Curating an exhibition such as the Contemporary Art Month (CAM) Perennial is no easy task. As my first article suggested, I am balancing a myriad of factors between the public, the space and, of course, the artists with whom I will ultimately work. As I continue to contemplate what the exhibition could be, I have chosen to place two limitations upon myself: to meld the audiences of CAM and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center into one by giving the exhibition a life beyond the opening, and to work with artists underrepresented in San Antonio’s art community.
That second limitation has proven to be the first major roadblock in moving forward with the exhibition. I love the city of San Antonio, and I love that there is a thriving art scene. However, I have realized that there is a large group of artists who don’t exhibit in the normal spaces and exhibitions. I see the CAM Perennial as an opportunity to reach out to as many artists as possible and to visit as many studios as I am capable of in one month. This process, however, would not have happened without the generosity of a few people. David Rubin at San Antonio Museum of Art, Kathy Armstrong at the Southwest School of Art, curator Barbara Perea and artist Cruz Ortiz all deserve very, very special thanks for suggesting names, sending contact information and for their willingness to support my crazy project. Currently, I have a list of almost 100 names and contact information, and over the past few weeks have diligently pored over websites, images and Facebook pages in order to whittle that list down to a manageable 25 artists to whom I have reached out.
At this point, everything is about looking. I have no preconceived idea of what I want to do and have decided that I will let the space and history of the Guadalupe help guide me in the direction that seems appropriate. Again, walking between two audiences, two histories and two organizations is no easy task, but the process requires malleability, conversation and being open to the stress of doubt. After all, I have no idea what I am looking for when I walk into these studios, but am more than confident that the content I encounter will lead me in the right direction.
In that first week I conducted 10 visits over the course of three days. Anyone who has done studio visits before knows that this is an ambitious amount. For the curator, actually visiting the studios is a true test of endurance.
My first visit was with Angela Fox, whose obsession with detail is not only impressive, but set a high standard for the rest of my visits that weekend. From Fox’s studio I met with John William Keedy, who uses photography to explore psychological neurosis such as extreme OCD in the life of a fictitious character. I met with Kara Stevens and learned that her sculptures are reactionary criticisms of the imperfect nuclear family lifestyle behind closed doors and perfect facades. Mari Hernandez talked to me about using her own body as the subject of exploration within societal roles and polarizing tropes. I visited with Kelly O’Connor and we chatted about her upcoming projects and her hunt for color at used book and record stores. I sat with Kristin Gamez and talked with her about visual storytelling through video and watched her recent work, Girl in a Coma, at least twice. Then I punctuated my marathon Saturday by chatting with artist and friend Cruz Ortiz who talked me through his process of transition while he moves away from screen prints and toward larger and more experimental formats of painting.
On Sunday I learned about the need to create and show work to an audience with Sarah Castillo. We talked about how she shares her mind with the collective Más Rudas, and provides no distinguishing line between her personal practice and the well-respected group of artists. Just an hour or so later, I visited with Chad Dawkins and learned how his meticulous drawings are transferring into an interest in time-based media, specifically through radio and popular culture. Then he refreshed my memory with John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, an important text that would pop up more than once over the course of the month.
It will take almost one full week to process my visits, and I will spend that week churning over all the information I learned from everyone I met. In the end, I am no closer to a resolution on what the show will be or how it will develop, but the energy and excitement of talking with artists and being welcomed into the private spaces of their studios is a privilege that I do not take for granted. Each and every conversation is a connection that I value, and at the end of the day CAM is providing the impetus for connecting artists with curators.