the sticks

J.T. wrote a few days ago about visiting his alma mater out in Kentucky and seeing the students work there which made him start wondering about artists who live away from art centers.

Despite living in various cities (Richmond, Austin, St. Louis, NYC and Albany) I now live in Charlottesville, 1 hour from a minor art center (Richmond) and 2.5 hours from a more major one, D.C. So can I really participate in the art world form here?

In one sense, no. I can't get to openings, I can't pal around with folks and I have to depend on the internet and magazines for a lot of info. This became really clear for me when I did got to D.C. and saw the Kehinde Wiley show a couple years ago. In Art in america and online his work looked really good, but in person it blew - good idea but just terribly executed. Without being there I wouldn't have been able to see that.

On the other hand, I CAN participate from here - mags help somewhat but the internet especially can keep one involved. I have internet art pals, some I make collaborations with from far away (hello and hello). And although there aren't hordes of art folks here, there are some - I think it helps that C'ville has the University of Virginia here and lots of money/horsey folk around. Thats another thing - these small places DO have good work happening and showing. (Hello and hello and hello...)

Without trying, I've even fooled people into thinking I lived in D.C. - a gallerist contacted me once and was surprised I lived so far off. There's a story about John Baldessari from when he was a baby artist - He lived in LA but flew in every month or so to NYC for openings. Many people he knew there thought he lived in NYC beause they'd see him around and it helped him to not get labelled a west coast artist. In a way living away can help - when I lived in NYC I was a dime-a-dozen and its easy for artists to just get lost there.

On J.T.'s post I would be disqualified because I have lived in big city centers, so maybe that has helped me to stay involved from way out here - and with a little princess to amuse, 2.5 hours IS way way away from D.C.


J.T. Kirkland said...


You state:

"In a way living away can help - when I lived in NYC I was a dime-a-dozen and its easy for artists to just get lost there."

Unfortunately, this is exactly my point. Many artists are top dog in tiny towns but when they get into the bigger art world, their work doesn't stack up. I think you are now at an advantage because you were once dime a dozen. Maybe you know how not to be dime a dozen and can translate that into great work. Had you never gone to NYC, would you have known you were dime a dozen?

I think you will become something great but you will owe it a great deal to your life in NYC and your experiences in DC. You've written about Wiley so much that I know seeing that show has been instructive.

All that said, you should come to DC more often! Make it happen!

w said...

I'm not sure of my time in NYC really did help - I was much more involved with comics then. Maybe just the sense of having to really stretch oneself comes form that environment, but also think thta comes from my schooling too.

As for being a dime-a-dozen, its alos that living in a big place makes one really see that talent and hard work are only 2 of the 3 things you need - luck is the other. I know several really good artists, much better than most of the crap I have seen in Chelsea, who are still nowhere. Its true you can make your own luck though.

I think the real thing missing for me living out here is the camaraderie of other artists. The things that really help my work are when I talk seriously with like-minded folks. Your chat with me outside the Thai restaurant recently was like 10 minutes long but has started some crazy things here. When I lived in Albany I was part of a gang of artists and writers who started stuff moving and I really miss that here.

And getting to DC is hard! Now that Princess can travel better I reckon we'll be there more... Now you come to C'ville!