I have been creating and selling my art for food and clothes and shelter since college. This has been my only job. My art has provided me with the only income I have known in my adult life, it's bought my two studios where I work and live. Making and selling art has been my whole life really. I started selling my art at age 13 in the parking lots of Grateful Dead concerts, and by the age of 19 I was making art professionally for 50 bands and production companies in college. After graduation from St. Lawrence University, I migrated to the easel from commercial art within several years, so that by my mid-twenties my painting sales were supporting my meager art existence. My only goal was to survive by my art and have no other job. Almost twenty-five years later I continue to achieve this primary goal, selling my paintings, sculptures and now public art projects to support my life as an artist.
I live and die by the art sword. I walk the walk. I spend my life searching for new ways of achieving timeless art objects. I am wary of all fashion trends that come and go in all arenas, which one can clearly see in my manner of dress (like a paint-splattered bum), although I clean up pretty good when necessary.
As a student of art history I am wary of genres and art movements, particularly the mid-century New York School, a State sponsored Cold War exercise inspired namely by intellect and not by creative mastery, which challenged and destroyed the careers of representational artists during this period. Retrospectively Clement Greenberg, an art critic during this era who wielded way too much power, sounds like a dated bag of hot air today, while one of his favorite whipping boys, Norman Rockwell, is an untouchable giant, regardless of the very silly and defeated New York critical fear of all things Americana (and therefore not New York-centric, critics forgetting that Rockwell was a New Yorker).
The complete Deconstruction of art occurs towards the end of the 1960's, where all traditional art making implements have been eliminated from what it means to be 'art,' according to the 'fashionable' intellects around this campfire. Experimentation with 'the definition of art' falls squarely into Arthur Danto's relishing philosophical sphere, but he has very little to add, aside from 'art ending' in 1963 with Warhol's Brillo Boxes. This is complete nonsense of course, but I had to suffer through one of Danto's pompous lectures during which he explained to me (and a roomful of artists) why art had ended, why everything we make after 1963 is 'post-historical' character. What a load of horse manure.
After the height of Minimalism (or the low water mark for art perhaps, although there are artists whose recognition for their contribution to Minimalism is well deserved), art sheepishly began to return to the figure over the course of several decades. I started thinking and writing about the Reconstruction of art after a century of its Deconstruction. Looking back, my thoughts at the time seem logical, but in the mid-1990's this was not a simple concept, and I was not in the center of the art world making this statement with everyone listening. I was unknown (still an unknown gem in the rough while it lasts), 40 minutes from Houston Street in New York City, living in a burned out factory with 75 fellow art rats. I spent a decade teaching myself genre after genre in order to blend genres like colors, move from one genre to the next as if every genre were simply another complimentary tool. I began to realize that genres are like letters in the alphabet, that by combining new letters and words together into narrative tapestries new art could be Reconstructed, the best art stories of which reflect the era during which any given work is created (I wrote this in 1996 - it was a prescient view of my career and the art world in general at the time). As most art movements are supported by intellectual chess games, the argument regarding Reconstructionism is checkmate moving into the 21st century. When I showed in New York City with this art statement several gallerists suggested that I was proposing a new movement (because I was). I have been making art and thinking about art in this fashion since 1996, when I started genre-hopping as a means of exploration, discipline, and mission statement. People ask me what my favorite thing to make is, as often my studio looks like a group show. My favorite thing perhaps is how one genre will inform another diametrically opposed genre, or even a completely different medium, as I paint as well as sculpt. There are a million ways to skin a cat, or so I've heard. Trying them all is half the fun that never gets old. I find the blending of genres relational to the complexities of globalization, on an odd but relevant tangent; cultures straining to greater or lesser degrees in order to understand completely different cultures, customs, methods of operation. In this research new seeds are planted, new hope is sown, new dreams and realities can blossom, new art can be born.
Moving from a Fingerprint Portrait to a surrealistic figure to a gravestone etching to a traditional portrait to an abstract figure to a Fingerprint Totem in granite to a veil painting to a Reconstruction painting to creating a permanent fine art lighting installation at the Stamford Train Station is the way I survive the art game - it's the only way I have known for over twenty years of painting. I can make anything. I am after timeless new ways of seeing, unique, soulful expressions captured in the medium, material, art. I just signed career painting #1175. Is there a style which defines me? My signature is on the front of every canvas and easily identifiable (extremely stupid for artists to not sign their work on the front of the canvas contemporary art market cool people), and every painting has a catalogue number on the back of it with another signature. Various points of reference can be found in my work, or bodies of work, that comprise 'the Garnett style,' I suppose, in particular my Garnett Figures (October Series), Green Series, Garnett Girls, the 25 year-running Fingerprint Project, New York City Reconstructions, self-portraits, to name a few.
In the end Picasso is probably my closest professional artist template, although he wasn't much of a writer or musically inclined. I don't know another more protean visual creative, although I gravitate towards the Modernists as their foundation was traditional in order to break out and find new ways of seeing, whereas new generations often don't need to paint a stick figure to achieve 'relevance,' something the artisan in me finds suspect. Protean is the crucial concept that I live my career by as there are so many different ways of seeing and creating visual art. I decided early on that I would attempt to cast a very wide net aesthetically, for better or worse, as this fit in with my developing philosophy about the Reconstruction of art after a century of Deconstruction. Making in so many ways is an asset and liability I am well aware, but worth the risk, worth the thrill. I have listed other influences on this page (there are many and I am happy to reference my inspirations, unlike many fellow artists who are overprotective of their little pieces of turf). Although I am careful to always find my own way of speaking, I spend my time all over the bandwidth as this is my process and because I can - I've earned it. The gallerist, the museum curator, the collector who will understand me will understand that there are no boundaries, I'm 'not the guy who paints the thing in the thing' - this is rubbish, like so much of the contemporary, commercial gallery market, so busy selling widgets, the commercial swag of a pet painter or sculptor. There are many massive talents out there, so I mean no disrespect to either professional artists or gallerists who help to make art careers possible. I speak of the art bazaar all my creative brothers and sisters are prone to in order to put clothes on ourselves, food in our bellies, paint on our canvases.
Ultimately I will only really believe my fellow artists with the below rallying cry -
"We hunt the art and mount the heads, Deep vines which line our studios. These rhyming, mirrored, former selves, Our timeless spirit reference shelves." - Sandy Garnett
Garnett is editing his second book for release in 2016. This book is a journal entry a day of how Garnett survived as an artist in 2011, his response to the daily question, "What's it like to be a professional artist?" Reviews of Garnett's first book Baloney Express can be seen here
Garnett's third book will be called "Walking on a Razor Blade; The Blood Sport of Art." This book will focus on how Garnett has managed to be a professional artist since the day he graduated from college, almost 25 years in the blood sport of art. This book will likely be released in 2017.