How did you get into debt?
By attending graduate school at RISD and not understanding how drastically deferring on my loans (I graduated to a great economy in 2008) would effect my principal balances and that any time you change your loan payment status, the interest accrues to principal. My initial loans were $87,000 but after deferments and changes, and despite over 5 years of income based repayment (of 15% my adjusted gross income) my principal balance has ballooned to around $140,000. My monthly IBR payments don't pay all of the interest due so the balance continues to grow. I estimate it will be about $300,000 after 25 years of payments when the balance will be waived. At that time I will owe the federal government the taxes on the forgiven amount. Also, as I was an older grad student this tax as will hit as I am retiring - basically leaving me destitute.
How does your economic reality effect your art?
I basically took a long hiatus from making work after grad school. My economic picture hinders my ability to expand my practice and to utilize all of the materials I would like to include in my work (such as aluminum, metals, etc.) as well as my ability to promote my work and to live in a larger urban center again (such as NY or LA) where there is a greater market for the kind of work I create. I can't make larger scale works anymore as there is an expense incurred in storing them that I can't afford. This reality nearly kills my desire to even think about what success with my art may be possible. I feel like it has shut all my options down. I am trying to overcome this negativity but there is a pretty stark economic reality involved making this quite challenging.
Would your work look different if you weren't in debt?:
I tend to work smaller than I would like to due to the expense of materials, as well as the expense of storing it. I also think my work would grow richer and more complex. My debt hinders my ability to try experimenting with new materials and limits the variety of materials I have access to. I frequently use cast making materials like mold making rubber as sculptural materials and these are quite expensive so the work is smaller than I would like. I also would like to make pieces in more durable materials such as cast bronze than I currently use - as my work is somewhat fragile and can break easily - but for me this is prohibitively too expense