My former professor/thesis advisor and friend Hannah Barnes used to always say (to me. Presumably she’s still saying it, just to other students now) “College is about finding your friends.” Meaning, not just the people in your class/dorm/etc, but your art-friends. Research artists who’s work you like, see who they looked at/hung out with and look at them, and see who they looked at/hung out with and look at them.*
Doing so has helped me not only to be more aware of the world in which I’m living, but has also given me an ‘in’ to the Conversation. Rather than being That Person, the one who jumps blindly into conversations, blurts out the first connection she’s made, embarassing herself and everyone around her, I’m able to listen, think, and every once in a while, join in. Looking at other artists who’s work is really interesting to me has also helped to pinpoint certain trends/interests/directions in my work that might not be apparent in isolation.
I recently had a conversation with another artist who, after expressing an appreciation for figurative “realistic” paintings and a dislike of conceptual art, said “I’ve been told that’s narrow minded, but I’m not. I just have an opinion.” And while I lovelovelove all the art he was talking about hating, I had to respect his view. I sometimes worry that I make ‘friends’ too easy. Even the art I don’t react to on an immediate gut-grinding-I-LOVE-YOU level, I can usually find something to appreciate in the history or philosophy (and even sometimes lackthereof) behind it.
Fastforward a few days to another conversation with Jen, wherein she mentioned her Top 3 Living Artists at Whose Feet She’d Like to Sit. As she told me hers, I realized that if pressed, at that moment I could come up with several artists who I enjoyed, several more who I reallyreally loved and only one that was still alive (Ann Hamilton).
Whether it’s an argument or interview or even just plain conversation, I always find the right thing to say about ten minutes after the fact. “…OH. That’s what I should’ve said. Damn.” So, for my own benefit, knowledge and just in case the question ever comes up again, I’ve thought, run, and thought some more and put together my list of three** Living Artists At Whose Feet I’d Like to Sit.
Check them out. Like ’em. Or hate em. I could wax poetic about any one of them for another four large textblocks, but you’ve been with me this long, so go, run, explore the internet.