Monday, May 2, 2011

The Working Artist

It seems that recently my time in the studio has been filled with the kind of work that feels like I have a job working for The Man. (Does anyone still say that?) It's been putting panels together by drilling holes and inserting screws or bolts, touching up the edges, repairing small dents or scratches, attaching hangers and wires, writing titles on the backs of panels, wrapping, packing and all the myriad of other tasks that I would have my army of interns or assistants doing if only they existed in reality instead of in my dreams.

Why cats, you may wonder. Well, I went looking for pix of studio assistants and all I found was pix of cats and dogs that people had posted. So, hey, I have my own damn cats. They're not in the studio with me, but they do lounge around all the time, apparently the way people think studio assistants do. I guarantee you that mine would be kept busy--at least busier than these cats.

The good news about all these studio chores is that I'm getting the work ready to launch into the world in the form of sales, which is never a bad thing, no matter how annoyingly detailed it may seem.

And, just in case you may wonder what it's like to have an army of assistants, cast an eye on this video of Julie Mehretu's studio in Berlin that features some of her assistants. You'll see how the other half lives.

In Other News
I received a comment today on my blog post about Anatsui at Wellesley College from Susan Vogel, a  remarkable art historian, teacher, author and filmmaker. She is internationally recognized as a curator and expert on African art. She was the Founding Director of the Museum for African Art, Director of the Yale University Art Gallery and Professor in the Department of Art History at Columbia University. Ms. Vogel said I had written a "terrific post" about Anatsui and directed me to her website, where I would find information on a film about Anatsui that she directed and just released through her production company.

Susan Vogel

Her film, Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui, was shot over the course of three years in Venice (at the 2007 Bienniale), in Nsukka (the village where Anatsui's studio is located) and in the U.S. She has also made eight short films about various working practices of Anatsui that can be shown together as a longer film. It all looks fabulous and I would love to see the films. The site has a list of upcoming screenings at the Metropolitan Museum, Skidmore and Sarasota Springs. The one I'm shooting for is at the Clark in Williamstown on Sunday, July 24th. I wish I could have downloaded the film trailer for you, but it wouldn't work. You can see that on Susan Vogel's website too.

In Anatsui's studio, laying out separate pieces to make a large work (from Fold Crumple Crush)

The Pace Becomes Frenetic
Some time around the end of April when the calendar is about to turn over into May, you can hear the hum of activity begin to pick up. The pressure is building and time seems to condense as all those things that you seemed to have limitless time for begin to mount up and you are suddenly aware that there is NO WAY you can ever finish them all before it is upon you. The Conference is coming, the Conference is coming! There's that drumbeat and it's getting louder and more insistent. The Conference is Coming, THE CONFERENCE IS COMING! Only 32 days left now. Aargh, get it done, get it done. THE CONFERENCE IS COMING!

Photo courtesy of Joanne Mattera

The Big Ball o' Wax rolls on toward the 5th Annual International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Massachusetts, June 3, 4 and 5. All the info here.


Joanne Mattera said...

They're legion, those invisible assistants. I have a cadre of them, too.

Thanks for the shout out about The Conference. One of the things I've found with creating a successful encaustic painting conference is that everyone wants a piece of it. Institutions try to claim credit for it and many artists feel free to pull ideas, events and even speakers for their own smaller regional versions. It's the antithesis of what a conference--a coming togther--is all about. You, however, have been nothing but supportive. That's a marvelous and much-appreciated thing.

Anonymous said...

This was an amazing post!

I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a model maker/ studio assistant for Larry Kirkland back in the 90's. Having an opportunity to see and experience what it takes to do large scale public work was invaluable.

We had that same sort of communal lunch situation. We also worked together, bringing our individual skills to create something that might have not been possible for one of us.

harold hollingsworth said...

wonderful post, it's always wonderful to see a successful working artist who also entrusts and communicates well, as a former installer/assistant, it is great to know!

Meredith Kuntzsch said...

I seem to have the very same studio assistants. A brown tabby and a little black shorthair. They don't do much more than critique.