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The Blanton’s New Exhibition Shines Light on Artists’ Day Jobs

The show features more than 95 works by 38 artists, highlighting the ways other employment impacts their artwork

The Blanton Museum of Art will present Day Jobs, an exhibition that invites visitors to examine the overlooked impact of artists’ day jobs on their visual artwork, now through July 23.

The success of an artist is often measured by their ability to quit their day job and focus on their artwork, but these more structured forms of employment often spur creative growth. This exhibition focuses on the ways artists use new materials and methods inspired by their other employment in their artistic work.

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Small, overlapping grey and black squares that fade into a light blue background
Mark Bradford, Same ‘Ol Pimp, 2002, mixed media on canvas, 72 x 84 in., Collection of Barbara and Michael Gamson (photo: © Paul Hester/Hester + Hardaway Photographers)

Curated by Veronica Roberts, the exhibition features more than 95 works by 38 artists. Roberts, former curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton, worked with Lynne Maphies, former curatorial assistant, on this project.

Day Jobs spotlights artists employed in part and full-time roles, and the exhibition is organized into seven job sector sections, including “Art World,” “Service Industry,” “Media and Advertising,” “Fashion and Design,” “Caregivers” and “Finance, Technology, and Law.”

Roberts’ inspiration for the exhibition came from conversations with artists regarding their relationship with artistic and economic labor. Forms of employment featured in the show include dishwasher, furniture maker, graphic designer, hair stylist, ICU nurse, lawyer and nanny, as well as jobs at large companies like Ford Motors, H-E-B and IKEA.

Two lamps side by side with pink lampshades and bodies shaped like human torsos, each with a single hand emerging from a ruffled sleeve
Genesis Belanger, Stepford Wife / Sister Wife, 2018, stoneware, porcelain, plaster, and linen lampshade, overall: 27 × 14 × 10 in., Collection of Rachel Uffner, New York (photo: © Genesis Belanger, Courtesy of Mrs., Maspeth, NY)

“Artists are some of the hardest-working people I know, but I am struck by how misunderstood they often are and conceived this show to dispel the misguided myths of the starving artist or the romanticized artist struck by a dramatic epiphany,” says Roberts, now the John and Jill Freidenrich Director at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. “At the core of the exhibition is a desire to acknowledge the precarious and generative ways that art and economic pursuits are intertwined.”

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The first section of the exhibition is “Art World,” which introduces the idea that art does not come from a vacuum, but represents many ideas and experiences. Other highlights include the “Service Industry” section, which features the work of a dishwasher, water meter reader and janitor, among others, and the “Finance, Technology, and Law” portion of the show, which emphasizes the harsh realities of modern-day business.

A body comprised of various patterns sits bent forward with one arm against their forehead
Nate Lewis, Signaling XXIII, 2020, hand-sculpted inkjet print, ink, graphite, and frottage 26 x 40 in., Collection of Suzanne McFayden (photo: © Paul Hester/Hester + Hardaway Photographers)

“This timely exhibition invites us to rethink how we view creativity and success, and to reflect on our own relationships with work and the unexpected, everyday places we find inspiration,” says Blanton Director Simone Wicha.

Day Jobs will be on display from Feb. 19 through July 23. The Blanton Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $12 for adults.