Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Any City, All the Details

by Drew Martin
I recently saw a conversation on Facebook about Los Angeles as a good place to live and work as an artist. The comments developed into a dialogue about what certain cities have to offer. The thread was started by an LA-based artist who posted a remark made by Gary Garrels, a Senior Curator at SFMOMA (previously with the Hammer Museum and MoMA), that LA offers a nurturing community for artists and access to curators, gallerists, and collectors from around the world. Others chimed in on Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Istanbul and Asia.

I think the answer to where you should set up as an artist is unique to each person. There are so many things that factor into what kind of lifestyle is desired and the relationship to your work that make a particular setting the right place for you. New York has an amazing art scene but the cost of living is astronomical. Cities such as Los Angeles and Berlin also have great art communities but it is still possible to find relatively lower rents there compared to New York. San Francisco did not get a glowing report from a couple commenters, which surprised me.

I liked one insightful response, which included the following comment,

“I’ve been to the core of every scene in every one of these towns and if I could rewind the clock, I would have skipped all of the cities and scenes and just stuck with my painting in the lands in between….There’s something to be said for keeping your studio well out of a city or the scene, getting really deep into your work and only revealing yourself to a select few peers.”

Coincidentally, I picked up William Carlos Williams’ Paterson the night before I became engaged by the thread. Williams expressed,

“...a man in himself is a city, beginning, seeking, achieving and concluding his life in ways which the various aspects of a city may embody – if imaginatively conceived – any city, all the details of which may be made to voice his most intimate convictions.“

A quote by John Dewey in the introduction of Paterson also seemed particularly relevant,

“The local is the only universal, upon that all art builds.”

(Pictured here, Peter Root installing Ephemicropolis - 100,000 staples comprise his city, and Tara Donovan's "Colony" made with 18,000 sections of pencil)