The talk with Dianna Molzan and Alex Olson was disappointing. This event demonstrated to me the importance of artists to be able to comfortably and articulately talk about their work. Eric Crosby, one of the curators of the show at the Walker, asked long, sometimes rambling questions for which the two artists seemed ill-prepared. With some exceptions, the artists seemed uncomfortable and unforthcoming. It is too bad that the three participants apparently did not discuss ahead of time what types of subjects they might talk about. The artists were at their best when talking very specifically and tangibly about their work, yet it seemed as if Crosby was not able to latch onto that and guide the conversation to more depth. There were awkward silences and cringe-worthy moments when the artists were nearly squirming in their seats, or even laughing nervously, and Crosby did nothing to make them feel more at ease, despite their obvious off-stage congeniality. This was topped off by Crosby's onstage computer fumbling. I expected more out of a Walker sponsored event.
As one audience member pointed out, it was odd that no images of the artists' work were shown until by request at the end. If that was not the plan, it would have been fine, but seemed to me it is a common expectation even when not the focus of the event, and should have been acknowledged up-front.
During the Q&A, another audience member who said she had been to all the talks related to the Painter Painter exhibit asked for the artists to share their opinions about some of the other work shown, what they liked and what challenged them. All three on stage made this woman feel like a jerk for asking her question. Their lack of grace and complete avoidance of the question left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The woman's question was perhaps poorly worded, but in such a forum it was Crosby's job to frame it in such a way as to honor the asker and allow room for the artists to answer. Major fail! The woman was not at all asking them to "trash another artist's work." I am wondering why they did not talk about what really grabbed them in the show,. Surely another artist would not be offended by having their work publicly admired. Or, better, to just talk about the commonalities among all the work that were important to them. Or maybe some aspect from one or more of the other pieces that has brought them new insight as far as their own work. There are so many ways they could have answered the question that would have been interesting to the audience. But instead they shamed the audience member.
There were a few good morsels that came out of the talk. One was when Molzan said how she wants her work to be "pleasurable" and how that differs from "tranquilizing" or "dumb." To her it means that the senses are heightened and the viewer is engaged. I wish they had explored this topic more in the context of not just her work, but of today's trends in contemporary art in general.
Although the artists didn't latch onto it, I liked Crosby's question about style. He called it a "taboo subject" for many people, and wondered aloud whether we, as a society, have the vocabulary to discuss art as we once could and did, whether we don't "stretch our style muscle" anymore. I thought this could have led into some really interesting conversation, but it didn't go far. Crosby thought of style in very general terms, defining it as "the way of treating the content." Olson said she does not think in terms of style, and is not at all concerned with it, yet did say if something becomes too "stylized" she knows it is time to move to something else. Molzan said she uses style purposefully but not ironically," and that "you can't be too stylish." "Style," as Crosby defined it, and being "stylized" or stylish, are all different things. I would have especially liked to hear more about Molzan's comment of purposeful use of style and using it (or not) ironically.
March 16, 2013