Q: You have worked with twenty-plus galleries during your career. Which ones do you consider the best?
A: Probably the most prestigious gallery that represented my work was Brewster Fine Arts on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Brewster was my first New York gallery. In the summer of 1996 I mailed the gallery a sheet of slides, as we did in those days. I was living in Virginia and had been a working artist for ten years. In July while traveling around Mexico, I decided to check the phone messages at home in Virginia. I was thrilled to receive an invitation from Mia Kim, the gallery director, to exhibit pastel paintings in October! And she had not yet even seen my work in person.
Beginning that fall, I gained representation with Brewster Fine Arts, an elegant gallery specializing in Latin American Masters like Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, and others. I am not Latina, of course, but I showed there due to my subject matter. At my October opening, I remember Mia declaring to the attendees, “Barbara has the soul of a Latina!” That night I met fellow gallery artist Leonora Carrington. She and I were the only non-Latina artists respresented. I knew I was on my way!
The gallery continued to present my work in group exhibitions and the staff gave brilliant talks about me and my creative process. For many years whenever I introduced myself to a new art aficionado, they already knew my work from having seen it at Brewster. I continued to be represented there until the gallery closed years later.
Also, Gallery Bergelli in Larkspur, CA did an excellent job of representing my work. I applied for one of their juried exhibitions, was accepted, and afterwards, they offered permanent representation. Soon they introduced me to one of my best collectors, with whom I am still friends.
I have worked with many galleries, some good, some not, for various reasons. Ours is an extremely tough business. Unfortunately, many of the best and formerly-great galleries are gone forever.
Comments are welcome!
Q: You had a terrific interview published in the July Issue # 44 of “Art Market.” How did that happen?
A: You know, my business strategy is to get my work onto as many websites as possible in hopes of eventually reaching the right collectors. ArtsRow has not gotten me a sale yet, but wow, what press! The print copy of “Art Market is gorgeous.” I was stunned by the quality of the reproductions, the layout, and the fact that the publisher did not cut any of my 18-page interview!
This is how it happened. I cannot remember if Paula Soito found me or vice versa. Somehow we connected, I sent my work for her ArtsRow website, and shortly after, she asked to interview me for her blog. Paula deeply connected to something in my work or my bio. I may be mistaken, but I do not believe she asks many artists for an interview.
As I do with every interview request, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” Paula proceeded to ask great questions. I prepared my written answers to her questions as though I were writing an article for “The New York Times,” because once an interview is published, you never know who will read it. And we had no word limits since the interview was being published on her blog, not in print.
So last spring my in-depth interview was published on Paula’s blog. Sometime later she let me know that she had met Dafna Navarro, CEO and Founder of “Art Market,” and was arranging for our interview to be published there. I thought, “Gee, that’s nice,” thinking there’s no way they will publish the whole article. When I received my print copy in the mail I was thrilled! Not only did my interview look great, but it was sandwiched between a piece about an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum and one at The Whitney Museum of American Art! So, of course, I am sharing it with everyone and encouraging people to purchase a print copy.
A: There are many reasons to continue to make art. First, I am fascinated by my months- if not years-long creative process. It begins with travel to remote destinations and ends in framed pastel paintings in my studio, hanging in galleries, at art fairs, in collectors’ homes, etc. Each new pastel painting is another thread in an expanding tapestry that is my entire body of work. It’s fascinating to never know where the process, or the paintings, will end up nor who will be touched by the work.
My pastel paintings continue to garner appreciation among a growing list of collectors. Here’s a recent email from a couple that has been collecting my work from the beginning.
we are thrilled and thrilled and thrilled for your good news from miami and naples.
. . . “tense peace, a tumultuous stillness” . . .
we know we love you and we love your work.
how lucky are we to live with your work in our home, in our lives.
we love to read how others describe it.
thanks for sharing.
happy us to have you and your art in our lives,
love to you,
john & cheryll
your work stopped me in my tracks decades ago.
the sight of your work never left me.
i knew that i had to have it near me at some time, no matter what the cost.
i began immediately to negotiate with john.
you know the story . . .
i promised that i would not buy a single thing for five years if i could have one piece of your art.
i held true for the five years and beyond, adding three more pieces of your work.
if we had the wherewithal, your work would be on every floor.
there is never a day that goes by without thinking how brilliant that work is and how it has enriched our deepest sense of visual joy.
we see the rain pouring down, the snow falling, the clouds scudding by, in false friends.
i admit, we don’t allow the sun to shine on them. i couldn’t bear for her to be damaged.
your thoughtful, brilliant words kept us from changing the highly-reflective plexi to something that would have dulled the drama of us walking in front of and being a part of the work.
we still have those words.
it took about one-half of one second for my thinking to change.
and, man, are we grateful.
it never occurred to us that your work wouldn’t be sought after.
always, we walk into a museum and see your work on the walls.
on the walls of the hemi-cycle at the corcoran.
on the walls of the whitney.
on the walls of the met breurer.
on any large white space that would allow each piece to breathe.
we have always known, deep in our marrow that your work is singular.
you have always had our hearts . . . since the second i walked into the torpedo factory, a first-grade teacher with a first-grade teacher’s salary, and knew that i’d sell my honda civic and walk rather than not have in reality, the frogs thought they were men (i know that the title of the piece is something like that . . . the decades have blurred the words).
so, we waited and then . . .
sigh . . .
all the best to you.
we are excited out of our ever-loving minds for you.
but . . . we’ve always known . . .
c & j
Comments are welcome!
A: I am not the only artist who would say this, certainly, but the low pay is a continual frustration.
The expenses of doing business continually increase and most other professionals get to pass these on to their clients. But for artists it’s different: it’s just tough to pass along costs to collectors. One of the reasons I spend so much time educating people about the process involved in making my pastel paintings, is to provide some understanding of the serious amounts of time, effort, travel, thought, education, money, etc. that are essential to creating them.
It always surprises me when non-artists don’t appreciate the unswerving devotion and plain hard work that are required of professional artists. It makes me wonder what people imagine artists do all day.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
An artist is known by his or her works. But how often do we consider that much of what we know depends on factors that were beyond the artist’s control? A few that come to mind are value on the art market, the knowledge and forethought of the artist’s survivors as they decide to keep or discard works, research interests of art and photo historians and the ways in which these change over time, willingness of dealers, collectors, and museum curators to provide information about the existence of works, the state of printing technology, and the availability of financing for exhibitions and publications.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: Color in Transparency, edited by Jeannine Fiedler and Hattula Maholy-Nagy for the Bauhaus-Archive Berlin
Comments are welcome!