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.
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!
Make your own hand sewn book from the papers left by a loved one.
If you feel overwhelmed, confused or just plain excited by what's afoot in your life, and would like some excellent clarifying space and tools, try a session with Hannah! She's been a coach for 15 years. First 30 minutes is just to see what it's like...
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.