Sunday, February 13, 2011

NYC Conference Summary

I spent the last three days in New York for the CAA Conference. It was hard to know what to expect so I figured I'd share if you are curious. The one thing I suspected was that it'd be tough to make any progress on the job front, and that was true. There were only a few recruiters and they were all looking simultaneously really busy and really bored.

We went to some lectures and meetings and things ranging from really good to really bad. The really bad involved artists and gallerists explaining how definite failure would be unless we (emerging artists) take charge, create our own scene, make connections in a natural way etc. and at that point I was wondering why I paid to hear how I shouldn't go to established events like this one to learn about things I already know....

But anyways on to the good because that is what I like to dwell on here. The highlight of the conference was a panel of artists including Petah Coyne, Vija Celmins, Philip Taaffe, Robert Gober and Janine Antoni. I felt sort of star struck. The topic was the artist's mind when they are not in the studio or something like that. It seemed like the instructions to the artists on what to talk about were kept really broad which I loved. The stories they told and ways they presented themselves really mimicked their work and personalities.

Vija Celmins spent her 15 minutes talking about her garden in Sag Harbor and Swedish detective novels which was wonderfully intimate and mundane at the same time (so true to her painstaking and beautiful work, pictured below: charcoal on paper)

Philip Taafe spoke more philosophically: he praised idleness and what happens when you know how to look at the world in a slow and deliberate way.

Robert Gober told personal stories of times he was not making art including a very important cross country trip which included visiting Matthew Shepard's fence. He said everything he learned in life he had to figure out for himself (which I liked in light of the conference).

Janine Antoni performed a dance which she said allowed her to feel the spaces between one form (herself) and another (us). She was engaging and self confident like the work she produces.

Finally, Petah Coyne. She spoke first but I saved her for last because she was my favorite. She showed her work and with each piece told the 'wandering memory' it was based on and the book she liked to think of it connecting to. For example she told a story of housing war vets in her home as a child and how they "moved as if in honey jars through the house." Everything she said was poetic and incredibly beautiful. The work too, physically, seemed to conjure up this poetic memory space that I am so interested in.

Finally, something I observed was that all the artist's seemed in awe of one another. A little intimidated of how creative and talented each was but proud to be peers. I was in awe of that fact and am constantly in awe of my artist friends and peers and hope to continue on this way using the panel's advice to always allow life to enter in and use it when I make work.


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