Art School Flashback

This week I met with one of the assistant curators from Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art. She came and just did a private walk through the show, as viewing the images online isn’t as good as in person and you don’t get the full experience with the biographies and family trees etc. It is good to know the staff at MOCA like to be on top of what is happening in the area.

I was so nervous at first early in the day, I freaked out wondering if I would turn into my 18 year-old self at CalArts having to constantly defend my work and not really knowing how to do so. I thought I would get a slew of questions in the manner of a Spanish Inquisition and then have it turned around and thrown back in my face. Ah, those CalArts critiques, they didn’t really teach me anything they just annoyed me to no end. Technique was never really taught, only theory. And being that installation art was the hot poop and figurative painters were looked down on didn’t help. “Painting has been done to death, do something original!” I’d get all the time. This was of course right before John Currin and Cecily Brown started getting popular. Only a few instructors I could tell were supportive of us non-installation or conceptual students, like Jim Shaw, Derek Boshier and on occasion John Mandel. In recent years I have become better at talking about my paintings, but still I’m at a loss for words 40% of the time and find other people are much better at describing my stuff. To be honest, I think I went to college too young. I also think I chose the wrong school for what I was doing, but I did want to do film/animation and they gave me good scholarships, so I stayed.

At any rate, I was surprised how few questions the MOCA curator had which I was rather happy about. I mean there were questions, but not the totally loaded and combative type of questioning I was expecting. My work isn’t some big statement about politics or the environment, nothing that is analyzed or with a message about the human condition. I just do what I like and what interests me without thinking hard about some big loaded concept. And that was what I got scolded for in school and by critics still at times. It is also exactly why I don’t get grants.

But no, we talked about how happy we were the painting comeback, about the pros and cons of installation art and our disdain for Thomas Kinkade — albeit we admire the empire he has built for himself. We also talked about the career fall backs art students need. Most people don’t know that I was totally set on being an animator early on, that was my fall back to fine art. My career path I plotted out by age 19. I think I didn’t pursue it hard enough once out of school due to getting married, low self-esteem about my animation and just the fact I realized I wasn’t too great at it. It has gotten to the point now where every program I learned has been outdated anyways. I don’t think we even had Adobe InDesign when I was in school. I don’t know what people do these days out of art school for a real job since art school enrollment has gone up drastically the past 7 years, along with tuition. My mom told me that I should go to beauty school once I graduated as my back-up income making job. And I think she was right. Then again, there is only so much you can do with a lot of college degrees now isn’t there?

My dream “day job” at this point? To just be someone like Diana Vreeland who spews proclamations about art, decor, fashion and get paid for it. I doubt I need beauty school or interior design courses to add to my resume for a “job” like that now do I?

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