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!
A: Yes, I loved seeing Alexander Calder’s wire circus at the Whitney Museum of American Art when I was a child. The circus, and the charming movie that he made with his long-suffering wife (to me she always looked bored and embarrassed that her husband was playing with his toys!) used to be on permanent display in a glass case on the ground floor. For many years Calder’s circus was in storage.
How thrilling to see it again, when the new Whitney Museum opened in May, just blocks from my apartment! Now any day of the week I can visit Calder’s circus – and other favorite works that have not been on exhibit for many years!
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.
You give yourself a creative life – pursuing those questions and aesthetic conditions that mean the most to you. What are you interested in? Landscape and gender and nuclear power are each worthy subjects and there are plenty more. Do you aspire to exhibit in museums or public spaces or virtual realms? Your job is to figure out how to best engage these distinct contexts. Your studio may be a large industrial space or a second bedroom or the kitchen table, where you can work days or nights while wearing your favorite sweatpants and drinking tea as music blasts or silence is maintained. You might produce five or fifty objects a year, using bronze or oil paint or folded paper, and these can be large or tiny, made to last for centuries or a few weeks. Maybe you’ve been a printmaker for several years and all of a sudden you decide to make videos. OK. You might be influenced by Pop Art or Minimalism or Feminism or Fluxus. How are you using these various histories to your advantage? Does Edward Hopper or Gordon Matta-Clark or Agnes Martin or David Hammons inspire you? If not, who does? Try to understand the reasons for your choices, and if you feel the need to shift gears, indulge that impulse. Grant yourself the permission to acquire new skills, travel to biennials, buy a new computer, start a reading group. Risk not knowing what will happen when you do.
Stephen Horodner in THE ART LIFE: On Creativity and Career
Comments are welcome!