Thumbnails of potential objects for exhibition
During any given day, you will find me prepping to teach, cutting out thumbnails for an exhibition, speaking at a workshop on teaching at the Gallery, attending a History of Art Community meeting, editing my manuscript for the exhibition catalog, connecting to new colleagues on LinkedIn, or spinning at SHiFT cycling in New Haven. This week has been full of all sorts of challenges (intellectual, physical, logistical), and making it all work is a huge juggling act. Keeping all those balls in the air, thinking that they are each independent and autonomous of one another, while only I know that they are all interrelated. As one ball goes up, another goes down. The trick is keeping everything in motion, right? So just as my legs don’t stop spinning at my cycling class, I feel like my mind never stops moving (and that’s where yoga comes in).
The best thing is that I love every minute of it. I guess you could say I’m a born juggler. I thrive off the constant challenge and excitement of it all, and would be very poor at being bored or under-stimulated. I’m can definitely get overwhelmed by the work load and constantly switching gears, but I am not one to complain about it. I don’t think I could do it if I wasn’t genuinely passionate about academic affairs, teaching, curating, and the Gallery.
After all the craziness of the earlier part of the week, I have the next two days to slow down, return to editing my essay, and figuring out the objects for the show. I’m grateful for this next period of time to focus on keeping just a few balls in the air.
It’s been way too long since I’ve last written, and so much has happened! I finished my PhD at USC in May 2014 and one day after walking down the stage to receive my hood, hopped on a plane with my family and crossed the country en route to New Haven. As a born-and-raised Californian, I had doubts about the East Coast, to say the least. But, after just a year-and-a-half, I feel like I should have been a New Englander all along. I am kind of obsessed with the four seasons (though we’ll see about the big snow storm predicted for tomorrow). I think the Yale Art Gallery is just the most amazing teaching museum, and I am having the best time as the Cullman-Payson Fellow in the Education Department. I wish I could stay forever, but my fellowship ends in July 2017, alas, only a month after my show comes down. It’s going to be a sad time.
Show. Yes, I am curating my very own exhibition. It’s insanely exciting and completely mind-boggling that I am the sole curator of a show at the YUAG. AND there’s going to be a fabulous catalog. And I’m kind of obsessed with the research, writing, and entire process of putting an exhibition together. To say that I love it would be an understatement. Must. Temper. My. Enthusiasm. But it’s just so hard to!
More about the exhibition later, but let’s just say it’s about Josef and Anni Albers and their role as collectors of pre-Columbian art and textiles. I know. Couldn’t be more perfect from what I’ve been focusing on for the last, say decade. I’m floored that I have this chance to think about how modern art and pre-Columbian art actually work in the context of a museum. And try to avoid all of those criticisms I myself may have launched at other shows that have attempted the same thing. Not to say that I won’t fall into the same traps of, “hey, this looks like that” (because I will), or muddy up the chronological waters in a desire to put Tlatilco objects next to Aztec ones. Because, again, that will happen. But I’m definitely trying to avoid having pre-Columbian art solely in the service of modern art, and instead try as best as possible to retain the autonomy and complications behind the pre-Columbian object as well as the modern one.
I really need to get started writing this article, but I just came back from a field trip to the private collection of Matthew and Iris Strauss (see also here) and I feel the need to process. To back up a bit, I’m a visiting scholar at UCSD’s Center for US-Mexican Studies this year — a huge honor — and to try and take advantage of my affiliation here I am auditing a class on curatorial practice taught by MCASD director Hugh Davies. The class is phenomenal and the final project is to design an exhibition based on MCASD’s permanent collection that, if chosen, might be selected to be actually put on exhibit. Is that not the coolest thing ever?
Anyway, the class is awesome because we’re learning both theoretical and practical skills of curating — something that I’m eager to learn more about. Today’s class was a visit to the Strauss collection and it was really breathtaking. My favorite piece is definitely Fred Wilson’s Picasso/Whose Rules, though I was also impressed by the amazing array of contemporary art, much of it newer artists that I was less familiar with. One thing that my visit put into relief is that writing a dissertation will definitely give you a more narrow view (“specialized” is the polite term) of art because you’re really focusing on a few artists (and even then, a few works from their oeuvre). Plus, you tend to forget about the business side of things and the importance of private collectors. I’ll have to ruminate on this a bit more, but I am really impressed by the eye of the Strauss’s and their commitment to art and especially local audiences in San Diego. Wealthy individuals have the ability to spend their money on anything, so it is quite admirable when they spend it on art collecting with an eye toward benefiting the larger good.