Why curate?

Over the past few years I have been in quite a few group shows and about a year ago after walking through a disappointing season in Chelsea and attending a number of disorganized exhibits I decided to begin curating myself.  My opinion is that fiber exhibitions can be just as exciting, well hung, relevant, and cohesive as the best group exhibits out there- but I just was not finding enough shows that were.

Image from Brooklyn exhibit Connective Thread, with works by Sarah Bahr, Stacy Renee Morrison & Simone Meltesen.

I feel like as fiber artists if we want our work to be seen as just as valuable and as important as more “accepted” fine art mediums we have to showcase the work with just as much care and integrity.  Too frequently I see fiber exhibits that have TONS of work on the walls that are  hung somewhat haphazard making no relationship from one piece to the next except they are fiber.  Painting shows are never just hung without creating relationships- the fact that they are painted is not enough reason to hang them together so why should it be that way for fiber. Fiber work can need just as much breathing room and make just as much of a compelling statement if not more.

Kimberly Hennessy & Jen Prather

In the contemporary art world it has become not just about the individual pieces but about the statement and voice of the curator and the voice of the art world as a community.

Installation view of Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 16, 2006–February 11, 2007). Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

I was blown away when I saw the solo exhibit of Kiki Smith at the Whitney a few years back and that is when I realized what a good curator can do for the art.  Kiki is a VERY prolific artist and works with tons of mediums and has an archive of work that dates back to 30 years ago.  But the curator’s laid out the work in such a thoughtful  way that you could truly experience how Kiki has developed as an artist both technically and emotionally while increasing the personal experience of the viewer as they walked through. It was more creatively done then just laying out the show by date and ended up evoking an incredible respect and appreciation for Kiki’s work.  In seeing this exhibition so well done I thought “why aren’t more curators doing this?” and ” Why can’t small spaces have just as well designed and put together shows as a museum?”

Image from the Stitch Spectacular opening.

Then I applied to be in the show Stitch Spectacular curated by Rubi McGrory and  Karin Soderholm .  2 artist’s taking the reins into their own hands and putting together a fiber show the way they wanted to see it done. I was so inspired by their professionalism in curating the exhibit and realized I could do that here in NY.

Image during the performance of Marcy Chevali at from the tongue…

Since then I have curated 3 highly succesful fiber exhibits and am so excited to have been invited to curate the first exhibit at the Textile Arts Center.  I have found curating to be just as creative and fulfilling to me, as an artist & creative person, as my own work because the exhibitions that I curate reflect me as much as they do the work in it.  And this is why I continue to do it.

work at from the tongue… by Mary Coss and Jee Hwang.

People are often surprised that I do not even look at the submitted work until  ALL the submissions are in.  My style as a curator is to create a connection from work to work to work.  The connection may vary from emotional, to thematic, to aesthetic but it connects, at least I hope.  So I can never know what form that connection will take until I have all the images in front of me and I start making them.  It’s kind of like the coolest puzzle ever.  Personally, I feel like someone else’s work can make you see another artists work in a more profound or new way.  For instance if you see a Tracy Emin quilt work hanging next to a traditional quilt by a folk artist or by a Ghada Amer embroidery the context and experience changes completely. Perhaps both work but they creat a very different relationship.

quilt by Tracey Emin.

I hope that as I curate I select work that speaks both individually and collectively. I am still new at this and learning as I go but am happy to be exposed to and trusted with so much amazing fiber work.  By far the best part of curating is getting to meet and work with so many amazing people and I never run out of artists that make me want to curate again.

Submit your work to the premier exhibit of the Textile Arts Center. Deadline is August 20th so get your submissions in. Details here.

You can see my curatorial blog and images from my 2 most recent shows here.

Until next time keep your needle threaded!

Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.