Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Mona Lerch of Art Mums United

Mona Lerch is the founder of Art Mums United and the Women United ART PRIZE

You are the founder of an arts platform, a visual artist, and former dance choreographer. When did your life in the arts first begin?
To be honest, I think art as such was always a part of my life in some way. Both of my parents worked in the TV industry – my dad, originally a historian, as an assistant director and my mum as an assistant editor for the news and later in film production. Thanks to that, I had my first (and last) short movie role when I was about two years old. When I turned eight, my mum asked me if I wanted to start attending drama classes at school, I said yes. And when I was ten, she asked me if I wanted to try a dance camp for kids, I said yes. Little did I know that I was about to fall in love with dancing and that it was the beginning of my 20-year-long journey. I had no idea that I would also fall in love with painting in 2012.

What was the catalyst for Art Mums United?
In 2020, I hired my first coach and it was the best decision I could’ve made. I was in the middle of my maternity leave (it lasts 3 years in the Czech Republic) and I wanted to find out what’s possible in the art world. Until then, I believed that my only option is to create and wait for someone to buy my art. I wanted more. I wanted to create, continue healing from the events that caused my postpartum trauma, empower and inspire other art mums and become a full-time artist and artpreneur. I received so much support from my coach who helped me form a solid ground for my own business. And it’s been evolving ever since. We’ll celebrate our first anniversary in September.

Creating an extensive online platform such as Art Mums United must require substantial experience in graphic design, among other technical skills. What was the process of launching this site like, and did you run into any challenges along the way?
Well, believe it or not, I am not tech-savvy. I learn as I go. I am only a human being so I curse a lot when encountering issues with tech. In the end, I always make it and celebrate. That’s one of the most important things – to celebrate your wins however small they are.

But, you are right, it’s a lot of work and a lot of small things you have to consider. It’s a process of trial and error. You have to test out various apps and software and decide what serves you the most and what makes your life easier. And you adjust as you scale.

Have you received any specific feedback from your artist community and/or audience that you have found especially meaningful?
Yes, I also ask my clients and artists for feedback because I want to make sure that I create things that are valuable for them. I think that the most amazing feedback I received were emails from my directory artists who were also interviewed for our blog. They said that my questions made them think about the stuff they’ve never thought about before. Some even described the experience as cathartic. When I read that, everything I do makes sense.

You are also launching the Women United ART PRIZE soon. Can you tell us more about this upcoming opportunity?
Women United ART PRIZE is an idea I had one night when I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking about additional opportunities that would allow me to give back to the art community. While most of the opportunities at Art Mums United are dedicated to artist mothers, online exhibits and live interviews are open to women creatives in general.

With the art prize, I wanted to make sure there’s no confusion and no doubt that it’s a project for all female artists regardless of education, age, sexual orientation, race and location, who work in 2D (the categories being painting, drawing, analog collage, embroidery).

I am partnering with incredible platforms and art collectives such as Create! Magazine, Art Queens Society, Visionary Art Collective, The Curator’s Salon, Art Seen Magazine, PxP Contemporary. The main prize is a cash prize for the first three artists. The judges are professionals I’ve admired for a long time and it’s an honor that they agreed to collaborate with me on this project – Ekaterina Popova (visual artist, author, podcast host, artist coach, founder of Create! Magazine and the Art Queens Society), Gita Joshi (curator, artist coach, podcast host and founder of The Curator’s Salon and Art Seen Magazine), Tam Gryn (head curator at Showfields), Sasha-Loriene (visual artist and founder of Black Girls Who Paint). It’s a celebration of women and the biggest project I started so far. I’m so excited about it and I believe it’s the beginning of something great and truly amazing.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
I love seeing the diversity among artists. I read every single word of the artist bios, statements and other written documents when curating for the directory and interviews. I want the artists to be seen, heard, understood and validated and so it’s important to me to know their stories and provide them with space where they can share their journey and inspire others. It’s also about the healing process and normalizing the taboos such as postpartum depression, anxiety, etc. as many of us faced this and felt lonely and isolated because society wants to see happy mums. To be a woman in the art industry is not easy and to be also a mum does not make it any easier. Getting to know other strong, powerful women is the most rewarding thing about the curation process for me.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
Haha, where do I begin? First, let me tell you that I love challenges because they make me stronger. This year, I actually make sure that I add more challenges to my life. I am an introvert and showing up constantly, hosting webinars and conducting live interviews with other artists is way out of my comfort zone. Well, it used to be. Once we step outside of our comfort zone and face our fears, do the things we are afraid of doing and look back, they don’t seem so scary any longer. And if I was to be specific, I must say TIME! Mostly, I work when my son’s asleep so I don’t intrude on our time together. Sometimes, that means working till late night hours. I wish my days were longer but doesn’t everybody?

Are there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they will be pleasurable to work with? And on the contrary, any areas for improvement artists should be aware of?
This is a great question and I feel it relates more to my coaching practice. Coaching, and specifically 1:1 coaching, is a very intimate relationship between the coach and the coachee. You need to make sure that you create a safe space for your client and that you are a good fit. That’s why discovery calls are crucial in getting to know your prospect. Together, we identify the client’s challenges, struggles, needs and goals and possible solutions during the call. The match has to be perfect. The potential client has to make the decision. They have to be ready to say yes to themselves and invest in their future.

One thing I can definitely list here as an area for improvement is the quality of photos and written materials when submitting to calls for art. My experience is that artists often don’t follow the submission requirements which may result in their exclusion from the selection process. I have created a submission guide that is available on the website but there are so many valuable free resources regarding this topic on other platforms too.

Do you have future plans for Art Mums United beyond what it is today?
Absolutely. I have many ideas and plans that I want to introduce. I always take one step at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed with too many tasks. It helps me keep my head clear and identify what works and what doesn’t. I can definitely share that I am planning on launching a podcast and a self-guided course. These are plans I have for this year. Ideas keep coming so I bet there’s much more coming up!

Monday, May 10, 2021

John Seed - Art Writer and Curator

John Seed is an award winning art writer, author and curator based in California
John Seed with Kyle Staver's "Biker Triptych" at the exhibition "Honoring the Legacy of David Park," Santa Clara University 2017. Photo by Marie Cameron.

When did you first recognize your passion for the arts?
I remember standing at the easel outside my kindergarten classroom painting a picture of a red airplane in poster paint that I showed to my teacher. So that is an early memory. Art was always there for me growing up and it took many different forms. I built model airplanes, drew cartoon characters and made puppets. Surprisingly, when I came home from college and told my parents that I wanted to major in art my parents were stunned because art did not seem like a career path to them. They had thought art was a hobby that I would grow out of.
For me, making art was just a natural continuation of the creative drive that had always been there. I had to be an artist: it was a done deal.

Were there any specific events that led you to your role as curator and art writer?
During my high school years I had excellent writing teachers that provided me with the kinds of skills that got me into a good college and helped me write essays and term papers. Still, I didn’t really connect writing and art until I had been teaching art and art history at a community college for about 15 years.
Then, when I helped start a group called EBSQ that was for artists who sold their art on eBay, I became the editor of an online zine which I sometimes wrote for. A few years later I had a health crisis in the form of testicular cancer and during my recovery from chemo I researched and wrote a magazine article about Arman Manookian, an Armenian American artist who had taken his own life at the age of 27 in 1931. A year after it was published the article was given a Society of Professional Journalist’s Award. That award woke me up to the idea that maybe I should keep writing about art.
My big opportunity came when I was given a blog by the HuffingtonPost Arts page in May of 2010. I dove in and wrote a blog a week for seven years, establishing myself as a writer and developing my own voice and inclinations. Although I wrote in a variety of formats, including reviews, profiles and satires, something I kept coming back to was writing about representational art and artists. That specialty made friends and brought me my first opportunities as a curator.

What do you feel is the ultimate purpose of art within our society?
Art gives us all something to talk about. The other day on Facebook an art collector I follow put up some information about an artist he has been collecting. I told him (in a friendly way) that I didn’t care for that artist’s work. He replied: “That’s fine,” and went on to say that knowing my taste he figures I would like about half of what he collects. That figure is a little low, but as our Facebook discussion continued I loved the way that we could have our opinions and it was all OK. We so need more of that in the world—the ability to respect each other when we see things differently or have different tastes—and art can provide that.
Art can give us a center, something to have in common even as we acknowledge our differences.

And of course, on a personal level, art satisfies my visual inclinations. I’m a visual person and remember that as a little kid I used to be found by people with my mouth open just staring at things. In our home I have a downstairs room, kind of a “Cultured Man Cave” just crammed with art that I have collected. I stare at it all day, one piece at a time and of course add new things and rotate the collection now and then. Having those works of art—some expensive, some inexpensive, some by friends, some by people I have never met—allows my eyes and imagination to roam and be satisfied. Each work of art takes me on a journey into the thoughts and experiences of the person who made it, offering me a connection with them.

Tell us a little about your book “Disrupted Realism: Paintings for a Distracted World”. What compelled you to compile and write about such artworks and what were some specific qualities of the artists you chose for this project?
While blogging for the HuffingtonPost I interviewed over 100 artists and many of them were, to some degree, realists. Over time I noticed a lot of variations and realized that many artists had things to say with their work that didn’t fall into any convenient or existing categories. After my friend F. Scott Hess gave a lecture on “Discombobulation” in art, which dealt with movement and visual complexity and confusion, I realized that I needed to keep exploring those ideas.

As I gathered artists for the book the most important thing was quality. I made an effort to choose art and artists that I responded to and felt were both serious and original. I was also looking for strong individuals who had moved away from Realism and had come up with a hybrid or personal style that said something that couldn’t be expressed any other way. I looked at the work of several hundred artists to choose 38 for the book.

You offer artist critiques. What are some of the most common areas of improvement that artists should be aware of?
I often tell painters to ask themselves a few key questions. One of them is “Why does this need to be painted?” That question and all its implications is meant to get artists thinking about many things. One is that paint itself is a very flexible and expressive medium that each artist can find a way to vary his/her use of. Another is that subject matter is very important and should be worthy of an artist’s time and energies. And of course, I want to urge artists to be introspective and keep examining their own inner lives and motivations.

Another thing I urge artists to do is to make experimental work on the side. Many artists get very caught up in making that “body of work” that they can show to gallery owners or use to apply for an MFA program. In doing that, they can forget to simply have fun and keep exploring. You should make work for yourself, not just for the public.

How do you feel about the trending transition from brick and mortar galleries to online platforms?
Like many internet-related phenomena it cuts both ways. On the positive side it is very easy for artists to have their work be seen and sold. On the negative side, some art just doesn’t work well when reduced to a web image, so work that is bold and Instagram friendly is “winning” over more subtle work.

Also, I think dealers can be really important. Their vision and support can make an artist’s career and as more work is shown and sold online the role of dealers is being diminished. I know that there are and always will be dealers who are dishonest or incompetent, but the good ones are extremely valuable to artists and play a vital role.

Finally, there is so much work online that the sheer glut works against deep engagement and discernment. Immediacy rules the day. Work seen in person has more of a chance to let its complexity unfold and bloom.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Helping artists makes me happy. When I am able to give an artist wall space, award them a prize, or introduce their work to people who appreciate it I have done my job. I can be self-centered when I need to be (which is often) but curation gets me out of myself and puts me in a position to help other artists.

What do you find most challenging?
The challenges of actually gathering and assembling physical works of art can be daunting and shipping can be expensive and perilous. FedEx recently lost (and then found) three precious works headed for a show I organized in Michigan and that was nerve-wracking.

Do you have future plans for curatorial projects, beyond what you are doing today?
Writing is my main activity, but I curate when asked. I’m working on a “Disrupted Realism” themed group show for the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia that will open this fall, and another for a gallery in South Carolina that should open in 2022. As things open up more post-COVID I’m sure there will be other projects.

In the past few years my interest in Asian Art has increased and I have been doing research and writing for Arts of Asia magazine and Sotheby’s Asia.

I also find myself doing a lot of webinars. Here are some online talks I’ll be doing for the Winslow Art Center:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Artist Spotlight: Christiane Cegavske

 Enter the dark and enchanted world of
Christiane Cegavske: Creator Extraordinaire.

Photo Credit: Robin Loznak

In this world, we are plunged into a Victorian-esque dreamscape where otherworldly beings magically spring to life. An amalgamation, these creatures may be reminiscent of what we see in the real world, yet are spun entirely from Cegavske’s unparalleled imagination. You might find them frolicking in sunlit fields or lurking behind spindly, web laden trees; either way, you will find yourself drawn into their intense, dream like allegory.

Christiane Cegavske is an award winning stop-motion animation artist best known for her feature length film Blood Tea and Red String. Recognized internationally for her distinctive talent, the film has seen 47 official screenings in numerous countries across the globe and has received excellent reviews from The New York Times, The New York Post, Variety and others. She was recently awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in support of her current intriguing creations in progress. Among her other outlets of creativity include puppet and doll making, painting, drawing, costume making, and poetry. She is a creator extraordinaire, to be sure.

Still from Blood Tea and Red String

Everything in her films, from the puppets and the costumes they wear, to the miniature sets in which they are brought to life, is handmade. Cegavske often works in isolation for hours on end in her home studio in Oregon. In the spirit of the old masters of stop-motion (Jan Svankmeyer comes to mind), her worlds are created with painstaking detail and include the use of natural objects, such as animal bones and seed pods, as well as household materials like cellophane and cotton balls, to create life mimicking effects.

One thing that strikes me most about Cegavske’s work is that it is heavily steeped in symbolism. Select objects such as seeds, eggs and gemstones represent spiritual sentiments that are in turn reflected by the demeanor of the characters. The dichotomy of compassion and societal corruption is experienced through the feverish, winding plot in Blood Tea and Red String. Here we encounter flute playing forest creatures that look like a cross between rodent, bird and human, which represent innocence, play, and trust in their fellow forest neighbors. The softness of their nature is contrasted by a clan of regally dressed, blood tea drinking mice who attempt to steal the thing that is most dear to them: a hand sewn marionette doll who births a flying bird girl. This bird girl was conceived from an egg after it was planted and sewn, with red string, into the hollow fabric belly of the lifeless marionette. Overall the tale is heartrending, hypnotic; I would even say psychedelic.

Still from Blood Tea and Red String

After seeing her film for the first time 11 years ago, I was compelled to check out what other seductive creations Cegavske had made. I was thrilled to discover her 2D works, which can be interpreted as an extension of the 3D realms seen in her films. These images are also rich with symbolism and even contain biographical elements, according to Cegavske. In this work we often witness dolls, whose stitched placid smiles only partially disguise an internal mourning. We find them embraced by menacing skeletons, ravished by crows, or wandering aimlessly in a never ending sea of sand.

  Death and the Doll

In 2018 it was an immense honor to curate a show at the Art Queen Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA, titled Fever Dream, which featured Cegavske’s multi-faceted work. The show included a series of paintings and drawings to be viewed as a type of daily diary, several haunting life size marionette dolls, and a life size paper boat which lay center stage. Upon the opening reception night, she graced the audience with a presentation of a previous short as well as snippets from her current work in progress, Seed in the Sand.

Her upcoming film Seed in the Sand will also be a stop-motion animation feature and is sure to be another deeply enchanting tale and perhaps even more refined, given the newer technologies available for animation artists today. The film’s production is in collaboration with talented music and voice artists Karie Jacobson and Drew Kowalski, with specific scenes driven by unique compositions. Sneak peeks of this work reveal characters such as a shimmering sea monster and furry red beaked critters immersed in complicated ritual and synchronized dance.

   Still from Seed in the Sand

While we all (impatiently!) await the completion of Seed in the Sand, hop on over to sites such as Amazon or Vimeo to either re-watch -or behold for the first time- her previous masterpiece Blood Tea and Red String. And by all means, don’t stop there: peruse her website for a complete taste of her creative offerings which will include other short films, paintings, prints, dolls, puppets, books, fabric designs and more. If you are interested in supporting Cegavske’s current project, become a patron on her Patreon site, offering various membership levels and perks.

Still from Seed in the Sand

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Jessica Libor of Era Contemporary

Jessica Libor is the director of Era Contemporary Gallery, showcasing imaginative, contemporary realism.

When did you first recognize your passion for the arts?
I first realized my passion for the arts when I was around five years old. I was holding a pencil in my hand and I was drawing while sitting on the blue carpet of my family's home. I just remember the delight in creating images on a piece of paper and knowing that I was going to be an artist. I have never wavered in my decision! Curating art through Era Contemporary Gallery is just another outlet of creativity. It allows me to celebrate the arts and help other artists see success, as well as bring community to the idea of being an artist, which can sometimes be lonely.

Were there any specific events that led you to your role as curator?
I began my role as curator while I was still in college. I created a "night of the arts" that ended up being me as the visual artist, a friend as a poet, and another friend who played the harp. We created this interesting blend of artistic expression at a local restaurant! It was super fun and I sold one of my first big paintings there. I continued to seek opportunities to curate while in college, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts while getting my graduate degree, I was in charge of Gallery Eight, a student work gallery that put on rotating exhibitions curated from the student's artwork. I did that for a couple of semesters; it was really fun. Once I was out of school, I worked as a makeup artist for a while at a department store. I asked the manager if I would be able to display some art of my own and some friends at a table during the holidays. They loved the idea, and that was the first show for Era Contemporary! We've had over a dozen shows since then and things have steadily gotten more professional as I've invited more and more artists to participate and more and more people have heard about it. It's been an amazing journey thus far and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Era Contemporary has moved from brick and mortar exhibits to being a strictly
online platform. How do you feel about this transition and do you plan to keep it
this way?

I was disappointed when we had to move to strictly online because of the coronavirus. However, I believe that it actually ended up benefiting both the artists and collectors. Artists no longer had to ship the work, and collectors from all over the United States can attend our exhibitions virtually! Although we did lose some of the social aspect by not gathering in person, I really try to make up for that by scheduling live zoom receptions where people can come and talk to the artists and still feel like they have a connection to them. I feel like that's really important especially when you are thinking about investing in a piece; to understand the artist's vision and also get a sense of who they are. I'm not sure what the future holds, but for now we're going to continue doing online exhibitions with the possibility of physical shows again as the world opens up.

What do you feel is the ultimate purpose of art within our society?
The ultimate purpose of art within our society, to me, is to delight and uplift. However, Art can also be used to communicate a very specific message, even if that message is not a very pleasant one. Art is a reflection of the human experience and the human spirit. It reflects consciousness and humanity in a way that the chaos of nature does not, even though it is also beautiful. Art is different than nature's beauty in that it reflects a very specific viewpoint and vision of the world. I think that Art brings us together because through looking at art, we realize that we are all in this human experience together. Even though we may see things differently, we have the same fundamental experiences and that is something that is uniting.

Era contemporary leans towards imaginative and contemporary realism aesthetics. Are there specific kinds of qualities you look for in artists in deciding who you will showcase?
The specific qualities that I look for in artists when I exhibit them is a beautiful vision of the world, excellent craftsmanship, a "life" to the work that is hard to define, and also professionalism in communication and presentation. As a curator I do tend to lean towards work that is mysterious, fascinating, or magical, and I love marveling at the craftsmanship of an artist's work. That being said, I have certainly been moved to exhibit some works that do not fall within these criteria, so it all really depends on the vision of the artist!

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
The most rewarding thing about the curation process is seeing the show installed. It's an amazing experience to see everything working together, not unlike finishing a piece!

What do you find most challenging?
The most challenging thing about creating an exhibition is all the little logistics. Sending emails, making sure all the details are right, following up with the artist. It's a lot of administrative work! But, seeing it all comes together makes it all worth it.

Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the
submission and exhibition process?

I think artists who are thinking about submitting should submit their best work, and also be friendly and professional. If your work isn't the right fit for a show, don't take it as a personal rejection, because your work might be right for the next show! Just continue refining your art and being friendly and positive. Also, having a clear artist statement and up-to-date professional website helps a lot so I can understand the context of your work.

Do you have future plans for Era Contemporary, beyond what it is today?
My future plans for Era Contemporary include growing the platform to include more artists, expanding the Era Contemporary Artist Prize, and possibly getting a physical location. I can't wait to see what the future holds! And for any artists interested, the Era Contemporary Artist Prize is open now and has a deadline of June 10. You can find all the info at!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Svitlana Martynjuk of ALL SHE MAKES

Svitlana Martynjuk is the founder and CEO of ALL SHE MAKES, a curated directory for women artists worldwide.

Tell us a little about yourself: What got you started on the path of artist, curator, and founder of an arts directory (among other things)?
I have always been interested in the arts. I remember being absolutely fascinated with the fact that a writing instrument makes marks. When I was a kid, I wanted to learn to play piano, to take dancing or singing classes, to attend art school. My parents were not keen on encouraging extracurricular activities, but somehow, they did allow me to attend art school as soon as I was eligible, starting in 5th grade. The art school was based on academic teachings, therefore my 10-year-old brain felt super bored learning to mix the values of green. I didn’t understand why we were doing all these things, so I quit and later regretted my decision of course.

I continued doodling and drawing throughout my school years. When I moved to the USA I ended up taking drawing and design classes at a junior college, but they were not academic art teachings. I didn’t take my art seriously until around 2016. After a few years of painting for fun, I wanted to see what would happen if I made art without thinking or considering anything. I took one of my older therapist’s suggestions to paint whatever, just splattered paint on canvas, smeared it, used hands and odd brushes. I created two pieces, one of which I knew had something special. I felt like I’d reached a break-through. From that point on, I kept painting for 30 minutes before work every morning. Most of my work during that period was abstract, heavily influenced by abstract expressionism.

Curatorial projects kind of fell in my lap to be honest. Once you start getting involved in the art scene from a change maker perspective or simply by showing up and presenting a good work ethic, people start inviting you to help out with projects, and curatorial opportunities begin presenting themselves. Once you have one project to show for, more similar opportunities start rolling in.

How All SHE Makes came to be is such an unexpected turn of events. During 2019 I was at a peak of learning about gender inequality in the art world. With that came the need to contribute somehow, but I still didn’t have any idea of what that meant. I wanted to create something that inspired action and opportunities. I think that so many ideas I had finally came together to where it all made sense. The knowledge and experience from being in the art world in addition to my education in business strategy really helped to bring together those ideas and create something unique.

I wanted a place where amazing women artists could be easily found. At the time I didn’t even know what something like that would be called. I researched if anything like that existed, found many artist directories but also found some things that I didn’t think worked well for the artists.

I saw that there was a lot of room for improvement and created our own curated directory, which allowed us to hire curators to do jurying, offer a lovely interface, low one-time submission fee and no recurring fees for the artists. All SHE Makes directory has received tremendous support from the art world, and we were able to scale quickly with opening our own scholarship fund, offering collaboration opportunities, art career advice from art world professionals, and now we have a magazine that highlights women artists across the globe with opportunities for anyone to submit their work.

Do you find it hard to juggle the time for all of these endeavors?
It is definitely a learning process. What is hard is the managing of my mental health part. I have to closely monitor my body and its needs. While I would love to say that I know what works for me, I also know that what works for me changes all the time depending on my workload, what I eat (or forget to), and how I am feeling emotionally. Learning to have grace for myself has been the hardest part.

I set aside studio days, but also try to check in with myself to see if I’m actually capable to have a studio day in case I had an extra difficult week. I also stepped away from marketing portion of my art business, because I noticed that it sucked all the inspiration out of me. Right now, I have the option to paint when inspiration hits and not for the production’s sake, and I am okay with that.

I limit my work schedule because my mental health requires that. Without taking time to take care of myself depression and old trauma start making visible presence in my life, which can put me out of commission entirely.

You champion women in the arts. Is All She Makes creating the sort of impact on the art world that you had initially hoped it would?
In all honesty, the path All SHE Makes took surpassed all my expectations. I originally thought we were going to be a small directory. In our first 3 months of operating, the art community showed us just how much more work needs to be done. Most people I speak to are completely unaware of the size of the gender gap that exists in the art world.

We are connecting artists with more opportunities, creating our own opportunities, offering art career advice by art world professionals, donating to other organizations and artists, spreading awareness, and inspiring change beyond what is immediately visible to us. That is so much more than I could have ever asked for.

What qualities do you look for in women artists, in determining whether you will include them in your directory and other curatorial projects?
For All SHE Makes we hire a different curator for each call for art to create as many varieties of art as possible in our directory. We are well aware that all curators have different visions, come from different backgrounds, and lived different experiences that contribute to the way they see the world. Something that we request of every curator is to be mindful of inclusion and diversity, and they must review each and every entry.

When I curate shows I look for intention. I want to know what makes you want to create. What is in your process? What does your work represent and how did you arrive at that conclusion?

How much importance do you place on social media, and is this a determining factor when considering an artist’s reputation?
I cannot emphasize this enough – social media following, or its size, absolutely does not matter when it comes to judging artist’s work. There are amazing artists that are not even on social media. Some amazing artists have around 2k following but sell out every release. Our decisions NEVER have anything to do with social media presence.

We do ask that if artists submit social media page in lieu of portfolio (we are aware that not everyone can afford a website), that the page is tidy and presentable as a portfolio would be. No blurry images, no majority of personal posts. We have an article on our blog about polishing up your online presence to help with that.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
If I’m curating a show or exhibit, seeing it all come together at the end is a feeling I cannot describe. During the whole process it’s just art, ideas, photos of art, and in the end, you get to see and experience the art in the way it was intended. The physical presence of art and the impact it creates is surreal and beyond my imagination.

What do you find most challenging?
This one is easy. When curating an exhibit there are usually limits on how many people we can show. For example, if my limit is 30, I will find 50 artists that MUST be in the show. What does one even do? It is unbelievably difficult, and that part of the selection may take days to settle. It is never about whether the art is good, contrary to most artists’ beliefs.

Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the submission and exhibition process?
Can’t emphasize enough the importance of following the submission instructions or guidelines.

People will email us with questions that are answered in the instructions or will not follow the guidelines. I think that most people don’t realize that there are internal processes that we have in place to create a good workflow, and often times it’s all reflected in the instructions. Once I began being a part of the curatorial projects, I gained a whole new understanding and appreciation for following instructions as an artist as well. Now, I re-read the instructions multiple times, haha.

I will give an example to hopefully help artists understand this better. If the instructions say “title your file this way: name_lastname_title” it is not for no reason. It could be that the submission software processes images separately from the submission text and curators have to manually find your art in a separate folder after looking through your submission. If the file is not named properly there could be a few issues: curator is not able to locate your work and they don’t have time to reach out to each artist individually. Some places receive hundreds of submissions per call for art. Imagine the workload alone from having to contact each artist who did not follow the instructions. The curation would take a month to complete, and the curator would need to do it as a full-time work, when most of the time it’s a gig job for them and they have other things going on. I hope this helps to clear up the confusion about the submission guidelines, and this goes for anywhere you submit your work.

Do you have future plans for All She Makes, and other projects, beyond what you are doing today?
Yes, there is one big project we are working on that involves creating further impact to battle the gender gap, but I cannot talk about that yet.

We just launched our All SHE Makes art & culture magazine to create further publishing opportunities for women artists from around the globe. It’s a quarterly print & digital magazine with submission opportunities.

We are also getting ready to offer critique and networking events for All SHE Makes artists, which I am super excited about, because we are hiring All SHE Makes artists who have incredible amounts of knowledge and experience to bring to the table.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Wendy Gadzuk of La Matadora Gallery

Wendy Gadzuk is the co curator of La Matadora Gallery, an edgy, post-modern gallery located in Joshua Tree, CA.

Photo credit: Tony Buhagiar

When did you first realize your passion for the arts?
I think I’ve always had a passion for the arts in one form or another. I grew up playing music, starting at age 4, and traveled a lot as a child. Some of my earliest memories are of seeing the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome, and the “onion domes,” as we called them, on the tops of buildings in Poland. These all left a visual mark on my psyche. I’ve always been inspired to create a mood, whether it be with visual art, music, interior design, etc.

You are a part time curator for La Matadora Gallery. How do you feel the gallery has grown since you became involved?
I’ve been co-curating with gallery owner Colleena Hake for just over two years now. I think we work very well together! She is more spontaneously creative than I am (a trait I’ve always wished I had but have come to accept it’s not my nature) and is more apt to throw caution to the wind and go for it…hence, opening the gallery. I am a little more methodical in my approach. I think I’ve brought things to the table as far as generating an online presence, which is especially important in today’s world, where going out to see art in person has been challenging. I started managing an email list for the gallery that has grown to over double the size of my own personal art email list. We now have a dedicated website for the gallery, where we post images of each of our monthly shows and it has really helped reach a wider audience than simply opening the doors. I’m amazed at the out of state sales we often get. Colleena manages the Instagram account which also helps to reach like-minded people who may not live in the area. Our aesthetics are similar, but mine tends to be slightly darker than Colleena’s, which I think makes a nice balance. She’s taught me, just by nature of who she is, how to make art shows FUN instead of heavy and serious all the time! It feels good to consistently have people tell us how much they appreciate that we show the work that we do and how much they enjoy coming to the gallery.

What qualities do you look for when choosing artworks for the shows you curate?
First and foremost, I must like the work. This is a labor of love for both of us. While we usually cover expenses, this is not something we are getting rich from, so it is really important to show work that we want to sit with for a month and feel passionate about sharing with others. That being said, the rent must be paid, so I always try to encourage artists to show work that has a range of prices. We do sell work in the thousands, but the general market in Joshua Tree responds well to work in the $100-$300 price range. I like having a big “statement piece” that can be seen through the window to draw people in. It can also give context to smaller pieces and make people feel like they are getting a part of something special. I tend to be partial to folky/outsider/dark/visionary art styles, and unusual assemblage work. We try to steer clear of traditional “desert” gift-shop type art, as there's enough of that out here.

Do you scout artists or do they come to you?
Some of both. Being an artist myself I do know a lot of artists whose work I would love to show. Since I do every third month, that means four shows a year, and that can fill up quickly. I tend to do a lot of group shows, which are fun because so many people are involved, but they are A LOT of work, because…well…so many people are involved! There have been people who have reached out to us and sometimes the timing is just off, and sometimes their work doesn’t fit the vibe of the gallery, and sometimes we end up finding a new artist that we love. I would say to artists reaching out that gentle persistence can pay off, but don’t overdo it.

How has working with other artists informed your own art making?
Hmm…that’s a good question. I don’t know that it really has. Or at least not consciously. As far as my own art, I don’t think curating has really influenced the way that I approach what I create. But I do have to be protective of my time. I love working with artists and putting together beautiful shows, which is an art form in itself, but I need to honor the space that I need to focus on my own work, which can slip away if I’m not careful.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Seeing it all come together. There have been so many times that I’ve done a group show and been so nervous thinking that I had way too much work to fit into our tiny gallery, but it always works! And it always works beautifully. Billy Shire of La Luz de Jesus graciously helped us hang a show last year with Daniel Martin Diaz’s work, and learning his formula for figuring out spacing has been incredibly helpful. I’m one of those weird artists who really likes numbers, so doing all this adding and subtracting and seeing the results of those numbers and formulas come to life on the walls is kind of magical.
Hearing the artists say how much they appreciate having the opportunity to show their work is also extremely rewarding. I’ve had artists tell me that they were in a big emotional rut and having a show to work toward really improved their mental health and well-being. I have a show coming up with an artist who has barely painted at all in the past few years and is really coming to life now by having a reason to get back to it. It is incredibly rewarding to be part of the process of art keeping people sane, for lack of better word.

Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the submission and exhibition process?
I would say that following the submission guidelines is important and respectful. Many of the artists that I work with are friends, but I always try to reiterate that I still need them to follow the guidelines, simply because there is a lot to keep track of. When we do shows, it is usually a one-woman operation. We each are responsible for finding the artists, uploading the images and show information to the website, sending out the mailing list and press releases, planning the opening, hanging the show, printing the tags/bios, designing and printing the posters, and more, alone. When we ask for images to be sent a certain way, it’s because it is a lot of work to resize them for the website if they are not, especially when we are dealing with multiple artists. And label your images. When we are scrolling through pages and pages of emails, trying to match titles to art can be frustrating, even if it seems obvious to the artist. When I ask for the information to be listed a certain way, it’s because it’s so much easier for us to simply copy the text that is sent with each image and paste it into the website than to have to re-type everything. It’s not just coincidental. There is a method to the madness! And do your best to make sure your work is ready to hang.

One thing I will add to that, and this is just my opinion, is I think it’s important to remove any tags and labels from store-bought frames or other elements, even if they’re on the back where you may think it doesn’t matter. It does. The entire piece is your art, and making sure the entire piece reflects your aesthetic shows you take pride in your work.

It does help and is appreciated when the artists do their part to promote the show as well as us, whether on social media or through their own personal email lists. When it’s a joint effort, the results are even better.

Other than that, I would say that the exhibition process has always gone smoothly, at least as far as I’m concerned. 99.9% of the artists I’ve dealt with have been extremely respectful and helpful. However, I did have one person get in my face and tell me they were “very disappointed” that I didn’t put them in a group show that they never even submitted to. Note to self - probably don’t work with this artist in the future, even if they do submit in time!

Is there any other professional advice you would offer the emerging artist for getting their work out there in the world?
I would say patience is a virtue that cannot be overstated. It can take a LONG time to get your work out there in a way that may feel validating. I’ve submitted work to certain galleries for years before being accepted. Don’t compare yourself to others. And don’t copy others. Originality is key. We all have that thing that no one else has. Find it. Nurture it. Give it time to grow and evolve. There is no one way to make art work for you. Everyone’s path is different. Some people have thriving art careers without ever showing in galleries. Figure out what you want to get out of showing at a gallery. Sales? Or to expose your work to a wider audience? Galleries are a place to celebrate the art. Seeing it all up on the walls is rewarding. That doesn’t always translate to huge sales, but it still has merit.

One more thing that is helpful, and I struggle with as an artist as well, is learning how to talk about your art. Can you describe what you do in one or two sentences? Both in terms of process and content? Try it! It will most likely keep changing.

I was thinking recently about how technology has changed the way artists interact with galleries these days. Everything is done online. The entire submission and communication process is done by email, for the most part. What about artists who don’t have access to email? Is this system in some way classist? How do we reach the artists who don’t see the “Call for Entries” on Instagram? I’m not really sure, but it is something to think about.

Do you have future plans for curatorial projects, beyond what you are doing today?
I currently have a three-person show at the gallery featuring Mikal Winn, Renee Tay, and Ted Meyer. The next three shows, which puts us at the end of 2021 (June, Sept, and Dec) are all booked. John Nikolai, who has a cat rescue organization in Downtown Los Angeles, will be showing his paintings in June, along with fellow cat lovers and punk rockers Fur Dixon and Gitane Demone. We may even have an “adopt-a-cat” day at the gallery! September we will have some touching roadkill memorial photos by Paul Koudounaris along with taxidermy work by 2-3 artists. December will be a fun art-on-records group show, featuring Jeff Finn, who I met as a customer at the gallery. After that, we’ll see!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ruby Holland of Area Noir Gallery

Area Noir is a London based online gallery focusing on black and brown artists from around the globe 

Image credit Attabeira German

You are both a curator and multi disciplinary artist. When did you first recognize your passion for the arts?

I have always been interested in visual arts. I invested in my first piece of art when I was twenty but have always been passionately inspired by artists. Anyone who can express what is in their soul through art is of interest to me. I have been heavily involved with creative arts my whole life, creating visual content, directing music videos, writing and performing music, and designing jewelry.

Were there any specific events that led to your decision to support artists by launching Area Noir? 
Having worked in the creative arts for many years, I know first hand how important it is to have people championing for you, have doors open for you and a support voice to uplift you. I am in a time of my life where I want to be that voice -especially after the pandemic, the horrendous murder or George Floyd and the beautiful uprising, strength and togetherness of black and brown people internationally being the result. 

What are some of the benefits that artists might experience with your online gallery platform, as opposed to a traditional brick & mortar? 
You can access art and culture from anywhere, tune into these rich and colorful stories from the comfort of your home and imagine them in the flesh brightening your surroundings. In these crazy pandemic times we need to have feeling and culture all around us to remind us who we are. I feel art does that for me.

How do you discover the artists that you showcase? And are there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they will be pleasurable to work with?
I scout and select anything I would put my own money to and have hanging on my wall at home. I scour the internet, take tips from friends and always approach artists as a fan of their work. 

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
I have always found my happiness from creating something from nothing, with my bare hands and an idea! I love curating this community more than anything. The most rewarding thing is I have a new family of likeminded, free spirited, courageous and talented artists all around the globe.

What are some of the challenges that you face? 
I have many ideas as to where I can take this platform as it grows so beautifully from the ground up. I often have to take a breath and slow down, telling myself to take it slow… 

Do you have any specific do’s and don’ts for artists looking to submit their work to you? 
Read the instructions carefully Don’t send too many pieces. Consistency in your style is great it gives personality and individuality. 

You feature other outlets on your website such as an arts blog and a project titled “Letter to my younger self”. What stemmed these outlets and what has the response been to them so far? 
I see Area Noir as a collective healing space. A platform to lift, share, heal and connect through art “Letter to my younger self” is a collective healing project where we can all share and learn from our own advice, much needed at this time.

Do you have future plans for Area Noir beyond what it is today? 
Yes, so many! But one thing at a time…