Thursday, March 18, 2010



All year long we've been hearing about how Judy Pfaff would be visiting the school this spring. She's a big name and so there was a correspondingly large build-up. We had a lottery for individual critiques and I was one of the eight lucky peeps who got to meet with Judy for half an hour.She was a delightful, and warm, guest who managed to inspire *and* frighten me.

We spent a little while talking about Pilchuck, where she has spent some time, and a bit longer talking about the central California coast and the mysticism of the Northwest. However, the first questions she asked me, right off the bat, were about my birthmark. What is it? Where did it come from? Do I know how special it is?

Then we looked at my work. We spent the most time talking about my photos and one of my new prints. "Your work lives in a place where the wind blows." She mentioned memory and romance "but not in the icky way." She was attracted to many of the same things that most people are attracted to in my work - the unexplained spaces, the strangeness, the things I don't know how to talk about. I don't always know how to make these pieces, but I always know when I've made one.

It was an intense half hour. She would interrupt me in a sly way and ask me disarmingly tangential questions: Are you married? Do you have kids? "You seem to be taking time to learn things you didn't get the chance to learn."

She stayed longer than she planned to and then when she left she blew me a kiss from the doorway.

Pfaff also gave a lecture while she was here. Her lecture was casual and sweet. She didn't use the mic "oh this is awful, can I take it off?" or laser pointer (she just walked up to the images and pointed.) I've never had the chance to see her installations in person but each image of her 3D work flattened into a beautiful painting or drawing when shown as a slide. This Flusso and Riflusso was my favorite.

Here's what she talked about that frightened and inspired me - she's never sold a single installation. She was in huge debt before she won the Macarthur fellowship and none of her installations survive intact. "Don't do that to yourself" she said. I'm afraid of more debt. I'm afraid of investing in work on that scale. BUT, I had a quick chat with Chris Barnard about my fear and he mentioned that grad school and the debt we incur here is part of how things are different for our generation of artists. SO I guess I'm already investing in work on that scale. On with the show.

The other night I re-watched the Art:21 episode that features Judy Pfaff and her work. It's the Romance episode.

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