how things get done – Kira Lynn Harris

installation view The Block | Bellona, Kira Lynn Harris, 2011, Photo: Adam Reich
installation view The Block | Bellona, Kira Lynn Harris, 2011, Photo: Adam Reich

I’ve really come to believe that, as an artist, the work sort of tells you what you’re doing, you’re not in the drivers seat, the art sort of tells you. My practice is what it is and if I tried to force it to be something else, I think it would not be a good thing, honestly. That realization took a long time to come to, frankly.

The other thing is that I have taught for a very long time. I teach now. I actually really like teaching, weirdly enough, and it gives me enough of an income – it hasn’t always – but, at this point, it gives me enough of an income that I’m not dependent on gallery sales or commissions or honoraria for my income. God knows, I’m always happy to get them. This is not to say I don’t need them or want them. However, I’m not dependent on the solely, and that gives me a lot of freedom.

The third is that, having taught forever, there were times when I felt like, ‘Oh, I should do like some of my artist friends, I shouldn’t have a regular teaching gig.’ I teach part-time in two different places and have done for a long time. And, I thought, ‘I should drop this. I should just try to make a go of it as an artist’ because I see peers careers getting bigger. But the truth is, once the economic crash hit, I was so thankful I kept those jobs because so many people now who have had bigger careers would kill for my teaching gigs these days.

It’s weird, too, because in Los Angeles there’s much more respect for artists who teach than there is here in New York. In New York, I think it’s because the commercial gallery scene is such a driver of the art scene that there’s still that notion that if you’re not making a living on just your art you’re not really an artist. And that’s so not a part of growing up in Los Angeles where everyone assumes of course you’re going to teach if you can.