Beth Cavener Stichter is a sculptor and installation artist working in Helena Montana. She has exhibited internationally including Crafts Alliance, Garth Clark Gallery and Gallery Materia. She was awarded the Emerging Artist Grant from the American Crafts Council and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship.
What was the most difficult for you when you finished school?
The only instruction I had received previous to graduate school was sculpting from the human model. I had developed an intimate understanding of the language of the human form, but I was not equipped with the skills necessary to create a sophisticated idea or think conceptually. At the end of my graduate studies, however, I had just begun to understand how I wanted to structure my concepts and how to evaluate each idea as it fit into the entirety of my work. Although I had the rudimentary tools for self-critique the most difficult part of leaving school was the crippling self-doubt. The best part of my experiences as a student was having the time and encouragement to push and challenge myself while making tons of mistakes. Outside of school, time and professional concerns have made this exploration much more difficult.
Which do you find exerts a stronger influence on your work, success or failure?
Generally speaking, I am a ruthless self-critic. I never seem to fully grasp those elusive threads of meaning that I am trying so hard to bind to each of my sculptures. Optimistically, I believe that I have it in me to create powerful work that has an emotional or psychological impact on the viewer. However, through the creation of each sculpture, I find that my initial impulse changes and evolves, so that by the time I am finished, the work is never as sophisticated as the thoughts in my head. What keeps me driven to tackle each new piece is a combination of these successes and failures, and a hope that the next work will come closer to realizing my concepts.
Can you comment on the dream of just being able to make but the reality of having a job that pays the bills?
It has been my experience that each person must find a balance. I believe that time is my most valuable commodity. Most of my day-to-day struggle is ensuring that I have saved enough time to work in the studio versus the time I must spend managing the practical aspects of earning a living. During the first year out of school I worked at a 9-5 job in order to save money to set up a studio. I decided then, that I wanted to pursue a career as a professional artist, and in doing so, I would need to make a lot of sacrifices and compromises in other areas of my life. Since then, I have had a lot of support and a tremendous amount of luck, but it is amazing how far determination and stubbornness can carry you.
Can you give some tips on grant writing?
There is an abundance of opportunities for funding of which most people are unaware. Many are from private sources who strongly believe in supporting artists through specific projects or at a certain stage in their careers. The best advice I have found, is to look carefully at what the granting institution wants to fund and decide if it is a good match for you and your work. Knowing that I hadn’t any previous experience with this type of writing, I was fortunate to work with someone from a non-profit organization who taught me how to structure these proposals. As with most elements inside and outside my studio practice, I try to seek out advice and help from those with an intimate knowledge in that field.
What do you see young artists struggle with?
As a relatively young artist myself, I see a lot of my peers struggling to find a sense of identity in their work; that element which is uniquely their own. In addition, it is also a struggle to maintain that sense of exploration while trying to develop professionally.
How did you begin to approach galleries, and when?
I started approaching galleries immediately after leaving my undergraduate studies, but soon found that most venues were only willing to exhibit emerging artists as part of a group. The following years were crucial for building up contacts and experience showing my work. I applied for every jurried show I could, and I had a lot of failures at first. After graduate school, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to work at the Archie Bray Foundation for two years. It was a remarkable time for meeting fellow artists, collectors, and curators who would later help me in so many immeasurable ways. This also gave me the chance to show alongside the other residents on a national level. In seeking places to exhibit on a continuing basis, I researched the type of work carried by a group of selected galleries in order decide if it was a good environment for my own work. Although I have sought to work with venues that would help to support my career, it has always been my hope that my sculptures would eventually find a permanent exhibition space, such as a museum collection, so that the work would live beyond the exposure of a single show.