Artist: Eliza McNally; New York, New York, USA
Ann Rea: So I’m just going to be asking you some questions and it’s very, very casual. It’s not formal at all. We’re just going to have a conversation
QUESTION: What was your biggest challenge?
Eliza McNally: Pulling together photographs in a thematic sense so that I could present some sort of a show, and finding the appropriate venue and we get them shown.
QUESTION: Do you want to show your art or sell your art?
Ann Rea: If I can give you just a little bit of coaching, just if you say show stop yourself and ask yourself, is that really what you want to do or do you really want to sell because it will change the way you think and act. But most artists are used to saying, I want to have my work shown and I want to exposure. I’m like, yeah, I don’t, I don’t give a damn. I just want to sell it. That’s what I care about. So it’s a very different mindset and a very different outcome. But we have been, we just tend to repeat, we tend to repeat things that have been repeated to us
QUESTION: What else was the problem?
Eliza McNally: To be doing the work, doing the photography and zeroing in on what I’m trying to capture and say.
QUESTION: What else was a problem?
Eliza McNally: In terms of putting a dollar figure on it, yes. I haven’t got a clue.
Ann Rea: So if the artist doesn’t know what value they’re offering, there are going to be completely conflicted about charging money for it. Because right, on the whole we have integrity and if we really don’t know the value that we offer and who would see it as a value, how the hell are we going to put a price on it?
Eliza McNally: Right.
QUESTION: Have you felt jealous of other artists?
Eliza McNally: Being in a big city like this, I have a zillion places to see art and when they go into the major museums or let’s say the established galleries in Chelsea or wherever, and I see work that I feel is either mediocre or certainly no better than what I have worked to achieve. It makes me feel like, ‘yeah, well, why the hell are they there and I’m not?’ and you know, I, I stand back and I say, okay, well, yeah, I’m just going to have to keep plugging at it, whether I like their stuff is there or not.
QUESTION: What do you think of the art establishment?
Eliza McNally: You’re right about the way set up to be pitting people against each other and there’s a whole, there’s a whole art scene and the whole snobbery that’s involved and who you know is important, I mean it’s just nonsense.
QUESTION: The art establishment vs. The New Creative Class
Ann Rea: Yes. And so it’s a game that’s very rigged. So what artists really need to understand is I highly recommend that you Google “Adam ruins everything”. He very quickly and clearly explains what’s happening so that you understand the secondary art market is rigged. It provides a tax shelter for the very wealthy and it’s like a secondary currency, and by the way, there’s a lot of money laundering that happens in the exchange of art through drug money. That’s the reality when you look at art museums, what you have to understand about art museums is that donations are also a tax shelter for the wealthy and artists cannot donate their art and receive the same tax benefit. So you have to understand what the economic realities are of the art establishment and decide if you want to play that game. I obviously don’t want to play that game. And I learned that from my mentor Wayne Thiebaud.
QUESTION: How do you feel now?
Eliza McNally: I certainly feel much better about not getting on that train, that I have to be recognized train. That goes along with this whole showing that’s hard because it’s everywhere.
QUESTION: What have you learned?
Eliza McNally: I think the first thing I’m still working, I’m almost done with code to July and I think the first thing comes from being able to accept who you are on a very honest level, and recognizing that your behaviors are charted by either negative or positive pathways that you’ve created as a result of what happened in your former life, your previous life when you were growing up as a young adult or experiences that you have had that affected how you behave, what you’re doing.
Ann Rea: Yeah, it’s huge. And an in an artist’s life we sort of live inside of our head and our emotions and our heart. And so this is why this tool of emotional intelligence I think is so critical to my students’ success is really understanding what’s driving them and it’s also going to help inform their expression.
QUESTION: What else have you learned?
Eliza McNally: I really liked the thought of selling emotion,and as a photographer have really enjoyed, you know, I do a lot of candid portraits of people and one of the things that makes it so much easier for me to do that is to actually approach the person and start a conversation with them and not be afraid of the fact that they might yell at me or they might say, ‘oh, go away’ or whatever. And I’ve learned how to (hopefully this is going to be true as I go along) but how to get them feeling good immediately about my being there and approaching them. It’s great to be able to walk up to an elderly woman who just came from church and say that hat you’re wearing is just so beautiful. I would love to photograph you in that. Would that be okay? I’ve actually done that with a couple of older women here in Harlem. They were these amazing hats, all of a sudden they just beam when they say, oh, of course you know it. You just have not be afraid to reach out to that person and to react
Ann Rea: And you ignite that emotion when you asked.
Eliza McNally: Absolutely. Yeah.
QUESTION: What would you have told your younger self?
Eliza McNally: It’s okay to prioritize, even if one section of your priorities does not impede your art because I think the more you can focus on what your priorities are, you do get that priority and you go here is my art and this is what I’m going to start working on. Your focus? You practice your focus. You know how to just be there.
QUESTION: What would you say to other artists?
Eliza McNally: I’d ask them, do you feel that you be able to market your work and the way that is beneficial, or do you feel like maybe there’s something missing and is it possible that you would find a way to open up a new door for yourself? Right? Because you can’t tell people what to do. You have to just hopefully ask them questions that they in turn will ask themselves.
QUESTION: What is different about our community?
Ann Rea: This program is not for everybody. I don’t want everybody in the program and when people like you, I want people like so many of the artists, students that I’ve talked to who help each other, who help themselves.
Eliza McNally: I love that aspect of it
Ann Rea: Isn’t it lovely?
Eliza McNally: Yes, I have talked to the most welcoming and wonderful people. I really think that that’s big. That’s really good.
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