Southwest Art is the only art magazine I subscribe to, and I also get emails from them. Usually I don’t read them (they get funneled into my junk mail account, along with all the sites that send me three emails a day because I am obviously so interested in them), but tonight I did and I am glad.
You might be shocked to learn that Glenna Goodacre received a mere $5,000 for designing what is arguably the most widely “collected” piece of sculpture in American history. Yet the Santa Fe-based artist expresses only good feelings about the bas-relief of a young Shoshone Indian woman carrying her peacefully slumbering baby on her back.
After all, how many artists can claim that millions of copies of their work travel the world every day in people’s pockets or are safely tucked away in bank vaults or collectors’ albums? And what does it matter if anyone who wants to can pick up a copy of her creation for just a buck? “We’d all like to do something that truly means something emotionally to people,” Goodacre explained to a reporter from People magazine in 1999 as her highly acclaimed depiction of Sacagawea, interpreter for explorers Lewis and Clark, was about to debut on the obverse side of the U.S. dollar coin.
I was so, so unbelievably thrilled to read this. As I’ve been doing more printmaking lately I’ve been thinking a lot about editions, and how I really don’t like making them. All of my plates are one color and relatively easy to print, and with copper and especially steel plate they’re very durable so I don’t have to worry about losing image quality any time soon. I think if I was doing things with multiple plates or colors I’d definitely do an edition; I’m working on a trio of prints now with printed linework that I will go back and paint with watercolor, and those I’ll probably offer as a shorter edition. But for most of my other etchings as well as my digital prints, I just can’t wrap my mind around limiting how many I make. Some of it has to do with the fact that when I was in college I lost track of how many prints I made, and I didn’t feel right about fudging my numbers. I’ve switched inks three times, they wouldn’t be identical copies anyway. But mostly it has to do with the fact that I really want people to connect to my work, and if someone really loves an image I want them to be able to get it and take it home with them. I don’t want to do open editions because I think I’ll make more money that way. I’d rather sell twenty $10 prints than the same four for $50 because it means that those other sixteen people get to enjoy it every day too.