Friday, September 26, 2008

channeling susan abbott

It is important for art advisors and consultants to keep abreast of developments and changes within their own field. Shauna Lee Lange Arts Advisory attended a one-day seminar which was designed to teach the amateur artist tools on becoming professional. And although we feel that as an established national advisory firm, we have an excellent command of the paths artists can take to work with galleries, or to self-market, or to make a lifelong commitment to their craft - we also feel that it's important to hear how others are accomplishing the same goals.

It is more critical perhaps, that a qualified art advisor or consultancy firm also BE a working artist. One cannot understand the struggles, obstacles, and challenges of the art world unless one is in it (and I don't care how great a business person you may be) - you've got to live, breathe, eat, and drink art to grow in your understanding of it. And you have to continuously ask questions.

Is there a resource, a trick, a tool, or a contact the successful artist uses that we don't know about? So it was in that spirit that we went with the best of intentions and expectations to work under the tutelage of a highly accomplished water colorist, Susan Abbott. Ms. Abbott has at least two decades of exhibitions, consignments, gallery horror stories, and independent vision under her belt and with a seminar of about 25 mid-life attendees, she gave us everything she had on paperwork, taxes, books, psychological inspiration, and all that her experience has shown it takes to be both a working artist and a business.

The materials and information collected will only help our firm be of more assistance to those seeking professional advice. Ms. Abbott herself has left the Washington rat-race and now lives in rural Vermont where she talks about the trade offs between being able to stumble into one of DC's over 150 museums and the isolation (but frugality) of living remotely. Abbott stresses travel, work, and communication among artists - she encourages joining small artist groups and she believes in the power of the group as a cohesive element within the macro. And it was that thought, the power of the group, that led this artist to the inspiration to create a piece of collage work based on Abbott's "Dream Tables" series.

I took a small exhibition catalogue of Ms. Abbott's large thematic watercolor collections and separated individual works from the booklet. I then spent a block of time (hours) really looking at the pieces to understand the medium, message, and method. I continued by meticulously cutting one inch squares from the completed reproduced images and semi-randomly mixed the squares according to overall color, style, and content. I had been seeing exhibition notices on quilting and textiles pop up in the news and the idea of quilts, stitching, and assemblage was still floating around.

The square tiles were then painstakingly re-assembled by hand into a larger quilt square with a small windowing margin separating the tiles. The beauty of this re-interpretation of Ms. Abbott's work is not only that we've taken watercolor and re-presented it as collage, but also that one really sees the independent detail Abbott accomplishes in her overall theme. And focally, whether the eye zooms in or out, the result is quite stunning, original, and communicative. If that's not "becoming professional" then I guess more workshops might be in store!

Image Above: Shauna Lee Lange, Channeling Susan Abbott, 15" x 18", collage on paper, 2008.