I made a personal decision to pursue a Master in Fine Art from a private institution from 2010-2012. For my creative development, pursuing an advanced degree was essential to my growth, and the Rhode Island School of Design granted me the opportunity to do so. I was accepted as a President’s Scholar, waiving half of my tuition. Regardless of the scholarship, I graduated with $41,371.57 in debt not including interest (RISD’s yearly tuition in 2013-2014 is now at $42,932). Although I was ecstatic about receiving a diploma from a rigorous and acclaimed institution, I wasn’t so thrilled about the bill. In an essay on MFAs published in Modern Painters in 2013, Coco Fusco talks about the burdens of living with such financial pressures that if ignored will triple in size, or if addressed will imperil the ability to make art and shape creative decisions. After graduating, the impact of this new financial burden hit me. Money wasn’t abstract, but a commitment I signed for that now affects my painting practice. I thought, “How can I address this situation without hindering my larger art projects, and use this as a creative laboratory for ideas in painting?” Painting put me into debt; technically, it should also get me out. This thinking led to creating the Painting Debt project.
Painting Debt functions as a supplementary source of income within an accessible market economy that also remains true to my schizophrenic and experimental approach to painting.
The Format: The identity of the project exists through an established and designed panel that functions as a unit of value. Each panel is made of poplar wood cut down to 5 x 3.5 x .75 inches. The corners rounded, each surface has a pre-drilled hole in the back and is ready to hang.
The Price: I decided that for this specific project I would make paintings valued at $100.
The Edition: In order to pay off my loans with interest, material costs, and sales tax, I have to make a total of $50,000. This amount divided by $100 equals an edition of 500.
The Idea: To keep this project exciting and structured, I decided to break up the edition of 500 into 50 series of 10 paintings. For each series of 10, I allow myself to experiment with different materials and ideas. Because the panels are small, the feedback loop is quick and I can control the quality of the work.
The Sale: The paintings are sold on a first come first serve basis in Dallas, Texas.
I currently make a living through my art. I am living and working in Dallas, which works well for me because I can afford a nice studio and time to work. I did have to work in art education after I got my MFA from RISD for two and a half years before I was able to make art full time. It is a dream come true and I hope I can sustain it.
It made me think more about the economic aspects of my practice in unconventional ways. I wanted to find a way to pay it off with out compromising my other projects that I cared about. So, I created Painting Debt.