Nurturing your creative ecosystem, with Didier William

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In this episode, I’m joined by contemporary painter and printmaker Didier William. Didier’s incredible work explores the diasporan experience, as well as what it was like to grow up gay in a conservative Haitian community.

Over the past five years, Didier has had massive success in the contemporary art world. In this interview, we discuss his personal parameters for success, how he protects the sanctity of his creative work in the face of needing to make a living, and how he balances the ecosystem of his home and work life (especially since he and his husband welcomed a new baby!).

We also discuss the pressure that comes from belonging to an underrepresented community in the context of marketing and production. Plus, why it’s important to be mindful of “what the work can do, and what the work can’t do” when it comes to social activism.

More from the episode...

  • Didier on defining success: “I spent a long time trying to sort of approach something that feels balanced, where the studio life, and the life outside of the studio, are in conversation.”
  • How did finishing grad school at the start of the Great Recession affect Didier’s outlook on success?
  • We discuss market forces, and the importance of protecting the sanctity of your creative practice, even as you earn a living.
  • How becoming a teacher set his creative practice free.
  • How and why Didier tries “to make sure that whatever I do during the day reserves the best of me for the people I go home to in the evening, my husband and my daughter.”
  • Why, despite all of the cultural romanticizing, creating art is a type of labor (and why that fact demands that we prioritize self care)
  • The importance of building thoughtful relationships with other creators out of a desire for connection and collaboration, rather than just “networking.”
  • Didier describes how his artistic practice evolved to include printmaking, and how it underpins the message he wants to convey in his work.
  • Didier shares the advice that helps him get started every day in the studio: “Always have something in progress.”

More from Didier William:

Didier William is a painter/printmaker, originally from Port-au-Prince Haiti, whose epic collage/print/painting works, among many things, explore aspects of the Haitian diasporan experience, as well as attempting “to get closer to a truth that makes sense for black and brown people.”

I met Didier within weeks of arriving in Pennsylvania when we both began work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was the chair of the MFA program at the time and I was the chair of the new illustration program.

Didier earned his BFA in painting from The Maryland Institute College of Art, an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University, School of Art, and is currently Assistant Professor of Expanded Print at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

Connect with Didier

instagram: @dueyart

http://didierwilliam.com

Links

Saidiya Hartman - “Lose Your Mother”

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