Curation 101

Alpena, Michigan  (2012)

A friend was insistent yesterday that I express my own definition of Self Contained.  I do have one, but I wouldn't tell her what it was. As I look through the submitted images of this recent project, I am always trying to be aware of avoiding my personal biases. I stated in the call for work that I was open to a wide range of interpretations on this theme and I meant it. The most important thing for me to do right now is to keep an open mind and allow the work to unfold and teach me new things. Why is that the most important thing? The artists who have submitted work have entrusted in me the care of their work and statements. To take the time and effort (and angst) to submit work, and to risk rejection, deserves the assurance of mindful consideration and lack of personal agenda.

The root meaning of Curate is cure or care. The religious context is one who cares for the souls of a parish, and in Scotland the term Curator is used to describe the guardian of a child. It is an over-used term in the art world and has almost lost meaning. I don't think many people really think much about it. To me, the association with the soul and/or children is significant. Shouldn't the art curator treat the work under review with complete reverence and the assumption of innocence?  To quote E. H. Gombrich, "There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists."  Artists with hearts and souls and fearful inner-children in need of occasional hugs. I don't need to remind you of the internet universe filled with artists seeking positive feedback and attention in the form of likes and favorites. Most of the time this is the best we can hope for. We all spend a significant amount of time producing art that receives little more than a glimpse of attention.

Set aside one's own opinions and agenda and let the work of the artists tell the story and explain the theme. That would be the ultimate goal in curating an exhibit.  Likely impossible to completely avoid subjectivity and aesthetic prejudice, but certainly worth striving for. Every image submitted to Self Contained is now in a folder on my desktop and I look at them throughout the day, everyday. I look at them front to back and back to front. I look for patterns and relationships between images and artist's statements. I study your work. I care about it. I know that it comes from your soul.