I've been busy working with cool people.
The past week has been busy working with and meeting really talented people. This experience is shaping up to be amazing so far. It's a little less structured than I would like. I usually get to the laboratory about 10 am but sometimes things don't usually get going until about 10:30-11ish. And the mornings are less hands on than the afternoons. Suzanne Anker or Brandon Ballengee usually start off with a presentation, discuss, or workshop in the AM - break for lunch for an hour - and come back and start doing things with our hands! Its a difficult balance of science and art. I want more art (of course) but I have to start with the science part. It's difficult for me to keep attention during the science part simply because I like to use my hands to learn and science is a bunch of big words that I have trouble pronouncing. We meet with Suzanne on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Brandon on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fridays usually consists of studio days OR an event for all the SVA residents (sculpture, installation/new media, painting, and bio-arts). The weekends are free to do as we please, recently I've been lazy and/or sightseeing on the weekends, but the weekends are about to turn into intense studio days I think.
A brief run down of what I've been doing with all these cool people at SVA.
We've been meeting with her at least once a week one-on-one to discuss our projects. Since there are 16 of us it usually takes about two days to get through all of us. We did a bacteria painting workshop with her. We used a e.coli bacteria (that is not a harmful strain) that was mixed with a florescent gene from a jellyfish. We poured the agar, waited for it to cool, then painted with the bacteria. A green and violet pigment. But its clear when you paint with it, so its like painting with invisible ink- difficult. It takes about 16-24 hours for the bacteria to grow then its visible under blacklight.
Brandon teaches part time at SVA and considers himself a scientist and artist. His bio art consists of finding amphibians that have deformities due to a bacteria in their environments that cause the extra limbs or growth to not enough limbs. So far Brandon has taught us how to stain and preserve specimens. Its really exciting and not as dangerous as I thought it would be (chemical-wise). This Wednesday we are meeting in SoHo/Chinatown to get more interesting specimens.
Joe is defiantly a scientist but has very recently begun to dabble in photography. In his scientific research he is working on neutralizing a neuron (or gene-something like that) in a squid that might help with alzheimers. Its complicated but important. I don't understand it. Joe did a microscopy workshop with us, taught us how to make one for cheap and how to use the ones we have access to in our lab.
Last Friday all SVA residents were invited to do a gallery crawl with painting professor Tobi Kahn. I don't know him well or really have the opportunity to work with him but he is interesting. I had the opportunity to see some amazing work. Jeff Koons, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Stella, and many more. The Kiefer exhibition was amazing work. I love Kiefer's work and seeing his new work in person was breathtaking. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs at that show, and the security there was intense. I was scolded for looking too closely.
I was thankful for the gallery walk and commentary b/c I went to some shows that I normally may not have gone to on my own.
I still hate Jeff Koons.
This is important. This means something.
An introduction on Jerry Saltz....
Jerry Saltz (born March 19, 1951) is an American art critic. Since 2006, he has been senior art critic and a columnist for New York magazine. Formerly the senior art critic for The Village Voice, Saltz has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism three times. He was the sole advisor for the 1995 Whitney Biennial. Saltz has also served as a Visiting Critic at The School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Yale University, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Studio Residency Program. He lives in New York City with his wife Roberta Smith, senior art critic for the New York Times.
Thank you Wikipedia.
Well, I must say that our first lecture of the residency was a good one. Jerry Saltz has character and energy. I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that he was a critic and wrote for the New York Magazine, but that was about it. His fascination with the artist and their world was so interesting. I'm always curious about the art critic and art historian. What drives them to understand visual arts? Sometimes I think its a case of failed misplaced artist- and sometimes it is. I think that was the case with Jerry Saltz. He claims that if you are an artist and you don't make art for one year thats ok, but if you don't make art in two years you're not an artist. He said he fell in the latter group. He's self made; used to be a truck driver and now he's one of ten leading art critics left (is it a dying industry?).
Saltz spoke with us, a group of about 32ish, for about 3 hours. I took 3 pages of notes. Some of the things he said really home for me. But sometimes I wonder if I was the correct target audience for his lecture to begin with. The lecture was basically, "I'm going to tell you how to get famous". I don't know if thats me - yet - or if I want it to be me ever. I'm very on the fence about art fame. But regardless of fame, he did have some good things to say about being a successful artist that does align with my own ideas of success. In other parts of his lecture, not so much, but I'm still young and have a lot to figure out the art world.
"THIS IS A VOLUNTEER ARMY."
True that. The art world isn't an easy one, not that any job is (don't get your panties in a wad accountants), but artists choose to be artists. I don't think I've ever met an artist to say otherwise. Its something we feel like we have to do. "You are driven to do something and to do it in public" Jerry says. Even if we don't understand who our audience is or why, we still require one. We do our thing (art) then we show it to people (you).
"IF YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE -- DO IT AGAIN. I DON'T CARE WHERE IT CAME FROM."
That was interesting to hear. Because on a daily basis I am constantly hearing "...do something that no one has seen before" or "...I've seen that before, do something new". But it makes sense to do it over and over again- you have to learn the rules to make them you're own and maybe that means making the same shit you like over and over again to make it yours so it can become something different. I didn't realize how glad I was to hear that. It felt good to hear it. The public, critics, and so forth doesn't care where the art came from- just that it creates an experience for them. Maybe I really like Rothko so I paint like him and find a way to turn it into mine. (I do really like Rothko but I don't want to paint like him- so maybe that was a bad example.) Or if my studio neighbor is using Cad Orange and it makes me realize that Cad Orange is what my painting needs--then use it! I think in art schools especially this is important. Its hard not to constantly see what your neighbors are doing and thinking that they are doing it better, its tempting to borrow. Borrowing isn't always bad though. Jerry Saltz doesn't care where it came from- just do it.
"YOU DON'T OWN THE MEANING OF YOUR WORK."
Damn right. That is why I think the artist statement is a bunch of bullshit too. The artist is trying to say something, if the work is successful it will hint to that dialogue but the viewer, they each own the meaning and they will always be different. Art is something that does something. Its about experience, not understanding.
(Ok, sometimes I'm just really whiney about the artist statement- they are important- I just hate writing them.)
"ALL ART NEEDS AN ELEMENT OF ETERNAL- BUT IF THATS ALL IT HAS ITS ALREADY DEAD. ALL ART NEEDS AN ELEMENT OF THE HERE AND NOW."
I'd like to end with this rather poetic way of viewing the artist according to Jerry Saltz: "Artists as prophets, plagued by demons."
Well done SVA- I'm more than impressed and can not wait for the rest of the lectures.
Today was the first day of my artist residency. It started out with (free!) breakfast and coffee- off to a great start already. There are about 60ish residents at this time (there are a couple of different summer sessions). Out of those 60, there are 16 in my Bio-Art Program. We are an amazing group! I am so excited to get to know these people and learn from them. We come from all over the U.S. and the world, and varying ages, and only two males out of 16 of us (poor guys!). We had brief 5 minute presentations about us and our work today to get to know the people in our program; and there was some really good work shown. I am so excited to work with these people and get to know them better. I took a lot of notes today just during the presentations just because of some of the interesting things the artists' said about their work. One of my greatest weakness is presenting myself and work- and sometimes its all about having the right words. Bio-Art is a new language for me, so I took notes.
The SVA facilities are amazing. The layout makes sense, the building is clean, our studios are white cubes, and they have state of the art stuff for art making! Laser cutters, 3D printers, full wood and metal shops, tons of equipment available for checkout, macs everywhere, and just an overall very impressive building to work in. The Bio lab is going to be awesome to work in, I can not wait to learn cool stuff. Cloning plants, making paintings with bacteria, photographing objects at a microscopic level, the list goes on. This month is going to fly by.
Oh yeah, I get to wear a white lab coat- legit.
Check back for more SVA Bio-Art updates. I'm sure I'll have a lot to show and talk about. Today was just the first day.
I am a contemporary artist focused on the intersection of art and science in Lexington, KY.