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.
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.
Seven Minutes in Heaven in my current project, the largest I have taken on. It is an erotic group show, that will be held in a motel. I came up with the concept and am head curator of the event. It all began with an article about an erotic show in NYC that kept getting the police called on them. I found this upsetting. Why was this a problem in New York? It turned out to be in a conservative, religious neighborhood. Still, I thought this should not be an issue, it’s the twenty first century. My idea grew from there. Discussing my project to have an erotic show in San Antonio was met with positive reactions. There really hasn’t been anything sexually exciting since Danny Geisler’s Peep Shows. I became determined to create this event. Linda Arredondo wanted to work on this project also, becoming co-curator. This was in March. From there, exciting things began to happen. All the artists I discussed this with were excited and wanted to be a part of this. The artists list has been confirmed since August.
Linda Arredondo, Alfonso Espronceda, Ana Fernandez, Catherine Garrant, Jessica Garcia, Wesley Harvey, Mira Hnatyshyn, Barbara Justice, Jung Hee Mun, Kelly Reid Walls, Matt van Hellen, Vincent Valdez, & John Cody Williams
There are a total of thirteen artists that will be showing their work here. When I am curating a group show, it is very important to me to have different mediums. I hate nothing more than walking into a huge show and seeing all paintings or all drawings. If there is a group show, I want to see the diversity and creativity that each artists brings with them. I am very happy with the projects the artists are presenting. Performance, video, installation and mixed media will all be represented at the Fox.
I decided to take the approach of freedom. I just discussed the idea of erotic art with each artist and left it up to their interpretation. Eroticism and sensuality are very subjective topics, and I am really looking forward to see how each artist approaches it.
Linda and I scouted motels months ago and fell in love with the Fox Motel as the perfect location for Seven Minutes in Heaven. It represents the seediest elements of sex and erotica. It is two blocks from Broadway and located between a dead end street and the underpass of a freeway. We are renting out the entire eight room motel. Perfect for an event like this!
Today I am confirming the venue. This is very important because we can’t start advertising without a confirmed location. I am leaving 50% of the total cost to officially confirm the location, making this official. We went yesterday, but the owner that Linda had previously spoken to was out of the country. So Savi, the woman who was there, wanted to confirm over the phone with her before taking our deposit. When Linda originally went, there was kind of a language barrier, she wasn’t quite sure it was clear we were having an event there. So in our best interest I drafted up a small contract stating our intentions for an art show, rental period, agreed price, etc. It was a little difficult to convey no one would be spending the night but a couple hundred people may be there for a few hours. The Fox Motel is the perfect venue, small enough to rent out the entire place, large enough to host a huge party!
This is the biggest project I have worked on to date. I mean, where I was in charge. It is a little overwhelming, but very exciting. The show is two months away and I am just beginning to have something to do every day. Working with twelve other people can get very hectic. I think I am talking to at least one or two of them every single day now. I know I will just continue to get busier as the event gets closer.