As I pointed out last week, sex and partying are important, but to really have a healthy emotional life, working hard and being productive is a key ingredient. As a matter of fact, Hyperallegeric.com ran a story this week on the same theme of being productive in artsy places like Bushwick, titled: Is a hip base home necessary for good art? I struggle with this shit myself (hello hours spent at Pine Box). Btw: If you’re an artist supporting your art with a day job, the day job counts in the hard work/productivity category. The hard part is motivating for your other job, art making.
Angela Washko, who is an overachiever—has a great social life, makes tons of art and dresses great on no money. I tried to get Angela to share some of her secrets. Angela, who is 26, already has a resume that is way too long to be included here (it has seven categories!). Most recently she served as curator of the Conflux Festival. Plus, she kicks ass at applying for and getting residences, so she has traveled far and wide without having a lot of cash. Some of the places she’s had a residency: Finland, Iceland, Philadelphia, and the Flux Factory, New York, NY (she ran the residency program there as well). Plus whenever I see her out, which is fairly often, she is having fun and surrounded by cool people. Oh, I’m sure she has her shit too, but that’s not the point right now.
Q. What drives you?
A. That is a tough question actually. I have always felt compelled to participate in as many different and challenging things as possible. In high school (and before) I participated in marching band, jazz band, chorus, field hockey, basketball, soccer, track and field, and created artwork. (Not to mention playing video games and reading a whole lot!) It’s taken me a long time to focus on things that are actually interesting to me, which is now basically creating my own artwork/research, facilitating/curating exhibitions and events, and going on adventures. I think finding a subject that is exciting to me and working on new projects challenges me to make new work. Participating in an exciting community of people doing innovative, challenging things drives me to organize. The pursuit of things I’ve never seen or places I’ve never gone drives me to go on adventures. I’m not very interested in “nice things” or “lucrative career things”.
Q. You have so many friends and such an active social life—how do you find a balance? What would you say is your biggest obstacle?
A. I guess it is easier to maintain your social life when so many of your friends are all creating challenging, engaging art pieces and you end up going to their awesome performances/exhibitions/talks/events. So it’s kind of like killing two birds-with one stone. You get to cross off a social obligation AND see really great art. I guess I also end up organizing tons of events that include my social community, so sometimes I end up achieving my social obligations by default when my friends show up. The biggest obstacle is always feeling overwhelmed! When I produce too much, I’m not taking in enough of the outside world and enjoying the sillier things I like to go to (karaoke, dance parties, The Chris Gethard Show, anything at Flux Factory, walks in forests, odd little post industrial towns) which ultimately improves my own artwork. If I go to too many of these things and socialize a lot, and then have work obligations and other commitments, I sometimes feel like I am not getting enough of my work done, and that can make me a little depressed, lost, and irritable.
Q. You manage to travel so much, yet you don’t earn a lot of money. How do you make that happen?
A. I was living a life of extreme poverty for a while—always having just enough money to get by month to month, living in alternative housing situations, eating communally and frugally. I am still incredibly frugal, but in the past year I have gotten more steady jobs and, consequently, more reliable income. Now I also get honorariums for site-specific works and curatorial projects.
The big travel opportunities have just recently happened. Now that I’ve created a lot of work, that has been shown and performed at increasingly more prestigious places—institutions pay me to go there! I just got a grant from the Danish Arts Council to do a research visit and meet with artists in Copenhagen. I also am headed to Helsinki after that for a fully funded residency. I am experiencing this nice shift from applying for everything to being asked to participate and getting to be more selective. –In 2010 and 2011 I paid for residencies. But now one of my criteria for participating in residency programs is that they are funded or at least offer decent fellowships. I have also always been poor and resourceful—so I am willing to look for money and go through all kinds of bureaucratic bullshit to get it! If I don’t find it, I can’t go anywhere.
Q. Since I’ve anointed you the role of productive AND fun artist here for this week, do you see a common thread in how artists around here could be more productive?
A. Aw gee, thanks! *Blush!* I think figuring out what kind of art is interesting to you and finding a community that is actively making work that you like is an essential first step to having fun and being productive. Being around other artists who I respect and who are very motivated inspires me to organize events surrounding those people and also gets me psyched about making my own work. It also improves my “art world” vernacular! I also work with (and consider my friends) a lot of activists, pranksters, troublemakers, performers, and radical collectives—people that are (generally) inherently fun. These people help my practice by introducing me to things I otherwise wouldn’t know—histories, artists, books, variety shows, improv performances—which make my art more informed and also lead to good times.
Q. Do you think hard work makes people more attractive and laziness less so?
A. I have always been attracted to ambitious, specialist, know-it-all people that can also fix things. I really admire people that see things and say “I can fix that” as opposed to ignoring it (whether it’s a tiny hole in my backpack or a public transit problem). I think that attitude is really sexy. I let things slide sometimes because of my own inflated perception of how busy I am. But I only find myself attracted to people who are actively engaged in research and figuring out ways to both get shit done and be the change they want to see. I can’t say there are really too many lazy people in my life, so I guess I am inherently not attracted to laziness.
Q. You’re a cute chick with self-confidence. Do you find that off-putting to guys? Have you had any dating disappointments that you chalk up to being intimidating to guys?
A. You are too kind. I think that sometimes I am a little bit aggressive and I have been told a couple of times that this can be emasculating. I like to pick up people bear-hug style. I am also someone that lacks a filter, so I will argue with anyone about anything sometimes. This can be a little socially awkward and occasionally not very gracious. My lack of a filter also leads me toward being frank about everything! I am not interested in games. I always end up asking guys out because if I am interested, I will go crazy if I don’t know that it is mutual. I haven’t had too many dating disappointments because of being intimidating; I think that if someone were immediately intimidated by me, we’d just never click. I am a tomboy at heart and most of my closest friends are men. I find myself behaving socially and career-wise more like a dude . I also think I actually intimidate more women than men—which is sometimes a little frustrating.
Dear Dr. Lisa,
I am always moving around so it is hard for me to maintain relationships. I have found people that I love but we end up breaking up because I end up moving far, far away from them. I will probably go to grad school far from NYC . . . and I wouldn’t be attracted to someone who had so little going on that they followed my every whim. Is it a bad idea to get in a relationship right now if I will end up moving away anyway?
Getting to know good people is always a healthy choice. If you take things super slow and are upfront right away about your plans, there is some risk of heartbreak, but honestly what is the alternative—saying no to human nature? I do think in this case however, it is super important to emphasize the go-slow part. You don’t want to integrate someone into your life too quickly and then feel like you’re cutting off your arm when you move. This is always a good practice anyway. Some people are more careful about adopting a pet then they are jumping into a relationship with somebody.
A Prescription for All of Us
Dr. Lisa, S.P. (Self-Proclaimed) is ready to address any issue about your art, life, job, sex, you name it. She answers all emails and she will post some of her responses right here. Please send emails to: [email protected].