Monday, April 25, 2011

artist as curator...calling all comments

I'm in the midst of curating a show that will open in a Philadelphia gallery in September. I'm well into the fun part of the project: fulfilling my vision, contacting artists, having them respond (at least some of them) and putting together the show, at least on paper. I haven't gotten to the nitty gritty beyond having the venue, the date, and several other arrangements in the works. Now that I have most of the artists for the show, I'm about to step into the next phase of working more directly with the gallery owner, coordinating tasks, writing the essay and putting together the publicity, etc.

I'm interested in hearing from artists who have had the experience of curating a show...Here are a few of my questions:
  • did you include your own work? or do you consider that strictly taboo? (I've had some interesting conversations with both artists and folks who put together shows...there are some rather strong opinions about that one.)
  • what about setting and meeting deadlines? i've often felt that organizing artists can be a bit like herding cats...was this your experience? or was it easy as pie?
  • how did you find the venue for the show you curated? was there administrative help? someone available to help schlep, hang, and light the show, or were you on your own?
  • what "advice" would you offer a first-timer (like me) about this kind of enterprise? (i.e.: what did you learn that you feel might be helpful to others? is there a list of do's and don't's you're willing to share? 
  • was your curatorial experience within a "curator-in-residence" program, did you pitch a proposal for a call, or did you just wing it and approach a gallerist or director of a venue?
Feel free to share your experiences in general about participating as an artist in a show curated by an artist as well...or maybe you're an artist who has always wanted to curate a show but didn't quite know how to proceed. Please respond in the comments section. If you wish to remain anonymous, use that option...  

From my own recent experience, I can say that participating in "Conversations" (see previous blog post) was a very positive experience. It was curated by artist Joanne Mattera and artist Laura Moriarity. Laura happens to be the gallery director at RF Handmade Paints...From the start to opening night, this was a very coordinated, smoothly run event.  I suspect both Joanne's and Laura's considerable experience in curating played a major role, as well as a shared vision, clear expectations and communication...a very positive model for me to reference.
In the comments section, Susan Schwab, Rachel Citrino, Joanne Mattera, and Nancy Natale offered their words of wisdom. And Susan, and NN, I appreciate your generous offers. Don't be surprised if you hear from me somewhere along the line...

Here's a little background about my previous curating experiences... When I was an undergrad at Mason Gross, I had the curating itch pretty strong: I participated in a group curatorial project along with 3 other students; curated a group show of ceramic sculpture by a range of participants from Mason Gross; and volunteered to arrange/install the BFA Senior Thesis show. Stressors were minimal; projects were successful, or at least that's my recollection. (Maybe curating is like childbirth; somehow the memory of the pain subsides with time.)

Later in my career, I co-curated an exhibit of encaustic work at Morpeth Contemporary, the gallery where I have been represented for the past 6 or 7 years. It was a joint project, and I had a number of pieces included. 

Since then I put together, with 2 Philly artists, a 3 person show, the (dark) show, at the indie gallery Stratasphere, in Kensington. This was not really curated, since we were each selecting our own bodies of work, though there was dialogue about placement of the work. 

So, this show is my first solo-curating project. I'm enjoying the sense of freedom that comes with the process of making the vision happen....and so far, embracing the uncertainty about what is yet to come. I'll update further in a few days about the decision to include my work or not in a few days.