This week I spent most of my time installing a new exhibition [Fantasy Trains] at Mattatuck Museum in nearby Waterbury CT. In the midst of an effort like this, there typically is a point where you think how can we possibly get this thing finished for the opening date whatever that might be. Unexpected problems and issues arise and somehow out of the ashes we arrive at a greater work of art seen as the combination of space, object and Placement/arrangement. We call that the installation ie exhibit.
All exhibits are not created equal. The individual factors tilt the purpose and feel of any given exhibition. The same work and space in the hands of another curator will have a completely different feel and sensibility.
Post completion of this installation three things strike me. The first is every installation begins as a chaotic assemblage of elements and factors that on their own try to give their message and clues on how they want to be seen and understood. Listening, feeling and letting circumstance redirect the process allows these elements and factors to speak. It is my view that they already know what this greater work of art intends to be and it is up to me to somehow allow it to be, cooperate and stay out of the way.
Secondly, every space/environment emits it’s own pneuma or breath/spirit that needs to be respected and facilitated in order for there to be a compelling merging of object, space and purpose. Each element and factor speaks either in support or discord with each other. I have always believed that if my effort to listen and feel leads me in a non-optimal direction then circumstance will step in to force me down the road that will bring me to the place all involved desire to go. This has been my experience at least over the years and I have learned to trust it.
Thirdly, in involving yourself in things you are compelled to do, we tend to minimize the possibilities that might evolve out of it. Serendipity and happenstance has always come into play in these things and looking back after the fact has always brought a magical amazement of chance happenings and occurrences that have at times been life changing. When I speak to groups about this I always try to somehow convey that one small seeming insignificant decision or prompting can alter your life or lead to a new opportunity. This has been a regular occurrence in my life throughout my career which now spans nearly 40 years.. The fun part of these things is stepping back and just watching the unexpected begin to happen.
All of the information on this exhibit is available on their site or feel free to call the museum with any questions.
Alexander Shundi’s Fantasy Trains, a new project that I have organized and curated, will be opening on November 19th at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury , CT. Below are the links to the museum event page as well as the Publication on Amazon that pictures and elaborates these miniature sculptures.
FS 8 Express, Alexander Shundi – New Arts Publications
Whenever I was considering adding an artist to the gallery roster two distinct factors came into play in my decision making process. One was considering an established artist who would add immediately to the exposure, the prestige and aesthetic advantage it would contribute and second considering a relatively obscure artist who had a very clear artistic personality and skill set. In other words something I could not get anywhere else and was in complete alignment with the gallery sensibility.
I had recognized that these two strategic factors were powerful enough on their own to make or break any gallery. In fact any significant gallery does the same thing an artist needs to do and that is defining very clearly who they are. Success and failure comes down to having a knack for recognizing something special and then the skill, insight and ability to present that to an audience in a compelling and distinct way.
Many artists and galleries for that matter, get stuck in the developmental stage of their evolution. This, in my view, has to do with closed mindset and the unwillingness to take leaps and to trust yourself. It plays out by reserving a mental space of thinking if one thing doesn’t work I will adapt to the marketplace. In most businesses this is absolutely valid but in the art scene it is deadly no matter how much you want to defend that position. I have actually had artists show me their work and when I concluded it didn’t fit with the gallery they brought out other work and said, ‘well, how about this work that I do?’ My internal reaction is, ’how many freaking kinds of work do you do?’ At that point I know the conversation is over and any future chance of inclusion is gone.
If we look closely this example disintegrates any possibility of creating value. Oversupply decreases value and undersupply increase value. Common sense. Your unique personality combined with your particular skillset is your value metric. Develop it and commit to it and anything is possible. All I know is when I look at any work this is my qualifier for any attention to what I am seeing and possibly considering. And to be clear for pure collectors that is their criteria as well. Much, much more can be said about this but the bottom line is who are you? That’s what I want to know and it should be so obvious on first look that I either want it or I don’t.
So consider asking yourself ‘who am I?’ The benefit of honestly examining this has the potential of kicking you forward and into any possibility. Might be worth a try.
image: Marc Baseman, graphite on paper
Marc is a Southwestern artist who does amazing miniature drawings typically 2″x3-4″.He is a great example of skillset and personality and worth looking up his images online. I have actually exhibited Marc’s work in the past and consider him an extraordinary artist.Love his stuff.
While there are many serious things to concern ourselves with pertaining to life and our chosen professions [ie. artists etc] as we mature we tend to lose the ability to play. This occurrence is so ironic in that we are born into curiosity and the act of playing as an innate human trait. We can all remember the imaginary world that sustained us as small kids and the ease in which we took in others to participate with us. Playing was central to our existence and ability to learn.
As a gallery owner one characteristic that I always look for is the element of ease, an absence of a labored overcomplicated work, something that has been worked to death because more is always better for most. In other words I look for a sense of play and underlying personality. There are so many things that literally beat out of us the ability to play and that turn our mode of operation into mechanical, mundane and predictable skills.
Once we have put in our hours to develop our craft, be it painting, ceramics, glass or whatever means of expression you chose, learning to play at that point is vital to both developing a point of view as well as the motivation to push onward in the face of any and all challenges to your purpose. If going to the studio becomes a job more than a field of play then the core of the what, the why, and the how becomes tainted. Why do we actually do whatever it is that we do?
The business end of art making brings with it ironies that need to be understood and addressed. The commerce part of art is a dead serious endeavor. But the work that is exchanged, valued and coveted must transcend mere product. It IS product and inventory and thus one of those ironies. But it must convey that it is more than that to motivate interest whether in a museum or gallery. As artists we sell ourselves. The work we produce reflects a personality and a very particular skillset named YOU. It can’t be gotten anywhere else. It comes from you alone.
In the world of thousands and thousands of pseudo artists and all that they produce, the work that clearly stands out contains common traits. One is material mastery. Second is conviction of concept and lastly a virtuosity that reflects a complete immersion of ourselves into that work. To describe the feeling it emits is ease of process, play, personality and insight. Seeing something in a way we havn’t seen before. We really learn to play once the hard work has been done, primarily developing our skills. Once we have that the best we can do is learn to play.
Image: Beatrice Wood/ aka The MAMA of DADA
Beatrice lived a colorful life and I have included links to her site and a book that is highly recommended on her life. Loved how she lived her art and made her mark on the artworld.
I Shock Myself
This subject contains so many conundrums that to attempt to address this in a short essay will for sure come up short. But talking about this I think is valuable if only to nudge both maker and viewer away from the status quo and allow something deeper to emerge hopefully.
In my own experience I began making art early on completely enamored by the idea that I could express whatever I wanted in an arena that traditionally accommodated the non-traditional. The larger art world was something that I wanted to be identified with. Walking around with paint on my clothes made me different. Albeit I was still a teenager,but this idea of different meant something and art was the perfect vehicle. The excitement of making things that could be confrontational or question the very notion of what art was kept driving the creative process despite my limited technical skills at that point in time.
As a maker art began to define what was important to me. Different mattered. Expressing whatever I wanted mattered. I always hesitated calling myself an artist because I knew that title was earned and not earned by success but rather by persevering when everything around you said enough, go do something else. I knew I hadn’t been tested despite being on the road. Anyone can make art but that doesn’t make you an artist. Purpose makes an artist and that purpose then goes out into the world on a mission.
Purpose for the maker is commitment to craft and to authentic ideas much like your fingerprint and voice resonance is you. The ‘is you’ is everything for the artist. Until that happens calling yourself an artist is questionable. Commitment to something you care about and eliminating everything else is required. Staying with that commitment in the face of all discouragements and questioning makes you an artist. Ultimately, arriving at an unapologetic expression of yourself defines the artist you might be.
A friend and artist Tom Doyle once said that “if you are having fun making art your most likely not an artist.” I understood exactly what he meant. An artist who has this level of commitment to what they do has a power that others do not. They have the power to move people. To express something at a deeper level that strikes a chord within the viewer that can’t be reached in any other way. It transcends language, culture and most other barriers. This is what I mean when I say ‘there is the appearance of art and then there is art.’ For me, when I see a performance or read a book and it moves me I become so thankful that this person or people had dedicated themselves to what they do. Imagine all of the things we would be deprived of if someone in the solitude of their studio, office, rehearsal space or whatever hadn’t committed to the excellence of what they were passionate about.
As artists we play a critical role in this society and in all others before us. Despite the attempt of politicians, scientists, psychologists and medicine to fix us or lead the way historically it has been the artist who has represented and identified a generation and culture. The times we live in will ultimately repeat the process. The art of our time will define who we were and who we are. Ideas of value use the other fields as our expressions but expression is the thing that lives on. One of the world’s most unique occurrences summed this up best. Picasso declared a profound truth worth spending time thinking about and relating to whatever it is that we attempt to contribute to the continuum of creativity. “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”. The ability to reach someone’s soul is it. Purpose. That is what an artist’s life is capable of. What else can be said?
Image: Tom Doyle, Phoenix, wood
in my quest to use the above image to show what in my view is some of the best work in the world I have included one of Tom’s sculptures. I was fortunate to have shown Tom’s work for many years.
While this article relates to art I have seen the principles spoken about apply to everything in life and all disciplines. Whether we acknowledge it or not we live our beliefs. It is a primal manifestation. The deepest beliefs are so entrenched within us that they tend to exist almost invisibly. The repetitive thoughts that churn in our awareness tend to grab our attention and day by day ask us to expend our primary energy there. But just underneath that chatter reside our core beliefs that have the power to open and close doors in our lives. To imprison us or to set us free.
Many will say, ‘I am well aware of my beliefs and I have a good grasp on who I am.’ On the surface this sounds like a good state of mind. In my view, this is the place most of society lives and is comfortable with. Open mindedness and entertaining the thought that maybe there is more than meets the eye might be a place worth considering. A place of ‘I don’t know’.
We enter the world with no beliefs and then begin the process of being cared for. Being cared for opens us to both subliminal and overt messages that are absorbed within us as our very existence depends on it. On our first breath we begin the road of adopting beliefs at such an existential level that as we mature we lose awareness of these because they intrinsically shaped who we think we are. I have found that these beliefs, despite not being in my best interest many times, I defend to the death unconsciously because that is who I think I am and how I was raised.
Choosing to be an artist or whatever it is you are driven to do confronts the status quo within us and the challenge begins. My drive to want to create powered me through self- doubt, insecurity, limiting views of myself and the need for acceptance. The pain of questioning myself and the discomfort of open-mindedness was secondary to this other force that pushed me forward both out of necessity and want.
I struggled in the studio for 15 years before I dared to venture out and entered an international competition that took me 3 years of submission and rejection to finally be accepted in. My discontent pushed me to try. I opened myself to rejection knowing that acceptance couldn’t come unless I did. From that decision I was invited into a major exhibition in NYC that I had always dreamed about being in. From there I was acquired into the National Gallery and one day I realized my beliefs about myself had changed without me even knowing it.
Experience has shown me that true change cannot be constructed. It comes from open-mindedness and the willingness to take another look at oneself when life says it is time. The scenarios that have changed me have come when I least expected. I resist change as hard as I can most times so it is only when something larger than me steps in and I seemingly have no choice that I grow. I know a few things for certain. I can do some things today that I wouldn’t have thought possible before. I know there is a force that pushes us through adversity and change despite our discomfort. I am certain that anything is possible when we take seemingly insignificant moves towards what we want.
It does seem apparent it takes a lifetime to grasp what our beliefs are and to allow that something to shape them into better things for us. I no longer worry about changing myself. Art has been my vehicle to self- awareness. I grow when I least expect it and despite all my efforts to resist it still happens thankfully.
image: Italian artist, Edoardo Tresold
wire mesh is the main material: this work is amazing and check out the link to his site…very cool concepts and execution
The Art of Critique
Saturday, June 10, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
A one day workshop with Tony Carretta
Artist, Gallery Owner, Dealer and author, Tony Carretta is giving this one day workshop. This workshop will focus on both a critique of each participant’s works and explore the art of self-critique.
Each person is asked to bring in 3-4 works to be critiqued and evaluated on execution, concept and presentation. We will also discuss how to critique your own work from a place of non-attachment and objectivity. Gallery concerns, when taking on new work, will also be addressed.
Arts on the Lake registration