June: cupcakes, collections and snow globes. Oh, my!

30 06 2012

I’ve had the delight this month of having been invited to participate in ArtSocial’s collaborative Pinterest pinboard: collections & cupcakes. We’ve had a great deal of fun posting all things cupcakes, including some of the most amazing recipes I have ever seen: Blue Moon, Cosmopolitan, or Matcha cupcakes anyone? We also found ourselves discussing the conundrum: is a ‘giant cupcake’ just a cake in the shape of a cupcake, or is a cupcake just a small cake with a particular shape? I’m not sure we ever did come to a clear conclusion…

As the title illustrates, the pinboard also featured all thing ‘collections’. We’ve seen delightful collections of Pez dispensers, ice cream flavors, painted sticks, books, and even a wall of fertilizer bags.

June also found me visiting the studio of Denver-based artist Phil Bender for work. Phil is known for his eclectic use of found materials, usually the nostalgic detritus of our consumer culture, in rigid geometric compositions reminiscent of Minimalist works from the 1970s. You can view some of his works here. I found my visit to Phil’s studio was a study in what collecting can be in its most extreme state (see example below).

June also marked the beginning of the DAMC Salon Series. Each event in this series is a visit to a private home and collection of a Denver-area patron of the Museum. Attendees, who pay a not-so-trivial sum to attend, hear from collectors about how they got started collecting and what keeps them excited about collecting, and living with, contemporary art. These events are always a success for us; as it turns out, we all like to have an excuse to see how other people live. I’ve facilitated three years of Salons, and one thing I’ve noticed is that over the years the same sentiment keeps popping up with many of the collectors I’ve worked with: collecting is like a disease. Oh, and that one should always collect what they love.

All of the focus on collections this month made me reconsider my own habits of collecting. I’ve always accumulated things, which I attribute to my over-sentimentalizing of objects. There is one particular standout: for whatever the reason (and I genuinely don’t recall how it started) I have a collection of snow globes.

They’ve been mostly boxed up and stored away for the past four years, but when I was invited to collaborate on the “collections & cupcakes” pinboard I knew I would have to unpack them. And unpack them I have. And in unpacking them and lining them up to photograph them I realized something: I love them. As absurd as they are, I truly love how they flood me with fond memories whenever I pass them.

Why did I ever box them up and try to tell myself I was ‘over’ collecting them? As I saw all of the snow globes lined up, memorializing so many places I’ve been (and some I haven’t), I became ashamed I ever ‘stopped’ collecting them because I was worried what house guests would think of my collection. Missing now are Budapest, Prague, Kyoto, Tokyo… such significant moments in my life are absent from my collection!

Now I find myself dusting off my collection, displaying them proudly, and scouring eBay for snow globes to fill the gaping holes in my collection.


The Joys of Teaching!(?)

3 06 2012

I’ve recently started teaching 20th century art history at a Denver-area art college. I love it! My students are passionate, eager, and open-minded. They contribute to our seminar-style class with thoughtful comments. They are inspiring!Wahrhol-TV

All of that being said, there are also times I don’t love it. When I realize that there are gaping holes in their education I begin to feel a little down. I begin to wonder what students are learning in high school if not proper punctuation usage and basic grammatical principles. I wonder what was more important than a basic understanding of 20th century global history. Then I begin to ask myself, how are students graduating without a solid understand of the history of their own country, especially of the 20th century? And how am I supposed to teach 20th century art, which is often a reaction to what’s happening in the larger context of our culture, if students don’t have a solid grasp on the larger context of what was happening in our culture in a given decade?

When I have to take time out of my lecture on art in order to teach history, that’s a problem. And I don’t love that.

I love my job.

21 03 2012

Some days, my job is truly great:

Artist Shenanigans Post 2

20 02 2012

Part of my job is to facilitate an artist lecture series, and as a result I get to meet artists from all around the world. Which is pretty cool.
On one particular afternoon I had the pleasure of picking up a world-renowned artist just in from San Francisco en route from Singapore.  He had installed a work for the Singapore Biennale and, as he often does when installing works, had picked up the habit of smoking. A habit his wife and kids would never stand for when he got home. However, knowing that his family would be upset, he quit smoking cold turkey during his two night stop over in San Francisco.
Typically, the drive from Denver International Airport into the city is a make or break point in establishing a rapport with my passenger. It’s 45 minutes of delightful conversation or awkward silence. On this day I hit it off with delightful conversation. I learned all about his tattoo: why he got it, why he shouldn’t have gotten it, and why he’s glad he did get it. I heard about the extreme climate where he lives, and why saunas are a necessity and not a luxury. (Who  knew?)
As we were wrapping up his A/V tech check he confided that he was, in fact, very nervous about speaking in front of a group. I was shocked. He asked if I could do him a huge favor: could I find him ONE cigarette to calm his nerves before the lecture? He insisted that I not buy him a pack, because he’d end up smoking the whole thing and he’d be back where he started before he detoxed in San Francisco. I agreed.

I dropped him off to change into his lecture clothes and went back to the museum, wracking my brain trying to remember which of my colleagues smoked. When I found one, I began explaining how I had this artist that wanted to smoke to calm his nerves, but before I could finish my story my colleague told me all she had were menthols. I took one. Unsure if he would want it, I continued to search for another smoker.
Oddly enough, I ran into one of my favorite major donors in the hallway. As we exchanged niceties I realized I was in luck: she’s a smoker! But how does one approach a major donor about bumming a cigarette? There was no course in graduate school about this particular issue facing museum professionals…
After thanking her for her generosity to the institution I began explaining my dilemma to her, and she waved her hand telling me to stop talking. “Dear,” she said, “If he wants one for before the lecture then he’ll certainly want one for afterwards too, even if he’s quit.” As she handed me two cigarettes she also gave me her spare lighter, politely pointing out that I’d need something to light them with. Not being a smoker, that detail hadn’t occurred to me.
Relieved, I headed straight for the auditorium to meet the artist before his lecture. He was beyond ecstatic to smoke before, and after, the lecture – just as our donor said.
The next day I returned the lighter to the donor, who assured me that if I ever had an artist that needed a smoke I could call her; day or night. Good to know!

Artist Shenanigans post 1

1 02 2012

I have a pretty great job.

I get to meet and hang out with internationally renowned artists and scholars.

And when I say meet and hang out, I mostly mean pick up from the airport and chauffeur them around town.

But I maintain, I have a pretty great job because sometimes we do hang out. And some delightful encounters have come from this arrangement. Some truly hilarious shenanigans, too. And other encounters that are simply shameful and disappointing. From time to time, I’ll share them with you. Stay tuned!

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