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Emotional Counseling, Etiquette and Career Advice for Artists

The Tumbleweed admires its hot new ride.

Hey Tumbleweed,

I am a heterosexual male in the San Antonio art community. And my question pertains to how one should respond to ball grabbing and ass rubbing when one is at an after party at a bar? Especially when the one playing grab-ass is an "important" male artist/curator from NY. (This? can pertain to either sex because I'm sure it has happened the other way around also.)


Dire Straits from San Antonio

Dear Dire-y,

First off, Congratulations!!! You've obviously got everything it takes to ride that star of art-world success! You're an attractive man—and who doesn't love beauty in this business?

And hey, powerful people are fondling your genitalia. You're not being squished up to a glory hole in the men's room at the bus station by some wino. You're doing something right.

So, okay, you're being treated like a piece of meat and you want your work to be taken seriously, and you don't want to offend a possible collector/curator/dealer/writer. Of course, if this possible c/c/d/w were a decent human being, you wouldn't have this problem. But maybe he is not. Maybe this guy thinks his money or influence excuses him from behaving appropriate manner. If ol' Tumbles here were your mom, she'd tell you that you should find nicer friends!

But Tumbleweed's not your mom, nor Miss Manners, and you're clearly between a rock and a hard-place—no pun intended—when it comes to your career.

So let's think of this problem as something to be dealt with contextually—how are these offensive gestures being executed? If it's a playful goose, come-on, or flirtation, you could handle it with some humor, like, "Eeeew, Miss Thing!" or, "Should I turn my head and cough?" or even, "Do that again, Big Boy, and I'll send you an invoice!" Make a reference to Warhol and his famed Factory—will you be reaping these benefits? You could also mention that your girlfriend's a brute.

There are ways, as I'm sure you know, of getting that kind of message across without seeming prudish or without a sound sense of irony. Of course, you could be dealing with a seriously menacing situation. A fella who won't take no without pulling your solo show.

It happens.

Why, once a famed painter chased poor Tumbly around a room with a large ceramic saltshaker shaped like a hot dog. After receiving a sound slap, this painter retracted his sweet offers. But there you go—how sweet can an offer be from a dork who tries to poke you with a ceramic hot dog?
You're a big boy, Dire. You know how far you'll go to get what you want out of these situations. Make your choice. But really, the most important thing is simply not to take these things—or yourself—too seriously. Secretaries everywhere are feeling your pain, and if a deal goes south because of some grabby jerk, well, let's assume you're talented enough that others will come along.

So hold that handsome chin high, cowpoke. And always remember that you're the one who's in possession of the commodity—be it ass or art—and that you're the one in control.

Your pal,



Does the Tumbleweed really have no interest in a partying bush??

Oh wise and omnipotent Tumbleweed,

I am what you might call a "starving artist." It's not that I don't eat, in fact I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I don't have a whole lot of money to spend on my art work. I have brilliant ideas for things I would like to build, but I am limited by my lack of green.

If money were no object, I imagine that I could make some amazing things. I could afford to buy fancy power tools. No more sawing by hand. I could finally frame my drawings and paintings. No more frayed edges and creased paper. I could afford to make gigantic bronze casts. No more tiny plaster crap.

Shit, I could even afford to make sculptures out of gold. Why stop at gold, why not platinum? Hell, I could just roll around naked in a mountain of cash and then burn it as a performance art piece.

Or, get this! Imagine Ken Little, but ten times bigger and with hundred dollar bills! Man, I could knock the art world on its ass and then afford to buy it a beer. In the meantime, I have learned to beg, borrow and steal which sometimes makes for more interesting artwork, but most of the time hinders my ideas.

My "appropriation" of suitable art supplies has even gotten me into trouble before. My neighbors don't like me sifting through their garbage. At this point, art is like my vice. I spend money on it that I don't always have.

My question to you, my tumbling friend, is how can I get more money for my art work without having to sacrifice rent money? I mean, I don't make all that much money to begin with, but I'd like to be able to make art and still be able to buy beer. Is that too much to ask? I'd like to drop the day job and commit to my art career full time, but it's hard when people don't buy my art.

It's not my intention to sell anyway. I do mostly installation and video pieces. It's not exactly the kind of art that goes well with the drapes in the living room. I'll admit, I'm young, I'm dumb, and I'm down to get the friction on so maybe it's my lack of experience that is holding me back. I don't know enough about the business side to see a way that I can survive.

How do all those other artists do it? Do they make fancy keychains on the side and sell them? Do they have bake sales? Do they sell drugs? How do they fund their work? If only there was a way I could sleep my way to the top.

Until that day comes, keep on rolling,

Super STARving from Corpus Christi

P.S. I know a bush who thinks you're cute. She likes to party. *wink, wink*


Dear Super-Starving,

Let us first make one thing crystal clear: I have no interest whatsoever in any partying "bush" you might know who happens to fancy this Tumbleweed. Being a Tumbling Texas Tumbleweed is a calling, much like that of the nun or monk; there is no time for silly, partying bushes.

But on to you, Super-S. Sounds like you're a struggling one, to be sure. But it also sounds like you're innovative and very aware of your own work in context to the art world. So you're ahead of the game.

Tumbleweed does sympathize with your desire for grand materials and riches, but it sounds like you're doing more interesting work with old cardboard boxes than some artists are doing with Italian marble. Isn't that just the way it always goes?

There are ways, however, to get yourself on the right track and perhaps acquire funds for your ventures. The Creative Capital Foundation, an offshoot of the Warhol Foundation, actually conducts seminars on life and career management for artists. Although you may not have access to one of these workshops in Corpus Christi, you can always check out the "Toolbox" portion of the Creative Capital website.

There may also be sources of project funding in your area. You could do some research on that, as well as checking out opportunities for residencies and grants on the CAA College Art Association's Resource and Opportunities website.

And you mentioned Ken Little. The Tumbleweed here has always profited from the wisdom of the elders. Try approaching someone like Little, Luis Jimenez, Joe Havel — folks you see who actually CAN sculpt in expensive materials. Find out how they did it. You might have had a mentor in art school. Perhaps you can go back to this person and talk more about how to get your work from drab to fab.

However, from the tone of your question, Little Sincere and Hardworking Tumbleweed senses that you, Super-Starving, are already aware of all of these options and are just messin' with Tumbleweed's head. Or branches.

So my last bit of advice to you, double S, on the topic of sleeping one's way to the top, is to get to know Dire Straits, about whose plight you've recently read.

Find out who those ass-grabbers are and suck in that gut.

You'll be on your way in no time!




Ask the Tumbleweed yourself!


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