I’m often asked what I think are the necessary characteristics of a successful artist.  My ideas about this have varied over the years, but one attribute I have consistently said I find to be the most important is the ability to edit yourself.  It can be difficult to judge your own work, to step away and be honest about what is making sense and what isn’t.  The artists that make interesting work throughout their lives break through that discomfort.  They get over themselves and just get to it.  If something doesn’t feel like it’s working, try something else.  Then try again.  Many of you are probably familiar with the famous Chuck Close quote: “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

I had the pleasure of visiting Mary Jo Bole’s studio today.  She apologetically guided me to step over and around all of her research, drawings, photographs and sculpture.  I was thrilled.  Here was someone who wasn’t afraid to take everything in and see what comes out of it.   MJ has been studying and interpreting the history of plumbing for years (particularly toilets), a subject that most of us would rather not spend too much time thinking about.  She showed me images of previous work, some sculptures she had made, and the research she is doing for a book project.  When she finished describing one of her sculptures that wasn’t in the studio, she said, “…and that piece was horrible.  Terrible.  Didn’t work at all.  I threw it out.”  Where someone might question her ideas, her confidence, even her self-esteem, I felt there was a professional artist in front of me.  Make it, hate it, throw it out and move on.  You never know what you just might discover.

Lisa Dent
Associate Curator of Contemporary Art

Rainy Day = Museum Day

There is nothing better than going to a museum on a rainy day, and CMA has all the things that make a visit great.  Where else can you see world class art made throughout history, have lunch and shop for books and jewelry?  Granted, things are shifting and changing here all the time (the Deborah Butterfield that I blogged about last week has been moved from Derby Court) but there is so much to see and do. Come visit!

Lisa Dent
Associate Curator of Contemporary Art

Jumping In

Yesterday I realized that I have been in Columbus  for 3 1/2 months.  A short period of time that has flown by.  What surprised me the most was how I have already settled in to my daily routine.

1) Drop my bag at my desk and grab my coffee mug.
2) Walk to the staff kitchen to get my cup a joe and head back to my desk.
3) Turn on my computer and check my email.

and so on and so forth.  At around 2:00pm I realized that I had not walked through the galleries in a while.  When I first arrived at CMA, I tried to make a point of going upstairs frequently throughout the work week.  Discovering artwork that I hadn’t noticed before, an area that I had overlooked.  I also like seeing what visitors respond to in the museum; Overhearing them discuss what confuses them and what holds their interest.  So I got up off my duff and headed towards the galleries again.

It’s exciting to see people taking advantage of free admission this summer.  The difference in the energy in the galleries between June and July is palpable.  Our membership has given an amazing gift, and I am thrilled to see so many people taking advantage of it.

I started in the Expressionist gallery, made it through the George Tooker exhibit again, past the newly installed Custodian by Gwathmey, and then it happened.  The moment I always cherish when I am at a museum I have been to frequently.  I see something that I knew was there but hadn’t really looked at before.  Deborah Butterfield’s Joseph was looking right at me, and only me, for a split second.  So I walked toward it and looked over it, and under it, and around it again.  Charred bits of welded steel plopped onto each other, layer over layer.  Rusted and dented with muted, flat colors pushing out from the backside.  This woman, this artist, managed to make dirty, ugly, and hard bits of metal into this object, now emanating a sense of movement and softness.  Maybe there were not a lot of thoughts and ideas in this object, but in that moment I believed what she was trying to show me.  That sometimes things that we take for granted everyday can transform into something worth looking at again.

I love my job.

Lisa Dent
Associate Curator of Contemporary Art