Monday, 24 March 2014

Why Would You Want to Write About Art?

Sheila Perry shared this image of a sculpture in Belgium on Facebook.  She pointed out to me how it was integrated with its site and that would be an important aspect in a discussion of the artist's concept in my opinion.
I have been teased me that I should write a book titled, "The View from the Velvet Pedestal".  That title would refer to my experience as a child model for artists and it was how I paid for my art classes past the introductory stage.  What was significant about the experience is that it was during that phase of sitting there naked on the velvet cube that I realized I didn't need to make art.  I was fascinated by watching art being made and noting the decisions that were being made all around me in the studio.  Trying to understand how the artists were processing what they were seeing and creating engaged me more than taking my turn at the easel or mound of clay.  I had already been writing–everything from short stories, plays and poetry–but now I had found something I wanted to think about as well.  The fusion between my passion for ideas and words had melded with my passion for art.

Not surprisingly, when it came time for a boyfriend, he would be a scholarship student at the Museé des Beaux Arts.  We went to gallery openings and read the newspaper reviews.  Typically big mouthed I said, "surely, I can do better than that".  And not long after, I became an art critic.  Somewhere in between, I had won a writing competition, earned a community newspaper column and a CBC TV summer gig.  So, it was a matter of shifting from writing social commentary to becoming an arts reviewer.  That was more than thirty years ago and I have continued to publish.

Yesterday afternoon a bunch (about eight) of us earnest arts writer types got together in response to Mary MacDonald's invitation.  With flourish she posted in Facebook the "First Meeting Ever! of The Crossroads Society of Arts Writing".  Well, you know we would feel energized and important with a name like that.
This delightful pair of images was what Mary MacDonald used as illustration.  She's a great visual thinker.

It is an informal and supportive group.  We hope to stir the pot and encourage some new writers to step into the uncertain breach of writing about art, provide feedback to those writers who seek it, and generally help fill a vacuum.  With typical sarcasm I joke that I am an endangered species as a writer who seeks to offer an educated opinion about current art practice.  I am more than happy to have others to join me.  I personally think that especially in this digital age of social media, where the artist can exert such a strong presence, the impact of art criticism is mitigated.  Whether a critic likes or dislikes a show is irrelevant.  At the best of times, it is the reasons for our subjective decisions that are useful to others who are interested in art.  Still, I want it to be done well and professionally.

Another reason why writing about art is on my mind is that the Clay Studio at the Craft Council in St. John's has asked me to lead a half day workshop for artists Writing About Yourself and Your Work. I plan to offer an aftercare service to help artists take home the information and actually apply it. It is part of the Off the Ground Professional Development Series.  My workshop will take place on April 5th and for more details see this link:

Getting a review that is relevant often starts with having an articulate artist statement that is clear about the artist's intention and the proper context in which to view the work.  The gallery going public looks to the world of words when it comes to feeling safe and in the know about what they are looking at.  Give them words that are honest, accessible and useful and everybody is ahead of the game.

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