A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Since the launch of Siren, there have been curious comments in the art world such as:

“Since your transition from art…”

“I fail to understand how an artist turned software entrepreneur qualifies as one of the artists of the year.”

“There’s a concern that you will become a businessperson, not an artist.”

The sticking point would be the question of practical use…the difference between an artist and a designer is that a designer solves problems and an artist creates them.”

It’s as if I traded Carhartt’s for a suit. Or the non-profit artist was actually hiding one of those business types all along. One identity was clearly masquerading as the other because I couldn’t be both.

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Why the rigidity in the definition of artist and art practice? Where’s the expansiveness to imagine a working artist pushing the limits of expectations and then pushing them just a bit more?

It’s curious because everything I know how to do as an artist is applied to Siren, with the same drive in previous endeavors. I have mentioned analogies between the tech and art world in CityArts and Pecha Kucha, and I’m not being glib. Lead Artist = CEO. Collectors = Angel Investors. Pitch Deck = Artist Presentation. Minimum Viable Product = work-in-progress. Proposal = executive summary. Bootstrap = Bootstrap.

My practice is highly collaborative. It is continual problem-solving. It is digital. It is technology to amplify human connections and reinforce understanding. The reason I wake up is to do a thing, to shape a thing and send it out in the world.

When I talk to other business folks, I realize I’m more comfortable with uncertainty. I love unraveling things as the variables make themselves clear and not a moment sooner. I am good at stripping things away to find the core. When the business world says that failure is high and rejection is commonplace, with at least 50 rejections to 1 acceptance, I find those are fantastic odds. When people says, Don’t let it get to you when your ideas are attacked, they haven’t seen artist critiques of the grad school variety, which is meant to break you with its blood-in-the-water competitiveness amongst students for the most searing and withering comments.

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All of these reactions have been sort of fascinating, but ultimately not that interesting. I can’t spend time or energy convincing or defending. There is a vision to carry out, a team to take care of, new problems weekly, and a whole lot of people who want their pants charmed off.

So here’s my response. Don’t tell me that an artist can’t be a business person. Or that art can’t try to solve real problems. Or that an artist can be successful only if gatekeepers deem it so. And definitely don’t infantilize this artist by telling her to behave and stay between the lines.

You don’t get to tell me that I’m not an artist.

I am not one thing masking as another. I haven’t walked out, turned away, or given up. I am the CEO of Siren. I am a practicing artist. I have been consistent throughout. I am a wolf in wolf’s clothing.


Reprinted from Medium

Susie Lee