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.
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.