When did you know you wanted to be a gallery owner/curator? What was your journey like? What is it about art that you are drawn to? Why do you think we need art in our lives?
My path to where I am at this point in my life is less than obvious. In fact, at one point, someone writing a book for college kids called me at the gallery and asked if they could interview me for their book. I told them I was everything they didn’t want to tell the kids! Growing up, my family had absolutely zero interest in the arts, any form. When I went to a liberal arts school, my father just about disowned me. Even worse, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I wanted to major in…
My roommate my freshman year came from a long line of art historians. Completely overwhelmed at the idea of having to pick a major or at least “begin to think about it” as my advisor suggested, I asked her what she was going to major in. She said “Art History” so matter of factly that it really had a huge impression on me. First, how on earth would anyone know that?! and Second, what on earth can you do with that???!!?!? Shows you how little exposure I had had!
So I took an art history class next semester and it was all over. I was voracious. I couldn’t get enough. I would ask my roommate all the time if we could go to NY. I wanted to just be around her father every minute I could. He does restoration of Renaissance paintings. He would take us to the Met and we would stare, silently, at paintings for hours and I could have done that the rest of my life. I could get lost for days in every single brush stroke.
"I knew I loved this “art thing” but still, in my family, you didn’t do what you loved. There was just no such thing. "
My parents couldn’t even tell you what they loved (sadly, they still can’t). So I was on my own figuring this one out and I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t even know you could do an internship or what it even was! I had to work my way through college. so I graduated. moved back to VT and looked for a job… I spent all my free time at the bookstore reading art books. I started dating a guy, casually. In other words, he could meet me at the bookstore if he was interested ;-)
One day, he said, “did you ever think about doing “this art thing” for a living?” That was so totally and completely laughable to me. nope. not an option. One day, he saw an ad for a gallery assistant in the paper, showed it to me. and I got my first gallery job - sheer determination. The interview was awful. I didn’t end up majoring in art history. I majored in Sociology. I didn’t do any internships. I was a Vermont country girl through and through. No denying it. The owner of the gallery nailed that home for me, he said,
“You don’t have the right last name, you don’t come from the right family, you don’t bring me a rolodex, you have no experience, you don’t even have the major. WHY should I hire you?” I said, “I’m smarter, more passionate and more driven than any other person you’ll ever come across. But if that’s not what you are looking for, I understand.”
And I left, shaking. I was so upset. I thought, four years, I worked my tail off all through high school to get a scholarship, because I knew there was no other way I could go to college. I got the scholarship, I got through college. and here I was in VT. I had wasted the scholarship, wasted four years. my one and only chance… and I had done it all wrong. (everything is so dramatic when you’re 20 years old!) but that didn’t last long. They called me 20 minutes later and offered me the job.
"What I loved about art, contemporary or not, is that it’s a person’s very personal expression of what it means to be human, but in that very personal experience and expression, there is something so profoundly universal. There is this thing that connects us all. this one thing that makes us all exactly the same. but yet, we are so different. so for everything that makes us different and every different expression an artist can come up with, there is still that one thread that ties us all together."
And that’s pretty much the study of sociology. in all this seeming disparity between people and how we are made, how we think, act, process etc. there is something that brings us together as social beings and the study of that is the attempt to understand that thing that makes us all the same and connects us. :-)
In this case though, working with living artists meant I could be part of that process too of understanding what it meant to be human, right now in this particular moment in time. I got to be a witness to it! and well, so then that was settled too. I would not only be in art, I would be in contemporary art. For the rest of my life.
And I got really really lucky. The owner of the gallery I was at had had it with Boston and moved to NC a few years later so at a very young age, I got to take over the gallery and REALLY learn the business, the numbers, the outreach, marketing, all the nuances to how the business of art is just so so sooooooooo different from business. There are very valuable things to be learned from business.
"but I think the business of art allows you to take it out of such a rigid rule-driven thing and make it human again"Whereby there is a lot of room subtlety and nuance and that’s the stuff that traditional corporate/business wants to eliminate...but that I can’t imagine a world without.
Which artists are really inspiring you at the moment?
You!!! if I can be totally biased! Having your work hanging in the gallery… the way it is so totally detached from all formality, how it’s light and totally unconcerned with itself and just filled with joy. The response has been amazing from every person who has seen it. It has brought a smile to every single persons’ face.
John Bisbee, my November show is also on my mind a lot these days, for obvious reasons but his sheer utter and total dedication to one material for 28 years… I find it mind boggling. In some weird ways, it is very synergistic with the study of yoga, which is probably the only thing I have studied longer than art. His unrelenting passion and commitment to that focused of a study has helped me reconcile my time with yoga that I sometimes refer to as a detour from art. His work and his process has helped me reconcile polarities in my own life.
Have you witnessed someone "seeing" art for the first time (having it resonate for the first time)? What was this like? How did it make you feel?
Many times. It’s one of the biggest joys in the world. The example that had the biggest impact on me was the day after the attacks here in the US. I was at the gallery on Newbury Street. The country was devastated. No one knew which was up or how or if we would ever recover. slowly, one by one, people started to trickle back in the gallery. I think they were hoping for a respite from it all…. and I had paintings of bombed out buildings on fire on the walls. It was WWII. The artist had received a Fulbright to study in Germany and this was the resulting body of work. It was intense.
I had no idea how people would react. What I found though, was that these paintings helped people contextualize the recent events. This wasn’t the first time in history. it was just their first time. And this is the human experience. There were not a lot of questions asked and not a lot of info offered. But just about every person who came into the gallery that month left teary-eyed and quietly whispered, “Thank you.”
To this day, every time I think of it or tell the story, my own eyes well up with tears.
How do you connect people with art?
"The art speaks for itself and people are either open to the experience or they aren’t. "
All I can do is show the work and offer a safe space to have that experience.
How do you find new artists? How do you know you want to work with them?
Oh gosh, I get teased a lot for this one! it’s a funny process. I usually say “I date them for a very long time before I ever even talk to them.” I read and research a lot. I look at artists whose work I like, where they show, other artists shown there and it is just an organic process that evolves on its own. If I have any pull toward the work, I get a picture and print it out. the picture goes in a file. If it comes out relatively quickly… good chance there is something to it. But when it starts having coffee with me and brushing its teeth with me, well… that’s when I usually decide to finally make the call.
What advice would you give to a first-time collector?
"Buy what you love. Don’t know what you love? Look. Then look some more. and some more. and some more. get really quite. listen to what you hear. you’ll know. you can ask questions and do research and talk to every expert under the sun. but at the end of the day, if you get really quite and just listen, you will know. "
Any advice for new artists looking for gallery representation?
Build a community! Meet as many other working artists as you can, talk to them about what they do and how they do it. You’ll learn that no one does it the same and that really, you can carve out the niche that works best for you. Also, ask them about their galleries, how they operate, what works and doesn’t work for them at their galleries.
Then, educate yourself about how galleries work. We work about as similarly as any two artists work! In all fairness, there are similarities, but there are a lot of difference. Some galleries are purely interested in sales and they are not going to be spending time approaching curators and getting museum shows for you, while others are primarily interested in work that fits a certain “critical dialog”. And that’s OK. Just know what you need and align with a gallery that operates that way. and maybe there are two or three galleries that will fill all your needs in different ways.
Do your research about what galleries are showing what kinds of work. You don’t want to approach a gallery that is all landscape painting if you do totally abstract mixed media installation work. On the same note, you don’t want to approach a gallery that show work “just like yours” because here’s the thing, then they already have that covered.
"Look for galleries showing work that is in dialog with yours, that complements yours."
If you have no commercial gallery experience, don’t expect a solo show right off the bat. Galleries have significant overhead and a market has to be built for your work in order to get prices that you and the gallery can actually make money with.
Any new projects currently in the works?
mmmm….. YES!!! I’m so incredibly excited!! I’m working on a public art mural project with a graffiti artist. Vermont is a small, rural, slightly isolated state that is steeped in tradition. Vermont does local maybe better than anyone. At times though, it can also be… limiting. There is not much room for anything that is not Vermont and as a kid growing up here, that is incredibly challenging. There have been a number of teen suicides recently and I found it heartbreaking. In my head, I equated it back to this feeling of hopelessness I felt growing up here.
Vermont didn’t speak to me but what point was there in trying to do anything not VT? I just want to give the public a mural that references all that is amazing about Vermont as well as a safe space for alternative forms of expression.
That’s why I wanted to work with a graffiti artist. It is definitely an alternative form of expression in Vermont and being public art… well, there it is. It’s in your face. And you have a chance to engage and see differently. whether you like it or not, and it’s ok.