The State Of Art in 2017


Ramblings ahead.

There are some recordings by William S. Burroughs that include chanting intended to reflect bad energy or a magickal attack back to its’ sender. I can’t think of anything more appropriate as we begin 2017 in earnest than this. Curse, go back indeed!

What does a growing wave of far-right leaning governments, emboldened hate groups, and a seeming rise of general ignorance imply for the art world?

That remains to be seen, but if the New York Times is to be believed, there could be a boom in art collecting-or at least something to look forward to (note: I don’t believe there’s anything to look forward to on Jan, 20th 2017) once the Trump administration takes over in Washington D.C…

“Detailed policies have yet to be decided, but Mr. Trump’s stated commitments to reducing taxes and regulation, as well as to negotiating better trade deals and investing in infrastructure, have helped the Dow Jones industrial average climb to 19,833.68 at the close of trading on Dec. 28, about an 8.2 percent increase since Nov. 8.”

“This in turn is creating a feel-good factor in the art world, where America’s 1 percent makes up by far the largest proportion of the most serious buyers. Not only might they have more money to spend, but Mr. Trump has even appointed Wilbur Ross, a billionaire art collector, as secretary of commerce and Steven Mnuchin, the multimillionaire son of the leading New York art dealer Robert Mnuchin, as secretary of the Treasury. From the commercial art world’s point of view, what’s not to like about the new administration?”

That’s from a New York Times article by Scott Reyburn. To be clear-I personally don’t think there’s anything to look forward to come January 20 2017 when the inauguration begins. But there is a lot of speculation about what is going to happen to the arts in America and how the new right-leaning administration could challenge, censor, oppress, or otherwise try to stop dissenting voices.

Many established artists with currency in the art world have made statements about their feelings on how money changes things, whether or not it is a corrupting influence, etc. I don’t need to repeat any of those things here, or reinvent the wheel when it comes to perspectives about the nexus of money, fame, and art. In 2017 that nexus should be questioned more, challenged more, and questioned yet again.

The fact that we have an incoming administration populated by million/billionaires is troubling enough…but revelations that some of that money comes from the art world (as in Mnuchin’s case according to the NYT) should serve to inspire conversations and questions about this among artists, curators, dealers, etc. Not that “art money” is to blame for, well, anything, but since institutional critique is an important part of the arts it stands to reason that such things are probed and examined.

I write that even as I contemplate changes to my own art practice to make my work more sustainable. Changing the content/substance of one’s art to make money isn’t what I’m talking about here, more about best practices to promote the work that I do and try to make it more visible out in the world. Art wants to be experienced, no? But I find myself questioning the larger environment that I live and work in as an artist. The old questions are still valid and relevant, but they are complicated by the new reality we wake up in starting January 20th, 2017.

Is it wrong to earn a living from your work? Not at all. But I find it important to question the nexus of art and commerce all the same. I don’t have any answers except that we have plenty of examples of what can and does happen when money has too much influence. Is the volume of income from art problematic at some point? Is the ability to make art and use it as your sole income a two-edged sword in that doing so removes you from the “real world”?

These are some of the questions I am asking in 2017.


Artist Statement

Joe WallaceI’ve been contemplating my artist statement again recently and realized it was in dire need of an update. So here I am with a much more relevant statement addressing the work I’m doing right now. Thanks for your interest and please see the contact information at the end of the statement if you need to get in touch regarding commissions, purchasing work, or other details.


The urban landscape is filled with patterns, grids, shapes, and repetition. Whether you’re in New York City, Tokyo, Chicago, or anywhere else with that type urban sprawl, the sheer density of buildings, cars, people, and streets creates an overwhelming amount of visual information to process. That information is a metaphor for life in the city, and it’s an experience I try to recreate.

The feelings of movement, isolation, loneliness, and voyeurism one gets in the city is a very important part of my work. Glimpses of people, shapes, patterns, moods, experiences sail past us on the street, on the subway, in the taxicab on the way to the airport, everywhere you need to be in the city, leaving it, or returning.

The city is awash in the smells of food, beer, exhaust fumes. The sounds of the streets are forever ebbing and flowing. Our time on the pavement on the way to and from our struggles and triumphs is punctuated by boozy hours, random encounters in the night, the tyranny of the alarm clock, the kiss goodbye, or the lack of one. The skipped breakfast, the hurried lunch, the wondering what happens tonight.

My work is about urban alienation, the pressure of the city, the contradictory feelings of anticipation and dread, the joys, the need, the unpleasantness and the excitement of the urban sprawl. Where do we go in this vast metropolis to get away from the crush of humanity, or even ourselves? How do we find connections to others in the emptiness of city living? Who shares their joy and how? Where does it all lead? The neon and glass storefronts reflect your face as you walk by, but is that who you are?

Some of what I do is about answering these questions–whether that is in the work itself, or in the process of showing it to others and finding a middle ground with fellow travelers in the concrete jungle. The city is indifferent to our wants, our lusts and our joys, but it is also a place where we can meet together to share a moment in the shadow of the tinted glass towers.

–Joe Wallace 2016

Contact me at for collaboration, commissions, or other proposals.



The Art of Being An Artist

Artist Noel Fielding
The image you see here is of Noel Fielding, who is, like many of us involved in the arts, what I call a “comma creative”. Like Fielding, I have a lot of commas involved when trying to describe what I do.

Fielding is an artist, a comedian, an actor, and a musician. It’s tough to nail down exactly what you are all about in a statement like that because the obvious thing most want to know is what you specialize in; a leftover from mid-century modern American where people did–or seemed to do–only ONE THING professionally, with all other activities being relegated to the dusty old basement of hobbyland.

(Someone I know once referred to their air as a hobby, but I chafe at that description because it implies a casualness about it that doesn’t exist, at least not in her case).

It’s very difficult to get people to take you seriously across disciplines sometimes. So how do you do it?

Noel Fielding is, in my mind, an excellent example of how to do it it right. Fielding does a lot of different things, but his great accomplishment is that he has grown a cult of personality about him; his work has interest, but the real draw–at least in my mind–is the artist. The person behind the work. That’s not an easy feat to pull off, but Fielding has managed to make everything he does a reflection of himself in some way.

That’s not, as I mention above, easy to do. For a start, for this to work you have to have a likable personality and you have to deal with people on an individual basis. There’s no room for snobbery with this approach, there’s no room to be the reclusive shut-in art muso who just knows nobody understands the work. Bad behavior is out, being friendly and inclusive is in.

I know what happens when you’re at odds with fellow creatives or art patrons in the space where you live and work. I’ve not experienced it personally but a few times, but watching others fall into the same traps, I’ve found over the years that it pays to be nice–and not that phony sort of nice that barely conceals your real inner disgust with the whole of humanity, either, but genuinely nice, legitimately friendly.

Everyone you know in and out of the arts is a potential ally. A lot of people you know might not buy your work. They will come to your openings and eat your cheese and drink all your wine, but they have their own reasons for not buying. And that’s not the point, anyway, if you’re smart about your work–there is an audience for every kind of statement, a new set of eyes for every creative work.

The people your work is right for will buy when then can afford it. The wrong people for your work shouldn’t take it away from the right people anyway. Is that naked idealism?

Naturally, I’m talking about originals here. All bets are off when it comes to tees and prints. All your free wine guzzling friends should own your t-shirts even if its just at break-even prices.

You don’t make prints and tees to promote your work? Well, keep it in mind for later, that is basically a walking billboard for your work that you could get a lot of mileage out of.

Back to Noel Fielding.

He’s brilliant exactly because he has found a way to attract a great deal of interest in just about any project he’s working on. And that might just be the key to success in a very crowded marketplace–growing interest in you personally can result in an increased awareness of what you do. It’s NOT for everyone–Fielding himself noted in an interview on YouTube that the very second when his signature program The Mighty Boosh got popular, there was a backlash. Ubiquity breeds contempt, and it’s a fine line to tread when you’re gaining visibility and recognition. But for those who can find the balance, the rewards are great.

It Begins…

Joe Wallace Bridgeport Art Center abstract Art If you read the blog post that ran right before THIS post, you’ll see that my website has had a bit of an identity crisis. So be it.

I’ve used this space for a variety of things, but as my creative direction has changed and mutated in the last couple of years, it became obvious to me that I needed a place to post my work in the visual arts, installation art, sound sculptures, multi-media art, and multidisciplinary work.

This site started off showcasing my work in audio–sound design, original music, audio art and more. I haven’t ditched my audio work, but my focus has been more on visual, installation, and multi-media work in the last two years.

The only way to be a working artist is to create work on a regular basis, try to find the people who it speaks to, and build a relationship with a potential audience or group of patrons. I’m fortunate that my subsistence income is freelance, writing/editing-based, and completely divorced from typical 9-5 routines. I have found a great balance between my paying work and my creative work. Many times the two start to blur together, but I find that money is a typical struggle for most of the artists I know, so I’m likely never to give up my writing. That said, I have found a way to devote a large amount of time to my work (who needs sleep?) without shortchanging my writing.

All this written here is either a good introduction to my world and work or it’s fairly self-indulgent. Maybe both. Probably both. But as someone who devotes a large amount of time daily to the arts, the artist statement is something I like to embrace rather than shy away from. So yeah, manifestos, statements of intent, rants, screeds, written commentary/critique is a way of life for me–it’s my writer damage.

Some of my fellow artists have a tough time with the artist statement–they rightfully feel it’s a minefield fraught with danger–you come off looking like a self-important jackass, a clueless navel gazer, or an overly conceptual pie-in-the-sky thinker if you’re not careful with your writing. But these things are very important if for no other reason that to help your potential audience, patrons, fan base or whatever form of public awareness you are after understand what it is you’re about.

Hell, maybe I should hire myself out to people to craft their artist statements. I think I’m pretty good at cutting out the pretentious bullshit and getting to the heart of the matter. I believe in the Gospel According to Strunk And White: “Omit needless words”.

Do drop me a line if you want to hire me to help you with your artist statement, bio, show catalog, etc. I can give you an artist-friendly quote–I am at My only caveat is that I will be both fair AND honest. I will tell you if your approach sounds too high-minded, or not high-minded enough. I will tell you that the ten dollar words in your artist statement alienate the reader, but I will also point out everything you’re doing right and should be doing more of–honesty is the best policy.

End of shameless plug for more writing work.

So consider this long winding blog post as a statement of intent. My work takes many forms–I do video installation and collage that appears on YouTube and in my gallery shows, I have strayed into illustration that some might accuse of being political cartooning, I create dreamlike and nightmarish landscapes with charcoal and pastel, Steadman-inspired splattery ink landscapes, and strange semi-architectural fever dreams on watercolor paper. All of these things will find a permanent home on this site. Most of the completed work is for sale, unless otherwise indicated, as originals and/or prints.

This site will grow exponentially in the coming days. If you need to contact me about anything at all, do drop an email to me at

Thanks for reading.

Artist and owner of StudioLab 1579 N. Milwaukee #220 Chicago Illinois 60622.