Last night was interesting. First I think I should start off with where my night ended and work backward. I called my mother as I walked away from what I would deem as a successful evening, but I called her worried. The further I walk down this path, the more I realize that there isn’t a travel guide. She suggested tonight that I write a little bit about my background, which after sitting in a room full of artists, might be necessary to clear up any confusion.
I was born in Worcester, MA, raised in Westborough, MA until I was about 14. I studied ballet 6 days a week, several hours a day from the age of 8 until I was 16, when I realized I wanted to be able to eat ice cream, hang out in book stores, and lose my virginity. Up until this point, I had no plans to go to college but I changed my course, started writing for the high school newspaper and dreamed of starting my own magazine, which I planned on naming Risque. I ended up at Simmons College purely by… I don’t even know how to describe it… fantasy or accident, I guess. I only applied to one college, specifically because it was women only and had a journalism/communications department, I only got in to one college, and only looked at it after I received my acceptance letter on Valentine’s Day of 2003, in which they commented on my application essay. I had a traumatic first couple of months at Simmons when I wrote for the Simmons Voice. I quickly realized the senior editors had thrown me into a dog fight for amusement. Battered and bruised, I stopped writing. I ended up studying art history by accident. I was at the MFA, fawning over both Eternal Springtime by Rodin and a boy in a group from UNH. Mel Bobick who is a retired professor from UNH, let me silently join the UNH group and suddenly I was really learning about art for the first time. Before Mel, I had no idea who Turner was and that the Greeks painted their sculptures. The rest is history, I was entranced. I am still am. The greatest thing about Art is that there is always something I didn’t know or something I haven’t seen because Art isn’t an equation or a hook of a song. It’s an expression from someone’s mind that is made by someone’s hand. It is why I am drawn to emerging and contemporary work. I have degrees in art history, art business, and international art crime studies.
This leads me to a second point further back-tracking tonight. With all of my degrees, I am often asked if I make anything but I am not an artist. And after watching an art critique in the flesh tonight, I have also realized that while I am perceptive and knowledgeable about art, perhaps I don’t think that I think like an artist either.
This was my first time joining or perhaps crashing the new group “Art Studio Visits RI” that was started by artist, Lisa Perez. It was their 3rd event and last night was held at AS220’s Project Space to see new work by Natasha Maria Brooks-Sperduti. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I compared my expectations to that of my experiences going to open studios in Boston. I was kinda confused by the post announcing that there would be an artist talk this Thursday (7/28) since I thought that would also happen last night, but I said I was going to go, so I went.
I have to apologize that I arrived late, perhaps only a few minutes. It took forever to find a parking spot. When I walked in, things felt like they were in full swing. The artist was describing this really gorgeous installation right when you walk into the gallery. Roots were suspended from the ceiling against a graphite background. I felt they looked like lightning bolts against a gray sky, much like the weather yesterday. There were roughly 10 people in attendance for tonight and I would guess almost everyone was an artist.
Since I’ve never been formally trained as an artist, watching this group talk about Natasha’s work was very interesting, but kinda like watching Telemondo. I could understand bits and pieces of what was being said, but everything seemed to be in a different ornate language. I became engrossed with the dynamic of the group, rather than the dialogue at different points, which admitting is probably a faux-pas. Natasha reminded me of a nymph. She is petite and expressive and had the kind of curly hair most of us want when we make the mistake of getting perms. Someone else who commanded a lot of attention last night was an Australian woman whose on sabbatical from MassArt. She was particularly vocal, perhaps it was that the time away from her classroom finally was realized.
Further rewinding the night, I realize I really was watching an long standing special private ritual. Art critiques among artists are something personally I had only read about in books. Ideas, responses, concepts, imagery, the list goes on with different elements of the conversation that happened throughout the evening. At one point, an idea of a visualization popped into my head regarding what I was observing. Many of the artists that were giving Natasha feedback, I interpreted as being seasoned. I perhaps made the mistake of talking near the end of the discussion and pointed out this observation that it was mid career artists mentoring an emerging one. After that, I heard a voice cringe and say something like, ” Not the c-word.” I have to clarify that these aren’t terms I made up. A lot of what I see also goes through the lens of art business and sadly, “career” is a big part of the business. I idenitify mid-career as being seasoned but still experimenting yet working in a style or idea that has taken years of time in the studio to be fully fleshed out. Business within the art world is different for each stage of a career and most importantly it affects the price of an artist’s work.
At the end of the crit, it was explained to me that not every visit is like this and the artist for the most part sets the tone of the evening, perhaps this is what I missed as I was huffing it in the rain to get to the space. The energy in the room was no doubt electrifying and beneficial for the artist, who was brave and vulnerable enough to the group to both speak about her work and hear feedback from these knowledgeable people who are her peers, and of course me.
Lately, I’ve been identifying myself more and more as an emerging writer. In this town, Bill and Greg dominate the art writing sector and they are, of course, mid-career writers. Moving to a new city and finding myself finally among the company of those I have longed for for years is a very overwhelming feeling. It sometimes makes me beam with happiness and pride as the words, "it’s all happening" echo in my head and sometimes it worries me endlessly that I am perhaps still unready for my own critique, but I thank everyone. Every artist and gallery owner I have been fortunate to meet and speak to in Providence has been so kind and understanding as I try to navigate my way and walk this line as someone who is still trying to find a seat at the table, but I’m so happy to at least be in the same room.
Thank you, ReD