I try to make work about how we are to one another.
Maybe in a way, your installation at the Hirshhorn comes as close to that as possible, being on the National Mall in an election year.
I'm happy right where I am. I try to make work about how we are to one another, in this broader sense of what our social relations are — how we treat one another, how we love one another, how we loathe one another, who wins, who loses — all of that. I'm glad somebody knows my name. I'm glad somebody knows my work. I never thought that would happen.
You started navigating the art world at a very young age, without formal art school instruction and mentorship. What kind of advice can you give to artists in 2012?
It's really weird, because it's changed so much. I think it's better now. I'm not nostalgic. To me, these are the good old days, not because they are "good," but because we are alive to experience and change them.
Was it better when the art world was twelve white guys in lower Manhattan? I don't think so. I'm just so glad that there are more and more artists in the world today — showing and telling what it means to be alive in different ways.
There are a million ways to make art. I support all of them. I don't think there's one correct way of being an artist. But I do think that there are certain contradictions, especially here in America. One is that being an artist has become so professionalized, in terms of a multitude of artists with their MFAs, PhDs, and more graduating art schools each semester. How are they going to support themselves, when the visual arts are so marginalized in this country?
Basically, the only time you hear about the art world is when you hear about some sort of secondary market or auction price that's out of this world. A very small percentage of artists can support themselves through their work. That was certainly true when I was coming up. I never thought that I'd sell my work, because there was barely an art market then. Now, there's a huge art market, but unfortunately, many people buy not because they love a work, but because it's the only speculative bubble left, now that real estate's not so great.
These are real contradictions. Young people want to be artists, because they want to make commentary and make meaning. On the other end, people want to buy it and sell it, because they can turn a quick profit.
But art will continue to be made, whether it's textured, musical, movies, visual arts, or buildings. Great work will continue, but how the people who make it can support themselves, that's a different question.