arts and pop culture | April 21, 2013

Artist vs. Establishment: How Molly Crabapple Fought Convention—And Won

Molly Crabapple, a reviewer writes in The New Republic, "represents an alternative to the mechanism through which many young artists today find success." And, the article continues, "[Crabapple] is an emblem of the way that art could break out of the gilded gallery." The way the art speaker and activist funded her newest project, Shell Game, perfectly embodies the reviewer's description of her career path. Instead of pursuing more traditional means of funding and distribution, Crabapple turned to Kickstarter. She raised $64,000 on the crowd-funding website to finance her illustrated take on the financial crisis and the Occupy Movement. While her project is indeed being showcased in a gallery setting, Shell Game retains the disruptive, take-no-prisoners style that Crabapple is known for.

The pieces in her collection are what MSNBC talk show host Chris Hayes calls "exuberant altarpieces for the revolution." Crabapple herself describes her work, and that of others working during the Occupy Movement's heyday, as, "art out of the gallery and into the streets, into life. I hope it presented an alternative, a good strong alternative to detached, ironic uber-expensive art whose primary purpose is to fill up an oligarch's loft." Crabapple largely opposes the way that art has become a discipline which seems to require an expensive post-secondary degree and connections to established art dealers. While she has respect for those who have pursued higher education in the arts, Crabapple argues that you don't need an MFA to be successful. You can also carve your own path as a working and profitable artist—in much the same way that she took responsibility for both the creative and business side of her own career.

In her keynote speeches, she encourages others to blaze their own trail. She shares her own experiences to show audiences how they can use their art to make a statement and speak out about things they want to change in the world. She also teaches us that the art world is changing and that being successful means making things happen for yourself. Don't wait for someone to open a door for you that you could easily open for yourself, she says, and, perhaps most importantly, never ask for permission when it comes to achieving your goals.