ART FRIENDSHIPs PART 1
I've talked about studio visits and I want to stop and consider how generous an art practice can be at bringing new people into one's life. There are the people that I see at openings, art colleagues or peers, there are also curators and gallerists who become a part of one's working process and professional team at times. And then there are the art friendships - a true gift of creative practice. I find they are indispensable for sanity when otherwise I would be working in total isolation.
One type of art friendship is a collaboration, and I don't have enough experience with collaboration to know if it's a requirement to be friends to collaborate (please share your experience in the comments! Enlighten us) but I imagine so.
I've had friendships that have been fairly short lived based on geography or a certain intensity of interaction and then there are the slow burner friendships that happen over decades. I have made close friends with someone who came to buy an artwork and stayed for six hours (Lisa Abitbol). I have been match-made with a friend because of the parallel content of our work and workings of our minds (Sue Murad), I've had unexpected windfalls of friendships where the generosity of a stranger like my friend Kirsten Lund has lead to not only our personal friendship, but to being in an artist group and the initiation of many other art friendships through that group. I'm not a musician, but I imagine that there's a similar bond. It's not that every artist would be friends with every other artist but there's a certain need for support and connection and camaraderie in what can be such an existentially fraught and isolating field. This is why I stop and put in a word about it.
*The above image is of a fine creature, Amy Sacksteader, in her studio on a studio visit in 2022.
One thing that's been important in the friendships that I have is a sensitivity to what's going on for other people and a respect for the differences in your lives and careers, an awareness of the other people in the room beyond your own context, when possible.
In this vein, the line is fine between self promotion/celebrating a success and general obnoxiousness. Your art friends are not your entourage or to hear your woes in excruciating detail so that you forget that they are a living being in front of you, or to do you a constant stream of favors in a pinch. And yet, showing up, listening, sharing honestly, and asking for support are part of what creates meaningful intimacy. I've learned these lessons over the years to varying degrees by being that one that's asking for something unreasonable without knowing it (sorry all of you who endured this! you know who you are). We learn through friendships, that's the beauty of it. We learn by trying, and sometimes it's growing up together. Sometimes art friendships can look like your party buddies or people you do hard drugs with. That kind of rapport aren't generally the easiest to sustain because they're not really grounded in reality, but they can make for some great stories!
Art friends from my youth have seen me wearing ridiculous outfits and going to crazy parties and acting the part, and they've seen me deeply confused and lost after difficult professional setbacks in tears. They've looked like a bunch of delightful faces showing up unexpectedly at an opening or at my father's funeral, and sometimes they look like a collector that just deeply values what you do and is inspired by even the strangest little work. Art friendships are also all the people that participate and took an afternoon to be a part of your project, to try a wackadoodle idea in exchange for some pizza. It's something that is an extraordinary dimension to my life and I'm so happy that I get to keep exploring what an art friendship can be as I continue to invest in them.
I've been making interactive artwork for the past couple of months (and about 18 years before that). Interactive artwork sounds a little highbrow, but in fact, it's just like a turnstyle, or a book, or a shoe: it's something you are meant to engage with in a physical or experiential way, rather than simply look at.
My books are interactive art projects, in that you pick up, flip through, and experience the object to experience the work. Which is the idea.
I never set out to make this kind of work, but I like it because it's a playful way to attempt to embody an idea. It's different than installation art because an installation isn't necessarily something for you to touch (but something that can be a whole room or environment). It's not like sculptures or paintings I make either, because those are also not for touching.
I sometimes make interactive projects, like some of the work in the upcoming show Energy Transfer at the Ann Arbor Art Center, because I like things to be activated, energized, and as simple in concept as I can make them.
One project in this show invites you to place an object, in this case stickers, on a surface, as you have certain specific and familiar experiences, like seeing something pass by out the window. Another project invites you to imbue a mundane activity, like putting away a dish, with a specific intention, like sending someone love.
In a way, all objects around us are there to be picked up, interacted with, related to in a particular way, much like all the objects in the video game Mindcraft are tools, or implements, for your use. In another way, everything is a little like an icon on a screen, also there for you to engage, like a light-switch in a dream.
I've been playing with 'things' in this way for about eighteen years, and slowly the methods get simpler. The only way I can really know if something is working is to try it out, and then refine it over time. By trying it out, I mean sharing it. Because unlike objects, you are more than an object, dynamic and mysterious, and by sharing my work with you, my work comes alive and yields insight. So you are the magic ingredient in my work, showing me where there's life in something, (even if you are not loving the work it might be so), and where I will keep digging.
I studied art and philosophy (religious studies but same thing really) at Brown, and in a way the conceptual and interactive projects are a form of embodied philosophy. An experiential way to share, versus making you read a paper. But here you are reading so - hah!
The exhibition has four artists and all of the work is interaction or installation. There will be shimmying plants and spinning tip ties, helmets and a pile of things unearthed from the basement. It will be the first of many interesting shows at the center this year, and it is up until Feb 27. Come by and try some sacred dish shuffling, lift weights with bags of sugar, and see what it's like.
Further details on the show:
Up through Feb 27. Talk at 11 am Sunday Feb 19.
117 Main Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104 (734) 994-8004
Some related projects on my website:
Visual Traces of Groups at Work
You Are Legend
THIS IS HOME
May 27 - June 26
Gallery B in Castine, ME
A four woman exhibition opening Feb 3 2023 at the Ann Arbor Art Center.
Curated by Thea Eck.
Janice Charach Gallery
West Bloomfield MI
Jan 15-Mar 1 2023
Works of pure abstraction by 18 artists including five new puffies!
END PAPERS COURSE
Make your own hand sewn book from the papers left by a loved one.
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Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.