Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Get Acquainted with that rare human species: the curator

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of spending 3+ hours working with the artisanal gang at The Plantation here in St. John's, NL.  It was Business Mondays, a series that is custom tailored to give the craftspeople and artists in the workshops there a taste of the cultural industries that are especially relevant to their practices.  I was invited to speak on my curatorial practice and I jumped at the chance.
This is Mary McIntyre's Deer Mask that was featured in my Larger Than Life exhibition.

I have written in other places, and mentioned in interviews, that I think my father's work and habits as a detective influenced my observational skills and style of curating.  I have realized that was true of my interview style but until recently didn't appreciate how much it informs how I design exhibitions.  If I could give one thing to the gallery-going public it would be more confidence and skill as viewers.  Not just looking but really seeing…it wouldn't be art history, or craft techniques, or specialized knowledge about obscure things.  I'd say to them: relax, take you time, think about what you are looking, why are things the way they are?  Go ahead, ask questions!

While I was preparing for the session I was reflecting on my past as an artist's model.  My mother had posed a challenge for me as a kid:  if I wanted to continue with painting classes, I had to find a way to pay for it.  And that was why I started to model.  It was a bit of a hoot as a grade school student to go from my classes with the nuns, and the uniforms and saying the rosary on our knees in the afternoon and then to skip down the street, take off said uniform and get up on a velvet covered pedestal.  It was while I was modelling that I started to watch, carefully, how artists worked.  And I became fascinated. Why did they choose the colours they did?  I noticed habits, decisions, sequences, etc.  Gradually, I discovered that I was content to watch people create art.  I didn't need to do it myself.  It wasn't an itch I needed to scratch.  But I did want to know more about their process and the series of decisions that informed the artistic process.  I was hooked.
This is the Deer Mask being proudly worn by its owner as she received an Aboriginal Achievement Award.

I believe that on some level that's when I became a curator.  When I was 15 years old I started publishing as a journalist in the Suburban newspaper.  It was a by product of winning a city-wide writing competition for highschool students. That summer I did an internship with CBC TV.  This was followed by a qualifying university year at Carleton University's journalism program and eventually a stint of a four years as the Entertainments Editor of the Loyola newspaper.  Not surprisingly, I became an art critic and reviewer.

Still scratching that itch.

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