Las Vegas-based artist and museum director Alisha Kerlin talks about:
The arc that led her to be in the 2010 Greater New York show at MoMA PS1, and subsequently how that changed her career, including working at Greene Naftali Gallery; the social anxiety of being in the show, while also feeling honored to be included with so many artists she deeply admired; the opportunities she received from being in the show, including the solo show she had concurrently at the gallery Real Fine Arts; dealer Zach Feuer coming into the show at Real Fine Arts and buying all Alisha's paintings, leading to a solo show with him, allowing her to cut down on her day jobs and spend a lot of time working in the studio; how getting an artist-in-residence led her initially to Las Vegas, and within a few days she realized she probably wouldn't want to go back to Brooklyn; how ultimately it was more satisfying to get the residency gig at UNLV, five years ago, than it was getting into Greater New York; what it's like living and working (as interim director of the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art at UNLV) in Vegas for the last five years, including buying a house and having a kid;
And in the follow-up conversation, Alisha talks about how even though Greater New York was huge in giving her opportunities, including leading to the artist-in-residence gig and ultimately moving to Vegas, the show for her is the least interesting thing to talk about, and how she is excited and inspired by discovering unfamiliar, veteran artist's work, which comes with her current role at the Museum; the importance and influence of her former teacher at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Michael Brakke, who started the school's artist-in-residence program and was hugely influential on generations of students, among them Alisa and Wade Guyton.
In part 2 of 2, Kysa Johnson talks about:
Why she and her family left NYC for Los Angeles, and how she's come to like L.A. after some initial concerns of leaving New York, including hating to drive; how she doesn't drive in L.A., but takes the bus and Lyft (not Uber); the finer points of Lyft surge charging; what she hates about American culture, including its classism and judgement of the poor and worship of the rich (after having lived for several years in Glasgow, which she loved and didn't want to leave but had to because her visa ran out); artists' day jobs, and the perception around them from others in the art world; her own day job working as a designer for Fashion Week shows, which she had to leave behind as a gig when she left New York, and isn't sure what she'll do should she need to her well dry up in L.A.; some reflections, as a former Mormon, that she had on the conversation with ambivalent Mormon Casey Smith; taking the bus, which she insists people are taking, is a great equalizer and finds bus-goers to be very respectful; her time in Glasgow, with its vibrant art and music scene, affording her 2nd hand connections with members of both Franz Ferdinand and Belle & Sebastian; the self-deprecating humor of the Scots (which leads to a brief final (perhaps) analysis of the "P"-word ('practice')), and how she considers she might move back there after her youngest child is in middle school; and she points out that artists are well-suited to be activists, because of their perseverance, stamina and playing the long game.
In Part 1 of 2, Los Angeles artist and activist Kysa Johnson talks about:
Her roots in Mormonism, and how its very patriarchal structure led her to rebel, fighting with teachers and eventually, along with her mom and brother, leaving the church; the various platforms and outlets for her activism, and how donating money, signing petitions and watching protest-based movies gave way to attending the initial protest in L.A., the Women's March in Washington, a protest at LAX airport, artist political group meetings, phone calls to congress, and more; how her "being active" was a necessary reaction to the extreme change in the political landscape, and how protests – boots on the ground -- matter because the visibility and solidarity of resistance is a key arm of resistance that lets those in power know that you're angry, and then that you're still angry ; the phone calls she makes as a constituent, which she scripts beforehand since she gets stage fright (and her stage fright in general, which causes her some lost sleep before artist talks, etc.; how after the election (presidential), for a few weeks in the studio everything felt 'ridiculous, pointless and inconsequential,' and so she pivoted to 'what can I do today' to address the new climate…and the research that she uses for her art translated to her research for political action; her top picks for movies about protest, most notably Selma, Gandhi, and Trumbo, the latter of which is especially appropriate because it's about artists/cultural figures being resisters; her series of 'Terrible Roman Emperors' paintings, echoing the fact that there are certain characteristics of a terrible leader that repeat throughout history; how she feels that visual artists have a niche and a platform to visually communicate information that is digestible in such a way (to the opposition) in order to create a shift; Kysa defines the difference between art that is beautiful (dark, sublime, etc.) and pretty (only for the eyes), and how one of her favorite movies, Amadeus, represents that dichotomy; how one is best served in their activism/actions by picking the thing that they're most interested in addressing, because everyone is wanting to do something different.
Freelance NYC museum educator Hollie Ecker talks about:
Her neighborhood in Harlem, which she loves and is close to the 5th Avenue museums where she works; her admission of being a gentrifier, yet also feeling much more connected to her neighborhood and her neighbors than she ever did in prior neighborhood in New York, and how she feels like a guest there; her schedule broken down, including half the week with seniors with some form of dementia and healthy seniors (including art-educated individuals)…2 or 3 days a week with students in various stages of Alzheimer's…and the rest of private and public school kids; her early works days as a communications assistant/social worker assisting deaf immigrants by using American Sign Language, and the challenge of communicating with them; how she's followed the advice of her mentor, to simultaneously teach people of her own kind and background along with those with disabilities (hearing impaired, dementia, Alzheimer's) to maintain her range and to keep from talking down to the disabled group of students; the public NYC school kids (of about 12, 13) who are thoroughly comfortable with their sexuality (they're at the 'Queer table'), in contrast to even very recent generations; her museum walk-throughs featuring an inquiry-based method, including an anecdote with a senior with dementia who displays profound insight about Rembrandt's Aristotle with a Bust of Homer; plus a great anecdote with a fancy private school kid (and Agnes Martin) who had his perspective changed through Hollie's museum class; and she closes with anecdote involving Guggenheim Museum director Richard Armstrong and a group of Hollie's students in the museum's elevator.