Years ago I was asked to speak to the Master of Fine Arts Critical Studies Group at the University of Saskatchewan, where I had taught for 14 years, before the usual university cabal – overpaid administrators and incompetent tenured faculty only concerned with their own salaries – embraced “austerity” and let many of us go. I mention this as being invited back, four years or so later to talk to their MFA / MA students, in my very public role as an arts writer in Saskatoon, was amusing, because I had a reputation – well deserved – for saying what I thought, and being liberal in my criticisms of my former employer. This was often like shooting fish in a barrel, but when most of your faculty hadn’t exhibited artwork in more than a decade, nor shown in a faculty show for longer, it is good to not “shoot the messenger” but perhaps consider the facts of the situation. Amusingly, a piece I wrote used that title, when I was responding to an artist run centre that had to be shamed (by myself, and others) into paying artists, and an attempt to smear me backfired.
I mention these for several reasons: the latter situation with a horrid artist run centre illustrates what I often see as the necessity of art, and art writing, mattering to the community, and not being caught up in esoteric, or more airy, issues (I’ve often been accused of being “too political” or “too historical”, to which I usually said perhaps the problem was that they were “too ignorant” – or that if you criticise art for being “too political” what you might mean is that it’s not “your politics”).
I also cite the MFA class as the piece I wrote for them, before I spoke to them, was called “Who Cares, Why Bother: the existential crisis of writing art criticism in a small community.” Amusingly, this has, after much arguing, struggle and alcohol (on my part, I won’t presume to speak for the main editor) become a chapter in Art From The Margins: Visual Culture in Saskatchewan. More relevantly, when I spoke to that class, I selected three articles I thought important, that I’d written, and we talked about them and the ideas around them. I’ve done a similar thing here, so you’ll have an idea of who I am, how I write, and how I approach the useless yet sometimes groundbreaking exercise in egotism that is too often art criticism / art writing.
Lacie made me laugh when I saw that she used my somewhat tongue in cheek sobriquet of #artcriticfromhell. That was originally thrown at me, as an insult, by someone who felt I was too flippant, not academic enough, not formal enough – essentially, as I said to them, not enough like what they THOUGHT art criticism should be, in their narrow expectations and views.
I’ve also been called by another artist / arts administrator the “most subjective” critic they know, and another said I was the “most direct” (trust me, the way she said it, it was an insult, too). I accept all these, and another artist once called me a Strelnikov (from Dr. Zhivago) as he said I expected too much of art, and was too demanding, and was too critical when “art” (my quotes, not his) didn’t live up to this. This is also true, in part.
What I’ve linked out to, here, are all articles that are important not just in seeing how I approach what I do, and my rules for doing it, but also one of the most important aspects of what I do: my connection to community.
My biography is here, and I’ve worn many hats, and done many things, within cultural spaces. Volunteering is very important to me: and this link, from my time with CFCR 90.5 FM illustrates that, with some fun links.
But some of the pieces that I’ll be happy to reference or talk about when I meet with you all are below. However, one of the hats I wear right now is facilitator for the Rodman Hall 5 x 2 Image Maker Conversations, and I enjoy that greatly as its a very open, inclusive dialogue about making images, and images themselves, and I’m happy to talk about larger issues that inform writing about art, and the ideas – and sometimes idiocy, ahem – behind it.
My agenda as an arts writer has often been informed by a desire to foster conversations about art in spaces and with people that don’t always feel they’re invited to be part of this discussion, and to offer the idea that art writing, like art itself, can be enjoyed by many diverse and different groups, in different ways.
This is just a selection, and much of my writing is online, and easily found with a web search.
Lure of the Local, Material Girls (The Sound), Philia (The Sound, and I have many pieces at The Sound, and you can follow the “ART” drop down menu for them), A Confluence Field Trips (HAL), Every Prophet In Their House (HAL), Patrick Traer (Galleries West), Modern Women at Magenta Magazine (more articles by me are here) and two pieces I wrote for Canadian Art.
This is a downloadable PDF of a longer piece I wrote for FUSE Magazine: I regard it as an important piece as issues of audience, and who is being served, or not being served, in gallery and cultural spaces, was a topic I focused upon.
I wrote for Planet S for nearly a decade, but their archive is not well designed. Here’s the last piece I wrote for them, before I left Saskatoon, and it’s a fun piece for many reasons.