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…