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5 Artists on the Day Jobs That Helped Them Launch Their Careers

Artists have often been forced to hold down another job in order to make ends meet. For many, being able to leave these second roles in order to focus full time on art is the ultimate goal. For some, however, a day job can be a source of inspiration. A new exhibition, “Day Jobs,” on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, reveals how this work can, in fact, encourage creativity.

The show spotlights several artists—from art world superstars such as Andy Warhol to newer talents including Jay Lynn Gomez—who have found artistic inspiration in industries like law, caregiving, media, and fashion. Whether introducing an artist to intriguing new materials, or offering them insights into a previously understudied aspect of society that inspires a whole new body of work, the exhibition shows that sometimes, it’s worth sticking around at the day job.

Below, we highlight a few of the artists featured in the show, and explore how their former day jobs have influenced their current practice.

Jay Lynn Gomez once worked as a live-in nanny to a Beverly Hills family who also employed many other workers to aid their lavish lifestyle. While out and about, Gomez would notice celebrities being photographed dropping their children off at school, but her fellow nannies would be cropped from the paparazzi shots that appeared in the papers. Other domestic colleagues seemed to be equally unacknowledged, even disposable.

“There was a housekeeper who would come in every Thursday until one day she didn’t,” Gomez said in an interview with Artsy. “Nobody told me about it or answered my questions. The family didn’t confirm that they’d fired her. She reminded me of my family and yet she was so easily replaced.”

She began to paint figures of these unseen workers onto pages torn from luxury magazines that she found around the house, and she initially wanted to keep the work hidden from her employers and fellow workers. However, after two years, Gomez started a blog to make her work public. “Once I set up the blog it was a pretty quick transition from thinking of myself as a nanny painting, to thinking, ‘Hey, I can be an artist,’” she said.

Although the job was initially taken out of necessity, Gomez credits the experience with allowing her to find her artistic voice. “I consider it my MFA,” she said.