Marketing Mondays: Artists, Should We Write and Curate?

Rene Magritte, The False Mirror, 1928, oil on canvas; photoraphed at MoMA

Why not look beyond the studio to take, make, find or cultivate the opportunities to write about art and curate exhibitions? What do you think?

As an artist who blogs, I have created an opportunity to write about art. I think of myself as a reporter with opinions, or as my friend Jackie Battenfield calls me, "a commentator." This blog has also given me the chance to "curate"--that is, to assemble images of artists's work under one theme or another. I've also had the opportunity to curate in bricks-and-mortar spaces. Sometimes I get paid; other times it's for the pleasure of stepping outside the box to exercise my eyes and brain in a different way.

Certainly focusing on these other projects takes away from my painting time, but after so many years in the studio, the work knows how to find its way out. I actually like the breaks that writing and curating create. Moreover, as they stretch my thinking I find that more ideas make their way into my painting brain.

So here are my questions to you:
. Do you also write or curate?
. Are writing and curating a natural extension of our kind of thinking? Or are they a drain on our practice?
. Do you think we're setting ourselves up for a conflict of interest?
. Finally, are there any writers and curators reading? What do you think of "the competition"?


annell said...

Joanne, wonderful post as usual! Hummmmmm.......I always thought of myself as a visual artist. And a few years ago, I began to write. And lately I've taken a lead from you and I did some interviews and took some pics at Art Santa Fe, a recent studio tour with the Museum of Fine Arts Santa Fe....slowly but surely, easy does it. I can see other projects could open....Thanks so much! I do not feel like a qualified critic, but can write about observations I make, but no value judgements. I try to be very careful with the artists I talk about.

Casey Klahn said...

It has been an incredible surprise to find out through artist blogging, that I have readers for what I write. Very rewarding.

Good set of questions.

Your Marketing Mondays are getting better and better, Joanne.

ken said...

I've found working with other people's art as a writer and a curator beneficial in many ways:

As a way to have more objectivity about other who are in those roles (curator, writer, gallerist) in relation to me-- Understanding what things in a given situation might look like from their perspective.

As a way to explore aspects of other artists' works and ideas-- Why should I only think about my own paintings and processes?

As an avenue and reason for being in touch with other artists and writers.

It's very good especially if you are able to pick your own projects and not let them crowd out your time for your own work...

Alessandra Kelley said...

I have curated a brick-and-mortar show.

It was exhausting, but very rewarding, and felt like an expansion of my normal artmaking. It involved a lot of coordination and organization, which I try to use in my artmaking anyway. Everybody involved was gracious and helpful.

I haven't yet curated anything online, but it is an intriguing option.

Bea Modisett said...

Hi Joanne,
I've been blogging for about three years (it started as an alternative to a website)...but at most I post every two weeks, usually when a new painting is complete, a new exhibit is on the horizon or if I'm announcing a new project. I've organized three exhibits in the past year and a half under the name This Collective Pull. Two were installed in friend's apartments, and the attention from those two shows led to an opportunity to exhibit in Mission Hill's fivesevendelle, an alternative project space. I really enjoy the excitement of putting these events together for a number of reasons - the main one being that it gets a bunch of artists together talking about work that may normally have just stayed in their studios. However, since returning from the Hambidge Center I feel I have been on a roll with my painting and can't pull myself away to invest all of my time and energy into something else. When I hit a rut with painting I'll probably pull another project together and undoubtedly gain inspiration in the process. Thanks for the post!

Philip Koch said...

Writing and painting can be done together- one of the best examples would be Fairfield Porter (though I believe he had significant family money to fall back on. As he didn't work or teach regularly, he had perhaps more time available than most other artists).

Some time back I curated a show of contemporary landscape painters for MICA. It had started out as a two person exhibit of just Wolf Kahn and George Nick, but then got expanded to include a second gallery space holding another 20 artists. In retrospect, I wish I'd have paired down the numbers to save on all those phone calls.

I do think an artist needs to proceed with a bit of caution. Writing and/or curating are time consuming. They take up a lot of an artist's energy. I've seen more than one artist get pulled out of her/his studio almost permanently in this fashion. It's important to remember what it is we want to be remembered for. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Nancy Natale said...

Years ago I did get into the curating and show-organizing trap that Philip Koch describes, where I was working more on putting shows together than making my own work. I enjoyed it but it wasn't as satisfying as getting into the studio and making the work. Now I am mostly content with just blogging about others' work, my own work and various thoughts and observations. Blogging has meant a whole new way to think about art for me, and I think it's enriched my own work. The only drawback to my studio time is that I tend to stay up until all hours writing and reading online.

I think there is a bloggers' bond that forges itself between those of us who post regularly. Blogging makes writing more ephemeral but also more current and spontaneous. I like making virtual friends and following the lives and work of those I may never meet in person. This is one aspect of globalization that works for me.

sharonA said...

this is such an excellent question - it's one that comes up between me and other artists I know who curate and/or write about the arts. We talk about balancing these with making, and how any of them can certainly take away from another; but more often than not they actually supplement each other.

I consider writing (blogs, magazines, etc), and curating (brick and mortar and elsewhere), an extension of my art practise. Curating is an interesting challenge of compatibility, analogous themes, and like-minded or appealingly different philosophies in artists. My approach to writing about the arts is less about criticism/reporting as it is about finding a philosophical approach. These are all ways in which I tackle my work in the studio as well. I think this is also an approachable path for others to find to art; revealing the process and the underpinnings, as it were. In a sense, I work through my processes and questions by talking about art on the blog or dreaming up shows.

I don't see why artists can't or shouldn't write or curate, if they're so inclined; but I don't think anyone should force themselves to do it for any reason other than the desire to - it's not going to further your career in any way if it's a chore, burden, or obligation. It's a labour of love!

That said, as my practise and a full time job have taken precedence lately, I haven't written/curated as much, and it's sad. Hopefully I'll pick it back up again, because I certainly miss the conversations they start. :)

Matt Morris said...

Along with making and exhibiting art, I've been helping curate and operate not-for-profit exhibition spaces as well as writing art criticism for local and international publications.

I see a lot of overlap in the purposes of art, writing, curating--- to create conversations, community, shared profound experiences.

I've certainly had to be attentive to 'conflicts of interest,' and I've even observed that here in Cincinnati, my own work and the galleries I help run get less attention in print because of my affliations with different local publications. I think that's understandable and is fine as a calculated risk.

At this point, I couldn't imagine making work or writing without the other parallel practice. I can volley ideas from my desk to my studio, back and forth. Punctuated by occasional curatorial projects where I can really parse through ideas by presenting other artists working with them.

Also, I think there can be avery different kind of energy between purely-academics curating v. experienced artists curating. I celebrate both, and both have qualities to offer, but they can be very different.

kim matthews said...

Writing is like a muscle; it needs exercise. Writing about others' work, whether you publish or not, is very useful for clarifying and distilling ideas. The question is, is the writing worth reading? Is it worth taking time away from the studio?

And as far as curating goes, man, that takes a lot of work. I have to thank Joanne for helping me break my exhibition idea into (almost!) manageable chunks. With some great insights from colleagues and patience, I may just pull it off.

Anonymous said...

I have been blogging for about 6 months and although I have few visitors to my site, it allows me to keep inspiration in one place. I am a photographer and when in need of a creative boost, I can just look through my blog posts to find links and images that could be helpful.