It’s that time of year again for me, the end of Contemporary Art Month. Like last year, it is an intense period. This year, I had to leave before the month was over. Seven Minutes in Heaven is my biggest curatorial project of the year and then two weeks later I had a solo exhibition of my new body of work, Practice Makes Perfect, at Plazmo contemporary. As if that wasn’t already enough, there are the tons of exhibits open for Contemporary Art Month. Every gallery and most artists try to exhibit, it’s an important month. Of course I had to go to as many as I could fit in. It is about exposing myself to what people are doing and offering my support for their projects. I also made a major change in my life and left Ruiz-Healy Art. Before determining my next direction, I needed some breathing room.
After my exhibit at Plazmo, there were still shows, including the CAM Perennial 2014 Untitled (Public Display) at the Guadelupe Cultural Center. This was a two-person show of Mark Menjivar and Christie Blizzard. I was one of a few selected for a studio tour by visiting curator Leslie Moody Castro in April. While I wasn’t chosen, I always am glad to have a curator look at my personal work. I may not be right for this particular project, but I may be for something in the future. As a curator myself, I know a studio visit can open up working with different people and offer new opportunities. My friend Alex was also invited to participate in a smaller group exhibition in the Perennial where they took their work off of the walls and walked it around the neighborhood, bring art to the people of the West Side of San Antonio. Blizard gave away pieces of her artwork for free, I took home this pixilated photograph. Menjivar “fixed” candles individually for good luck, wealth, and love, adding a piece of art completed by Blizard. I know Menjivar from when I worked at the Southwest School of Art, so I am always excited to see more of his work. It turns out he only fixed 40 candles, so I was lucky to get one.
One piece I was eager to see was The Lovers, 1928. It is romantic and haunting at the same time. Nearby on display was a photo titled Amor, 1928 that was of two people standing together with their heads covered. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find an image of that on the internet. The image of what was real was beautiful.
However, when I was searching images, I came across this other painting by Magritte and a photo credited as being of Magritte that reminded me of the Amor photograph. I’m not entirely sure of the title, it has been coming up just as Lovers, and I can’t find a date to this particular piece. Sometime, I’m sure I can find some kind of raisonne and get the details.
One reason I’m drawn to these particular images is because I have always been impressed when a photograph captures a surreal moment without digital manipulation. My particular fascination in art is with reality. The last couple of years I have been working with found objects because they are what exists, discarded remnants of peoples lives. During this period exhibited here, Magritte plays with reality in many different ways, including a frame within a frame within a frame, what is (or isn’t) an object, or as in the piece Representation, 1937. Another piece I dedicated some time to, this realistically painted female torso in a shaped canvas entranced me.
This exhibition was amazing. I spent a long time going through, slowly digesting the imagery in front of me. When I was done, I walked through again. There was also a smaller exhibit of his later works where Magritte played with reality through visual texture and patterns, but I was not drawn to them, not like his early works. When I was done at the main building, I decided to head to my favorite building, to see Cy Twombly. Spending time surrounded by the work of Twombly is very contemplative for me. I have written about a previous experience I had at the Twombly Gallery.
This time around I was able to get some images from one of my favorite bodies of work by Twombly, a set of five paintings, Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985. This is another body of his work that consists of one title but are made up of several paintings.
In his despair he drew the colours from his own heart
In drawing, and drawing you his pains are delectable his flames are like water
While I didn’t go to the Dan Flavin installation located in another building by the Menil this time, I did go to the James Turrell on the Rice Campus, Twilight Epiphany. Unfortunately, I lost the photos I took during the the light show. But these two photos from before it began show on a low scale the color theory that Turrell applies.
This was another quick, yet inspiring trip to Houston. Art keeps my thoughts processing and clears my head. I am very fortunate that Houston is so close and regularly has fantastic temporary, as well as permanent exhibits that I love to visit. Being able to just take in the beauty of it instead of having to organize or explain it is such a different experience. At the end of it all, I am able to focus and be calm again.
I love street art. Something about the freedom of working without traditional materials in an often unlimited canvas captivates me. Those are some of the ideas that first attracted me to art. I have long followed the career of Banksy, one of the most infamous street artists around. Controversial for his messages, as well as the fact that his art is technically done illegally, his career has spanned across the world on walls, in books, and in film. For the month of October, Banksy took up residency in New York City, a place long known for avant-garde art. While I am fortunate enough to visit NYC fairly often, I was not able to be there when as part of his residency, Banksy was putting out a piece of work a day. However, I do have friends there, just as curiously wondering what he would do there. Since this was such a major event in the art world, I wanted to know more and get a first hand account of what exactly went on there. So I introduce to you my first guest writer, artist Jonathan A. Sims and new resident to Brooklyn, and his thoughts on the phenomenon that is Banksy.
Reflections on “Better Out Than In,” the Banksy NY Residency
Banksy’s New York “residency” started on October 1, 2013, approximately six weeks after I unloaded a Penske truck with my fiancée into our Brooklyn apartment. It was easy to be excited about it.
There is no denying that New York City has an irrepressible reputation for being the epicenter of the arts in the United States. And once you get here, and you start to pay attention, this fact slowly cements itself into the brains of newcomers. It’s the names. The names of the biggest American and international artists. The names of the best-funded galleries. The names of the biggest museums, with the names of some of the most famous masterworks. And it quickly becomes apparent that in New York City, apart from anywhere else in the U.S., all of these names from books and blogs and documentaries are suddenly very, very, accessible.
For the month of October in New York, Banksy was the most accessible of them all. The arts media started to drum up anticipation, and the blogs began to speculate. I didn’t pay too much attention until the first piece dropped. It seemed like the whole city was caught up in the scavenger hunt. Anyone could see images and location clues of the artwork du jour by simply checking Banksy’s Instagram or banksyny.com. The arts blogs ran posts that quickly filled with “updates” before you even reached the lede, crediting the first lucky searcher who found the work, or noting the dramatic crowds, or posting photos of the work after it had been vandalized by others. A friend of mine Instagrammed a photo with the October 1 stencil, but not before the “Graffiti is a Crime” street sign had been swiped, “not five minutes!” before he got there.
There was a local phone number stenciled nearby, and calling it greeted the listener with Muzak and a calming voice (you can still hear this “gallery description” on the website). A clever parody of the audio guides you can hear on rented audio players in museums, the narrator proceeds to mispronounce Banksy’s name and make fun of the typical artist statement verbiage before throwing up his hands and pronouncing “You decide. Really. I have no idea.” The narrator also mentions that the piece has “probably been painted over by now.”
This transience was a major part of the experience with Banksy NY. For anyone else in the world unable to see these works firsthand, the first image taken by Banksy or his assistants is the way they encounter the work– in pristine condition, fully in line with the artist’s intentions. When we finally got a chance to see his October 2 stencil, “This is my New York Accent,” you could see the hands of at least four or five other vandals. Graffiti begets graffiti, and Banksy is a magnet for spray paint, markers, and thieves.
Viewers are so used to seeing artwork as inviolable. Spend enough time in museums, and most of us will at some point be firmly chastised by a docent or guard for getting too close to a piece, or forgetting to turn off a flash, or some other minor gallery crime. These institutions work hard to create an atmosphere where visitors maintain an assiduous self-consciousness. With public art, there is something exciting about having no restrictions with the art. And there is also offensiveness in seeing that same art molested by others.
Banksy was very careful and very smart about where he chose to display his art. Walking past the Bedford stop on the L train in Williamsburg (the epicenter of the tragically hip neighborhood), we stumbled upon is first mobile piece. “A New York delivery truck converted into a mobile garden (includes rainbow, waterfall and butterflies),” was driven and left at local hot spots chosen to reach maximum promotional visibility. It attracted crowds and cellphone lenses. Shortly after we found it, inexplicably, a young man decided to climb into the truck and walk around its cramped interior. Once he got in there, I think he realized that he had no idea why he did it, and soon climbed back out. It was a mindless decision. It is easy to guess that most of the vandalism of the Banksy artwork was driven by the same mindset.
I couldn’t get upset about the destruction of the public work for very long. With few exceptions, these were illegal canvasses to begin with. The choice of Banksy to continue to work as a rebel artist invites that same kind of behavior. But the early culture that emerged around working in stencil and spraypaint demands that authenticity as a street artist be accompanied with risk and disobedience.
Maintaining street rep normally also includes an apparent indifference for the material gain that would accompany being an international art star, a disingenuous myth that continues to celebrate the “starving artist” as the most pure form of the professional. Banksy is now extremely wealthy, but he has carefully choreographed the impression that he is still giving his art away. Perhaps the most notorious and humorous day of “Better Out Than In” was a video of an old man in Central Park selling authentic and signed Banksy canvases for $60 each. The punch line? Only eight paintings sold for a total of $420, though some media outlets inflated the value to $225,000 in total.
Everyone was talking about the payday. How if we had been there, we could have raked it in. Of course, it isn’t funny to remind people that the paintings themselves were pretty boring, and if any name besides Banksy was attached to them, it would be hard to value them at $60 each. In the end, it was, like everything else produced in October by Banksy, a feat of amazing marketing. A clever promotional event, in which every part serves to increase the value of the artistic artifacts.
If there is a single argument that can be made in justifying Banksy as a meaningful contemporary artist, it is in the fact that the market price of his work continues to confront us with the dilemma of defining what is valuable as “art.” Property owners who had never heard of Banksy before were suddenly confronted with a totally new situation. In a closet somewhere nearby, or in the trucks of professional vandalism remediators, sit buckets of thick paint ready to erase graffiti. These buckets get employed hundreds of times a week all over New York City. If you walk up to the wall you own and find a crowd of people ready to attack you for painting on your wall, it can be pretty stunning. If art has enough cultural or material value to challenge the accepted notion that vandalism is inherently wrong, then the word’s definition has to be expanded again for the millionth time.
But in that same fact rests the anger and resentment that I was surprised to find in New York against Banksy. It is no surprise to find that many established members of the arts community judge the work as banal, as they are wont to do, and scoff at its popularity amongst the youth. Rebellion is the leitmotif that constantly follows Banksy. His refusal to come out of the shadows of anonymity and work in a more traditional capacity as an artist rankles more than a few people, an irritation even more grating by his inarguable success. Articles appeared in New York papers telling Banksy that he was unwelcome here— a recurring theme among them centered around the cosmic injustice that Banksy could elicit such a popular response when New York’s own resident graffiti artists, such as 5 POINTZ in Queens, are languishing.
In the last week of October, in the buildup to Halloween, Banksy unveiled an absurd and timely performance piece in the Bowery, which was to remain up from dusk to midnight from Friday to Sunday. A friend of mine texted me on Sunday asking if I had seen it yet, and we were compelled by the deadline to grab a train into Manhattan. There, behind a large fenced area on a concrete slab, a humongous mannequin of Death himself crouched in a remote-control bumper car and zipped back and forth, his battle-worn scythe extended above him in homage to the sparking electrical contact typical to the carnival ride. Musicians took turns playing continental accordion music as interludes between the real show: disco lights flashed and a machine pumped smoke as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blared into the cool night. The Grim Reaper zipped into overdrive at these moments, and the bobbed to and fro on springed joints in the cramped space and occasionally slammed into a wall with stunning force. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous. View video here
In that ridiculousness is the joy of Banksy. Almost all of his work hinges on humor in some way—be it the general silliness of stuffed animals going to slaughter, or the observational jokes at the expense of capitalism or the political establishment, or the situational comedy of his site-specific gags involving children and beavers. A lot of the jokes are clever, and viewers enjoy his ironic juxtaposition of the beautiful and the decrepit (butlers and geisha girls), or the political and entertainment (Syrian fighters and Dumbo), and this alone probably goes a long way in explaining his popularity. But like anything that relies on joke-telling, some of the jokes aren’t that funny, and work built on facetiousness will always risk being seen as trivial.
But seeing the Grim Reaper riding a bumper car and slam into a wall with a Blue Oyster Cult soundtrack? That just makes me happy.
Jonathan Sims is a painter living in Brooklyn, New York. His work can be seen at www.chromadetic.com.
This is the third year the Texas Contemporary Art Fair has been in Houston, but my first time attending. The art displayed here differs greatly from what is exhibited at the Fine Art Fair. It’s less traditional, more experimental, and as I would expect, pushes the boundaries further. Contemporary Art is one of my favorite types of art to experience. Sometimes I want to experience art that makes me think and is relevant to the world today. While there is beauty in more traditional ideas of art, I’m not sure all of those ideals still apply today. To be able to view art from recognized artists such as Damien Hirst, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, Ann Hamilton, and Andy Warhol is always a fun experience for me. Immediately walking in, there was a huge pink sculpture looming in the entrance created by Ann Wood. A small structure with animals on the roof, everything was covered in layers of pink rubbery goo oozing down the sides. Also covered in flowers, this piece was very tactile, alternating between tacky and smooth plastic. It was pink, girly, shiny, and attractive, yet grotesque all at the same time. The animals are very skinny, showing ribs, and covered in this goo as well. When something is entirely covered, I always think of suffocation and being restricted. I have previously discussed this particular feeling regarding a sculpture by Cy Twombly and a photograph by David LaChapelle. My thoughts are also about the objects being merged together, bound by this goo like substance. The structure itself may be a shelter for hunting, but I’m not entirely sure. With no other explanation but the title, One More Reason to be Good, I am left to decipher what this piece is about. Walking further into the entrance, was another building, a laundromat covered in graffiti. A familiar place to most people, the inside is lined with brightly colored bottles of detergents that extend to the playful and colorful imagery taking over the walls, spilling out from within. This has a more welcoming environment that’s well lit, inviting the viewer to enter. The ritual of doing laundry is something the average person would experience on a regular basis, going to a laundromat to perform this cleansing. Created by the Clayton Brothers, this piece is titled Wishy Washy. I get the sense that something should be cleansed, all the components are there to do a load of dirty laundry. This idea of a structure, a familiar place, a shelter, domesticity were strong concepts presented in these two very different installations. The 1st is a sticky, layered mess, while the latter is a clean, organized location that serves a specific purpose. The 1st structure is a curious type of place, not existing prior to it’s creation while the other represents a familiar place where you would clean your clothing. The choice to juxtapose these two different structures as you enter is an interesting choice that I hoped was the beginning of an engaging display of art throughout the fair. There were many major art dealers here. The Kristy Stubbs Gallery from Dallas had an impressive roster of artists that included Damien Hirst and Robert Rauschenberg. The Hirst butterfly pieces were priced at $225,000 each. Well known artists with familiar pieces at serious prices. This is only the 2nd time I have seen his butterfly pieces in person, the other time in a small gallery in New York that represented more modest pieces by Hirst and Jeff Koons. In contrast with my 1st experience, these pieces were more intricate. One of my new favorite light artist was presented here, Chul Hyun Ahn. I had included his work when I wrote about last year’s Houston Fine Art Fair. His work appears endless, creating repetition with the use of lighting and mirrors. A new element existed that I don’t recall seeing last year, was the lighting changed through a spectrum of colors. His work is now ever changing, both in color and depth, each view point offering a slighting shifting perspective. Every time I have seen his work, people are always drawn to it, enjoying the illusion created, looking into infinity. Another great neon piece is by Tim Etchells. I have written several times about light pieces, including art I have experienced by James Turrell and Dan Flavin. I am very drawn to them and will take every opportunity to view them. The contemporary use of a message is something I am particularly interested in. Bruce Nauman is one of my favorite pioneers, smartly displaying similar words or shifting text, changing the original context. Neon has traditionally been used to give information, such as open/closed, enter, XXX, etc. Now it is often used to express a sentiment, another type of information that is now documented. With so much intriguing art, it is difficult to just discuss a few pieces. One thing that did stand out was the amount of art that sold. Many limited edition pieces sold out. Red dots seemed to be everywhere. It is always a good sign to see many pieces of art being sold. The fact that it is contemporary art also says the art market is currently playful and open minded. Art fairs are an experience. The opportunity to visit with many galleries from different locations is a rare opportunity. However, it is just a sample, as most are small spaces displaying a quick view of their most sell-able artists. My goal is to get to Art Basel (Basel Switzerland or Miami), Pulse (New York), and Frieze (London) someday. All of these fairs exclusively exhibit contemporary art. This is just one way to experience art. I recommend mixing art fairs in with studio visits, as well as regular visits to the museums of any city you are in or visit. The more art that I experience, I find I am able to have a better understanding of contemporary art, a better idea of topics being discussed, and often am introduced to new ideas I have not come across before.
Enjoying seeing Cindy Sherman so much in New York, I was excited to be able to view her Retrospective again because it was coming to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Of course, I did write about my experience with Sherman at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It had opened in Dallas in mid March, but I was way too busy to go then. Although, having said that, I did make time to see Cy Twombly and Picasso in Houston in March. Since I had known in advance, I was able to plan a good time to get out of town, get cheap bus tickets on Megabus, and my friend was able to get a free hotel room for a couple of nights. I always want to get out of town to see art. Finally arriving at the exhibit, well, was not quite as exciting. Not because I had already seen it, but the display didn’t seem as dynamic. It was not a very dramatic display, in fact, it was a extremely safe. Walking up, was an open room with a piece taken from different series, then that was mixed within a series of large photographic murals from 2011-2012. This particular series is very different to me because Sherman doesn’t seem to be portraying a “type” here, she seems to be creating these characters out of her imagination. I don’t find these personas particularly relate-able, but they are the most curious. A juggler with short blond hair, wearing a nude body suit under a decorative leotard performing outfit, with knee socks and tennis shoes. This gives Sherman a very boy-like, flat chested appearance. Yet another image is also sporting the nude body suit, but this time a white corset costume made up with layers of fringe, reminding me of feathers, gold gloves going up to her elbows and maybe tap shoes. This is a more feminine depiction than the previous, emphasizing the body, complete with a red bob cut. Eventually, Sherman is “nude” in similar clothing, with breasts and pubic hair. Still a different piece is created from an odd, almost knight/warrior looking outfit, with some type of made up looking crest, then is strangely paired with velour tiger striped pants with footies or socks. This is the most of androgynous of the figures, with curly short hair and oversized baggy clothing. These misfits seem like they don’t belong anywhere, maybe roaming around as a band of gypsies or with a carnival. The background of these images are black and cream imagery of nature, I assume extremely photo-shopped photographs, as some have been altered to have a painterly quality while others remain more photographic looking. The background imagery reminds me of the pattern in toile, or some other traditional image. These pieces also differ from her other series as they are presented as site specific photographic murals that stick directly to the wall. MOMA had them displayed as you walk to the exhibit as well, however, they were eighteen feet tall. At the DMA, it was hard to tell the size, but approximately half that. The scale changes the presentation greatly. These fictitious characters should be much larger than life , their imaginary world should be an environment. Combined with the generic decision to make a compilation of her work in the front room and place them among the murals was not a successful layout. My other concern with the display was that fact that it did not flow. This was mainly due to the each gallery only having one door. You walk in, you walk out, you walk past the same art in the hall again, you go to the next room. I do hate directly comparing to MOMA, but the eleven galleries there led you to the next in a chronological experience through Sherman’s work, creating a continuity in the exhibit. Discussing this after with my friend Jim, he said I am spoiled working with such a great Exhibition Director, Kathy Armstrong, at the Southwest School of Art. It is true, I have learned a lot from her. Paying close attention to the display of the work, I have seen walls built and removed, even creating a room when necessary. I have experience from building a twelve foot wall in my studio, the DMA could have easily made some adjustments, as simple as adding an additional doorway to some of the rooms. Despite how I felt by the display of the work, ultimately, I was still pulled in by Sherman’s pieces. Her work stands on it own, captivating me. Most of the work on display is large scale, contrasting her first landmark series, Untitled Film Stills, 1977-1980, which is a collection of eight by ten inch black and white photos. Immediately, I am drawn to Untitled #153, 1985. Or as I refer to it, Dead. The image is haunting, her lifeless body staring off with empty, open eyes. Of course, this is my narrative. As it stands untitled, there is no indication that this is a dead body. It obviously isn’t, Sherman is alive and well. But these are the implications of a wet body, covered in debris, laying on the muddy ground. This piece in particular makes me want to know more. What happened? Who is she? Is she dead? Traumatized? I want to know how this body ended up laying on the ground in some non-descrip location, very anonymous. Even if this body is not supposed to be dead, this person certainly is not mentally present, looking far off into the distance, trying to think past what is happening now, possibly already empty and emotionally dead. Engaging pieces like this are what is great about Sherman’s work and leaves you with more questions than answers. The description on the wall discusses how Sherman’s construction of the feminine is far from desirable. This is notable in pieces such as Untitled #175, that I simply call Bulimic. One of her many images she refers to as Grotesque, this work is composed mainly of half eaten food and a pile of vomit. The food is strewn around, as if hastily eaten and discarded, in a frenzy, as if on a binge. In this series, Sherman begins to remove herself from the work, leaving only a glimpse or piece of herself, until ultimately removing herself for a period. The only reference to Sherman in this piece is the look of self loathing on her face as it is reflected in a pair of sunglasses, also haphazardly thrown down in the middle of this moment of excess. The piece still refers to feminine issues from a female perspective, even without the female form being the center of this image. The Grotesque Series is unappealing, experimental, and often disgusting. And I am very much drawn to them. A glimpse, to an eye, then just a shadow, until Sherman is completely removed from the image. Reading about this, Sherman felt she may be too dependent on her image and wanted to see if she could create the same type of narrative removing herself. The results are a body of work that discusses what lies beyond the surface in a very physical, almost aggressive manner, creating what I would consider her more shocking work. I have watched many people dismiss this work, barely glancing at it, possibly because it is so raw. In these pieces, there is not the illusion of being fake or uncomfortable, as many of her subjects take on. These take on a seemingly more honest approach as she confronts private, taboo topics. Changing her props to vomit and a shit looking substance covering all but her eye, this series is not for the faint of heart. While Sherman herself becomes absent, the use of her costumes such as wigs take over and the use of body parts from a medical catalog are used very sexual ways. The Centerfold Series is another controversial body of work by Sherman. I did discuss this when I originally saw this exhibition in New York. The work was commissioned, then rejected by Artforum, because it appeared too controversial. The issue surrounding these works stemmed from the emotional states portrayed and were seen as women about to or that have already been victimized. These women are all exposed in many ways. Physically, they are laying down and closely cropped, confined into a tight box of charged mental states. Emotionally, these women are staring off into the distance, not directly acknowledging the camera, as seen in other series such as the Head Shots or Socialites. They are contemplating, daydreaming, or possibly scared. The viewer becomes a voyeur to an intimate, vulnerable moment. I find them haunting and chilling, the emotions feel so real to me. Attracted by their displayed vulnerability as well as the fact that they are oblivious to the camera, the gaze, as they are caught up in their private thoughts with a public display of emotion. Greatly differing from the often straight on look from a naked woman normally in this same position. The format of the two page centerfold spread has long been associated with seduction, and displayed to be viewed by men. While the imagery Sherman provides is a contradiction to that, they are still exposed, but in a much different way than the stereotypical centerfold tart. As a series, this was the one I spent the most time with. Despite the original controversy, Untitled #96, 1981 was sold in 2011 for $3.89 million, breaking records for the sale a single photograph. That image displays a great use of color, with a young girl lost in thought staring off into the distance, holding a newspaper ad.
Sherman’s fashion series are parodies of the superficial world of clothing, name brands, and looks as a job. Untitled #137, 1984 or Fashion Junky, to me touches upon well known drug use in these circles, both as a model to stay thin, but also to have a good time, the night life. This “model” takes this further, looking strung out on heroin in expensive clothing. Another reference I read was she looked like a victim of domestic violence, hair disheveled, with a blank look on her face. Many critiques of Sherman’s work often and quickly discusses how many of the women seem to be victims. Other images in this series are stiff and aggressive, or display very over done women, and include many variations of beauty. As unflattering as these depictions are, quite a few designers and magazines have worked with Sherman, allowing her artistic vision to control the images. So why am I such a huge fan of Cindy Sherman? Yes, it begins with her imagery, but goes much deeper than that. It is impressive that she is the artist, model, stylist, makeup and hair artist, and photographer. I can appreciate the hard work and vision of an auteur. I talked earlier about a particular series of work I found unrelate-able. Discussing this with someone, they laughed, and said they couldn’t relate to any of her characters. I didn’t understand that. We have all seen the femme fatale, the housewife, the model, the socialite, a clown, etc… In fact, that is the relate-able part to me, these figures exist in our lives. Sherman is commenting on the plasticity and how malleable a persona actually is. Often, I believe she is talking about what lies beneath the facade. Most fairy tales are creepy. While I didn’t discuss any imagery from that series (or several others), Sherman is capturing the essence of what is there, not just glossing over what is on the surface, often our only type of experiences and encounters with these women. Ultimately, she is proving a person can be whom ever they choose. None of these personas are her alter ego. They are a compilation of the saturation of media Sherman has been exposed to all her life. In fact, since her work doesn’t refer to anyone specific, they are “representations of representations” (Respini, Eva, Cindy Sherman. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012)
Purity Ring is an amazing electronic band from Canada. Their debut album, Shrines, is amazing. Their show sold out in Austin before I could buy tickets! However, they were also playing in Dallas, so my friend and I decided to go. We took the five hour trip on the Megabus for less than $5 roundtrip for both of us. Since my friend works at the Hyatt, we also got a free hotel room. The current exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) looks like an interesting show. This should be a good trip. I set up a meeting with Erin Stafford, one of the artists in Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH), currently living in Dallas. I have known her for a few years, however, this is the first time I will be working with her. Although, I have seen her work exhibited several times and wrote about one of her recent San Antonio shows in Seduction and Private Moments. We meet at bar belmont at the Belmont Hotel. It’s a cute bar up on a hill with a fantastic view of downtown Dallas that apparently used to be a crack house. Interesting. Sounds like something I would move into with a bunch of other artists. I have always been attracted to the raw, gritty, real aesthetics of dilapidated, old buildings. I always want to move in and turn it into something I can use. We discuss several different projects she is working on and all of Stafford’s ideas are fantastic and fit right into SMIH. She has a couple of great pieces already completed that I love. That is great for press, as well, being able to make the deadline to include in our press kit and any additional requests for images. Best of all, it relates to her paintings, but is an entirely different medium. I really want the artists in this show to push what they normally would create for an exhibit.
After drinks, we head back to the hotel to get ready for the show that evening. We are staying in the middle of Downtown Dallas, and it is nice to stroll through, well lit up. I love neon and it is everywhere! I know I have previously written about light pieces from various artists, particularly my favorite, Dan Flavin and several pieces at The Houston Fine Art Fair. The vintage Greyhound sign is my favorite. The way the area is lit up makes it fun to walk around and explore. It’s definitely a different feel from Downtown Houston, where it seems to become a ghost town at night. I will always be a City Girl, a Downtown City Girl. Never growing up quite so metropolitan, it all changed when I went to high school in the middle of downtown. I had so much fun…I never looked back. It’s the center, where everything and everyone meets. When I was in high school, I couldn’t realize that my life would be wrapped around a ten mile radius of that school – where I work, where I live, and my studio. The show is great! Purity Ring sounds amazing in person. It is electronic music, with the experimentation being the best part. I am really amazed this is their first album, I hope they can continue making music without losing what they have captured here. Although their stage presence could use a make over, they were still fantastic to see live. It was their first tour, after all. Check them out: Purity Ring: Fineshrine Purity Ring: Amenamy The Granada was a nice location, I had never been there before. One thing that highly interested me was their social media. On both sides of the stage were huge projection screens. In between the two bands, they projected their twitter feed. This caused people to twitter just to see it up on the screen. Genius! I think we may have to do this for SMIH. We haven’t started a twitter account yet, but plan to have that up and running by the show. It was just a fun way to promote the event. The comments did get a little “adult” but I would expect no less for SMIH… Of course, I have to fit in art before we leave and head to the Dallas Museum of Art. I already have plans to visit in May to see the Cindy Sherman Exhibit. I made a special point to go to New York to see it before, of course I will travel 5 hours to see it in Texas. It was that amazing. But today is another show, Cindy Sherman has not yet entered Texas. One of the current exhibits is presenting all women artists, Difference?. Encompassing various media and themes, the fact that the work was all created by females in the past fifty years is the only connection between the artists in this exhibit, an interesting choice. Yes, I feel women have a point of view that needs to be expressed. No, I don’t think it should be exclusive. Art is in your soul, not your sex. What I do believe is that both sexes have a different message and have had different experiences. Art would not be complete if one side was missing, as it was for centuries. Without these pioneers, my work today might not be taken as seriously. Louise Bourgeois is a great example. Seeing her Small Spider sculpture in New Orleans was amazing. The works exhibited here, at the DMA today, seem so simple, yet carry complex ideas. Of course, feminist work is included, such as a fantastic piece made out of snaps and latex by Hannah Wilke. It would be ignorant to ignore such a strong point of view. But this show encompassed so much more than that one viewpoint that is often associated or blindly labeled with female artwork. Feminist work was a small part of this exhibit, in no way highlighted or called attention to. Square Tubes (Vierkantrohre), 1967/2009 by Charlotte Posenenske is intriguing and amusing. Removing the artists’ hand completely, this piece is made of six industrial geometric hollow tubes. Though Posenenske was in Germany, Donald Judd was working on his minimal pieces fabricated with industrial materials in the US during this same time. Also removing his hand from the work, his work differs because it is not interactive, he has made all of the decisions. Posenenske’s work is to be put together by the installer/owner, taking the removal of the artists’ touch even further, while using a considerably masculine material, removing any possible feminine qualities. In stark contrast to the smooth polished metal, is a piece by Tara Donovan. Untitled (Toothpicks), 2004, this work is anything but inviting. Created by possibly thousands of toothpicks, this speaks to my love of ritual and repetition. It is rough, sharp looking, and full of chaos, yet is neatly compartmentalized in a square, uniform shape. Also in contrast to Posenenske’s work, Donovan uses common daily items, not industrial, specific materials. This inspires my current series of work greatly. I have been choosing to work with common items with history and re appropriate them with a different, emotional meaning, expanding them from their strictly utilitarian use. So, if I didn’t know the title of this exhibition and just viewed the pieces independently, no, I would not have assumed this was an all female show. It wasn’t all pink and made of roses. Point made. Thank you. Another show on exhibit is Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950’s to the Present. Themes included Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the Figure. Composed primarily from pieces in the DMA collection, This included work from quite a few of my favorite artists. There is a huge Donald Judd that looks like it goes a couple of stories high and also a Gerhard Richter that differs greatly from his stylistic blurry paintings. This piece was a mirror. A blank canvas for the viewer to interact with. What was interesting to me was that Richter was displayed near the piece by Michaelangelo Pisoletto, which varied greatly from the last pieces I viewed by him in New York, which were paintings on mirrors. Again, interacting with the viewer, but putting them in an specific environment. Today, Pistelleto’s piece is a box on the floor, I believe made out of mirrors, but turned backwards, revealing no reflections, just the coated backside. Paintings by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock also grace the walls. There is a fantastic neon piece by Bruce Nauman. Again, I find what people do with light is compelling. Besides this neon piece, I have seen Nauman create in many different mediums, including sculpture, video, and also a sound installation, Days, at MOMA a few years ago. This exhibit is displayed in the Barrel Vault, a huge and open gallery space, allowing plenty of room to view or interact with the art.
This was a fun, quick trip where I feel I got a lot accomplished. Meeting with Erin, an artist in Seven Minutes, seeing Purity Ring, a great show at the Granada, and the fabulous art at the Dallas Museum of Art is a lot to pack into an overnight trip! If I’m going to travel five hours, apparently I will make it worth my while. Now that the DMA offers free general admission, hopefully more people will get exposed to this fantastic collection and amazing travelling exhibits.
- Figuring Out 2013 – Whatever That Means (hownottomakealivingasanartist.com)
- Heading to the Big Easy: New Orleans (hownottomakealivingasanartist.com)
With the new year ahead of me, or maybe I just got the itch to travel, I planned an impromptu trip to New Orleans. I was planning a regular trip to Houston to visit a friend, when I decided to go to New Orleans for a relaxing time. There is also the New Orleans Museum of Art, which I have never visited before. So I rented an apartment, headed to Houston for free on the Megabus (there is a promotion for free travel if seats are available, through Feb 29! Promo code: TRYMEGABUS), where a friend picked us up, and we drove about five more hours, into New Orleans. Although, quickly, some (fun) work is added. On the way there, I get an email confirming Antonio Diaz from Austin is still in Seven Minutes in Heaven II. It has been a while since I invited him, so I am glad he will still be joining the group. I found his prints insinuating and erotic, a perfect fit for SMIH II. I also get a text from the Southwest School Gallery Shop, my now former job. I have been on the list to purchase some of the display pedestals. Everything from the store is for sale, since it closed. Of course, I would be out of town, and unable to go in and pick them out now. Lucky for me, I already know what’s there and what I want. Making some quick decisions, I make some purchases through text, calling after we arrived to pay by credit card. Since Vanessa Centeno, one of the Seven Minutes in Heaven II artists, is living there, working on her MFA at the University of New Orleans, I set up a little more work, meeting her at a local spot. It is great to see her, it has been since last April, when I originally invited her. Already known in San Antonio for her paintings, she presented her idea for video for SMIH II, which I am excited about. My curating style of working with solid, intelligent artists makes it easier to encourage experimentation. I want to work with artists pushing limits and that often involves unpredictable results. A lot of risk taking is involved in making and exhibiting provocative, thought-provoking art. Unfortunately, the weather was anything but ideal. It was chillier than we would prefer and it is foggy as hell. Standing at the water, you can only see about a hundred feet into the Mighty Mississippi. That was a little disappointing. However, everything else was absolutely fabulous! Our two bedroom apartment was cute and walking distance to everything. There was plenty of amazing art, beautiful cemeteries, fantastic buildings, great food, and definitely interesting people! NOLA never disappoints! Visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art is high priority for me. The building that it is located in is beautiful. My friend, Katherine Marquette, worked here prior to moving to San Antonio. How amazing would that be to come here every morning? Is that too much to ask, to work in a historical building surrounded by world-class art? Sigh. That is
the goal one day. They had an amazing exhibition up, “Lifelike,” that I really enjoyed. The exhibit focused on contemporary realism, comprised of objects that were distorted by their scale. Spanning from the 1960’s to the present, the work discussed various ideas from over fifty artists. Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed and the gift shop was currently sold out of the catalog right then, but said I could buy a copy on Amazon. I will have to do that. Their permanent contemporary collection was also impressive, including Yves Kline, John Chamberlain, Joan Mitchell, Richard Diebenkorn, John McCracken, Basquiat, and Warhol. These artists are always incredibly inspiring to me, I have previously posted about most of them already. Mitchell is an artist I wish I had an opportunity to see more of in person. Her bold, gestural work is beautiful to look at up close. I think this may only be the third piece I have had the pleasure of viewing. I was fortunate to see Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series in Fort Worth last year. The layered, worked over, and revealing subtractions are what I find the most interesting about his work. John McCracken always reminds me of a contemporary art class I took in college. One student looked at photos just like this one and kept asking “what color is it?”, because of the light reflecting on it. Even this photo shows light and dark gradations due to the lighting. Isn’t that the point of using such a highly reflective surface? I’m so glad to be out of school. But I guess I do have some affection towards McCracken, I did also post a photo of his beautiful red piece at SAMA. The slick, polished Minimalist planks are perfectly crafted, made using industrial materials. I enjoy the simplistic expression of Minimalism. I could never explain anything that basic, my layered work relates to what a complicated person I am. As with Donald Judd, I am particularly attracted to the simplicity of the presentation, perfect aesthetics, and exploration of space. The space these pieces occupy interests me because they simultaneously engage two spaces, placed on the floor like a sculpture, but also positioned on the wall, a place normally reserved for paintings. This is characteristic of this particular series, his other work is comprised of free-standing pieces. A surprise for me was the largest collection of Joseph Cornell I have been able to view together. Considered a pioneer of assemblage, Cornell’s pieces interest me because he has assembled objects once considered precious, often still recognizable, invoking feelings of nostalgia, while at the same time, their original beauty, and sometimes use, has been lost. The raw, real, everyday objects discuss collecting and time, while creating enigmatic narratives. The format of assemblage put together in boxes is also very inviting. I want to further investigate these collections of things. His work extends also into collages, which I consider 2-D assemblages, or assemblages as 3-D collages, connecting by creating new thoughts out of existing remnants. They are fun to view, placed in a room on their own. Since Marfa, I appreciate a little more when a larger collection of an artist is kept in context of their own work to contemplate together.
The most fantastic discovery of all was the Sculpture Garden. I finally got to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s “Small” Spiders. There are quite a few of them displayed throughout the world. While a small one, it stands above me as I walked in and out of her long, elegant legs. I have seen many of her pieces, however, this is the first outdoor, large-scale piece I have seen. She is represented in most collections, considered an important artist, discussing fears, anxiety, confusion, and sexual desires in her works. Of course, it is always exciting to see Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Their massive sculptures of common, everyday objects are elevated by being increased to a monumental scale. At 21’, Safety Pin towers over the park, demanding your attention, one of my favorite characteristics of Pop Art. It’s always fun to see their pieces, I love their Horseshoe in Marfa. It is not clear in the photo, but the Ladder piece by Leandro Erlich is not held up by anything in the back. It is amazing to look at. There are so many pieces I could discuss. This fantastic Sculpture Garden was so fun to explore. There were many other great sculptures, including pieces by Rene Margritte and Fernando Botero. Nearby the museum, we randomly find St. Louis Cemetary #3. New Orleans cemeteries are beautiful. There are graves, as well as places where ashes of families are together that range from boxes to buildings. French influenced, many of the above ground structures remind me of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. There are still many differences that make it unique to NOLA, which is what I want to capture. When I go to cemeteries in different regions or a different country, I am searching for how that culture celebrates death and those who have passed. Marble, sculptures of Saints and Angels adorn many sites. It doesn’t take long to discover some rituals that you would only find in New Orleans. One site has Mardi Gras beads strewn around. I bet during Mardi Gras the grave sites will be covered with them. That would make some nice photos. Another has simply a bottle of oil, something I have never seen before, and I wonder if it has something to do with Voodoo. One site has a jar of some kind of food. It looks odd, and may be aged, rotting food left a while ago, or something else possibly related to Voodoo. I am excited to find new customs that I have not seen before.
At this point, I have been working on this large cemetery photo project for about twelve years, possibly towards an exhibit or book or, hopefully, both. My fascination with cemeteries has been since I was in high school. It’s interesting to think how something cultivates and captures your attention for that long. I have always found them beautiful. When I was in Munich a few years ago, there was an exhibit on Hermann Obrist at the Neue Pinakothek. An accomplished Art Nouveau sculptor and designer in Germany, this exhibition focused on his sculptures and “funerary monuments.” Unaware of who Obrist was, running into that show was purely coincidental. I squeezed in the Modern and Contemporary Art by myself on a day off. It was nice to see I wasn’t the only one who appreciates the beauty that lies inside the cemetery gates.
This was a quick few days during the week, but that didn’t stop it from being a fun, inspiring, and productive trip. It’s been about ten years since I was here last and it was just as fun as I remember. There is definitely still a lot to explore – gallery spaces, plenty more cemeteries, architecture, and the vibe that the entire city gives off. I will definitely be back.
Last year was crazy, unpredictable, and exciting! All that without a full plan. Well, that’s not entirely true. I work pretty hard at what I do, whatever that is, put myself out there , and accept most opportunities that I’m lucky enough to have come my way. A new year to me means new opportunities and adventures. I do not return to the same boring desk job after Christmas. I get to plan my year out however I would like. I am very lucky.
With that in mind, how do I begin to plan for the new year? Some things are already on my calendar, such as Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) 2013, which will be March 2, 2013, my first CAM studio tour on March 24, 2013, and the show I am curating at Alex Rubio’s gallery, R Gallery, of my five artists July 13, 2013. That’s a lot to be excited about already, but doesn’t take up nearly enough of my calendar. That means work to do and new opportunities to find.
Beginning January 1, Megabus put up travel through April, so travel is my next stage of planning. My husband and I are heading to New Orleans in a week with friend, although we will be driving there. Then I head to Dallas before the month is over for a music show with a friend. Both trips include meetings with artists in SMIH and visits to the Museums of Art. Technically “pleasure” trips, work and art are, as usual, always included. I know I will be in Austin for a music show in March, a few days after SMIH. I know the West Austin Studio Tours are in April this year, and last year was so much fun, I won’t be missing that! In May I will be heading back to Dallas for the Cindy Sherman exhibit. That will be such an exciting trip! I spent several hours in the exhibit at MOMA last March and look forward to doing that again.
I will also be in Detroit visiting someone very dear to me, I think in the beginning of June, but I will be flying there. However, it would be really easy to hop on the Megabus to Chicago. I have visited both cities before, although not in quite a while. I was lucky enough to see Throbbing Gristle perform in Chicago a few years ago. That was a pretty legendary show I was lucky enough to attend. Detroit has some great art to visit such as the DIA, Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, and cool galleries like CPOP. In Chicago, there is the Art Institute, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit my friend, artist, Grayson Bagwell, currently attending Grad School at Columbia. He is in SMIH this year. I keep dragging him back to San Antonio to exhibit. And I keep visiting him. He used to live in Brooklyn, so of course I would pop up there. When he attended Pratt he was fantastic enough to take me on a tour and to the Grad office. It is the school with my dream program, a dual masters program in Art History and Information Sciences (Library Sciences). They offer a summer program to study in Venice and do internships with the Met. Their main campus is in Brooklyn, but their Art History campus is on Manhattan. It would be perfect since my husband is also interested in attending Grad School in New York, at the New School. He is an experimental writer looking for an untraditional program. Although with his high GPA and great references, I’m pretty sure he could get in anywhere. It’s me I’m a little worried about. My GPA is slightly lower due to not dropping a one class in time. Really. That killed my GPA for a few semesters. I am now just thrown in the average pool. Which is why I am hustling everyday, trying to build my resume and get my name out there so I stand out when I do apply. I need scholarship money to live in New York. Oh yes, please let me learn all about curating in New York!
And what about “work?” I mean, I am always working, always glued to my phone or laptop, always attending art exhibits and meeting people. What I really mean is paying work. Regularly. Money is a funny thing. I swear I don’t live by it, but it sure does make my plans come together much more smoothly. As of now, I don’t have anything scheduled until February. January is always the slowest month for me work wise. Everyone has already taken their vacations during December and won’t take time again until the summer. It’s a little tough financially, but I always have a lot to do. Last year I learned I better focus on SMIH or it definitely catches up with me all at once. Not to mention I need to organize my life again. Spring cleaning is serious business to me, after the whirlwind of my first open studio, the holidays, art events, and parties, I am completely disorganized. My house and studio are normally a wreck. So is my brain. I will set up my calendar and travel, begin to work on my house so it no longer looks like a war zone, clean my studio, go back to yoga to relax my mind, oh, and breathe. I have to be able to clear through some of these things before I can focus on my art again.
Being self employed is not for everyone. You have to be a go-with-the-flow kind of person, which I am only sometimes, and have lots of confidence, which I do most of the time. Inviting people you’ve never met before to work with you at a place/event they have never heard of (mainly out of town artists), you have to sound like you know what you’re doing, or they’re not interested. Sometimes they’re not interested even when they do know you and what your doing. Marketing to strangers. Yes, I have definitely built up this skill in the last year. Also fundraising. I could not possibly afford everything I want to do, so I do need help. I’m very fortunate to have people believe in me. I have produced a few events now, worked with quite a few artists, and have had a good track record by showing up and supporting many artists and art events. Believing I will make enough money by the end of the month to pay for my studio rent, my art supplies, and any art events/parties I am throwing. That is the most go-with-the-flow-part. Sometimes that gives me a huge headache, but again, I am learning to breathe and take it one day at a time.
I am excited to work on my art again. I have several big projects that I am working on and now have the space to begin to put them together. I have to be ready with my work for the studio tour in March. Both displaying my older work and really putting in some time on my newer projects. The studio tour is in about eleven weeks and I want to have something to show. I have been fortunate to receive so many opportunities when I have shown I am serious about curating. Who knows what will come up when I show I am interested in showing my art again. The last few shows I have been in were invitational group shows, but I will be ready this year to exhibit some of the major projects I have been working on.
So I begin to prepare for the new year. Whatever that means.
This year has been exceptionally crazy and ambitious for me! I began 2012 by starting to write this blog. Not too sure what I was doing, my purpose was to document my self employment endeavors, encouraged by a friend. Looking back, the things I did this year amaze me. Five years ago, two years ago, or even just this past year, I could not have predicted the directions in which my career has been expanding. It’s an incredible feeling and I love the unexpected opportunities that constantly come up and having the ability to accept them.
Places I traveled to see art in 2012:
- Fort Worth: Caravaggio and his followers in Rome at The Kimbell, Jan; Lucian Freud at The Modern, September
- Houston: Moody Gallery, CAMH, Jan; Ai Weiwei Zodiac Heads at Hermann Park, MFAH, CAMH, May; Houston Fine Art Fair, Silence at The Menil, September; Houston Artcrawl, November
- Berlin: Gerhard Richter Panorama at Neue Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof (Museum of Contemporary Art), Berlinische Galerie, Judische Museum, March
- Budapest: Marina Abramovich Eight Lessons On Emptiness, March
- New York: Cindy Sherman Retrospective at MOMA; Georg Baselitz, David Lynch, David LaChapelle, & Frank Yamrus in Chelsea; March
- Austin: West Austin Studio Tours, May; Hybrid Forms, Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), East Austin Studio Tours, November;
- Marfa: Chinati Open House, October
I had a hard time listing them without going through my blog! That is the most travel I think I have ever completed in one year, ever in my entire life. But I hope it’s just the beginning. All of these trips have introduced me to new artists, new spaces, what is going on in the regional, national, and international art world, and best of all, amazing art. Ranging from major shows that have been written about to discovering many new wonderful artists that are local, I have spent the majority of this year seeing and absorbing as much art as possible. It has brought me much insight and inspiration.
However, I didn’t always have to travel out of town to see amazing art.
- Andy Warhol, Fame and Misfortune at The McNay in April
- Agosto Cuellar at Artpace in May
- San Antonio Collects at SAMA in June
- Governing Bodies at Gallery Nord in October
- Franc-tober Fest at Bismark Gallery in October
Those are just a few of the highlights and a tiny portion of art that I viewed this year. I attended, as well, the majority of First Thursdays/Fridays, Second Fridays, and Second Saturdays. I would say 8-10 out of 12 monthly events of each. Then there are the additional shows at the numerous artist run spaces in San Antonio, I seem to meet new people/artists on a weekly basis. At least my pile of business cards, that I swear I will organize soon, keeps growing. The exhibitions I am hired to work at have not even been included. This year, that primarily consisted of the Southwest School of Art.
The end of the year brought a lot of mixed feelings for me. With my only regular part time job disappearing, I started to feel depression sinking in. Rejection is always difficult, and I am facing the fact that I don’t have another job lined up. The way I know I felt depressed was because when I would start to discuss all my ongoing projects (as I learned in my online class – never answer with just ‘I’ve been so busy’, be specific), it always ended with “and I don’t get paid for any of that.” I can’t say why I decided to be so revealing, I think some of the stress was starting to unnerve me. Apparently, I needed to vent and I’m glad that I did. The responses were amazing, such as being told that I’m doing a fantastic job, I’m doing things that nobody else is doing, and if I can financially afford to keep going, then do it. Overall, I received a positive response and people telling me they admire what I’m doing. I will always be the first to admit that I fall apart sometimes. The stress can be overwhelming, always believing in what you are doing and feeling confident you are heading in the right direction is not always easy. The trick is to learn how to deal with it, because it will not be ignored.
But I would not trade any of this for anything in the world. While those moods set in occasionally, I know I am the girl in the car dancing and singing as I drive to work most mornings. I have also had a few personal career triumphs this year as well. Seven Minutes in Heaven was quite an accomplishment for my first huge public event, I couldn’t have been happier. Getting my own studio space outside of my house for the first time is something I have been dreaming about for quite awhile now. Biding my time and being patient really paid off – a 1000 sf studio space is pretty fantastic! Shortly after getting my space, I went to the East Austin Studio Tours and the Houston Artcrawl. I couldn’t help notice that I had a larger space to work in than 80% of the studios I visited. Of course, you don’t need to have a huge space to create great art, but it sure is nice to have it! So, do I have anything to complain about? Absolutely not!! The more I think about getting depressed about not making money, I laugh. Who am I kidding? I have been working on installation art pieces that are NFS (not for sale). I really haven’t spent too much time or effort job searching or applying, I have too many projects that I have created on my own to work on. I work on my own terms, and for 70% of the work year, I answer only to myself. I get told regularly that I could do portraits when people see the graphite drawing I did of myself as a student. Yes, I could make some money doing that, but it doesn’t interest me. I am a very lucky girl to have the support of my husband for all of my crazy dreams.
I have also realized I have an interesting audience for my blog. Every single day I have readers from around the world. Of course, the US has the most views, but the list of other countries that have viewed my blog is pretty large, 73 different countries, in fact, since I have begun publishing. I started writing my blog in January, but officially publishing it just 6 months ago in June. My most viewed blog entry this year was about Cindy Sherman in New York, followed by Kreuzberg, Berlin, Chelsea, New York, and Agosto Cuellar, San Antonio.
- 1 Cindy Sherman at MOMA March 2012
- 2 Kreuzberg, Berlin: Street Art March 2012
- 3 Exploring Chelsea – Do Bigger Names Mean Better Art? March 2012
- 4 Artpace – Agosto Cuellar taking over May 2012
- 5 Seduction & Private Moments July 2012
Concluding my first year of trying to document, well, at least, something about what I do, has been quite interesting. Many things get easily forgotten when trying to write a self employed resume. Am I any closer to creating a good, representational resume? Probably not. But do I have a better grasp on what I am doing and getting better at setting my future goals? Absolutely! I still have no idea where I will end up, and that is half of the excitement. If life where all planned out for you, what would be the point of living it? I will enjoy where the ride leads me, trying to take in all I can. This year has lead me on some great adventures. I just try to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me that fit and so far, that has led me to a pretty happy life. The main lessons I have learned this year are planning ahead and just going for it. My instincts have led me to an interesting place that I know I have just begun to explore. I am so excited for the upcoming year!
Time for another opening at the Southwest School of Art (SSA), which means time for another double duty day at the school. Working at two different positions in the school is a little odd but quintessential of my self employment, working about 9 hours divided up through out the day. I begin my day by opening the Gallery Shop on the Ursuline Campus from 10-2. The Gallery Shop will be closing very soon, by then end of the year. This will be my last time working half day due to an Exhibition Opening, and only about four more weeks till the closing date of December 29th. Having a couple of hours off in the day, I run errands, eat, and get ready to return. As Bartender for the openings, I am responsible for setting up the reception area and making sure I have everything I need, and then, of course, the break down of everything after the reception closes. The best part is getting to talk to everyone as they make their way around the exhibit. I discuss a possible curatorial opportunity with Meredith Dean that she recommended me for, as well as talk to several other people I haven’t seen in a while. As I answer the standard questions about what I am currently doing/working on, I realize I really do have a lot going on. My studio being the biggest and most immediate project, Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013 a close second.
Sun She Rise, Sun She Set, and You Ain’t Seen Texas Yet, work by Anita Valencia, is an incredible installation taking up the first, larger gallery space. Using common, discarded materials, she produced an entire environment re-purposing everyday items such as tin cans, bottle caps and wire hangers. Valencia brings these items to life as she turns them into objects in motion – including butterflies, tumbleweed, and a twister – and displays them in a way to welcome the viewer to meander through the new environment. Such an engaging exhibit is taking a serious issue and calling attention in a whimsical and playful manner. Upon further inspection, I notice butterflies bearing logos such as Pepsi or Tecate, discussing consumerism and consumption. The sheer number of butterflies alone represent a frightening number of discarded cans. As an artist myself reusing materials, I am interested in how an artist presents existing objects and whether it references it’s original use. I remember seeing Valencia’s exhibit at Cactus Bra a few years ago, which was much different. Still re-using common objects, those pieces were comprised of bottle caps on canvases. I much prefer this new environment as the language of her materials. Valencia just keeps getting better and better, I think understanding her materials more as she continues to create.
In the adjoining, much darker room is the work of Justin Boyd. Days and Days relates to Valencia by also discussing his surrounding environment, but in a much different way. Exhibiting his work in small, wall mounted boxes, each one contains a collage of found objects, expanding this definition to including sound recorded above and below the water, as well as video. The combined elements were all collected from the San Antonio River, making this piece about a specific environment. These polished boxes present an individual view of a more personal experience, records of his time spent on the river, by where Boyd lives. Having also previously exhibited a sound installation at Cactus Bra, Boyd’s sound piece there was of another environment. Presented much differently, as a large, rough, plywood painting of a broken tree, having to do with mining, I believe, it was quite a while ago. But he did create another sound piece dealing with the San Antonio River for the San Antonio Museum of Art, when they had an exhibit about water a few years ago. That was a large piece to partially walk around. Not presented as intimate collections, as in this current series. Since I work at SSA, I know the pieces are more complicated than the display allows the viewer to see. I will sometimes have the responsibility of turning them on in the morning when I occasionally open up the Gallery. I really enjoy that each box has to be turned on individually, slowing turning the room alive with sound as I make my way to each box.
While this work is very different from mine, I find it inspiring and thoughtful. Both artists are documenting what exists around them, with all the works constructed from objects, sounds, and imagery collected locally in San Antonio. These bodies of work interest me as individual points of views from within the same city. I suppose my work is yet one of many other perspectives, born and raised in San Antonio. My current work begins with the environment I am surrounded and influenced by, my installations discuss memories and experiences that I feel were a part of forming my identity, expanding into what we ultimately choose to let create our identities and influence our everyday lives. Using everyday objects such as bird cages, laptops, and pill bottles, I want to create discussions about the life we live and the life we are creating, directly referencing what takes place daily. I will continue to draw inspiration from what I surround myself with everyday.
This past weekend I headed to Houston to do more studio tours. This is only my 2nd time going to the Artcrawl, but I really enjoyed it last year, so my friend and I decided to head north. There are almost 200 artists participating, but this event is very different from the Austin studio tours. The biggest difference is that the Artcrawl only takes place in one day, where as the Austin tours are over two weekends. Last year I was a little disappointed in having such a short time to explore so many artists and spaces, but this year I was much more prepared. The fact that all of these artists are all in only about nine spaces really helped, other studio tours are much more spread out with less artists in more locations. In Houston, there seems to be a preference for renting studio spaces in large warehouses, or maybe that is just what is primarily available. While it is always great to work around or be associated with other artists, renting a studio with so many other people usually means there is a lot more bad art than good. But I will continue to look for artists that I want to work with, even though most of the time it does mean sifting through a lot of other art I’m not interested in. That’s ok. I try to prepare as much as I can by going through the artist list first. I still need to see what people are working on, what materials are used, topics being discuss, and how the work is presented. I always have a lot to learn from other artists. Meeting with another friend in Houston, the three of us begin the Artcrawl at Mother Dog Studios, a huge warehouse comprised of easily over fifty artists. Immediately walking in, there is a huge wall filled with the work of Kelly Alison. She is an artist I had previously worked with in Unconscious Desires, an exhibit I curated in 2009. Her colorful depictions of birds are engaging. The works exhibited here are all oil on paper, each measuring 28″ x 22″. There is always so much going on in her imagery, it’s hard not to get pulled in. These pieces are part of a series Tweet, 2011, in which Alison completed a piece every day for 365 days. On display she has 24 out of the 365 pieces. Based on current world events, she presents serious topics in her distinct style, discussing everything from the Japanese nuclear meltdown, local homelessness, to the economy. The work was then tweeted, resulting in this body of work being recognized and published in various sources. A couple have already sold today, which is always great during studio tours. However, she is not here. Since I have already gone through the artist list, I know she will be at her studio at Box 13. It is great to be able to view artists’ work through several different series, especially when it continues to evolve into new concepts. Walking into the studio of Katie Wynne, it is filled with assemblage type sculptures. Random items put together, initially, I’m not sure what to make of them. Then I see this beautiful piece of satin on the ground. It is slowly moving, very sensually, into itself. It is so simple, composed of two items, the satin and a motor in the middle creating the movement. She has a fantastic video of Untitled (Satin) on her website. I also find a massager with knitted covers over the moving parts. Again, creating a mesmerizing movement that draws me in. Both of these pieces are composed of a tactile element using a specific type of material and movement. Meeting Wynne, I discover these more sensual pieces are relatively new, compared to her other works. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) with her, these two particular pieces would fit well in the rooms of the Fox Motel. She seems interested and I get her business card. I would love to have her in the show. This is the second year in a row I have been to the studio of John Runnels and he is not there. His vulgar work using the word fuck in various media is very amusing. Creating these works with materials such as dictionaries, letterman jacket letters, money, and other assorted items, I like the variation in media used. He has another series of work on display as well, vintage looking nude photos that are displayed in oven doors. I prefer the Fuck Series much more. Literal and in your face, I think that is what I enjoy about these pieces. I would really like to talk to him about SMIH, I knew that as soon as I saw his work last year. Apparently, he is part of the duo that started the Houston Artcrawl. I’m sure he must be very busy. Unfortunately, I can find no business cards either. Well, I know where to find him. Clint Stone is another elusive artist I have yet to meet. His landscapes have this moody atmosphere that attract me, revealing another reality, a more emotive view of what is there. Finding artists that create something deeper than what is on the surface is always the goal. When I am trying to create a show, my focus is to present art that is not homogeneous. Maybe I am specifically taking on this challenge by curating shows that have strong connotations already associated with them. Currently, the group exhibitions I have been trying to put together include landscape, portraiture, and women and fabric. Those are very traditional topics that I hope to change expectations of. Ana Fernandez is another artist I would love to include in the landscape exhibit. I have written about her large scale oil paintings of homes reflecting the culture of San Antonio, when she exhibited in Austin, at Women and Their Work and also when she gave a lecture of her work in San Antonio, at the McNay Art Museum. The photography of Ken Frederick also catches my attention. His portraits of mannequins are done in a way that gives these lifeless bodies a persona. Staring at the pieces, I feel like it is a portrait of an actual person. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to get a good photo, the frames are highly reflective. But I think even in this photo there is a sense of emotion. I get to speak with the artist for a little bit about this, discussing how much life I get from these images. This definitely works into my theme of untraditional portraiture. Finding artists with a unique perspective on such a traditional style with a rich history is going to take a while, but will be worth the effort. Box 13 is a gallery that also houses studios. I’ve never made it out here before, so I’m glad I was able to check it out. This is where Kelly Alison has her studio. It is great to talk to her. She shows me her current work, says she would love to show in San Antonio and would be happy to work with me again. That is always the highest compliment – when someone will return to work with you. She is an accomplished artist, exhibiting as far as in China and Peru, as well as extensively in Houston, including two permanent public art pieces. Unfortunately, I am not working specifically on anything that her work would fit into, but I am always coming up with new shows, so I make sure I have her updated contact information. Alison was in the first show I ever worked on as curator with out of town artists. It would be great to work with her again. Maybe I can work on getting her a solo show in San Antonio. Another artist I meet at Box 13 is Elaine Bradford. Her studio is brimming with transformed taxidermied animals that vary in size from birds and ducks to sheep. Bradford gives them new perspective, with a crocheted skin around the figures, creating a colorful outer layer. Completely concealing the original figure, the only revealed parts are the eyes of the animal. Bradford even constructs her own species of animals, complete with their own legends. There is a great description of these on her website, from her exhibit The Museum of Unnatural History. This includes a two headed sheep and another species that fuse their tales in a mating ritual when they have found their partner with the same pattern. While presenting those animals in a traditional setting of taxidermy, as you can see in this photo, other animals are exhibited in new and unusual ways, continuing to surprise in the display, as well as what constitutes as an “animal”, as she merges natural elements with the figures. Women and fabric? Maybe another artist that pushes the boundaries and expectations of a traditional medium that I could work with in the future. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised with the variation of media I found being presented in this Artcrawl. While I found traditional media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography being used, that was the extend of what was predictable. Their concepts pushed the media and what it means. Assemblage and crochet were additional methods I saw used to convey their ideas in interesting and engaging ways. This was a great studio tour. If I can find one artist to work with, I consider that a successful studio tour. But I may have found quite a number of different artists for several different projects. These are the things I get really excited about.
November means it’s time for studio tours! The East Austin Studio Tours takes place this month annually, in fact this is the 11th annual E.A.S.T. I have been going for quite awhile now and have always enjoyed visiting artist’s studios. At the time, I didn’t realize how important these tours would become for me or even that they would become something I would do to work. I just knew I liked it, so I kept doing it. Now, there are several objectives I have when doing studio tours. First, I want to see what is out there – what ideas other artists are working on now, the media, their surfaces. Second, I am curating. This began by keeping track of artists I was interested in working with, yes, just in my head. Then I finally started to see enough artists I liked working on similar ideas. The exhibitions I am currently piecing together include nontraditional contemporary portraiture, nontraditional landscape, and experimental process or media. And, of course, my main and largest project by far, Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. However, a new priority is really observing these studio spaces for, well, their space. I want to compare how they store their work and supplies, divide their work space, display their art, or find new ways to use the space. Yes, I have always noticed, lusting after these large studios. But now it’s all possible. If I want it, I now have a place to make it happen. A little low on funds, I decided to experiment with how I could make this work. The tours take place over two weekends, with over 200 locations on the map, this included hundreds of artists. I could only attend the first weekend, next weekend is the Houston Artcrawl. I meant to rent a room, but I waited to long and couldn’t afford that. So I booked two roundtrip tickets on Megabus to go both Saturday and Sunday. My total was $12 – for both days. That is less than gas for one trip. That is why I love Megabus. The only drawback is that you can’t bring a bike. Luckily, since all the studios are fairly close in proximity, walking is a great option. Day 1 of the tour is very disorganized for me. I forgot how important it is for me to plan ahead and nothing was really going according to my loose plan anyway. Due to an accident on the freeway, I arrived an hour and a half later than expected. A friend from school and her husband met me and we drove not too far into the East Side of Austin. I had been so busy, I did not print a map, I figured I would just pick one up at one of the locations, I knew the general area. Yes, we got to the general area, no, there were no maps or catalogs available. They were all gone, this is a very popular tour. I was disappointed, the catalogs are actually a beautiful highlight of the tour, the one for the West Austin Studio Tours earlier in the year was very impressive. In fact, I feel the Austin Tours are a great model for artist studio visits, one of the largest and best organized. After what seemed like an eternity, I printed a map at the library and we were on our way. By not going through the list to edit, this caused major mistake #2. With a couple hundred of artists to view, I will probably only be interested in 25 – 35% of the art, and only about 10% will I seriously be interested in working with. While exploring is fun, with so much, there needs to be some organization. So a lot of Day 1 was spent trying to gain my bearings. I saw a lot of art, but not really anything that I would seriously consider. So I began to prepare for Day 2 on the ride home. I began to comb through the artist list. This begins by identifying the locations with the most artists there. If I had a catalog, each artist or location gets a page with an image of their work and their website. But no such luck and the catalog is not listed online yet either. That makes trying to form a strategic plan a little difficult. Day 2 was a million times better! First, I arrived on time. Armed with my map, I jumped in a cab and got dropped off at the furthest point away that I wanted to visit. And just spent the day walking back, hitting as many studios as I could. This included Big Medium, Pump Project Art Complex, and ARTPOST. Those three spaces alone had over fifty artists. A major highlight was finding Industry Print Shop. Immediately, I recognized the style of prints by the artist I saw at the Mexi-Arte Museum Graffiti Exhibit. There his work opened the show, overtaking the entire first wall. He has some work up, as well as some smaller prints on a table for sale. The works are sensual advertisements using sex for promotion. To promote what? These pieces don’t have a product to sell, just imagery and catchy slogans. These prints feel nostalgic, designed like vintage signs, but I begin to realize it’s also in the attitude. The sexy tart can always get what she wants. But how do those attitudes work today? Sex sells more than ever. Are these women being taken advantage of or in control of the situation? How have these attitudes changed in the last 50 years? Can a woman embrace her sexuality? While sex sells, there still remains the stigma of being a whore. Sex will make money but the woman better act like she doesn’t know anything about that. I pick a print to purchase, how can not? I also buy an awesome shirt for a gift. All I had to do was ask for more info. The artist is Antonio Diaz, and he is (one of?) the owner(s) of Industry. I let him know I am a fan of his work. Mentioning seeing their work somewhere else is always a great way to begin a conversation with an artists I want to meet. They are interested when you know their work or have seen their other shows. We go into his office and he shows me some more prints. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013, inviting him. He would make a great addition to the show. Interested, he gives me his card, I will definitely be in touch. I have just begun to finally organize things for Seven Minutes in Heaven 2012. Working on the Invisible Gallery website for several months now, I have organized SMIH 2012 page with the artists and press. I would love for this to work out. I love that during his open studio tour, Mark Johnson sits facing the corner of his studio, clacking away on a vintage typewriter, not paying attention to the crests of people in and out. His mixed media works include various typography, referencing the home and domesticity. There is a sense of longing, a void was left from all the chaos. I find his work compelling and would possibly like to work with him in the future, although I have no idea right now where he would fit in. Nothing I am currently working on. But that doesn’t mean something won’t come up. I can’t find any cards and I feel awkward trying to talk to him as he is typing away. But I ask if him for his card, he politely stops, hands me the top piece of paper from a pile, each piece freshly typed as I was there. The little piece of art with his most recent words was his card. Yes, it had his contact information. Back to typing. Discovering the Pump Project Art Complex for the first time was cool. There are a couple of collective studios there, such as MAKEatx and Women Printmakers of Austin. There are also quite a few individual artists studios there, as well. I find the ceramic work of Debra Broz. Her manipulation of decorative kitsch is playful. They are incredibly well crafted. Taking these items from thrift shops, she alters them in an amazing way, where you cannot tell that it was not originally like that. But you know it wasn’t. This is her skill, her trade is a porcelain restorer. A multi talented woman, she is also the director of Pump Project. The photography of Jon Oldag catches my interest. Stitching together photos physically versus digitally doing this in Photoshop is a lost craft he is continuing. This gives the image a soul, some motion, in contrast to the flattened quality a computer can often produce. There is always an attraction to the handmade, something exhibiting the artists’ touch. He is actually selling his work for whatever you would like to offer him. As much as I would love a piece, I have no cash and he is not taking credit cards. And then I found a free catalog at a little gallery. I was so excited! It really is a nice book, a great reference for Austin artists, and advertised as the companion book to the West Austin Studio Tours catalog from earlier in the year, which I have. They were for sale at Big Medium, but free at all the other galleries in limited quantity. As usual, I was on limited on funds. What I do have I will spend on art. It’s really good. This was such a productive day, I am extremely pleased with the amount of work I got done. Finding one artist for SMIH is a huge accomplishment. The Austin Studio Tours always have intriguing art, I always find new artists to work with, get explore new spaces, and return to favorite spots. I think this may have been the very first large studio tour that I ever went on, who knows how long ago. Finding diversity in media is always welcome. I really chose to discuss these artists randomly based on how much I like their work. Afterwards is when I noticed I was discussing screen printing, mixed media, ceramics, and photography. Obviously, I feel it still delivers fresh artwork every year.
I finally have a new studio space! A fantastic space came up unexpectedly. I previously wrote about how I was supposed to move into a studio/gallery space in March when I had returned from my trip, but the space was lost before I even moved in. While moving onto other projects, I continued to look for a new location, though that was difficult to fit in my already busy schedule. Out of the blue, I get a call from my friend, advising me Ana Fernandez just got a new space and is looking for someone to share it with. Once I saw the space, I knew I had to have it and took it immediately.
It is a commercial space at the corner of a very busy intersection on the East Side at S. New Braunfels and E. Commerce. It is only 2 or 3 minutes from downtown and 281, and is very easy to get to. The building is across the street from the end of a few blocks of cemeteries, which I love. I have been photographing cemeteries in different countries for a few years now and was the model for a photoshoot in one of the cemeteries down the street about eight years ago. I will definitely be exploring these at some point. Looking at the map, it seems to be about seven cemeteries all next to each other.
The place is incredible! This is a picture of entirely my half of the space, measuring out to about 900 sf. The door in the back leads to the other half of the space. The ceilings are much higher than average, I’ll have to measure when I can get a ladder. It is in nice condition, all the walls are finished, except a small one, and there are great concrete floors.
The two huge front windows let in plenty of light during the day, which is great since I always prefer to work in natural light. Unfortunately, I forgot to measure them, but they seem to be about the same height as the door.
However, the space is not quite moving in condition yet. I am responsible for getting rid off all of the left behind debris, which is everything left of the pillar in the photo. Then the floor can be pressure washed. It is very dusty and dirty. My goal is to have it ready to move in sometime in the next two weeks. Some additional repairs will also immediately take place, although they don’t affect my move once the space is cleaned out.
I have a studio space in my house, but have outgrown it quite a while ago. My materials are stacked up everywhere, seeping into every other room in my house. My husband often threatens to get me a storage unit for all of my stuff. There is really no room to work unless I branch out into other rooms in the house, which I often do.
Opening a gallery space is important to my long term goals. I have been focusing on my CV, trying to improve it enough to get substantial scholarship money for grad school. I think I have been doing a good job, slowing increasing my experience and skills. I think I can get into grad school already, but not necessarily with enough scholarships thrown my way. My plan is to be running a small space, then go to the school to show them my experience and ask them to teach me to do this on a larger level. My goal is to go to Pratt in New York for their dual Master’s degree in Museum Studies and Library and Information Science. The first degree should allow me to work in a museum position, while the second degree teaches me the computer programs to work on the archives in the museums. Right now I am working toward a goal date of Fall 2014. We’ll see what happens.
Already an entrepreneur, Ana is already working on making this building licensed for business. She estimates a six month time period to get this done. That works out very well for me, since I am not prepared to open up a gallery space this instant. In fact, I need to get funding to back this project and will be starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money. Lights, paint, and wood add up very quickly. A few months ago, I did make a fundraising budget, but now that needs to be revised. This is a much larger space, so that means more paint and room to take advantage of a second, movable, temporary wall. With huge ceilings, I also need a tall ladder, although I would much prefer to have some scaffolding. I also would like a small desk and a couple of chairs. Finally, the landlord is requiring us to get business insurance before we can run a business here.
Since I cannot have a gallery for a minimum of six months, I unexpectedly have a fantastic opportunity to work on my art. I have been very focused on my other artists, and have not had as much time as I would like to work on my pieces or have enough space. I have been working on the birdcage project, expanding my sound project that I showed at JusticeWorks Gallery in 2009, and also have the new surfaces I want to paint on, three drawers and a side table. This is more than enough for me to work on immediately. Soon I will have a place to bring people to see my art, not just talk about it. Another amazing and unexpected turn in my life as an artist.
This weekend I went on a road trip to have a reunion and see fantastic art. I headed west to Marfa, TX. About six hours from San Antonio, the main part of this trip is desert. You must fill up your gas tank when you stop, there may not be another one in time to save you. This tiny town remains largely unknown, except to artists. Then it is recognized internationally. In the 70’s, Donald Judd, a minimalist sculptor, discovered this Texas town in the middle of nowhere. From then on, he worked in both Marfa and New York City and, I believe, truly began his legacy. Judd’s vision was to display the work of the artists that inspired him in permanent, large scale installations, unlike the short, rotating exhibitions he disliked in New York. Also, he didn’t feel these artists were properly represented in permanent collections. With help from huge organizations like the DIA, he was able to purchase large, former military buildings, and in 1986, opened the Chinati Foundation. It has now expanded to an incredible 340 acres. He also began the Judd Foundation, that focuses on the preservation of his own work. The collection features large scale work from Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and John Chamberlain, to name a few. That is an incredible collection of art. From the massive amounts of art he created, to the expansive project Chinati has become, I respect his ambition and can see he created an art community here. When I was in college I went to Marfa for the first time. It was an amazing experience. Seeing what Donald Judd has created is inspiring. With an art compound that large, it is normally only able to be viewed through a guided tour. Except for one weekend a year, the Chinati Open House. During this time, you are free to wander through the extensive displays of art on your own. So far, during this open house is the only time I have ever visited Marfa. There are also normally plenty of free events that coincide with the weekend. The first year I went in 2007, my husband and I bought a tent, hopped in the car and headed West. Not knowing what to expect, we found an amazing community, fantastic art, and a pretty unique experience. The city had a free barbeque in the evening, after which Sonic Youth played a free show, and ended the next morning with the Chinati Foundation hosting a free breakfast. Did I mention the word free enough times? It was such a fantastic experience, the next year, 2008, I organized a trip with some classmates. There were ten of us on that original trip. Since then, eight of us have remained friends, artists, and a support system for each other. Beginning that year with everyone, the event began to change. No more dinners from the city. Still a free music event, but nothing as legendary as Sonic Youth. This has changed the number of people dramatically that attend this weekend. But that doesn’t detract from the real reason for going – amazing art. There are still lectures, screenings and readings that relate to the artist or project featured for the weekend. And of course, there will be the huge permanent installations, always amazing to contemplate in person. While a few other said they were going to come this year, ultimately, it was the eight of us that returned. We enjoy experiencing this unique adventure together.
The road to the Chinati entrance is dotted with a few older houses. We find that one of them belongs to the artists Julie Speed. Having seen her included in many shows, as well as seen books of her work at various museum shops, I am familiar with her art. We go in and find what an incredible studio she has. Wonderfully spacious, each room leads to another body of her work. There are three rooms, then a huge additional room, the largest in the house. Prints, paintings, and collages line the walls and shelves, displaying her extensive collections of work. As if that already wasn’t enough, her backyard view is of the huge concrete sculptures created by Judd, made up of fifteen displays of various cement blocks.
I recently had the privilege of seeing a huge portfolio of her prints at the Southwest School of Art (work in addition to what I was seeing here). Speed will be showing there next year and Kathy Armstrong, the Director of Exhibitions, had picked up her work. Speed was very friendly, as I discussed seeing her portfolio. She willingly shared her techniques on pieces there on display, as well as how she printed her own catalogs for some smaller exhibitions. The information was very helpful and it was nice that she was easy to talk to. I always love going to visit people’s studios. It is, of course, much more revealing than at a gallery space exhibiting only one body of the artist’s work. Arriving at Chianti, it looks like a few old buildings and a lot of desert. However, enter, and you find a world class collection of Contemporary Art displayed unlike any other museum. Donald Judd displays his permanent collection of metal boxes in two huge former airplane hangars. This is a personal highlight of the trip for me. Jim, a friend of mine, jokes that the hundred boxes no longer
make Judd a Minimalist. While there were one hundred works in the two buildings, they way they worked with the environment made it feel as if the room was empty. We discuss how important the environment is to minimalism. He said the way they are displayed here “cleanses the pallet,” and I absolutely agree. Placing minimalist pieces alongside artwork from other genres does interfere and take the piece out of context. This could be argued for almost any artwork, but I believe it is an important element for minimalism. The slick, fabricated metal boxes played with the reflection from the floor to ceiling windows. Sometimes where the piece ended and the environment began was blurred. I think that is what I find mesmerizing about these pieces. No matter where you are standing, the effect is the same. I had a difficult time choosing these photos in particular, so many were easily great examples of Judd’s intentions. Each I time I experience them, I understand a little more. Making this pilgrimage several times, I still continue to learn learn something new, each experience evolving my feelings about these permanent installations. On display in another building was a temporary exhibit of some more of Judd’s work, seeing his concepts realized smaller, in a third medium of wood. They have similar patterns to the
fabricated metal boxes, but are much smaller in scale, displayed on the wall, and have a much different feel. These pieces do not react with the environment. I’m not sure if these are considered studies or completed works, and I also contemplate the huge cement blocks. I have never considered those to be studies. Is it just the size that I am thinking about? Judd does tend to work on a massive scale. It’s interesting to see an artist work on a particular concept over such a long period of time. The original thoughts and ideas evolve, as all art should. It is just more obvious how they evolved on similar series of works. With Minimalism concerned with the formal elements, you can understand from these pieces that the scale and material are an integral part of his work.
Besides Judd’s metal boxes, my other absolute favorite permanent exhibit here is Dan Flavin. I have posted seeing his work in New York and Berlin, but this is one of my top two Flavin installations I have ever seen. The other is the fantastic piece at the Menil in Houston, taking up an entire building. This installation is much larger in comparison. Displayed in the center of six different U-shaped buildings, there are two pieces on each side, a total of four physical pieces in each building. Then there is the way they work together, expanding this installation further. This unique piece must be viewed from both sides to fully appreciate what he has created. Each side exposes a different color, working with elements of light and color theory. Like Judd, Flavin’s work is best displayed without interaction from any other art. The scale and concepts are enough to stand on their own. In fact, they thrive that way. The color pallet alternates buildings from pink and green to yellow and blue, eventually bringing all four colors to the last two remaining buildings. Flavin’s pieces also play with displaying the light from both an interior and exterior fixed location within the building, changing the perception in each installation. These pictures are not a very good example of how these pieces are experienced. Some things really cannot be captured on a camera. But I had to at least try to show you what I had experienced here.
We then headed a few blocks into town for the lectures. The main exhibition on focus this Open House is John Chamberlain’s huge collection there. Housed in a large separate building from the Chinati Complex, I had actually never been there. Both huge in terms of the scale of the work, as well as the number of pieces that were displayed, it was yet another impressive collection put together by Donald Judd. Saturday, there were two lectures and Sunday, there were three film screenings with or about Chamberlain. The lecture by Lynne Cook on his process was very insightful. Her introduction was very impressive, having an extensive resume that included working with world class artists at world class galleries and museums. It is a dream job to co-curate the Venice Biennale or an exhibit of Richard Serra at the MOMA. Definitely someone I should be looking to model my career after. When I think of working behind the scenes of an exhibition with big names, my thoughts always go to touching the work. That’s all I want to do. Be able to pick up a Cindy Sherman photograph or hang a Jasper Johns print. Really. I am getting chills thinking about that right now. And it’s a real job. Someone gets to unpack each piece of work for all these travelling exhibits and personally look over it for anything that may have happened when it was shipped. Of course, the curator has full access to the pieces without actually having to do the physical labor of installation. Cook discussed Chamberlain’s process, how when working, he was looking for pieces to “fit”. He visually knew when it was right. This is how most artists intuitively work, regardless of the medium. I don’t think anyone that is not an artist can really understand what that means. It sounds so flighty, maybe even a little poetic. Showing clips of a film on his work also allowed us to see his incredible studio! A massive warehouse stored huge piles of auto parts, sectioned by what type of part it was. It was pretty insane to look at. Occasionally, I get accused of being a hoarder when people see my collection of materials. However, it is a tiny pile compared to the enormous stockpile Chamberlain was working from. What a fantastic studio that must have been to work in!
Another reason for my excitement to visit Marfa: Prada Marfa. This installation by Elmgreen and Dragset was funded by Ballroom Marfa, but actually exists about 35 miles outside of Marfa, in
Valentine, TX. Completed in 2005, the non functioning store houses Prada shoes and purses from the 2005 Fall Collection. The non function is reinforced by the absence of a door handle. While housing these valuable commodities, the store itself will eventually deteriorate, decaying back into the landscape, I imagine looking like many of the tiny towns and houses in the area that only now exist as a remnant of the past. I saw this sculpture two years after it went up, in 2007. Now returning five years later , I begin to see the wear and tear the building is taking. Cracks have begun to appear on the facade. The transformation has begun. One of my goals is to see this building at sunrise or sunset. Having only seen photos online, it looks beautiful. This visit, however, had some disappointment for me. I had been wanting to do a photoshoot here for a while, so I found a camera and arranged for model months ago. Unfortunately, the week before the trip, she cancelled, leaving me without enough time to find someone else. This will have to happen another time. A few people don’t understand why I try to return here annually. It is the art, but it’s much more than that. Maybe I am cleansing my own art pallet, clearing my mind from racing imagery and over processed thoughts. The six hour drive (really 5.40) is a serene coast through the desert, removing yourself from the realities of everyday life. I can just be here. Even anonymous in other destinations, there is still an urgency rushing around you. That is all removed here, where life moves much slower and the art is such an important part of the community.
One of my favorite jobs is working for the Southwest School of Art Gala. For the last three years, I have handled the drop off and pick up of the artwork for the annual benefit Gala. This is one of my favorite jobs because I get to talk with so many artists, gallerists, or assistants. In general, 55-65 artists generously participate. While I always know a few of the artists already, I still get to meet so many new people. This is what I do best, work with the art and artists. Yes, anybody could probably figure out how to do this, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know how much paperwork there is for 65 artists? And more if they have multiple works. It is mostly bureaucratic work, just making sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, it’s part of the job. That is the easy part. The more difficult part can come with actually dealing with artists (and sometimes their egos). Yes, I have also been treated badly on occasion, although, never for the Gala. Luckily, I have a wonderful boss that listens and takes care of problems like that. Being able to deal with artists and issues that may arise diplomatically may possibly be the most important part of this job. When they are dropping off their work, I am representing the Southwest School of Art. A bad experience could affect future relationships with the school. It’s amazing how loving your job keeps you in a great mind set and dealing with people becomes much less difficult than if I were already stressed by my job. The other major benefit of working to set up this event is attending the Preview Cocktail Party and the Gala itself. The cocktail party is a fabulous event I always enjoy. It’s great to see the work displayed in the Chapel of the school, it’s a really beautiful location. At the Cocktail Party I am a guest and enjoy mingling with the artists in a social setting. I get to view the art unwrapped and installed. Occasionally I help with installations, but not for this event. It’s nice not to have to do physical labor. Although, I do always accept those jobs as well! The Gala is a black tie formal event the following night. Here, I did volunteer, working at the sales desk, again with a different set of paperwork. Is this a common theme? I don’t think artists really consider everything that goes on behind the art shows – before, during, and after. Keeps me working! There were many fabulous pieces of art. I love the work by Jennifer Ling Datchuk. Her ceramics always look so delicate and feminine. When I saw her, I discussed a piece of her work I had seen years ago in another show. Choke was a beautiful set of hands protruding from the wall grasping a cloth. These pieces are porcelain plates mixed with embroidery, something I haven’t seen in her work before that I enjoy very much. Another favorite of mine is Sarah Roberts. I recently wrote about her work when I had visited her shared studio space for a show at Clamp Light Gallery. I specifically enjoy the way she manipulates something as cold as aluminum into something so feminine and soft looking. The way the shadows cast from the light is also a lovely detail of this art. In fact, I believe the title of this piece, Her Body is My Body, makes the shadows an integral part of her concept. At the Gala, I got to try on Roberts’ second piece, a beautiful necklace. It matched my dress and fit me perfectly. It was for a really great price at $250 and half would go to the school. Unfortunately, I still cannot afford it today, although I fingered my credit card several times. Maybe in the future I can have one custom made for me, in red? William Carrington’s bronze rabbit has a very haunting face that I am in love with. Even the piece of wood it is set on is beautiful. Another piece I admire is by Ruth Buentello. I was just at an opening at Artpace recently where the artists collective that Buentello is a part of, Mas Rudas, did the Window Works. That installation as well as this piece both show a strong connection to family (or the absence of it). Working for the Gala is always a great experience. As usual, combining work and art is exactly what I want to be doing. I really could care less if my desk was a folding table for today. I am in a gorgeous historic building with a beautiful view – no cubicle for me! The last part of the job is being there the morning after the Gala for the pick up of the artwork by the artists and buyers. It’s so simple, but thanking each artist for participating is extremely important. It’s a benefit event and they donated their art. We have to express our gratitude for helping the school at our largest benefit event each year.
This was the beginning of three nights in a row of art shows. The first event is at the McNay. It is always nice to visit here, both the grounds and the buildings are beautiful. The permanent collection and travelling shows that come through here are always impressive, as well. The talk today is Artists Looking At Art, featuring Ana Fernandez. Always enjoying her work, I also visited her solo show in Austin, at Women and Their Work, and previously wrote about it. Hunting out the originality of San Antonio, Fernandez presents her take on the authentic parts of the culture here. I learned how her family, particularly her Grandmother’s home, became a pivotal influence to her art, inspiring her original paintings. The home itself became a place of mystery for her early on in her life. Her slide show included many of the photo studies she did in preparation for her paintings, proving these places really exist. These photos were taken from the huge screen in the Chiego lecture hall, so their colors are not depicted accurately and there is some obvious distortion. However, the imagery was so great, I had to include them. Below, the real house is on the left, Fernandez’s painting on the right. While never painting the scene exactly as she found it, she captures the essence of these places, the most important part. This next image is another photo of a real house on the left. On the right is Fernandez coincidentally meeting a man who lives in that house. Randomly, he had wandered into her show at Joan Grona’s, instantly recognizing his dwelling. This photo was taken and printed in a publication. Sharing tales of her methodology, Fernandez searches around the city for her inspiration. Claiming she can never find anything when she is looking for something specific, just getting into her car to drive around reveals all the material she needs. The final part of Fernandez’s lecture took place in front of her painting currently on display in the Frost Octagon, in the front of the building. The standard size of her oil paintings are large scale. It was impressive to see so many of these on display at her show in Austin. I learned this particular piece was inspired by a family party going on as she drove by. The actual photo had a large family in it, but she decided to omit them, creating an eerie feeling of something missing from an event that was already in full swing. Instead, Fernandez represents the missing family by numbers on the chairs. The sole figures remaining are the ghostly silhouettes of two children in the bouncy castle, that were in her original photo. Fernandez gave a great lecture, explaining a lot about her work. Finding out what she was drawn to and why helped me understand how personal her work is and see it from a different view. While changing some details, she is preserving the unique history she has adopted as an adult and artist. From the McNay, I head across town to Bismarck Studios for Franctober-Fest, featuring the work of Franco Mondini-Ruiz. Never having been to this gallery before, I was impressed by its size and what an event they had going on. But of course, I have never been to a Mondini-Ruiz show that wasn’t an event. With beer, bratwurst, and umpah music, this was a fabulous Franco Mondini-Ruiz experience. Mondini-Ruiz typically makes two types of work: oil paintings and assemblages. I have been a fan of the assemblages for a while now, owning two of them already. La Mojada, the first piece I purchased from Mondini-Ruiz, is smart and comical. It is a white porcelain female head, swimming across a cup of tea. Since then, I search through the seemingly endless amount of art he creates for his shows, looking for other pieces that I connect with. Mondini-Ruiz will never be accused of not working on his art, every art show I have ever been to has an insane amount of art that he has produced. Having been to his lecture at SAMA a few years ago and reading his interviews, he says he makes art for all people, all incomes. Primarily making his profits from his large scale paintings, he lets his assemblages go sometimes for a price that is “artist affordable”. Remember, all art is normally negotiable. Seriously, if he had not lowered the price, I wouldn’t be able to afford even one piece. Mondini-Ruiz is quite a character, and easily recognizable in his trademark stripped pants. When I arrived at this show, I didn’t really have any intention of buying anything. I am broke right now, after all. But after talking to him, my husband bought me a new piece I had been admiring, Bubble Boy, in the price range of our other pieces. Mondini-Ruiz even convinced my friend that came with us to buy a piece as well. We probably should have left then, but the we were having such a great time! Eventually, Mondini-Ruiz charmed the pants off of us and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. We bought another piece, and I left with the biggest assemblage there, the priciest. It was such an incredible deal, we could not pass it up. This was a fantastic and exciting night. I love going out to see art, it is always inspiring. Beginning with a great lecture and finishing up by walking away with two pieces of art that I love, I really can never predict what may happen. Mondini-Ruiz is the artist I own the most pieces from, now owning four. Next is Linda Arredondo and Barbara Justice, having two pieces from each artist. I may have to write a blog about the wonderful pieces that my collection is comprised of. It is a small but growing collection, and are all pieces that I admire.
I know I have not discussed too much of my own art, but have mentioned I have several long term installation projects I am always working on. This is one project I have been working on for a little over a year now that is very personal to me.
Inspired by birdcages, I began a project last year about my memories. My concept is to cage my most important and cherished moments, the things I feel made me who I am today. The execution, however, is not so simple. When I began, I estimated this may take about a year to create. Once I delved into it though, I found that was a laughable timeline. The process is very long and drawn out, and no matter how much I try to rush it, this project will apparently let me know when it is ready.
Step One: Cages
This is really how it all began, this was the first step. When I saw my first birdcage, I was inspired immediately. I saw the cage and had an instant connection. I wanted to fill it, I wanted to cage something. Slowly, I have begun to collect them. An ongoing process, I ultimately envision this project taking up an entire small room, hung from various lengths with enough room for people to walk through and explore. I want the viewer to engage with the installation. Once I complete this project, I should have 25-30 birdcages, each individual pieces themselves, making a complete installation. These are a few of the cages I have already collected. I still have quite a way to go!
Going to dinner one night with a friend, we were driving in my neighborhood and I spotted these huge bird cages outside a rarely open antique shop, Cesar Vega Decor, and immediately pulled over. Everywhere you turned were treasures. Frames, statues, furniture, alters, mirrors, doors, and birdcages are just a few of the things that were stacked in every nook. Trying to see everything is impossible, as amazing items kept drawing my attention in different directions. Antique stores possess items that can’t be found anymore, that is the magic. The aisles were made from the small areas you can walk through among the stacks of incredible finds. The drawback though, may be the price. However, talking to the store owner, most of the cages inside are for only about $20 more than I have been pricing. The much larger ones outside range from $150 – $250 each. Sigh. Of course, those are the cages I feel would go perfect with this project.
While antique birdcages are definitely unique, they are not cheap. Instantly falling in love with this HUGE cage, the price was $600. It sits on a table towering over me. I think it is at least five feet tall. While in love with it, it is also very daunting at the same time. Do I have a message that big? This would obviously be the main piece of the installation, the essence of what I am saying defines me. What do I have to say that is that important? After a few days of thought, I believe the most important moment is when I decided to become an artist. That is the epitome of who I am today. It was not an obvious career choice for me, I had never been particularly encouraged to be creative and didn’t grow up in that kind of environment. But it changed my life completely and finally gave me a purpose. I am very happy with my choice, I always find going into work exciting and rewarding. It was the best decision I’ve made. Ever.
Step Two: Reviewing My Life
This is a very personal and intrinsic journey that no one can help me with. I simply began by thinking about my life. My thoughts began as a teenager. I delved into my past relationships, considering who I felt was important to me in my life. While dating a lot of different men, I was only in love with a very few, important ones. After a while, I was so swept up in my thoughts, I forgot I was even working on a project. Around my birthday last year, I was in the middle of processing all of this, and I got very confused. I actually began to think I was having a midlife crisis, and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get these men out of my head. Then one day I snapped back to reality – I conjured up all of these thoughts. It made me laugh so hard! It is very easy to get wrapped up in your past. Then disappointment set in…I wanted to figure out what was important to me, and I think of the men in my life? I was not happy with that. If I let men define who I am, then am I simply a shell of my former relationships? Thankfully, I snapped out of that reality as well. I had to realize these were just starting points. By no means were these the end of my thoughts, this was not the end of what I felt does define me. However, I did figure quite a few things out about myself and also figured out why some of my relationships couldn’t survive.
So I have moved on from the men, into my childhood. There are moments of embarrassment, confusion, wonder, and exploration. There is a lot to think about. It’s funny to think about moments you thought were the end of the world, and now realize they were just a bump on the road. Dissecting yourself is a difficult journey, definitely not for the weak. There are obvious selections one would consider important moments of your life: graduation, marriage, having a child. But are those the events that define you? As I work on this more and more, I realize they are not. To get to that point you must already be somebody, not expect to fulfill a ritual and become somebody. But there are pivotal moments in my life where things just clicked together, and I got it. For me, this normally happened after a lot stubbornness and hitting my head against a brick wall. Though, each time I made it through, even learning a few things as I went along. While I am not old by any means, I still have lived several different lives. Each one completely a completely different and unique experience. As I was living it, there were times I thought I would never make it through. It’s funny to realize how much strength you really have if you just decide to fight for it.
Step Three: Physical Manifestation
While defining myself and my important moments is extremely difficult, that is only the first hurdle. Deciding how to physically represent these life changing points is a whole other story. How do you even begin to represent a feeling, an event, a single moment? This is the place I still have the most work to do. This is such a personal project to me, I will spend as much time as I need to figure this out. I have a few sketches, but I have not begun to assemble the pieces yet. This is the most daunting. My thoughts are very confrontational, but they are still private, just within myself at this point. I now have to get my thoughts together in a cohesive way in a physical form. And be ready to share publicly. But this project for me is the epitome of what it is to be an artist – scary, exciting, insightful, and thoughtful, all at the same time. I want to be pushed and have to figure things out, not just complete a paint by number painting. This is another long, drawn out process. Thinking of what I want to represent then finding the random objects to represent it. Sometimes this is done by sketching out an idea, other times I find an object and instantly know what it reminds me of or represents to me. As with all art, there is no right or wrong way, no definitive answer. Nor am I searching for one. I am an artist because I want to constantly be invigorated by intelligent ideas. I hope when this project is finally completed, the viewer will take the time to process my intimate thoughts and details, and think about their own and who they are.
There are so many elements of this project for me, there is always something to be working on. But besides the limitations of my own thoughts and creativity, are the limitations of my funding. As I mentioned, the supplies I want to work with add up quickly (as with any art project, I suppose). To fill a room with cages will be a costly endeavor to begin with. But I am not put off by this. I WILL COMPLETE THIS PROJECT. It is very important to me and will be the largest installation for me to date. It is the direction I see my artwork heading and am very happy with that. This particular art project I envision I am applying for The Idea Fund, an artist grant for unconventional, conceptual, and guerrilla artist practices. While the application is not difficult, I am up against many fantastic artists, all with the same drive to complete their work. Getting this grant would mean I could concentrate on my project, at least for a full month without having to work, and be able to just focus on completion. I could afford even the wonderful $600 huge birdcage I really want. I think I would walk straight into Cesar Vega Decor and buy most of the cages there. To be able to spend a month just thinking, searching, and assembling. That’s the dream. My dream, anyway.
Another show for Linda Arredondo means back to the woodshop for me. Since I represent her work, I was approached to invite her to a show at Gallery Nord by the curator, Kathy Armstrong, this October. Of course, she accepted and now needs new panels to make new work. I am making test panels to experiment on. Then she will determine how large she wants to make the actual pieces. Of course it all begins with a trip to Home Depot to pick up wood. It is very important spending time choosing the wood. It has to be straight, otherwise it will warp causing the frame to bow. I have seen this ruin more than one piece of artwork. It is always disappointing to me when I see art that is not being displayed at it’s best potential. Problems like that can be corrected, but of course, involves carefully removing the canvas and replacing the warped piece of wood. It is time consuming, but I feel highly worth it, otherwise your art piece is essentially worthless. Sometimes you can’t predict when a piece of wood will bow and have to do this, no matter how hard you scrutinized the wood. The wood shop at the Southwest School of Art is my studio today. I love having access to such a beautiful table saw and miter saw. The compressor and nail gun are my favorite tools to work with. Cutting my time and energy by more than 90%, I can get a lot more work done in an hour or two than if I had to manually hammer in all the nails. In the time it takes with the nail gun, I would have hit the nail one time with my hammer! Cutting wood is very quick and easy with great equipment. Taking a 4′ x 8′ sheet of birch wood, I am turning it into three 12″ x 12″ panels and four 16″ x 20″ panels. Beginning at the table saw I cut it into four pieces, then cut those into seven pieces. There are several pieces left over that I will set aside. At some point later, I will turn those into various sizes of panels, but don’t have enough 2″ x 4″s to make supports for them now. Then onto to the 2″ x 4″s. I run them through the table saw, turning them into 2″ x 2″s. These could be bought that size, but are more expensive and I know it is something I can easily do myself. This is a smaller project that wouldn’t be too much more in cost, but it makes quite a difference when I am working on a larger number of panels. The drawback though, is that this can make it easier for a piece of wood to warp. I have never been able to use 100% of the wood for larger pieces, but they tend to straighten out when cut smaller. For some reason, that seems to release the tension that makes it warp. Either way, it is still lower in cost and I normally have a small stockpile of random wood for any number of uses. Next is assembly. Before I nail them together, I reinforce all of my supports with liquid nails . Taking this extra precaution is a step that I have gotten used to doing for large supports, that I just automatically do for all sizes now. Using the corner braces is required to make sure the frames are being assembled at a 45% angle. I have seen people try to assemble frames without the braces, but no matter how straight it looks, it never works out. Making frames isn’t necessarily difficult, just more time consuming. You can’t skip a step and if it is rushed, it shows in your craftsmanship. I honestly have found I enjoy the hands on construction of making supports. Never being handy or ever working in the wood shop my dad created growing up, I surprised myself with this skill, as an art student. Now, at art shows, I notice the supports the pieces are on. Sometimes they are very badly warped or wrapped, other times I have seen incredibly unique supports that become a display in itself. Of course, in between, are the majority of supports, quietly doing their job, unnoticed because they are done correctly and are showcasing the art.
Second Friday has come around again so I head out to see some art.
One of the artists exhibiting at REM Gallery is Erin Stafford. I have known her since we went to Berlin together a few years ago, when she was finishing her graduate studies. She paints very feminine, classic subject matter, and in this show, displayed them in beautiful baroque frames in contemporary colors. Pearls and jewelry are common themes among her paintings. However, she adds a suggestive touch, updating classic imagery with a more modern, seductive take. Stafford chooses to present us with another view of these female adornments, one not so polished and perfectly manicured. What I enjoy most about this series is her ability be seductive with inanimate objects. When I use words like suggestive and seductive, I expect a portrait, not a still life. I had been considering her for Seven Minutes in Heaven, and this was my first opportunity to discuss this with her. I found out she has moved back to Dallas, but was very excited to be invited to the show.
I decide to check out the art at High Wire Art Gallery. A large space, there are always several artists showing various media. In particular, I notice the photography of Carter Johnston. His unassuming portraits have an interesting take on a personal experience. All of the photos are of people driving in their cars. In his artist statement, he discusses the private world that exists when you are surrounded by four walls of metal, able to push out the rest of the world, only interrupted by other drivers, breaking the magic of solitude. Unaware as Johnston’s shutter clicks, his subjects reveal moments of introspection, withdrawn from reality, if just for a few moments.
I laugh as I see an old, beloved painting displayed. Zagros Memar painted this piece while we were in school, and it has always been a favorite of mine. The imagery of these conservative women with a stud is playful and insinuating. The rawness is very expressive, exposing the secrets that goes on behind the closed doors of society. He has a studio in the back building of High Wire with Holly Simonson and Alex Vargas, but unfortunately it is closed tonight. Normally it is open while they paint or display their art for sale. There is a band jamming together, experimenting with sounds in the open studio area. I know High Wire encourages musicians to jam together, both the owners, Ray and Cindy Palmer can often be found in the middle of the instruments. I have also seen Vincent Valdez join them with his trumpet, although not tonight.
There is also a small space in the front that has paintings, prints, and sculptures for sale, although not a part of the current exhibit. Walking in, there is a portrait being painted of a seated subject. Seth Camm is the artist, explaining to me that portraits are a good way to make extra money. I definitely understand that. I am the queen of making a living from anywhere I can. Still at High Wire, I ran into Thomas Cummins, a photographer that has large scale work currently displayed in the Window Works at Artpace. I was at the opening reception last month and heard him talk about the bridge he photographed. Another Thomas Cummins met his demise off that bridge, so he went and paid a visit. Linda and I recently were going through our artist list and she had brought him up as someone she was interested in having in the show. The three of us have shown together in at least one group show at JusticeWorks last year. He is interested, but a little apprehensive because he is an architectural photographer. I discuss that Barbara Justice is also and she more than rose to the challenge of Seven Minutes, even getting a review of her piece. I tell him to think about it, there still is almost nine months until Contemporary Art Month. He is still interested and I tell him I will get with him to show him the coloring book and reviews from the show. This art evening has been very productive. Anytime I get a little work done on Seven Minutes I am extremely happy. My goal is to have the majority of the artists confirmed by the end of the summer. Now that I have more experience and know better what to expect from putting on a large, independent group show, I am more determined to complete things in a much earlier time frame.
Someone else’s trash can definitely be my treasure. When I started out creating art, I had a difficult time figuring out what I was going to do, therefore could not really know what I would need too far in advance. The biggest problem this caused me was the cost. Figuring out what I needed last minute and running to Lowe’s or Home Depot or the art store was not economical at all. Fortunately, I now contemplate most of my projects for quite a while. There are so many projects I want to work on, there is no way I could complete them all at once, and many of them evolve over time. What this means for me is that I am much more patient. And if I put in the effort, I can find more unique materials, often for free. I am excited because it is trash pick up in my neighborhood again. It is now only once a year, but throughout the year in different neighborhoods around town. I have never been organized enough to fully take advantage of this, I know I have seen a map outlining the different zones. This year, I found many great surfaces that I am extremely excited about. I have been incredibly busy this year, curating and representing other artists, that I haven’t had time to focus on my own art. Not making a huge effort, everything was found as I did my regular driving, just keeping vigilant of my surroundings. As I had mentioned in my previous post about SAMA, Chakaia Booker inspired me to add rubber to my art supply stock pile. People throw tires on their curbs all year long, but particularly when there is a huge trash pick up. I simply stop and throw it in my trunk. Used tire stores are also good resources. They are dying to get rid of them, they have to pay to have them all hauled away. I found I can take as many as I want if I stop there and ask. Since I found they will be at my disposal at any time, I did agree to stop picking them up until I am ready to use them, to preserve the sanity in my house, and stop taking up so much space. Apparently, I lied. I could not resist when they were just sitting there, thrown to the curb. Yes, I picked up a total of ten tires this round.
In another post, I also referenced a found art show I had been invited in. The piece was a broken window I found in front of someone’s house. The window was broken, as if something was thrown through it. When I saw it, I immediately had to pick it up. I saw the broken dreams in this window. I imagined the window being broken as a fight ensued, something being thrown at someone, missing and going through the window. Or someone possibly trying to break into the house, again, shattering a sense of safety within the home, a man’s castle. All the pieces clicked for me as I saw this piece laying in the pile of rubbish. I simply titled it Broken Dreams, and it was accepted into the student show, only adding holes to suspend it from the ceiling. From that show, I was invited into The DuChampions of Art at Lonestar Studios. I was requested to alter the piece, so I changed it from its original negative found state by cleaning it and boarding it up, rendering it useful again, now titling it Perseverance. Since then, I have been drawn to windows. They represent so much to me, dividing the private world from the public. It is a part of a home, letting in light, keeping out adverse weather. I find them to be both functional and revealing at the same time. A window is a good framing device, painting surface, or as I mentioned earlier, can be an art piece all on their own. My first window find is exciting, however, soon ends in disappointment. I am unable to fit them in my car and I wasn’t prepared to strap anything to the roof. That does happen when there is no preparation. I have to let them go. I did go back the next day, but they were gone. That is how this goes – a limited time opportunity. All is not lost. Fortunately, while different, there are still plenty of windows thrown out. I come across two different, smaller windows, deteriorating but with the frames and glass in tact. That is a characteristic I love about finding old items. The worn, weathered appearance often ties in conceptually with the ideas I am working with. Separately, I find three framed window panes and yet at another stop, I find two window frames with no glass. At this time I don’t have any specific project in mind, but I will contemplate them for a while. I have noticed a few reoccurring themes that have found their way into my work, including windows and other parts that comprise a house. While I have been collecting doors for a while, I have recently begun to consider using drawers. When I came across a pile of them, I had to grab a few. They can be used as a possible display case, or hung as a shelf, but after some thought, I decided I want to use these shallow drawers as painting surfaces. They just need to be cleaned up, then I can apply a few coats of gesso and sand. I need to spend some time thinking about the imagery I want to use for these paintings. That is the nature of how I work, contemplating over a period of time. So far this has worked out well, I know when I am ready. But by far, my favorite find was this night stand. I have been wanting to take my painting to a three-dimensional surface for while now. Again, the excitement was instant when I saw it, like with the window. The top is missing, but that can be easily replaced. In fact, my head is already swimming with how I can take advantage of this. In my drip paintings, I not only layer the drips, I layer the imagery. Masking off as I paint, this creates a diminishing image, getting smaller within itself. I think I would like to do this with wood, my image getting smaller, going deeper inside. This has a topographical atmosphere, becoming a map of whatever image I want to explore. This is something I might not have thought about if I had bought this new. I have never been interested in a brand new, polished look for my art. This method of obtaining art supplies motivates my creativity and is extremely economical. For not exuding too much effort, I actually found quite a few items I am excited to work with. My ideas started brewing as soon as I had some inspiration. All of this was free. I just had to look around in what I did every day. My total is three window panes, two complete windows, two empty window frames, one shutter door, three drawers, one night stand, and ten tires.
Yesterday was the last day I could make it to the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) to see San Antonio Collects: Contemporary, an exhibition of art from the private collections of San Antonio, including pieces from the late Linda Pace’s collection, before it closes this week. It is an impressive collection amassed here in San Antonio, giving me a rare glimpse into what is displayed in the expensive homes throughout the city. This impressive show includes internationally known artists, but also clearly recognizes the local talent from right here in San Antonio. This show focuses on the contemporary private collections, showcasing that San Antonians have excellent taste in art, and why many artists continue to work and be inspired in this bursting art scene.
Upon entering the room, an expanded accordion by Christian Marclay is the first sculpture to welcome you. To this point I have only seen Marclay’s film work, however, the accordion fits appropriately into his ongoing ideas about sound and music. His video, The Clock, 2010, was well received and reviewed, earning him a place in the 2011 Venice Biennale, leading Newsweek to name him one of the most important artists of today. Extending from the usual size, this expanded piece reminds me that sound can be made by anything and how any sound can be composed into music. A few months ago, I did get to view Telephones, 1995, at the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston. I was unaware Marclay had done a residency at Artpace in 1999, where this piece was created. Proof that Artpace and their guest curators recognizes outstanding talent.
Chakaia Booker is also included in the exhibit. I have been inspired by her work since she gave a lecture at Blue Star when I was an art student. She had completed so many pieces, she just walked around the audience, clicking the projector through her vast collection of images, choosing to show her immense her body of work, only stopping on a few key pieces to discuss specifically. Booker has a piece in the McNay permanent collection that I enjoy going to view. Her works are conversations about the environment, re purposing rubber tires as her primary material. At the lecture, she was asked where she got all of the tires, as she has created some massive public sculptures. Booker laughed, responding that tires where everywhere and free. Since her lecture, I have included rubber to my stock pile of art supplies. She was absolutely correct. They are plentiful and cost nothing but the time it takes to stop your car and throw them in the trunk.
A large portrait of Linda Pace by Chuck Ramirez was displayed. Not the traditional portraiture you would expect, Ramirez did a series of intimate Purse Portraits, revealing the secrets a woman hides and carries around with her in her purse. Louis (Linda), 2005, exposed the contents of Pace’s purse, in a large 60″ x 48″ format. Often very personal, this series exposes a private, yet functional side of his subjects, needing and using the objects carried around, yet the inside of a purse is personal, secretive. Ramirez takes this commercial approach to portraiture, isolating the subject, making it the only thing for the viewer to contemplate without distraction.
Other pieces I enjoyed in this exhibition included two pieces from Robert Longo, an artist that I have always found inspiring. The large, contorted bodies of his subjects are both awkward and entrancing to look at, again, a different way to view portraiture. His subjects are dressed for business while their poses reveal another reality, almost as if they were just struck. In my silhouette paintings, I have been using very feminine imagery, however, I have been interested in a more unusual body image, influenced by Longo, expanding from the more common femme fatale. There are a few people that have expressed interest in modeling for me using a trampoline to get a falling sensation from different body poses. Now if I could just find a trampoline to use…
Another notable San Antonio artist included is Alex Rubio. His huge piece, 4 Horsemen, takes imagery from the Book of Revelations, discussing apocalyptic themes, while updating into his signature style. Representing Pestilence, Famine, War, and Death with skeletal figures, he expands the imagery to include healing remedies for each of these world issues. Also included is a bird representing each of the subjects he tackles on the canvas, a living symbol of the horrors that will one day be the end of civilization. Of course, these are just a few of the fantastic pieces included in this exhibition. There is no possible way to discuss all of the wonderful art work on display, so I had to just highlight a few that stood out for me. Artists were represented from coast to coast, including Jeff Koons turning childhood memories into iconic sculptures, and a sleek, polished industrial board from John McCracken. This has been one of my favorite shows curated by David Rubins at SAMA. I am so glad I was able to make it, before this exhibition closes later this week.
The other night was a membership party at Artpace. I am a member of Artpace because I love all of the contemporary ideas they support. I love their residency program and how it brings art from around the world to San Antonio. I have also seen some great opportunities taken with their annual travel grant. Artpace is a place I always expect to see fresh ideas being experimented with. As per usual, there was great music and plenty of drinks flowing on the rooftop. But the star of the evening was Agosto Cuellar, Designer Extrordinaire. He has successfully run several businesses and has been designing for years. Tonight, Agosto created a fun photo shoot for willing participants. There was no way I could resist! Here is my finished photo taken by Erik Gustafson:
But it took a team of people to create these portraits. It began with Agosto designing you. He had several interchangeable pieces that he had created. Each person got a different look, making this a unique experience. He creates original styles that are fantastic.
Next was off to hair by Angie Riojas. Adding several layers of hair was another part to put together Agosto’s vision. It took many different smaller pieces to shape an entire head of hair. As you can see, it was quite a high wig on me by the time it was complete. It was so much fun!
It was supposed to then be make-up, but since I was next to last, there was no make up left. The last bit used on the person before me. So of course Agosto got creative and took over, deciding to use tulle on our faces instead of makeup. I think I preferred this much more, giving an aire of mystery. Besides, I prefer to be different from the crowd anyway. This was such a memorable evening! The best part was discussing Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. Yes, there has been talk of the sequel event, since before the first one had even occurred. I love that there has been such a positive response to the show. At the Artpace party, I confirmed my first artist for the next show, Vanessa Centeno. She is a fantastic artist from San Antonio currently going to grad school at the University of New Orleans. It was luck that I ran into her, she was in town for less than a week. The next day I ran into Agosto in Southtown and got to tell him what a fantastic time he had created. One thing led to another…and I have now confirmed artist number two for Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. I am very excited to have Agosto included in the show. He always brings his originality and electricity to all of his events. I am a big proponent of having a show with many different mediums. To have a fashion element will keep this event fresh and unique. All new artists, all new location. This should be just as exciting as the first one!
As an artist and curator, I am always searching for new artists to work with. I have attended the East Austin Studio Tours for a few years, but for the first time, they are hosting the West Austin Studio Tours. Only about an hour drive from San Antonio, I will always try to take advantage of an opportunity to meet a lot of artists and see their work all at once. Huge open studios like these often have over one hundred artists participating. Another perfect day for exploring art! My first stop is to see Ana Fernandez at Women and Their Work. Real Estate and Other Fictions, is a show of her large scale paintings. Fernandez is a native Texan from Corpus Christi, currently living and working in San Antonio. Depicting common San Antonio scenes, one starts to realize it may not be so common after all. It is a unique city that creates its own culture, with a strong past.
While being a top ten city in the country for population, it often feels much smaller, with all its eccentricities. Fernandez captures these moments, reminding me these scenes probably only exist here. She was able to make it up to Austin for the open studio, and besides her paintings, she was running her Botanica. Selling powders and potions to ward off controlling people and more modern bruharia to have someone unblock you on facebook, I love Fernandez’s sense of humor and how she embraces the culture I grew up in and sometimes take for granted. While botanicas don’t seem to be around anymore, they still exist, low key and hidden in the neighborhoods, much like the scenes she finds dispersed throughout the city. Fernandez is giving these beliefs a make over, refusing to let old traditions die. Looking at her paintings is like driving around in the neighborhood. Even if you haven’t seen the exact house she has decided to paint, you know you’ve still seen this house, know these people. Some of them are in my family. Women and Their Work was a fantastic, huge space. It was a great location to showcase such large paintings. They also had a fantastic gallery shop with interesting books and art.
One of the best studios visited belonged to Adreon Henry and Jennifer Bradley. Both living quarters and art studio for the couple, it was quintessential Austin. Their unique space had a living room floor covered in laminated book pages, while art, books, and collectibles were displayed everywhere. The printing equipment was an impressive set up in the side room. Henry was an interesting guy, into experimental music, books, and seriously making art. His house was a bed of creativity and inspiration. A drink was offered as we talk about the Bruce Haack vinyl playing. We discussed putting on shows in alternative locations. He had held one in an abandoned convenience store and I talked about Seven Minutes in Heaven at the Fox Motel. Artists are the most interesting people. Henry worked in many types of media, including painting, drawing, music, and mixed media. His sense of humor comes out as he draws alien figures on found art.
There were a number of portrait painters that I was surprised drew me in. I felt these artists took something as traditional as a portrait and kept it
interesting, which is often hard to do. I love the moments that Karen Offutt chose to depict, one invading a private moment as this girl sneaks some food while she cooks. The expressive look on her
face as she is caught is what makes this painting stand out for me. Painting everyday scenes of everyday people can be a tiresome subject if there is not some kind of excitement behind it. I came upon H. Chase Seal’s work by accident. I don’t believe it was listed on the tour, running into it as I stopped in an interesting looking store. The large, closely cropped portraits drew my attention. Also included was a pastel drawing I liked. While much more minimal in medium, it was just as expressive. My head was already starting to curate, a contemporary portrait show would be nice. Portraits can often be over looked as a contemporary subject matter, but these artists were proving otherwise. I always enjoy seeing artists who love what they do. That should always come across clearly in their work. But the most fun and interactive piece was by far the Quick Draw Photo Booth by Aron Taylor at Big Medium. Dealing again in portraiture, this was definitely a new concept. Just a loud voice coming from a speaker on this home made photo booth was inviting you in for a fun time. Not knowing what to expect, my friend and I decided to participate. I didn’t realize until after I was in the booth, that we were not alone. Hidden behind the camera wall, we could not see the artist as he directed our “photo shoot”. A cowboy with a Texas draw talked to us the entire time, making this such an engaging experience. This guy was hilarious! Combining art and comedy, photography and drawing, this was quite a memorable booth. Everyone’s experience was completely unique, as each participant was given different instructions.
For our shoot, we were playing the role of celebrities, expressing moments with paparazzi hounding us, and ending with the death of the celebrity.
I laughed the entire time and enjoyed that this was something I had never experienced before. Still not knowing what to expect, he told us it took about three minutes to develop the photos and didn’t want to burn himself with chemicals. We continued to walk around the gallery space until he loudly announced they were done. This original drawing on the right is what the photo booth spit out, in traditional fashion. If I ever curate this portrait exhibit, I would love to include Taylor. Someone like this definitely shakes up the typical perceived notion of portraiture. On my way out of Austin, I made a final stop at Art on 5th, to see the art work of Dr. Suess. While I have known this gallery has been representing his work for a while, this was the first time I ever paid a visit. I have always liked his art and have a book, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, that included images of most of the work on display. He has always been a
playful illustrator and I find his other works just as whimsical. Unmistakably his work, these are entirely new worlds Seuss has created, often exposing a much darker side. There are no rhymes to happily bring a conclusion to these works. Yet, these creatures live in this colorful, fantastic existence. Dr. Seuss will always be a childhood favorite of most people. It’s great to connect with his “secret” art work, not intended for children’s books. It is always a pleasure to lose yourself in these exotic places that only exist in the mind of Dr. Seuss.
Amid the many pieces from Dr. Seuss, other artists are represented by Art on 5th. One landscape painter in particular caught my attention, Debbie Mosely. I was drawn to the atmospheric mood she was creating with her paint brush and drips. Looking at her pieces, I felt that I had often been there, in that desolate place, even if just in my mind. The West Austin Studio Tours were a fantastic experience. A little different from East Austin with more gallery spaces, but the creativity continues to flow on the other side of IH-35. Austin is greatly known for their music scene, but this weekend I got to take a closer look at the expanding art community and it was a great experience I hope I get to enjoy again. I am already waiting for the East Austin Studio Tours in November.
A few months ago I was in Houston, picking up art work from the Moody Gallery to take back to the Southwest School of Art. Fortunately, I also got to go back to drop it off. This was in question since my boss needed to head up to Houston also. For a while it looked like I may not get this job. Thankfully (for me), she was too busy for the trip. I always love travelling to Houston, leaving the city is always relaxing. My favorite stops always include The Menil, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH). The permanent collections are stellar and the temporary exhibits bring amazing artworks to Houston. Getting to include seeing art and visiting good friends is always a bonus of any job I do. This time, it wasn’t a Monday, which meant all the art was open. Art and artists have a bad relationship with Mondays. Or should I say the perfect relationship, as I have just always considered this a benefit.
I was really excited to see the large sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Hermann Park. They have been up for a while, but are finally being taken down to travel to another location. Weiwei is a well known controversial Chinese artist. His art often comments on the current state in communist China. This does not sit well there, as seen last year, when he was arrested and detained for almost three months, being released only due to public outcry. The scale of these figures are immense, in typical Weiwei fashion.
The individual heads are incredible to look at and are beautifully crafted pieces of bronze towering over you. Based on the original Zodiac Heads that graced Yaunmin Yuan, the originals were looted in 1860 with two pieces eventually ending up in an auction house in 2009 and sold to an anonymous buyer. This caused an outrage, Chinese citizens felt they had now been ravaged twice. While those two piece may have ended up in private hands, the Chinese Poly Art Museum was donated a total of five of the original twelve heads, from 2000 through 2007. It is interesting that Weiwei is striving to preserve Chinese history on such a large scale, while he is in the middle of a fight with the current Chinese Government on the changing the future. The Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH) is a favorite of mine. This museum encourages experimental and avant guard art. I have seen fabulous exhibitions here including Pipilotti Rist and Stan VanderBeek. It is what it is. Or is it? was the readymade art show currently up. Readymade art has always been interesting to me, the concepts that DuChamp embodied inspire art to be found in many untraditional places. This changes the perception of what art is as well as what can be used to create art. Transforming an existing object into something to view and contemplate in a new way is exhilarating. It reiterates that the world, our lives, are never static and fosters thoughts of change and creativity. Readymade art has the chance to be pretentious, but if it is done thoughtfully, it can be elevated to an art form. This show was intelligent and invigorating to look at. Artists in the show included Felix Gonzalez-Torres, William Cordova and Claire Fontaine. The last few years I have been contemplating many found objects as art. In school I had a found art piece that was in a student show and invited to be in a found art show, The DuChampions of the Ready Made at Lonestar Studios. It was a broken, dirty window simply suspended from the ceiling. For the DuChampion show, it was requested to somehow alter the found piece. So I boarded it up and titled it Perseverance. Soon after that I began working a lot, of course, cutting away my time to paint. Instead of feeling I was wasting my time, I began to realize that’s when I can work on conceptual pieces. Most of the work for a conceptual piece is the thought. This process can be done anywhere, for any amount of time. This had a dramatic affect on how I began to see things and my artwork. I began a lot of exciting projects that I still continue to work on today.
Located right across the street is The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). The main exhibition today showcased the work of Latin American artists from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, among others. Mexican painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, were included as well. This was part of the collection of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). They have been putting together this collection since 2001 and are now exhibiting fifty pieces from the collection of over two hundred. This was a well put together exhibit,
introducing me to a number of painters I had not previously heard of before, including Antonio Berni, Roberto Matta, and Raphael Barradas. It is always refreshing not to have museums show the same major artists over and over again. It is also great to have Latin American art recognized. While collecting contemporary art is not their priority as a museum, there are several pieces I enjoy viewing when I visit. I always love the Damien Hirst there. I am a little surprised this piece has not been loaned to the Tate Modern in London for his current retrospective, but I heard he has an entire room of medical cabinets there, something I wish I could get to see and may not be together again. I also always go through the tunnel of light, or The Light Inside (1999), as it’s officially titled, by James Turrell. The colored light always makes me feel disoriented, like I’m walking in the negative space as I head down the walkway, through the length of the room, to get through and out on the other side.
I did also visit the MFAH Sculpture Garden, which is a serene outdoor area that I had not visited in a few years. I walked through beautiful, large sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, and Louise Bourgeois. Another stop included the Richard Serra drawing exhibit at the Menil. This consisted of large solid planes painted onto the wall and drawn on large pieces of paper, much like the sheets of metal he prefers to work with. I have to admit, I haven’t been too inspired by the last couple of major shows at the Menil, Richard Serra, and Walter De Maria, a few months prior. These have been known to be cutting edge artists and I was a little disappointed not to see new work with transformative ideas. Both are still working artists and these were both new bodies of work, but both shows seemed lacking. Maybe I am expecting too much. Both times, however, the people I was with were not particularly impressed either. I guess it goes back to my earlier of assessment that bigger names do not necessarily mean better art. Don’t get me wrong, I highly respect these artists and really do enjoy their work, just not every piece or series. I love going to see De Maria’s New York Earth Room, 1977, when I have time in New York. One day I may even pay the $250 per person price to go to the remote location of his lightning rods in New Mexico with a no guaranteed possibility to see them in action. I have also seen many pieces of Serra’s in both a museum setting and as public sculpture that I enjoyed very much. Just apparently not today. This was a great trip, even though it was only a quick two days visit. Working with the Moody Gallery went smooth as usual. I appreciate these jobs that take me out of an office setting and into any place where I can continue to experience different ideas of art.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from my trip. The last few months have been a whirlwind but that has now become a calm lull. For the first time in a while, my immediate projects and concerns were completed. There will always be my long-term art projects to work on, but for now, there is no immediacy, no impending due date hanging over my head. Also swirling in my head was all the new information I had to process from the trip. There was so much art, so many experiences, what do I do with it all now? Not to mention I didn’t really have much work lined up. I needed a few days before I could even begin to think, it was too much. It turned out, I needed two full weeks of decompressing to bring me back to my normal, take charge personality.
After I reconnected, I am able to see more clearly and not feel so stressed when I look. Since I don’t have a stable employer, this is all my initiative, and I get to choose what direction I head. While I am certainly capable of this and is how I normally run my career, this is also why I couldn’t necessarily jump right back in. It takes a lot of energy, organization, and networking to work with lots of artists, different galleries, and find work for myself.
The first major project I decided to focus on was Invisible Gallery. During these last two weeks, I got a not so happy call from my partner about our studio and gallery space that we were getting ready to move into – she lost the space. It was a fantastic three bedroom apartment that was the entire first floor of a two-story house in Tobin Hills. She had been living there and was ready to move on, but still loved the space for a studio and I entirely agreed. I was to have control of the large living room for a gallery space. When she originally called with the bad news, all I could really say was ok. I was stressed, broke, and in a weird, unfocused place. I wasn’t in a position to take charge at that moment. However, once the fog cleared, I realized it was completely salvageable. But I can’t dwell on that now, I have to spend my time looking for a new space, not lamenting the lost one.
But Invisible Gallery has never been a physical space to date. It has been my art representation company. Although, in the beginning, I did have a space for a few months. Taking advantage of a vacant house close to where I live, I decided to squat, not letting it go to waste. For six months I had a rent fee studio space that I shared with Linda Arredondo. Unfortunately I was not able to keep that space and I had always agreed with myself that I would willingly move out, when eviction time came.
While I have dreams of running my own gallery space, I still sell art now. I decided I needed to contact the artists I am working with and get things started there. I am primarily concerned with trying to sell work from their existing inventory, not getting a new body of work at this time.
Linda Arredondo is how and why Invisible Gallery began. Her work has always been widely admired and respected. She uses a wide array of media and is very experimental with techniques, making her work intriguing and original. However, Arredondo is a typical artist, more concerned with working in the studio than spending her time meeting people to sell her art. While I highly respect her drive, she was being overlooked simply because her work was not getting out there. I decided I had to do something about that, her work is so amazing. It all began with a facebook post. I simply put I had three pieces from Arredondo for sale. With no images, prices, or descriptions, I sold two pieces within an hour. The realization that I have been building a network of people that will listen for a moment is invaluable. They are interested in art. Arredondo and I have worked together on a few projects, the biggest by far was as co-curator for Seven Minutes in Heaven. I love promoting Arredondo’s work because it is informed and interesting at the same time. We often joke about managing each others careers. She is always giving me fantastic advice on my career, and I work with her on hers. Arredondo received a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008, as well as a Master’s of Fine Art from Yale in 2010, and continues to exhibit her work.
Artist number two was John Cody Williams. We had previously discussed my selling his work, but I had never received any images, a key component needed for sales. He often works on mylar or paper, creating delicate, yet often taboo imagery. When I get to talk with him, he is still interested in my representation. Things are going good so far. I have worked with Williams several times before. We have both been in at least one group show together at JusticeWorks. He has also been an artist in two shows I have curated, Experimenting Sound, 2009 and Seven Minutes in Heaven, 2012. Williams work is dreamy and poetic as he visually draws us into often very private moments, sometimes awkward and uncomfortable, yet inviting you to stay at the same time. His beautifully detailed drawings often take the viewer into a place where everything else is forgotten and are surrounded in Williams’ world, a place where the landscape is ever changing. Williams attended the University of Houston, receiving a degree in Studio Art in 2008, exhibiting his work and having several article about his work published.
Vanessa A. Garcia is another artist that I am now representing. She had approached me several months ago about representation. She previously had trouble dealing with a local organization that had her work and needed some help. Living in Boerne, tx, which is about 30 minutes outside of San Antonio, it can be difficult for her to always come into town for shows and to meet people. Unfettered by color, all the nuances in her work are the primary focus. Using canvas and muslin, the pieces transform into delicate objects revealing vulnerability and femininity. The daughter of a tailor and seamstress, her work incorporates fabrics with strong elements of sewing. Garcia received her Bachelor’s of Fine Art from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2007, and has been exhibiting her work since.
Another artist I am now working with is Barbara Justice. Her architectural photography is often haunting. She takes an inanimate structure, such as a building, and captures the essence, often a feeling of desolation. The loneliness comes through in each image, a single captured moment, finding once “alive” locations, that are now seemingly hidden and forgotten. Justice’s photography is quiet yet powerful, something I respect about her work. I have a long standing relationship with Justice, and have always respected her tenacity, starting JusticeWorks Gallery as a student and running it successfully for almost five years, only closing her doors to make a move to New Mexico, wanting a new start. I am excited to see her new body of work with all the fresh inspiration. In 2009, Justice completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Photography from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has had her work published in Photographers Forum and continues to work commercially.
The fifth and final artist I am representing is Adriana Barrios. As a print maker, Barrios is concerned with techniques and details. While smaller in scale, her work is thoughtful and precise. She had previously discussed with me about representing her work. I liked her business approach, asking me what I could do for her. As the other half of JusticeWorks, she also made the move to New Mexico, and was still interested in showing and selling her work in San Antonio also. However, nothing had ever been solidified, so I took the initiative to contact her, asking if she wanted to be the final artist I represent. Confirming we are now working together, I am very satisfied with the Invisible Gallery group that has been established. Barrios completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Printmaking from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2009, continuing her studies in Florence, Italy.
I personally find the work of these five artists compelling and intelligent. Building relationships with all five of them since college, I respect their work and understand how dedicated they are to their own ideas. The diversity of the artists is also something that interests me about this group. As a curator, I love walking into a show with an idea expressed in various media. That is a primary goal I focus on when putting together a group of artists.
Five artists is all I can really handle at this time. With the exception of my initial approach to Linda Arredondo, the other artists all sought me out for representation. I appreciate that they want to work with me and respect what I am trying to accomplish. This is an endeavor I have been slowly working on now for a couple of years that has continued momentum. It is also something I never had particularly envisioned myself doing. Running a gallery, yes. Representing artists with no physical space, well, that never even crossed my mind. But being self employed, I have learned to search for opportunities wherever they may be. I suppose creating my own opportunities. Thinking outside the box has lead me down a very interesting journey. Once you can accept there are constant unknown factors, it is actually exciting to challenge yourself with new ideas. That is why I love being an artist.
So now my focus is to get imagery and info from all of the artists. I am trying to be active on the Invisible Gallery facebook page again.
I am also about to begin creating a website. No, I have never created a website before. But I have gotten a lot of great advice and info from people that have. I will never let the fact that I have never done something before stop me from trying. Will I see any type of immediate payment for my effort? No. However that doesn’t change how this new endeavor is very exciting for me. I am hopeful it will present new opportunities for me. Most importantly, for myself, I couldn’t be happier doing what I am working on or that I am working with some fantastic artists. That’s the bottom line for me.