Most artists cite “process” as a key element in their studio practice, in terms of experimenting with materials and ideas in making a work of art. However, when setting career goals, the process tends to be something to be endured, more about achieving a certain outcome rather than luxuriating in all the tasks required to get there. So many of us in creative fields are focused on getting from point A to point B, and much less interested in learning from the thousands of tiny opportunities to stretch, strive, learn, and evolve professionally.
Perhaps this is because these moments feel extraneous, taking us far from the sanctuary of our studios and into rigorous, competitive, extroverted, and administrative roles where we don’t necessarily feel comfortable. Spending a weekend writing a grant application or responding to emails or attending public events can be exhausting, physically and creatively. However, it is the process itself of building an art career that enables an artist to arrive at a much-anticipated destination with a solid foundation of support.
If artists have properly invested in their career, step by step by tiny step, and especially by building solid relationships with all kinds of collaborators, they will be prepared to make the most of every professional opportunity. Not only will they have the skills, language, and networks necessary for a successful outcome, each achievement will propel them toward their next set of goals, which come with new and difficult problems to solve.
Artists are not always keen to talk about this process, but it’s incredibly helpful when they do. For this reason, I was excited to interview Jackie Maria Milad, a longtime friend and colleague, who has recently experienced a number of high-profile successes over the past few months.
This year, in addition to the solo Armory booth, she was one of two artists selected for a competitive commission at the Baltimore Museum of Art, one of two recipients of the 2022 Baltimore Municipal Artist Society Travel Prize, and just completed a residency program (with an ongoing solo exhibition) at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD.
We spoke first at the Armory Show in New York in September, where her colorful, process-laden, mixed-media works were featured in a solo booth mounted by SOCO, an art gallery located in Charlotte, NC. We talked again the following week by phone, where she admitted that it was thrilling and wonderful, but after several full days greeting artists, collectors, and curators at the fair, she was the most tired she had ever been. One of the reasons Milad is able to be a prolific creator is because she gathers energy from working alone in her studio whenever possible, and she was honest about needing time alone to conserve her energy throughout the weekend.