Saturday, May 11, 2019

Being an Artist Outside the Studio and the Skills Required

Lesley, Lingrid, Laura, Louise
Opening Reception Dualities exhibition, Cre8ery Gallery website, Winnipeg
May 9 to 21, 2019
What began in the studio results in an exhibition with many steps and stages in between. 

Ingrid Lincoln standing by her work at the Opening Reception, May 9, 2019.
Nearly half, if not more of an artist's time is spent doing things other than making art.

Louise Lamb (r) talks about her work to a guest at the opening.
An artist has to like doing all of those other art related things to be able to get the work out of the studio and in front of the public.


 Using cutting, measuring and duct tape skills to make a shipping box.
One can buy shipping boxes from a number of different sources. It is time-consuming to track down the right sized box. If it is only just big enough there is not enough room for padding to protect the work. If the box is much bigger than the work the cost of shipping is more than it needs to be or it is too big and the company can't ship it.

I prefer to make my own boxes from recycled cardboard. Yes, I have been known to dumpster dive when I see large flattened boxes sticking out of a bin. I have a large collection of boxes, cardboard and recycled packing materials in my studio's packaging room.

The box needs to be made so it can be opened when it arrives at its destination then filled again and resealed ready for the return trip. Every piece of packing material needs to be named and I often add my email to the larger padding pieces and the box. Labels need to be printed for both journeys. 

The work in this box was in an exhibition until the day before I flew to Winnipeg for Dualities. I took the work with me on the plane. At the airport there was a hiccup - it was too big to go through the x-ray machine.

The box had to cut open, the work physically examined then returned to the box and resealed with special tape with words saying the box had passed inspection. With all of that, I forgot to ask for fragile stickers for the box. As it disappeared down the conveyor belt I wished it safe travels and hoped it would be unmodified when I saw it next.

Several weeks earlier I had shipped two large boxes of art to Ingrid's place in Winnipeg. While the smaller box was within the dimensions Canda Post will ship the larger one was not. I needed a courier. Previously I have successfully shipped large, heavy boxes at the lowest prices using Greyhound buses but that company no longer exists on the island. The new company is still setting up its parcel delivery services and is not yet fully automated. I found that and their new name, Box on a Bus, slightly unreassuring. However, all was well when all three boxes were safely in Ingrid's house waiting to be hauled to the gallery.

The next step was to get the boxes from the vehicle up to the second floor of the gallery.

This was a fun part because we got to use an ancient freight elevator. The Cre8ery Gallery is in the old Exchange District of Winnipeg where there are many buildings over 130 years old.

Bob (left), the gallery art installer and Bob (right) Ingrid's husband who has enviable woodworking skills, are manually operating the elevator working it to get its floor to stop in line with the building floor.

When the artwork, tools, and equipment are all in the gallery the installation can begin. This a stage requiring another whole set of different skills the artist needs to have mastered: agility and balance shimmying up and down a ladder, steady use of the hammer, a good eye for leveling or use of a level against the art, strength to repeatedly move plinths until they are in the right place, stamina to keep working steadily for however long it takes to get things perfect. Depending on the gallery the artist will hang their own work or there will be a curator. Cre8ery's owner, Jordan Millar is an experienced and well-qualified curator and installer and she has Bob to hang the work. Her decisions and Bob's experience made for a quick hang this time with 7 people working for 3 hours.
The promotion of an exhibition is another arena where the artist needs to have knowledge and develop skills. Image management, promotion materials design, and keeping up with effective social media developments are all time-consuming activities necessary for a successful exhibition.
If the artist is the exhibition's project coordinator, as Ingrid was for Dualities, there are a lot of administrative tasks including liaising with the artist group and the gallery staff.
I do enjoy all the activities required of an artist but I have to admit some days I wish they didn't keep me out of my studio for so many hours.


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