Arlene Rush

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Artist Statement

Evidence of Being was initiated when I embarked upon a project to archive the objects accumulated over the course of my 30-year artistic career. The project discussed here, not only represents the strategy of self-historicization, but also an investigation of the fraught and difficult politics connected to artistic practice in New York City. By looking historically at the practical conditions that artists face: high rents, limited space, the art market, gentrification, class warfare, gender bias, other kinds of discrimination and the market-based metrics of success, I found these objects became more than the surplus of my practice; they became a lens through which these issues could be explored.

Sorting, scanning and documenting raised the question of what to do with these things that have survived, in one form or another the span of my studio practice. Should I store, destroy or remake them? In considering my own evolution, I began to see the archive as more than an accumulation of objects. I found they raised questions about the nature and importance of being an artist.

Evidence of Being examines how an artist’s career and a community develop and inform each other. The work made by an artist makes it possible to perceive what has occurred. The practical issues of my practice are tied up with the political and careerist worlds in which I participate. The issues are intertwined and inform each other. How does one measure success? How to gauge the level of risk—and the payoff? What happens to an artist’s practice when the neighborhood is transformed into a gentrified bourgeois shopping center attracting tourists, limousines, and collectors? I pursue these questions as I had before: through practice.