Seattle Art Fair

Inside a private art studio visit

When was the last meeting you had that made you this happy?

An art collector savoring his new purchase after a studio visit

An art collector savoring his new purchase after a studio visit

When you visit an artist’s studio, you get to see whichever artworks you like, not just the one or two I’ve submitted to an art exhibit. It took a year to arrange this private meeting: not because it’s a complicated process, but because we all have lives outside of receptions and art fairs. (I know — art world blasphemy.)

Seattle Art Fair 2019

Seattle Art Fair 2019

Luckily, we ran into each other again at this year’s Seattle Art Fair. That gave us a chance to coordinate our calendars. I’m not able to do open studio hours, so I emailed him three openings in my schedule.

LMB & art collector-studio visit.jpg

This collector didn’t ask to see a specific artwork, or go down a studio visit checklist. What he asked about were the backstories: he got to know each piece. So the visit was more about recognizing the pieces he loved.

In-situ photo of “Safe/ Not Safe (Semiahmoo).” Photo credit: Diane Venti.

In-situ photo of “Safe/ Not Safe (Semiahmoo).” Photo credit: Diane Venti.

And that’s the thing: this art is going to become part of your life. So I get that it may take more than one visit for someone to find the piece that’s going to move in with you, so to speak. You can get my undivided attention via text or email. And then it’s a date… well, not a date date, but an appointment with your artwork destiny.

Three things you don't do at the Seattle Art Fair

Let’s pretend you’re more interested in the air conditioning than the art at the Seattle Art Fair. Here’s a quick etiquette lesson on three things you just… don’t… do… before you get in the door.

1. Don’t talk smack about the art. They can hear you.

Holly Ballard Martz, “Danger of Nostalgia in Wallpaper Form (in utero),” at ZINC Contemporary

Holly Ballard Martz, “Danger of Nostalgia in Wallpaper Form (in utero),” at ZINC Contemporary

Overheard at preview night, about Holly Ballard Martz’s stunning work: “It’s really abortion-y.”

Wow. That was all you got out of this installation of wire hangers, each bent by hand into the shape of a uterus? If you don’t get it, why not ask about the art? That’s what the gallery staff — and the artist — are there for, to talk to you. P.S. Holly’s less ‘abortion-y’ pieces are on the other side of the wall.

2. Don’t touch — not with your hands, butt or shoulder.

Bigert & Bergström, “Incubator for Earthquakes” (provided by the artists)

Bigert & Bergström, “Incubator for Earthquakes” (provided by the artists)

This is not a children’s museum where you get to play with the exhibits. Don’t touch the art. Even if you intend to buy it. No leaning on the booth walls, either. If you need to sit, use one of the padded benches outside the booth. (While I’m at it: Don’t touch the art in art museums, either. Slow down and breathe deeply until the urge passes.)

3. Don’t hold back on the shine.

LMB-Lisa Kokin Seager Gray duo - Copy.jpg

Wanna show your followers how amaaaaazing the art is? Go for it — and remember to tag the artist AND the gallery presenting the work. You don’t even have to type in names: take a photo of the wall text identifying the piece and post that too. This one simple action shows you know something about the art world, and you’re not just some rando who’s there for the air conditioning. Bonus: you remember the artwork better when you write something about it. Extra credit bonus: other people get to check out the artist and gallery if they like the work.

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One last thing: there will be selfie-bait. Before you take the picture, check your surroundings so you don’t back into the rest of the art. You don’t want to be that person, do you?

New work: The one who's got what you need

I’ve become obsessed with the wild foxgloves growing near my studio. What’s not to love about a plant that could either save you or kill you? So I put them in my latest altered book.

YGWIN-foxglove hat.jpg

Foxglove is poisonous — every part of it, fresh or dried. Yet it’s also the basis of a safe and effective drug to treat heart failure. Plus, it’s just pretty, in a femme fatale kind of way.

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So I began collecting items that made me think of medicine, danger and beauty, adding them to a vintage copy of the novel Black Beauty.

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Before sealing the book, I flipped through it — and found a few casually racist passages I did not remember from my childhood reading. Right next to praise of the horse’s beauty. (Yeah, I know the horse was male.)

Photo credit: Alex Nemo Hanse/Unsplash

Photo credit: Alex Nemo Hanse/Unsplash

But that contrast of praise/insult, object of desire/ beast of burden made me think of how black women are often pegged as beautiful and potentially dangerous.

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Somehow we’re powerful enough to save America from itself — and at the same time lure the country down a path of ruin. Plus there’s this weird undercurrent of entitlement too, like we’re literally here to fix the heart of America.

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I went back and forth on a few titles for this altered book, but I kept coming back to the original one: “You Got What I Need.”

Lisa Myers Bulmash, “You Got What I Need” (altered book)

Lisa Myers Bulmash, “You Got What I Need” (altered book)

Speaking of needs, I could use your help: would you share the image above, far and wide? The Seattle Art Fair is coming up next week, which means lots of eyes checking out artists like me. Even better, you can support me by tagging a gallery that has a booth at the fair. The list of participating galleries is here.