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…to my good friend and amazing artist Sara Shawger, who opened a show of oils and pastels at Max’s Restaurant in Santa Fe last weekend.  I am always proud of my artist friends, but having a solo public openings is a spectacular accomplishment, particularly in such an artistically competitive place.

One of my goals for this blog is to explore some of my more random musings on art,  basically the thoughts that fall outside the parameters of my more formal research and casual conversations.  I spent last year collaboratively blogging on my research and the art scene in Santa Fe, and while this endeavor has fallen by the wayside (the idea of bouncing ideas off each other in an artistic/Socratic dialogue getting bogged down in the reality of two overly busy schedules – blog partnership is more complicated than I expected), I would still like to devote more brain cells to the art scene past, present, and future.   During summer vacation it’s obviously more difficult to ponder the nuances of material culture in an academic context – while this is my passion and the impetus for my research (and I’m itching to dive right back into it in the next few weeks).

Part of my disconnect has been a gradual disillusionment with the sometimes stagnant art environment in Santa Fe.  When I first moved here, I thrived on weekly Canyon Road art walks.  I felt energized and inspired to be soaking up the creative juices of the second largest U.S. art market.  After 3 years, I’m discouraged to note that I feel like I’m seeing those same openings over and over again, like Groundhog Day on Canyon Road.  It seems that the same niche genres (western figural, realistic western landscape, abstract western landscape) are being filled by the same artists in the manner of an assembly line to address the collecting desires of the wealthy masses.  Not to be cynical or anything.  I’m not even going to address the effects of the recession.

Working a show opening at my gallery reflects another aspect of the art market – the aging out of the traditional collector of historical western art.  I have only anecdotal evidence to indicate the statistics in the more contemporary galleries in Santa Fe and the rest of the country, but in this primarily historical market it’s easy to see from one glance around the room at our crowded opening last night that the crowd is aging rapidly, with no young collectors in sight.  What is the future of the Santa Fe art scene? Will efforts like SITE Santa Fe and Warehouse 21 inject some new blood into a market sadly in need of transfusion? And will I uncover an art scene a little more raw and creative in Albuquerque?

I just read about a fascinating social experiment on the ARLIS-L discussion list. The contributor is a librarian at Provisions Library in Washington D.C., which is described as “an arts and social change learning resource that amplifies compelling voices that challenge and redefine the mainstream. Its library and online services are a trusted source for alternative perspectives on a wide range of social change topics and its innovative exhibitions strongly engage the arts as a powerful means of exploring social issues and as an agent of change.” That in itself is worth further exploration.

Anyway, apparently this librarian was contacted by an artist with an idea inspired by the recent near-closings of Washington D.C. libraries. He wants to leave small locked boxes around the city that contain books and other objects. Subscription to these “libraries” would be keys mailed to applicants. The interesting concept is the interaction with the boxes and their contents. People would be encouraged to contribute art, poetry, etc. to the boxes. According to the librarian, “the effect would be a dialog between and among the library and its users”.

I think more ideas along these lines should be explored. Not only is this a way to counteract branch closings (if in a very limited manner), but also a really innovative and creative way to integrate art into library services and give people an outlet for creativity and collaboration. Pretty cool!

My job definitely has its perks. We went on a field trip today to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the new exhibit of Marsden Hartley’s New Mexico paintings.  Hartley is a modernist who intrigues me – he has so many apparent influences, yet he refused to be pinned down in his art or his personal life. 

I hadn’t been to the Georgia O’Keeffe since I moved here (other than the internship at the Research Center). It’s funny how quickly one becomes complacent to such cultural opportunities. Whenever I visit a place with museums that’s how I spend all my time, yet somehow it’s easy to overlook the ones I walk past every day. A good metaphor for life, I suppose. What initially struck me with awe and wonder when I first came to work at the gallery is now a bit less wondrous. For one thing, a necessary component of the business of art is that some of the magic is stripped. While I don’t think I will ever see art as a commodity, I do miss the thrill of the object that has been dulled for me somewhat. It’s like a class I took a few years ago called “Desire and Distance” – the theory being that desire ceases to exist once realized. So…maybe it’s ideal to have a less than enthralling day job in order to keep the thrill alive?

8:15 – Opening the gallery.  Unlock file cabinets, vacuum, etc.  Get ready for customers coming in at 8:30, Monday-Sunday (yes, I usually work Saturdays)

9:00 – Meet with a new artist who is consigning his work with the gallery.  Fill out a receipt for the artwork.  Take the measurements and note the medium, look at details on the canvas and frame.  Ask for pricing from the gallery directors (retail and net).  Fill out a consignment agreement, create painting labels and wall tags and make an inventory card.  Add the paintings to the ArtSystems database.  Put the painting out to be hung.

11:00 – A new bronze edition comes in.  Use existing information to check it in, create tags, labels, and inventory cards, and let the sales staff know it’s checked in and ready to display.  Add to the consignment agreement and mail 2 copies to the consignor.

12:00 – One of our local jewelry artists drops off some new pieces.  He also wants to RTO (return to owner) some of his pieces from last week.  Add notes to the consignment agreement and the RTO log, measure the jewelry, create jewelry tags and either give to sales to display or LOCK IN THE FIREPROOF SAFE.  These diamond rings are worth up to $350,000 a piece.  I’m either running away with them to Mexico or keeping them safely locked up.

2:00 – Go through old Christie’s and Sotheby’s catalogs to see examples of work we own or similar work by the artists in the gallery that has been sold at auction.

3:00 – Browse the library for information on painter Eric Sloane.  Take notes on style and works held in the gallery.  Check for possible provenance information that can be added to the records.  Look on the ArtNet and AskArt databases to see more examples of Sloane’s work and auction/sale history.

4:30 – Write a net reduction agreement as requested by the Director of Sales.  Mail to the consignor to agree to take less of the cut of the potential sale of the artwork.

Now that I have accepted a job here in Santa Fe, suddenly I’m being inundated with interview invitations.  Sigh.  I really like my job and know it’s an experience I would never get to have otherwise (particularly allowing me to stay in Santa Fe and get to meet people and experience the whole art scene here, which is amazing).  It’s the right thing for me now, but it’s still hard to turn down some of the other opportunities that I applied for.  Most importantly it’s a very important lesson learned – don’t lose confidence, as the opportunities will eventually come with determination and patience.  The process will always take longer than expected.  I’d like to develop these observations into an expanded description of lessons learned by the job searching process, and hopefully an article to help other anxious soon-to-be-grads in similar situations! Taking the plunge is worth it. I haven’t had time to do much writing lately as I’m finishing my last class (Intellectual Freedom) and swamped with papers and presentations, but that’s the next thing on the agenda.  

It gives me a better perspective on how the game is played, and what works and what doesn’t in the application process, for the next time around.  

I had a great conversation with Eumie Imm Stroukoff at the Georgia O’Keeffe today about how these things have a tendency to work out for the best, if in fact you end up taking the least predictable route.  I really admire Eumie, and she and Jenni James have definitely become my mentors and art library role models.  These internship experiences have been such valuable experiences for me, and I really feel involved in the New Mexico library community because of them.

I came home yesterday to a hand-written note in my mailbox asking me to come in to interview at a Santa Fe gallery. Apparently my resume had cut off the pertinent contact information other than address (stupid printer), and they pursued me all the way out to Eldorado to set up an interview. I don’t think anyone’s ever gone to such lengths to contact me. I met with the Director today at one of the biggest and most prestigious galleries in Santa Fe (the first piece that I looked at was a $750,000 Georgia O’Keeffe painting) . I was a little worried they were going to ask me about my impressions of certain contemporary artists (I know pathetically little about the contemporary art market, though that may change), but luckily it’s a gallery of mostly historical paintings and Native American pottery. So those of you who know me know I was pretty much drooling at the idea of actually being paid to work at this place. It’s basically the kind of work I’ve volunteered my time for in my various internships and research projects – researching and cataloging the art in the gallery’s inventory. They get new pieces every day, so it will be very much like working for a museum or an auction house. I was basically offered the job on the spot (contingent on salary negotiation) and accepted this afternoon.

Finally gainfully employed – I’m so excited! I went into information work (originally Museum Studies) with the lofty idea that I would combine my love of art with my love of organization, classification, and cataloging, and find a job in a museum where I could combine these things. Being a registrar has always been a dream. This is also definitely a firm step in the right direction of being an art librarian, as I will get great experience with art research. And who knows who I will meet in the Santa Fe art community? Maybe Val Kilmer will come in and buy a painting. As long as I stay involved with the professional library side of things, I would say this is the best of both worlds.

That actually wasn’t my only interview of the day – I also survived phone interview #2 for a job at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Yes, I keep moving further south from Minnesota winters for a reason, but being close to family is definitely a compelling draw. The interview went surprisingly well. Maybe I’m getting the hang of phone interviews. I got to talk about my ideas for implementing Web 2.0 concepts in academic libraries and making ILL and circ services more pertinent and useful to patrons.

Though the phone interview and all the other hoops I’ve jumped through have been good experience (I think this will all be so much easier the next time around), I am SO GLAD to be done with this process for the time being. It is no overstatement that job searching is a full time job. I have used more ink on cover letters than all the papers I wrote in college and grad school combined.

I’ve begun a new blogging adventure as I stare towards the horizon of my looming library school graduation, move to New Mexico, and all other adventures that lie ahead.  Que sera, sera.  Today I heard back from the Institute of American Indian Arts, one of the institutions in Santa Fe where I offered up my librarian skills as a volunteer this summer.  This would be a very neat experience in digitizing their image collection, so I am quite tempted.  Of course, the Georgia O’Keeffe opportunity still gets my heart thumping as well.  Too many choices are infinitely better than none, so I will count myself lucky.

My metadata blog is still available through the blogroll, but any metadata related musings will now be penned here along with my general observations about the field, Library 2.0 and Museum 2.0, my professional development, research, and career exploration in general.

August 2020