In Response to Don Cook’s “Nurturing a Career” statements by Amy Eva Raehse

Though I tend to agree with much of what Don Cook offers in his recent review of Lorna Bieber’s exhibition at Grimaldis, I am compelled to write this reply. Much of contemporary art is indeed analogous to that good ol’ reflection pool with Narcissus staring back, but could that be a reflection of the establishment itself?

Perhaps the self-absorbed “Almighty I” Cook regards isn’t the artist’s reflection, but rather that of the gallery? Grimaldis is a good gallerist. He understands that supporting his artists means placing them, rather than himself, at the top. I am NOT, by any means, suggesting that a good gallerist is some altruistic egoless organism, but rather, pointing out that a good gallerist understands that the success of his or her artists lead to the overall success of his or her gallery.

I fear that the fine line between ‘nurturing an artist’s career’ and ‘building ones own name’ has been blurred. In my opinion, a gallery CAN indeed nurture an artist’s career by promoting an artist’s work, seeking out press for the work, locating collectors, promoting acquisitions, elevating the level of acceptance by placing the work alongside historically important works, and of course, presenting the artist through scholarly achievements such as catalogues, exhibitions, or public forums. There is a fiduciary responsibility involved in nurturing a career. Many gallerists will go so far as to purchase their artist’s works in hard times to keep them going. Good gallerists don’t ostensibly support the artists they represent, they absolutely support them.

Let’s face it; we are all a bit self-serving and self indulgent as artists. One has to be in order to seek representation at least. We don’t NEED the public to see our work; we WANT them to because we feel there is something important to say – something filtered through our own minds. I bear this burden myself, as anyone could retort by suggesting this response, by its very nature, is indeed self indulgent – which of course, it is!

I am also confused by Cook’s ‘who?’ commentary when referencing Betty Parsons. My initial reaction was who DOESN’T know Betty Parsons? Maybe it is our jobs as seniors in this field to teach young artists about these important figures rather than judge them on the missing pieces? Regardless, if a young artist remains unfamiliar with Parson’s legacy, their gallerist sure as heck can fill in the gaps and (in a perfect world) take some of Parson’s cues. In addition, with regard to the ‘Mommy –Speak’ Cook brings up; perhaps we should note that Betty Parsons was dubbed the ‘MOTHER of Abstract Expressionism’ by ARTnews.

We are a funny bunch, the art world. To outsiders we tend to come off as a bit elitist, a bit egotistic, and even pompous at times. We (the art world) have been accused of being a closed society, of alienating anyone who doesn’t already know everything about every artist ever born. If conversations at openings are light, think of them as inclusive rather than exclusive. Perhaps the lack of depth is simply a symptom of being in a loud room with a crowd of people, many of whom are likely dealing with their own inadequacies in a social dynamic. Must we constantly prove our knowledge to everyone we encounter? That seems just as narcissistic to me. What is the roll of an opening reception anyway – a celebration, no? Perhaps we should ask ourselves this question: where CAN we go to engage in challenging conversation? What avenues are there for discussion? Is it this, A BLOG, which takes on the roll? It is indeed a start.

Kudos to Grimaldis for mounting yet another challenging exhibition. Is this a surprise? Not really. Keep looking, there are some real gems out there, and remember, Narcissus eventually died because he could only love his image at the expense of himself. Not every artist has fallen into that reflection pool chasing the love of his or her own person, but even if they have, most of the rest of us will continue to smell those beautiful flowers left behind.

– Amy Eva Raehse