Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Being an "Art Worker"

Gerhard Richter, Two Candles, 1982.
via Cave to Canvas
When I parted ways with the Art Institute, I firmly believed that I didn't need to work in the arts to be close to the arts. That I could pursue my passion for art in ways that were different than my career choices, opting to try a line of work, though still related to fundraising, that was not so closely aligned with my true passion for arts and culture. Reflecting on my last five months in my current role as a researcher at a consulting firm, I have gleaned, that a big part of me is yearning to assume my place in the art world. Lately, I find myself happiest when I am reading about art / exhibitions, viewing art / exhibitions, and talking about art / exhibitions. It has become so clear to me that my passion for art cannot be snuffed out.

So how do I negotiate this you ask? I can't exactly pour ashes over the fire and turn my back on what I know makes me happy - that's not my style. As my father likes to say, "Guttmans never quit" - and ain't that the truth? Rather than walk away from a piece of me that is flickering within my core, I am slowly feeding my burgeoning flame the kindling it needs to grow into a sweltering hot house that was the Great Chicago Fire, that is my alma mater's mascot, the Prairie Fire, and that maybe one day could be the flame of my future.

How I negotiate this yearning, this aching desire, is up to me. Lately, I've been pursuing art in my spare time. Visiting art openings around the city, taking my time when I walk through museum exhibitions to read every didactic plate, attending artist lectures, and reading every article the Internet has presented me (kids crawling on Donald Judd sculptures, Obama hatin' on Art History majors, the Molly Soda art appropriation "scandal") knowing full well that I am on my way to attaining fulfillment in my work with every effort (big or small) I make to get closer to this thing I love so intimately.

I attended a talk last night, given by the curator and "art worker," Dieter Roelstraete of the MCA. His discussion of the art world in terms of status gave way to the idea of those in the art world as being "art workers" or "art laborers" - that every role is important. From artist, to curator, to critic, to viewer, each role needs to work in tandem with another. That art cannot exist without the viewer, that the curator and critic cannot exist without the artist, brings about the point that the art world, while driven by status, is actually driven by the symbiotic relationship of these "art workers".

A person plainly asked him, how does one become a curator? To which he quite candidly responded:
One must take in a broad range of experiences. To learn to curate is a practice in looking. See as many exhibitions as you can, take stock of what you see.

So here I am. Pursuing the art world from the "outside" working my way back in. Initially as a viewer, maybe a small part as an artist, and one day as curator and critic. I savor ever moment I have with a work on view, cherishing the experience for the singularity of it. Reflection on viewing is part of attaining fulfillment for me, and I have a feeling my reflections have only just begun.

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