How do you look at a photograph? I actually shrugged my shoulders in the first gallery of Robert Polidori's exhibition Recollections at New Orleans Museum of Art. I was surrounded by gorgeous, large-format photographs and, as often happens to me in front of photographs, I immediately grew insecure about my lack of expertise, about not “getting it.” Painting is my first language, but I can pretty confidently engage with art in most forms. What is it about the photograph that makes me feel like I’m lacking something? How do you look at a photograph?
I have lived in Louisiana for over a decade and have never been to its capital city. A few weeks ago, I got a message from Mat Keel and Liz Lessner at Yes We Cannibal, a gallery, artists residency, innovative art space and work-in-progress in Baton Rouge. Mat said that Tom Beller sent him and he was wondering if I was interested in writing about the current exhibition. I missed that particular show, but a few weeks later decided to go check out the art scene in Baton Rouge...
rom a very Ogden-y room with blue-grey walls, small, oldish framed paintings from the American South, I can see some kind of large, glittery triptych/window-object in the corner of the darkened gallery next door. I can hear it too; there is an audio track, not music or voices, but sounds. I am here for a third time to see Dave Greber’s solo exhibition The Casebearer at the Ogden Museum. Stepping into the first room of his three-room exhibition is a but like stepping into another dimension.
I woke at 5:45 a.m. to a new message asking if we could meet on video in thirty or sixty minutes. The message was timestamped 4:53. I got up quickly and messeged back that I could be ready in ten minutes. Artem apologized for forgetting the time difference. I’m in New Orleans; he is in the countryside in Ukraine after fleeing the city of Mykolaiv with his family. We had been communicating through Instagram Messenger. I asked if we could meet on video just to say hello, to put a face to the messages, though I knew his face pretty well by then.
It’s nostalgia, tangible, analogue, the way I feel about loose-leaf paper. Let’s broaden this to include spiral, graph, and legal as well as global varieties of lined paper. For me, looseleaf is the mixtape of office supplies.
I drove out toward the lake and onto the UNO campus where artist Dan Rule teaches and has his studio. The curb was kind of painted yellow, but not really. I parked, walked across the lawn to the art gallery and went inside. I sent a message to Dan that I had arrived. We had never met in person, so I compared the couple of faces that passed with the tiny circular image of his Instagram profile. “I’m Dan,” he said and the awkward pandemic moment (mask? handshake?) passed quickly. We left the gallery through a different door and crossed a small leafy courtyard. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to seek out more studio visits. I appreciate being in new spaces and studio visits can be a healthy, free, New Year’s resolution compatible way to find myself in them.
As 2021 comes to an end, I have been reading lists, Jerry Saltz's The Best New York Art Shows of 2021 in Vulture and Hyperallergic's The Best of 2021: Our Top 10 United States Art Shows to name a couple, and they gave me a little retro-FOMO. I wish I had seen more art, travelled more, as always. I made a list of my own memorable encounters with art (beyond those I have already written about here.) Not so much a best-of list, my list is an argument for taking art personally and how, in many forms, it comes to meet you where you are.
About a week before I saw Dawn DeDeaux: The Space Between Worlds, at The New Orleans Museum of Art, Liza, who is fourteen years old, told me she had gone to a haunted house with her friends. A memory surfaced...
Lately I have been noticing spray paint and thinking about spray paint. It might have it started on Instagram, scrolling through images of paintings and noticing marks made in sprayed paint alongside marks made with the more traditional brush. Spray paint on an otherwise traditionally painted canvas can be a statement of irreverence, a disruption, a small revolt...
I wasn’t in New York to see Holding Time; I was in New Orleans. I saw the show on a one-on-one video tour with Z Behl, the artist and filmmaker who organized the exhibition. The seventeen participating artists were children in close proximity to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Holding Time was an invitation to these artists, several who were friends attending Stuyvesant High School, to articulate, commemorate, and share their personal experiences and lasting impressions of this global event.