion is macabre, instead of an obituary, try writing your desired encyclopedia entry instead, a sample entry for “The Art Book”, or writing a manifesto. It can be your personal one, or one that intends to effect and benefit a group of people. The Latin term Manifesto is taken from the root ‘manifest’ meaning ‘to make visible or to reveal’. A manifesto reveals your intent, helps you make and set measurable time oriented goals, all in an attainable and realistic manner.

The almighty Wikipedia has a fantastic list of art related manifestos to peek at and poke through: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_manifesto.

 

 

Check out Andre Breton's 1st Surrealist Manifesto, and his 2nd with amended intent and named supporters like Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.

 

If you haven’t defined it yet, dip into your artist statement, it might be hiding in there. Chances are you already know what is truly important to easily decode the primary purpose and intent behind your work. Be true to your purpose, vision, and aim. Be unwavering, and stick with it long term. 

Expand on that purpose and find or build a community around it, delve deep and find like minds to help reinforce that central objective, and keep that dialogue going. Whether your legacy is a personal one, or one meant for others, eventually you’ll need to turn the dialogue into actions and events, and create tangible realizations of that vision. And then repeat, repeat, repeat, even after you think your efforts have been enough. That’s when you’ll begin to see the effects long term.

Here are two great business articles about leadership and legacy, the themes can be applied to artists as strongly as it is to CEOs: 

http://www.inc.com/les-mckeown/how-to-leave-a-leadership-legacy.html

http://www.success.com/articles/861---live-your-legacy

 

- - - 

 

During the SNAG Toronto conference, Damian Skinner's "Jewelry Mandala" segment provided a great example of specifically describing his sociological vision of the field in the form the diagrams below. These diagrams succinctly define and establish groups of diverse jewelers to help artists understand how they fit into the big picture of the jewelry field. 

 

Oppi Untracht's original diagram.

Damian Skinner's response to Untracht’s diagram is that "it puts all the emphasis on the maker and the studio, rather than on the life of the jewel once it leaves the jeweler’s care." And causes him to define what he desires to be altered in ‘The jewel mandala’, "which deals with the functions that jewelry has from the wearer or user’s point of view." These approaches and his continuing efforts in analyzing and communicating the theories of craft and art jewelry history will no doubt have a lasting impact on existing and future generations of jewelers.

Oppi Untracht's original diagram.

 

 

Check out this 2009 Jewelry Manifesto by James Sweeney: http://www.mardonjewelers.com/blog/the-slow-jewelry-manifesto/

 

- - -

 

Legacy building takes time. Once you define your big picture and purpose, it's easier to fill in the missing smaller pieces to get you there. Those small pieces to your puzzle may be:

 

  • Classes you want to take, classes you secretly want to teach.
  • Reaching for an award, writing grant proposals.
  • Gaining real world art experience, exhibiting work in local, national, and global shows.
  • Gallery representation, finding & establishing relationships with galleries who believe in your art.
  • Philanthropic art, getting your art involved in charities or starting an art foundation yourself.
  • Developing new processes or techniques and giving lectures or workshops on the topic.
  • Having your art shown in printed publications, online blogs, film, and TV.
  • Getting your work on the fingers of public figures and celebrities. 
  • Being a part of art organizations or starting an artistic community.
  • Building a definitive brand or timeless art style so your work is recognizable at first glance.
  • Protecting the technical and legal aspects of your work through ongoing intellectual property support.

 

Turn a S.M.A.R.T. goal into a smarter one to achieve the small steps leading up to your big picture.

- - -

Let's switch back to the romanticized idea above: Your pieces having a life beyond your hands, and outlasting you. A chance exists that the pieces you create will get handed down through family estates, will be viewed under panes of glass in a museum, and can even be used in a film that wins best picture and is watched by generations to come. These may seem far fetched, pie-in-the-sky ideas, but next time you visit the artifacts section in a museum and look at the jewelry, ask yourself if those artists envisioned their art would end up there too. 

 

Just as Faulkner's characters wrestle with questions of their own existence and identity, ask and answer the questions about your artistic existence and artistic identity. Dream about the legacy you want to leave behind, then slowly define it so you can easily become it.

 

And if you like the idea of discovering your legacy through writing an obituary, watch this TEDtalk from Brad Meltzer given in 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgiixRwn6xU

 

Be the change you want to see in the [art] world.

 - - - 

-Rebecca 

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