by Holly Shen Chaves
Every artist has vivid memories of the bemoaned art critique. But for most, those tedious feedback sessions with professors and fellow studio-mates are a thing of the past, a touchstone of bachelors and masters fine arts programs. But that doesn’t change the fact that thoughtful criticism is a fundamental element of artistic growth. This is what spurred Christopher Stout, a Bushwick-based artist, to launch the Bushwick Art Crit Group two months ago. The group’s first meeting took place on March 20th at Brooklyn Fireproof East and will continue to convene every other month, with the next critique session scheduled for this coming May 15th, also at BFE (scroll to bottom for more information about participating).
The mission of Bushwick Art Crit Group, self-described as, “a newly formed networking and creative development community,” is to provide Bushwick artists a nurturing environment in which to share and preview their work in order to receive feedback and creative input.
BACG is an artist-run organization and there is NO fee to present your work or attend BACG meetings. All are welcome.
Each session, six Bushwick artists give 10-minute presentations of their work using digital slides shown via projector and answer audience questions. The artists may present ANYTHING they want, and speak about their work in general, recent work, or utilize the audience to hear criticism about work they are having issues with in their studios. Meetings, which run about 70-90 minutes in length, are followed by drinks and networking in the BFPE café and bar. Participants and audience members may offer a critical eye, but are also asked to keep their questions and comments respectful, as this is intended as a community-building forum.
Debut artist participants of the inaugural session included: Linda Griggs, J.F. Lynch, Sarah Reynolds, Ian Sklarsky, Emily Wolfer, and Jeanne Tremel. To give future participants the artist’s perspective about sharing their work at an art crit, we asked each of our March participants to share a few words about their experience at BACG and what insights they gained about their own practice and work from presenting.
Our very FIRST presenter in our very FIRST meeting was painter Linda Griggs, who Stout met through the E32 art crit group in the Lower East Side, which Griggs tireless ran. Says Griggs, “I do story art and I learned I can’t count on myself to remember the stories verbatim. I have to have my notes in front of me in large format so I can read them in the dark. I also learned from sitting on the other side of the projector, how encouraging it can be to just have someone see and respond to your work. I never felt that with my own project, E32, because I was busy running the show and couldn’t relax and enjoy the moment and also because I had picked myself to be in it. It kind of doesn’t count in a way. It felt completely different to be able to be invited by Christopher and to present only as an artist. I think the time is ripe for projects like these. There’s been a lot of focus on the damaging aspects of the hyper-inflated art market which keeps artists from interacting creatively with each other. Bushwick Art Crit Group and E32 bring artists together to challenge and encourage each other, something that for many abruptly ends after art school.”
The second presentation of the evening was given by J.F. (John) Lynch, who shared his drawings. Lynch reflects, “It was wonderful having the chance to present new work to such an interested and knowledgeable group of people. It is always great to be able to come back to the studio with fresh perspectives on language, history and theory.”
Sarah Reynolds, the third artist to participate, also previewed new drawings, and the audience seemed to enjoy being able to compare and contrast the two drawing presentations given back-to-back. Writes Reynolds of the experience, “I often find myself wanting my work to speak for itself without the assistance of me explaining the concept. When I was asked to participate in the first BACG Art Crit, I forced myself to dig deep to find some of my truer intentions for my work. Thus, realizing my childhood goal of becoming a surgeon and my previous bouts with OCD had greatly guided my love for charcoal and my refined aesthetic.”
The fourth presentation was given by Ian Sklarsky, who works in illustration, specifically with blind contour drawing. Ian recounts his participation, “Reaching out to an art community is something I NEED. This was a fantastic night to present, and while it was my first time in a while, I felt everyone showed amazing work. As we explained our art, I felt everyone engaged in the method and slides, it was a great night to meet so many wonderful artists and to expand into a new world of community.”
Painter and assemblage sculptress Jeanne Tremel, whose studio is in Brooklyn Fire Proof East, also had a positive experience, “My approach to talking about my work is nearly the same approach as doing the work – the paintings & sculpture - which is really ‘play.’ I just wing it, awkwardness and all, and hope the mix invites a response. What I appreciated about the evening was the presenters’ genuine-ness and the audience warmth and receptiveness – the sense of community being the goal.”
Bushwick Art Crit Group meets again on Wednesday May 15th at 7pm in the gallery at Brooklyn Fire Proof East.
For May, BACG will have a SPECIAL program specifically tailored for artists who are participating in Arts in Bushwick Open Studios.
Please join us and support your local artists in Bushwick!