“What might it do for Wyoming to have a museum, foundation, or arts council that cultivated our artists the way SFMOMA does for those of the Bay Area? We have amazing artists hiding out all over the state, and their work goes uncelebrated, their potential undeveloped.” ~ Wyoming Artist
“I need to be SECA seen!” ~ Ben Roth
I appreciated Janet Bishops’s enthusiasm and and strong contentions regarding what SFMOMA does for artists in her town. An academic, she was down to earth and eager. Several exceptionally good questions were asked, and Bishop’s hour-long, Art Association January 25th talk was a phenomenal information opportunity. Yes, she had programs to promote, and she made it clear she was not here to cultivate Jackson artists. That is more than okay, and who knows? Some years from now a Jackson artist could be exhibiting at SFMOMA.
“We think of SFMOMA as having a local, national and international focus. So we’re interested in work from all over the world for audiences in San Francisco to see, but I feel like as a curator I have a very different commitment to emerging art being made there than I would emerging art being made anywhere else. One of the greatest aspects of living there is that it’s a tremendously creative place and to be able to offer opportunities for young artists who are part of the cultural life in our region has happened in all kinds of different ways,” said Bishop.
Bishop was especially proud of one of the museum’s major programs, The Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art, or SECA. It’s a model Wyoming may consider emulating. My only caveat would be that this program not only seek out undiscovered “contemporary” or “modern” artists—but that it search for artists working in all traditions.
SECA is is a group of art patrons, curators and artists on the hunt for the most interesting work being made locally; in their case, that means the greater San Francisco area. SECA receives hundreds of artists submissions every year, and from those the group chooses 30 or so artists to visit. The SECA group “loads up on a bus” on Saturdays and visits these artists in their studios. SECA members discuss what they’ve seen, repeating the process until all artists have been visited. From there, several artists are chosen and featured in an SFMOMA exhibition.
“We’ve now honored dozens of artists through this process,” said Bishop. “But what I appreciate is the ripple effect, the way that artists who may or may not have been selected for the awards build relationships with those of us who have gone to their studios; we might invite artists back for other exhibitions, bring them into our pubic program….one of our recent award winners grew up in Spain and did her masters at Mills College in Oakland; she created an incredible piece, consisting of a veil of looped scotch tape; so it was scotch tape, sticky side out, stuck to itself, in all these loops, that hung a few inches from the wall on countless pins. At 20 feet wide, it’s a thick cloud. That work has been in the building for 10 years.”
Mario Botta, SFMOMA’s original architect, met the artist, Rosanna Castrillo Diaz, at a SECA opening. Despite their very different sensibilities, the two enjoyed “a love fest in three languages,” a memorable, successful moment. Diaz was commissioned to do a mural for SFMOMA’s 90-foot long bridge connecting the main building to its rooftop garden.
“A fantastic piece,” Bishop emphasized. “And we may never have known about her if we’d not visited, via SECA. She didn’t have a gallery yet, and she subsequently got offers from four galleries wanting to work with her.”
Congratulations and huge thanks to the Art Association for bringing Janet Bishop to speak! Great job. www.artassociation.org