A couple weeks ago I attended a talk at the New York Studio School. Titled “A Quiet Ask” (pictured below), it was an exchange between Brooklyn painter Glenn Goldberg and Elena Sisto, his longtime friend and a fellow artist.
It was a discussion of Glenn’s work. It was a discussion of Glenn’s life. It was a discussion of how the latter informs the former, and the former the latter.
And so it was that a very packed house full of very engaged listeners heard Glenn talk with candor and calm about his learning experiences in and out of school, about his lifelong and varied involvements with sports, about how prefers the term ‘structural’ as opposed to ‘formal’ when addressing aspects of composition in his work, about how he starts a painting and works his way through it, about how he sits and makes marks while doing the same, about the animals that dwell in his mind and inhabit his pictures, and about how he ultimately thinks of all of that—and more broadly, art-making, art-seeing and art-thinking in general—as so many forms of nourishment.
What he was getting at is that when these matters of artistic practice constitute the things that you do, then you keep doing them because, in effect, you need to—because the very doing of them becomes something that nourishes you, rather than something that merely feeds you.
It’s a clear enough metaphor for the virtues of keeping up all kinds of practices, creative or otherwise, but the subtle point at its core is important to note: If you become too routine in, comfortable with or complacent about the things you’re doing—e.g. the paintings you’re making, the sports you’re practicing, the relationships you’re in, the shows you’re curating—then you’re settling with them being simply fodder. If you want them to serve you better and further, then you need to strive always to try a bit harder.
And if you do, and if you navigate the successes and failures effectively enough, then those activities can be, perhaps as spinach is to iceberg lettuce,* nutritious rather than merely filling. That’s how they can rank as not just activities, but actual nourishment.
This is a particularly good bit to chew on when pondering the pros and cons of artistic practice in New York City. On the one hand, given the ludicrous costs of living, not to mention of maintaining a studio as well in this veritable playground for real-estate developers, it’s hardly an inarguably healthy place to be an artist. Indeed, the arguments against it can hit a fever pitch in an instant. Decamping for more affordable elsewheres is far from uncommon.
At the same time, NYC, albeit a kind of hell in so many ways, is also nourishing as hell—not uniquely though most certainly with regard to art.
That’s not an argument to stay in the city—I mean The City—forever, artist or not. But it is an encouragement to make it a place that is creatively nutritious for you, as much as you can and as long as you’re here, rather than one that just feeds you. Because as you well know, that latter thing is far easier to achieve in many another city.
So take it all in while it’s all around you. And don’t forget to do lots of studio visits while you’re at it. And to have people visit yours. And attend lots of talks and take notes. And so on.
All food for thought. Much more of the same below. Happy chewing.
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(All photos by Paul D’Agostino.)
Glenn Goldberg in conversation with Elena Sisto at The New York Studio School. Sisto will be giving her own talk there, in conversation format with Elizabeth Hazan, on 6 December. That might seem far off, but consider the title she’s given the exchange: “Far is Near.”
Glimpsing around and into some drawings by Stanley Lewis in “The Way Things Are,” a show curated by Karen Wilkin at The New York Studio School. My capsule review is here.
Photos I took at the opening of Brett Wallace’s solo show at Art3 Gallery. My capsule review is here.
Works by Robin Kang in “Skywoman’s Secret Circuit,” her solo show at OUTLET BK Gallery.
Above, top register: Works by Joey Watson at 99¢ Plus Gallery. Bottom register, works by various artists in “Television,” also at 99¢ Plus Gallery.
Some jerk (the one in the coat, that is) having fun with the centerpiece apparatus in “Television,” at 99¢ Plus Gallery.
Looking around at the generally bizarre array of works in “What a World, What a World,” curated by Luisa Caldwell at Parlour Bushwick. (Curator herself pictured above, top right corner.)
A closer look at a sculptural piece by Caroline Cox at Parlour Bushwick. Somehow her orbs seem to perform their visual tricks a bit differently when captured in photographs. Video too. The illuminating flashes seem brighter, the oozy forms even oozier.
Works in Lara Nasser’s solo show at Los Ojos. I saw her exhibit just before seeing F.P. Boué’s solo show at Microscope Gallery. They formed a very interesting set of shows to see in sequence. My capsule review discussing both is here.
An overthrown despot, perhaps. See my capsule review for why.
A kind of keystone to Nasser’s show is this omni-reflective orb. See my capsule review for why.
A look at F.P. Boué’s show at Microscope Gallery. As I mentioned above, this intriguing exhibit became rather doubly intriguing in the broadened context of seeing it just after seeing Nasser’s show at Los Ojos. My capsule review of both is here.
One of the slides in Boué’s show at Microscope Gallery.
Looks around at memorabilia on the walls and a few folks in attendance during the farewell gathering for Momenta Art, a non-profit gallery that reached about 30 years of age before closing up shop. It was a great gallery for often politically provocative artistic ‘nourishment’ for much of that stretch. So long.
A piece by Adam Brent in his solo show at Slag Gallery. My capsule review is here.
Adam Brent, left, talking shop with Jeffrey Bishop at Slag Gallery. Capsule review of Brent’s show is here.
I opened this piece with images of and notes about talks and discussions, so I’ll close it out with the same. I took the above photo during the first of two talks organized by Arts in Bushwick to close out their epic Bushwick Open Studios exhibit at David & Schweitzer Contemporary. The first talk, moderated by Hrag Vartanian and featuring some core Arts in Bushwick organizers (left to right, Cibele Vieira, Vartanian, Nicole Brydson, Aniela Coveleski) was about the past and future of the organization and the open studios event, and about the “Making History Bushwick” book. The second talk, moderated by Lisa Corinne Davis and featuring several other artists and art writers as panelists (below, left to right, Loren Munk, Cynthia Tobar, Deborah Brown, Davis, James Panero), was more generally about how Bushwick works as an art community—or how it has worked so well in various ways for the past ten years, and how it might continue to work in the years to come. I put together a few other notes about the ‘vibrancy’ of the day’s talks here.
By the way, the fellow with the camera in the center of the panoramic shots is local documentary filmmaker Terence Donnellan. He’s currently working on an expansive project about artists in New York City. In part, he’s looking at how they endure. To that end—and to wit—he’s been looking a whole lot at their various forms of creative nourishment.
So what you’re looking at in the present could be of renewed interest in future glimpses of the past.
How Augustinian of me.
I just can’t help it.**
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* I went with spinach rather than kale because get over it. Also, I happen to love iceberg lettuce and have developed many a method for making it even more delicious than it is straight out of the fridge. Some of those methods involve, yes, boiling it. I’d tell you more but I’m cool with it staying maligned as insufficiently nutritious (totally true, stay away), ignored for its ‘lacking’ flavor (tastes like nothing, don’t ever bother), and cheap thanks to all of the above (actually totally true, so please let’s leave it like that).
** See last name.