A Curator is a collector. They collect images, yes, but more than that they collect thoughts. Their own thoughts and those of the artist's they are choosing to group together in one space. What I find really interesting about curating is the ability to collect and in turn create a narrative or overarching voice. I was always remotely interested in trying my hand at curating but it was on the outskirts of my long list of things to throw my energy at this year....until I was offered an opportunity to curate a show. Then it got moved to the top of the list for a while as I poured my energy and focus into just that - curating.
I didn't know much about curating but I was excited to dive into the process of researching artists and artwork. For this exhibition the artists had to be local so that helped me narrow down my focus just a bit. I knew right away that I wanted to connect these artists and then find the common thread after I had a group that I intuitively felt fit together. I also knew I didn't want the narrative to be about where they resided - I wanted to challenge myself and figure out what made these artists tick. I set out to find artists and images that spoke to me and figured my artistic sensibilities and preferences would help tie the whole thing together on a visual level and it did. I was fortunate enough to have the majority of the artists on my potentials list respond positively to the invite and the next step was to get specific about each individual's work.
This is where I will talk about my favorite part of this process - studio visits. While I did not get to visit each and every artist, I did get out to see a few in person and I can't tell you how inspiring that was. Curating, whether there is a monetary benefit or not, has many benefits to an artist. It is worth the time and effort in so many ways, ways that may not always be obvious at first, at least not to me. Exploring an artist's space gives one a chance to get to know the artist and their work on a personal level. The artist opens up in their space about their work in ways that they don't necessarily feel comfortable doing right off the bat anywhere else. When you enter into an artist's studio it is like taking a peek into their hearts and souls. I left each visit feeling energized and motivated and a little in awe of the way each made totally unique spaces work for them.
Tied into the conversation about the studios, curating is a wonderful way to connect and cultivate relationships within the artist community. As artists, at least it has been this way in my experience, we often times go through periods where we are a bit isolated. Unless we are collaborative artists, we often work alone. It is refreshing and I think necessary to get out there every once in a while and break away from our own work and work environment. Taking on the role of a curator gave me permission to talk to artists that I admired and find out more about them. Being given an excuse to send an email, pay a visit, or otherwise discuss artwork with local artists should not be passed by. We all need to network, but I always have felt that to be such a clinical term. I would rather phrase is as connecting to like minds, which can only lead to good things.
I finally decided how to conceptually frame the work I had collected and came up with the title, "Natural Tendencies" for the exhibition. As many artists who are curators do, I found that the work I gravitated towards naturally reflected my own artistic investigations on some level. I think artists can use the role of curator as a way to expand upon their own creative drive and ideas. It was not a direct reflection at first in my case, but as the common conceptual thread became clear I could see how my personal artwork fit into the work I had gathered. Viewing the work and talking to the artists gave me the opportunity to further develop my thoughts on my own studio practice.
So yes, even though curating had not been in the forefront of my mind, I did find myself in that position this year. And I am very glad that I did. Artist as collector is a given so artist as curator just makes sense. My head is already buzzing with new ideas for future shows. Hopefully another opportunity will present itself at the right time again. The universe has a funny way of providing things right when they are needed most. I will leave you with a link to the exhibit ~ enjoy the show!