Artist – is it a NOUN or a VERB?

Growing up in Villa Park I was fortunate enough to be the daughter of a talented drawer.  My earliest memory of a mural was the one painted of Pinocchio on our finished basement walls.  He drew the character and painted it which created a permanent work of art in our play room downstairs.  During my teenage years I would do that same thing to my own bedroom walls, eventually drawing and painting things that I would see that I liked.  I mostly remember being a HUGE fan of the OMNI science magazine covers, often copying them onto my walls in a huge scale. 

But the thing I remember the most, was my dad’s drafting case.  He had this exquisitely mysterious large wooden briefcase.  To my child’s eye it had to be 5′ x 6′  but more likely 30″ x 40″ or so.  Each time my father opened that holy grail of “real” art supplies, I swear a golden light would shine from inside illuminating him to be bigger than life to me.  I wasn’t allowed to play with any of the things it contained because they were “adult” things and I was a child.  Later, when I was older and deemed more responsible, I was allowed to look inside and even use the vast array of pencils (6H-6B), french curves, t-squares, stencils, and fragile yellowing assorted tracing papers.  He would show me how to use the various utensils to create designs and pictures. Oh how I loved that case and all the promise it held!  My dad was the first artist I knew.

It dawns on me now that he has influenced me more than I had originally thought.  Not only did he teach me to love creating art, he taught me to share those things I covet to others in hopes to inspire them or introduce them to something new. 

I witness the generous nature of artists on a daily basis.  There are even books written by artists sharing what they know of  materials, techniques, and theories.  Artists by nature are givers; givers of their work, their spirituality, their knowledge and resources.  These are not things which should ever be taken advantage of, just like Dad’s drafting box, but to be shared in hopes to carry on the legacy of being an artist. 

So if being an artist is opening up your world to others, than is being an artist a noun or a verb?  Is it “something” to be or aspire to, or is it simply a way of life?

Mastering the Modern Masters….

One Hundred Fish, 2005
One Hundred Fish, 2005

On Friday I went to the Art Institute of Chicago to listen to a fabulous all day lecture about modern artists.  Each lecture was 30 minutes in length about various artists given by professors, published authors, curators, and even other artists.  All in all it was as if I was sitting in a living room at a party listening to the crowd mingling while chatting up their friends.  The lectors were formal in their approach to the various artists, however their delivery of this information was held together by a ribbon of familiarity.  It was calculated coziness.

The first lecture was given by Whitney museum curator Donna DeSalvo talking about Charles Ray (whose artwork Hinoki is on display in the new AIC Modern Wing).  She talked mostly about Ray’s desire to recreate a fallen log that he found in his travels, which was on the brink of total decomposition.  Ray is the type of artist who spends much time thinking about the work he is doing.  Therefore he sought out the perfect type of wood to use to painstakingly recreate the log, using cypress wood because after 200 years of living it would remain in tact for 400 more years before it began a 400 year process of decomposing.   If you look closely at the log you will see it has been done in sections with each section being completed by a different artisan working for Ray.

Theodora Vischer spoke about Robert Gober’s room installations; including a wedding dress, large box of Kleenex with a metal pipe placed through it, bags of kitty litter, and unusual pastel wallpaper depicting various states in our country.  What I found provocative about his work is his ability to direct your eye and mood when you enter his space.

Joan Simon talked about Bruce Nauman, his video work, his influence on other vis-comm artists, and his neon light work.  The Modern Wing features his  Run From Fear / Fun From Rear piece which I admire because of the play on words that I find so interesting.  Joan spoke of Nauman’s influence from deKooning’s masterpiece Excavation. When you look at Nauman’s piece One Hundred Fish, 2005 you will notice the lines of filaments dissect space much as deKooning’s piece did for the canvas.  According to Simon, Nauman believed that to read is hard, to understand is harder, but to misunderstand is easy as it’s part of our world.  Nauman’s work is all too often discounted with too much weight being placed on the viewer’s initial reaction and color is also readily overlooked.

Briony Fer discussed the wonderful but all too short life of Eva Hesse.  I never knew that Eva Hesse felt her works of art were very temporary and fleeting; often giving them away to others.  She felt nothing really lasted, which is odd because she chose materials that did last such as fiberglass or latex.  Although these materials would be durable, they do have life as the colors change while the piece agea.  Briony said this about Hesse “imagine something on the verge of nothing or nothing on the verge of something”.  When taking in Hesse’s work, I understand that phrase with a deep sadness in my heart that she was only in this world for a mere 34 years.

Anna Maria Torres lectured about Scott Burton who died in 1989 of Aids. Burton believed in the form of function in furniture using his strong understanding of the design process.  He would see furniture possibilities in the strangest of objects, even creating seating from 2 odd-shaped slabs of granite or by cutting an angle in a large boulder.

Richard Powell from Duke University informed the group about the ribbon of jazz and blues music that glides through the artwork of Kerry James Marshall.  Marshall used collaged elements in his work along with exposed underpaintings and transparent layers to express the depiction of African American’s throughout American history.

While these were all so wonderful, my favorite was listening to Carol Dunham’s personal journey from seeing Jim Nutt’s Chicago Imagist work for the first time to finally meeting Nutt in person.  Dunham shared his feelings on the complicated relationship that exists between the Chicago Imagists and Outsider Art.  While Dunham was an apprentice in NY in the early 70’s he had seen and became curious about Nutt’s work and his interest grew when he went to see Nutt’s work in a mid 70’s Whitney Museum retrospective. He felt that Nutt’s work contained an interiority of consciousness” with the usage of interior spaces in the artwork.  What I found most interesting is Nutt’s insistence on being closed off to interpretation discussions about his work.  We share that philosophy. I often talk about my work because I feel it needs explanation and I do it out of self obligation.  Nutt would discuss process, material, and method; but not interpretation.  Dunham left us a jewel of information for all the artists in the room.  He spoke of artwork having ubiquitous presence; that today artists are known for the timing of the work they send out into the world.  It is of the utmost importance to make the work and release it to the world.

Another gem that I took away from the event was that each of the artists discussed, at one point in their early artist lives, was introduced to influential people who would provide opportunities or resources.  It became clear to me that this doesn’t seem to happen very much anymore and I wonder why not?  Has the art world become so tight fisted and over saturated that competition is becoming a factor?  Or is it because art is becoming so “indie”  and with lack of “movements” that its impossible to know who’s who?

Call for Artists – 2010 American Cancer Society’s Discovery Ball

I have been given an amazing opportunity to curate a silent auction of donated artwork at the 4th annual American Cancer Society’s Discovery Ball to be held in April at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago.

Over the last 3 years the event has grown to over 1100 attendees in 2009, raising more than $2million dollars in one evening to aid in the elimination of cancer. I would like to ask everyone who is a cancer survivor or friend of a cancer survivor or family member of a cancer survivor or anyone who has lost a loved one to this awful disease…to either donate a piece of work if you’re an artist or let me know if you know of any other artists who may be willing to do so.  Being a cancer survivor myself, I donate artwork each year for this event and had the time of my life attending last April.  Last year’s ball was emceed by Maria Bartiromo and we were entertained by Natalie Cole. The ball was chaired by amazing, strong, giving, and caring Chicago business leaders such as Glen Tilton of United Airlines, Mike McGrath of the McGrath auto groups, and Kim Duchossois who give their time, money, and talents to fight cancer.  For more information you can go to

There is an opportunity to place your business cards and postcards near the work. It’s a wonderful way to have your artwork seen by a bevy of art collectors displayed in the Lyric Opera House. I could sure use your help. Please email me at if you have any questions or are willing to participate. Thank you for helping me in this very important cause for me and so many others. You won’t be disappointed.

Is a job called a job when you don’t get paid?

So I’ve been online using all my known resources for job searching.   I don’t want to use this blog as a place to gripe about the economy or politics or anything like that…UNLESS there is something that really gets me going.

But, upon graduation I attended a symposium that my school offered to help me get a leg on a career, post education.  Well, it was really useful if you wanted to start your own gallery or business or go all entrepreneurial.  But for finding a job…it was such a waste of time.  The perfect example is the Art Institute of Chicago posts available positions on artist resource sites rather than their own student/graduate available career development website.  Why do you suppose?  Is it too logical to think that a student at the affiliated school would have the chance at a career in it’s attached museum?

Also I have become frighteningly aware that most art jobs (seriously…most) are offered as unpaid internships or volunteer positions.  Do artists not deserve to have a well supplied career path?  At least in business there is a hierarchy in which someone can get into the job and work their way up to the top or at least something they are really happy about.  Since when did it require a degree PLUS experience to land an entry level art job?  I found a posting for a research assistant job at a large museum that required a Master’s Degree…to be a research assistant!  I have a niece who is doing her undergrad in biology to go on to medicine and she has been been a research assistant during her ungrad study.  I just don’t understand.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Hello world!

Well it was just a matter of time before I began blogging….but I would rather call it canvassing.  I am hoping with this blog to clip-clop my way through post college graduation and venture into the entrepreneurial unknown.  I guess it will contain a little of everything but most likely it will be to pass on information I come across in the Metro-Chicago area regarding art.  I seem to always find something trivial that perhaps someone else could use.

I am a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and have discovered that while the experience was fabulous, the degree from here doesn’t really provide you with a guaranteed job.  I even had an internship at the David Adler Music and Arts Center creating visual art programs and improving others, but I still feel like I am back at square one looking for a job.  I have discovered that I would like a job back in academia helping others find their way to their dream career..that would be my dream career.

Until I get there, I hope all visitors will help me canvas the road to my dream career and canvas the various topics that I chat up.  Thanks for visiting!

– Catie