The artists have asked me record my part of this project, which up to this point has been relatively mundane. Honesty, I did not want to bore you all to death with the details! I just kept watch on their progress and maintained communication, answering questions and notifying them of pending deadlines…yada, yada, yada.
Now that we are closer to the opening of this exhibition, I begin working on the PR details. In case you are curious, here is how I described their show in the Press Release, invite and on the museum’s website.
Featuring the new work of Arizona artists Carolyn Lavender, Monica Aissa Martinez and Mary Shindell, this exhibition focuses on the imagery that not only distinguishes each artist but ties them together, just like the ecosystem of our planet. Lavender’s latest drawings depict woodland creatures in constructed landscapes and individualized portraits of various animal species, capturing not only their likeness but inferred personalities. Through her introspective drawings and paintings, Martinez explores the complexity of the human form and gender issues. Shindell’s mixed media sculptures, drawings and prints represent the intricate textures seen in plant forms and other organisms. You can take part in the artists’ process by visiting their blog at https://formalandinformal.wordpress.com/ .
Short, sweet and to the point. I have found that most people will not sit and read a description that is more than 100 words (Granted, this is slightly longer than 100 words, but I wanted to make sure to include this blog.). If an exhibition or object description is too long, people lose interest. In case you are wondering what an object description is, it is included on the label and provides some background information on the object on display.
In an ideal world, the PR for a exhibition would happen much sooner. I have found this is difficult to do with contemporary artists, who are working on their work right up to the delivery deadline. In addition, a curator at one of those big fancy museums will work on a single exhibition for years. I don’t have that luxury and am generally working on the details for 6-8 exhibitions at any given time.
Another dilemma I generally face is what image to use to represent the show. In this case, I have chosen to represent all three artists. I wanted to visually represent their title: CREATURE • MAN • NATURE.
Ah, the life of a curator…exciting isn’t it? At least I have not been killed off like in The Da Vinci Code! No crazy albino chasing me!
As the old adage goes: “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” Today, art is commonly referred to as subjective. Duchamp proved that anything can be deemed art, but how do you determine if something is good art? Is it the technique and how successful it is executed; the quality of the rendering; the message and how it is conveyed? For me, it is a combination of all of the above, and if you can achieve something that turns the “establishment” on its head or challenge the viewer to look beyond the surface, you are golden. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for art that primarily focuses on craftsmanship and the object itself, but pivotal moments in recent Art History have been made by artists who have questioned and transformed acceptable norms.
Art is as diverse as its intended purpose and the people who create it. There are many instances in which I question, “Why is this considered a masterpiece? I don’t understand. Is something wrong with me? Maybe I went into the wrong field.” I think it is human nature to have self-doubt, but I also think it is also important to learn about the work or artist before you dismiss it. Keep in mind that personal motivations and ambitions also influence some perspectives and enthusiasm for a particular artist or work.
A few years ago, I encountered a visitor who was very upset by the art on display at the museum. At the time, we were showing the detailed animal dissection paintings of a local artist. She suggested that there was something wrong with us because we would show something that was clearly unacceptable. She also informed me that art should be “pretty and happy.” In turn, I asked her if life was always “pretty and happy” and gave her a little Art History lesson on “meat” paintings, specifically focusing on Rembrandt. I found this conversation amusing on many levels, because it not only exposed the viewer’s owns biases but her fears as well. In 17th Century Dutch painting, Vanitas paintings were often created as symbolic reminders of our mortality, a topic we generally steer clear of in American society. I also found it intriguing that the butcher case at the supermarket or a burger on a grill might not get this kind of reaction…except maybe from vegetarians 🙂 This conversation has stuck with me over the years.
Yesterday, I came across an article that reminded me of this incident. It was about a Taiwanese photographer, Tou Chih-kang, who created portraits of dogs prior to their execution at a shelter. I actually became physically nauseated thinking about these poor dogs and how they endure this treatment because of human intervention. If you did not know the story behind the photographs, you would think, “Oh, what a lovely photograph of a dog!” Clearly, this was not a happy story, but a story that needed to be told.
How does this tie in with this exhibition, you may ask? As you watch these artists and their process, think about the issue of art and what it means to you. What attracts/repels you and why? This is a unique glimpse behind the object and into the world (and mind) of the artists. When retelling a story, Art Historians often have to provide (or surmise) the social context surrounding a work. In this case, the artists are presenting their own background and commentary. By the end of this journey, it will be interesting to see if this experience will enhance the end result.
I love the title…short, clean and simple. The first thing I did think of was how the first letters of each word almost perfectly lined up with the first letters of each of your names:
Creature = Carolyn
Man = Monica
Nature = didn’t work for Mary but Mother Nature would
Just thought it was funny. Granted as a designer, I am also thinking about how the title would graphically look.