Known for large-scale installations, often with quasi-scientific or corporate motifs, Dalton develops incisive visual systems that facilitate instantaneous, concise conclusions from otherwise overwhelming amounts of data. For this exhibition, she presents a series of works focused on the reality behind what it means to be a contemporary artist working today. Each is an exercise in testing conventional wisdoms about the “art world” and its players (including artists and their families, collectors, critics, gallerists, auction houses, and art schools).
For How Do Artists Live? (2006, projected slide show), Dalton conducted an extensive, Internet-based survey of more than 850 anonymous artists in Fall 2005. Her presentation of the results examines the lifestyles and economic situation of working artists and finds some surprising answers to the title question, including that 20% of artists with incomes over $200K/year do not have health insurance; women artists are twice as likely as men artists to be primarily supported by their partner; and men artists are more than twice as likely as women artists to primarily support themselves with art sales.
Highly praised in multiple art publications after its debut at New York’s Pulse Art Fair in March 2006 The Collector-ibles (2006, mixed media installation, edition of 3) features five large glass-fronted cabinets with 200 figurines representing the Top 200 Art Collectors, as catalogued in ArtNews magazine’s 2005 list. Each figure is a gilded Marvel or DC superhero mounted on a handmade base. The type of figurine and the treatment of the base denotes where the collector’s money comes from including business; finance; the arts & media; science & computers; real estate; law; energy (oil or mining industries, etc); and inheritance. In addition, each figure is holding different colored miniature shopping bags, color coded and also labeled in tiny printing to represent the type of art the collector collects.
He Said, She Said (2005, chalk pastel and blackboard paint on paper) places literal hatch marks on the marital headboard of husband and wife art critic couple Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz, keeping count of the number of their reviews of female vs. male artists over one year. Also exploring the disparity between men and women artists is the “Art Guide” series (2006, mixed media). Maps taken directly from the “Chelsea Art Guide” distributed free at galleries-with each piece using color-coded map pins to indicate male (blue) solo exhibitions, female (pink) solo exhibitions, and mixed-group (white) exhibitions—show a consistent Chelsea ratio of approximately 2 to 1 exhibitions of male vs. female artists.
The title piece, Would You Rather Be a Loser or a Pig? offers the viewer an extreme choice between one of two free bracelets: one reads “Loser,” the other reads “Pig,” reflecting the increasing tendency within the art world to define achievement solely in terms of financial earnings and conspicuous consumption. Mourning the loss of a past when being a struggling artist was part of an honorable tradition, and there was some contempt for “marketable” artwork, this work’s implications go far beyond the art world, to address this dichotomy within many other professions and lifestyle decisions, and reflects the increasing political polarization and rising extremism it fosters.