I had a delightful moment of artistic connection in the doctor's office yesterday. (The fact that I was at the doctor was not delightful, but there was this silver lining.)
They have nice magazines at the office and I was flipping through Architectural Digest and was drawn to the images in this profile of artist Theaster Gates.
Then on the next page, there was a piece of his artwork that looked familiar. It's the piece on the lower left.
I'd just seen this piece (or one very similar) at the Tate Modern in London the week before! It stopped me, drew me in and created a lasting impression. It's made from the discarded pieces of a basketball court from a Chicago-area high school. It points to Gates' frustration with the dismantling of decent public education in Chicago, particularly for African American students.
I didn't take a picture of that piece in London. But, I did photograph this Gates piece also at the Tate.
Can you guess what it's made from?
Yes, fire hoses originally used to break up protesters fighting for civil rights. Powerful.
Clearly, these two pieces of art are quilt-like in many ways. I suppose that's part of why I am drawn to them. And yet, I don't make quilts like that. I don't piece fabric. I don't use recycled materials. I don't really explore political or provocative themes in my own work.
But, it's not about me and my work and my personal style. It's about taking the opportunity to see everything! And welcoming interesting thoughts, study and critique of art that catches my eye. Especially if it comes up repeatedly and unexpectedly.
I don't think I'll be able to track any kind of direct influence or inspiration from Theaster's work into my own work. But the fact, that it exposed me to something new is enough.
We live in a time where we have access to so much. There are so many things to explore: museums, magazines, You Tube channels, TED talks, podcasts, movies, tv, lectures, clubs, Facebook groups... the list is endless. It's the proverbial double-edged sword, right? It's easy to get over exposed and overwhelmed.
When I visited the Tate with my mom and daughter, I'd never heard of Theaster Gates. (Here we are in the Tate's cavernous central hall.)
I probably would have forgotten him if he hadn't popped up in the magazine.
I'll continue to go to museums, to flip through magazines, to peruse Pinterest, to listen to podcasts. But, I'll also try to go a little deeper occasionally. Mindless scrolling through images or aimless walks through museums seem sort of wasteful.
For now, I'll do a deep dive and learn more about Theaster.
Here are some of the resources I'm eager to explore.
Tate Modern Profile
Theaster TED talk
YouTube Art Channel profile
He's a part of Art 21
Oh, there's a bit of controversy to consider
To take this unexpected connection a little further, Theaster's work with reclaimed materials related to African American life reminds me of Hank Willis Thomas' quilts made from prison uniforms and athletic jerseys. I first saw his work on the Instagram of one of my college friends.
Is that an artist that you've discovered unexpectedly that stayed with you?