Toolshedding: exhibition by Abigail Doanmore
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Question: What aspect of your work do you find the most difficult?
The most difficult part is coming up with new designs. I’m always contemplating how a shape will come out and striving for something different. Traditional forms were passed down to me from my ancestors, and I wanted to introduce my own designs that no one had ever done before. So this has always been a challenge for me.
—Mary Jackson, sweetgrass basket weaver, Charleston, SC
I’m working on a project that requires reading interviews and oral histories. In the past, I have conducted many interviews and a number of oral histories with artists, and reading others at this task reminds me how difficult it is to phrase a question or guide the artist to information essential for a clear understanding of a situation.
Keeping the person focused on the subject at hand can also be a problem. Some rambling by the artist could yield good information, but usually it does not.
I also realize that a person’s memory may not always be accurate, and that facts need to be checked with other sources.
I always enjoy doing interviews, but I know from past experience that I need to prepare very carefully in order to have worthwhile information for my writing.
—Elaine Levin, art historian, writer, curator, lecturer and juror, Northridge, CA
As a newspaper art critic, I write all kinds of articles on the visual arts, including news articles, analysis, commentary and profiles. But the hardest part of my job is the thing I’ve been doing the longest—exhibition reviews.
An artist may spend up to two years working on a show, but a critic often has little more than a week to write a review comprehending everything about the work—its appearance, execution, sources, influences and ideas. Getting a handle on all of this is prerequisite to achieving meaningful critical insights that will spur the reader to engage with the work. It’s a process of total immersion, intense, arduous at times, but always rewarding.
—Alice Thorson, art critic, Kansas City Star
What I struggle with the most is trying to see exactly what it is that I want from a piece. What I mean is that when I begin a series of work, I have no preconceived idea what form and appearance a cup, a bowl, a plate or a vase is going to take; my only requirements are that there be an element of tension and resonance and that the result surprises me.
It would be rather easy, though unsatisfying, to reproduce a successful piece from my earlier work, but finding this new expression has always been difficult. At times I sense what I’m after, but it is like searching in a fog. I suppose that if I suddenly found it extremely easy to locate this quality in new work, I probably would not trust the answer.
—Rob Barnard, studio potter, Timberville, VA
In order for me to be an artist I must also take on the roles of jewelry instructor and jewelry designer. The income and stability from the two allow me to create freely. The most difficult thing for me is to make time, and to be motivated and completely focused during the available time.
I have always been a slow maker and worked intuitively. These work habits are problematic now that I am no longer in school, where making art was my full-time job. Juried exhibitions help me to discipline myself to complete work within a certain time frame. I hope to be better at time management and self-management, but until then I will be imbibing energy drinks while I finish felting just in time to meet my deadline.
—Hisano Takei, wool jewelry, Irvine, CA
The most challenging aspect of my job currently is grappling with new and rapidly changing expectations of our visitors about museums. For example, social-media tools promise meaningful connections and interactions with a vast array of people who have an interest in art, but the kinds of instantaneous communication provided by Twitter, Flickr, blogs, RSS feeds, etc. defy standard museum practice and thoughtful scholarship.
In addition to mastering the mechanics of the applications and shaping their visual appearance to mesh with our museum’s brand, I find myself struggling with this need to add another layer, related to workload, costs and integration of these new tools and tasks, into my day-to-day work at the museum.
—Rock Hushka, director of curatorial administration and curator of contemporary and Northwest art, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
The most challenging aspect of my work is curating exhibitions at art fairs. The work has to be dramatic and cohesive and you have so little space in which to show it. This has really been my grad school.
—Lucy Lacoste, Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA