Michelle Gomez | I am not the only one in the position of leadership; the community and artists are active participants and leaders in shaping the exhibition’s results

Michelle Gomez | I am not the only one in the position of leadership; the community and artists are active participants and leaders in shaping the exhibition’s results

Without saying too much to ruin the moment I’ll say this- it gives me great pleasure to bring everyone our first interview within the art form of curating! Not only does this artist create within a wide variety of mediums herself, but she recently earned her BFA in General Fine Arts with a concentration in Curatorial Studies, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Curatorial Practice. She is dedicated to finding new ways to explore and present artists and their work. This interview dives into her approach to doing so, as well as her understanding of the position and its responsibilities overall. IVYbetty, soak up some #Insight from  Michelle Gomez.

It’s very interesting to be in a position of leadership such as yours where decisions must be made that involve people’s passion. It’s their blood sweat and tears; it’s their art! I want to dive into that more, but can you comment on what that position feels like and how you approach such a responsibility?

Being in a position of leadership is a thrill for me because I get to utilize my strengths: my social skills, my willingness to connect people and organize ideas in order to facilitate opportunities for artists to show their work and participate in programs or projects.

I was trained as an artist and have practiced art for many years, so I sympathize with artists. I understand how their minds work, and how much patience, dedication, effort and personal connectivity it requires to create artwork. I try my best to accurately narrate their work. In order to do this well, I make sure to get to know the artist on a personal level. This involves meeting with them in person, doing studio visits and most importantly, just hanging out and picking their brains! I love to ask personal questions about their histories and unconscious thoughts so that I can fully understand the way their mind works, why they use specific materials and most importantly, know their intentions.The big question I always ask artists is…why? Why do you create? Why do you use these materials? What do you want to communicate? It is a huge responsibility to communicate their ideas, and I take that responsibility very seriously. This requires careful dialogue in order to understand the artist’s intention, and sharing with them what I have written about them and their work.

Another socially engaged exhibition I am working on is my “Thesis” (Working title) opening in May of 2014. I have been doing intensive fieldwork and research within the Latino community of Baltimore since January of 2013 to inform my “Thesis”. In partnership with MD Traditions, this “Thesis” will explore the traditions and cultural identity of Latinos in the Upper Fells Point neighborhood—the center of Baltimore’s growing Latino communities. Through volunteering, interviews and attending community events, I have developed relationships with locals who would like to be a part of my focus group. The focus group will determine the concept and physical form of the exhibition. The result is a co-creative project that will be produced in collaboration with the Latino community in order to address their wants and needs, identify and celebrate expressive cultural Latino traditions in Baltimore, and to foster more profound understandings of Latino artistic expressions and culture in Baltimore.

“Imagine that curating is like a blank canvas…there are an infinite amount of possibilities, with the world as your palette, but the final product is unknown because you can never really tell what the artwork will look like in one day, two months or 5 years.”

These two projects are very different from the more traditional gallery exhibitions I have curated at venues such as Miami’s ArtSeen Gallery or the Creative Alliance and School 33 Art Center in Baltimore. Both “CONGREGATE” and my “Thesis” are challenging and risky because I do not know what the final outcome will be, but that’s what makes my work most exciting. I am not the only one in the position of leadership; the community and artists are active participants and leaders in shaping the exhibition’s results. This is teamwork. Who said collaborating would be easy? But that is the fun part!

 Your education at MICA gave you a great foundation for understanding and appreciating artwork on a deeper level than most. Your studies at MICA provide much knowledge; but some things cannot be taught, just as some works you may not “understand.” That’s where appreciation plays a huge role. In your work are there times where you lean on appreciation rather than understanding to make choices? Would you call that a risk/ gamble?

All of my work comes from relying on a balance between appreciation and understanding. The appreciation of an artwork is the beginning step to understanding a work of art. Many of the artists that I include in programs have been chosen because I appreciate what they do and I know that others can appreciate it as well. Although I cannot read people’s minds, I follow my intuition by putting myself in other people’s shoes to predict whether or not an audience may or may not appreciate the work. I look at the content, determine how accessible the concept is, and how the material expresses the content.

With the recent socially engaged exhibitions I described above, all of the decisions I make are in some way a risk because the final outcome is unknown. Imagine that curating is like a blank canvas…there are an infinite amount of possibilities, with the world as your palette, but the final product is unknown because you can never really tell what the artwork will look like in one day, two months or 5 years. This is how I view my recent projects, they are works in progress that can go in so many different directions, but I have to follow my gut and trust the skills I have gained from academic courses to produce something I can be proud of.

I once included an artist in an exhibition that many people felt lacked aesthetic and technical skills. I really did appreciate this artist’s past work and convinced them that the artist has potential to make great work and develop better skills through the project. Believing in someone’s potential is so important, because if you believe they can become a great artist, most of the time they will. I trusted my gut on that one, and although it was a risk, I am glad I chose the artist because the artist is doing so well now.

Creating art oneself is a valuable aid in how we perceive other works. I mentioned it to you previously, but I am a fan of your work and how it expresses the nuances of human nature so objectively. Please articulate for me where you notice the biggest boost in how you perform as a curator from the experience of creating your own art?

I consider myself to be an artist-curator; One way of thinking informs the other. The two roles in my mind naturally co-exist as characters. The curator makes decisions on how I present my artwork, how I write about it and how I organize my concepts and series. The curator pulls the artist out of an overwhelming pool of thoughts and feelings and helps the artist to analyze why there is a desire to create and how best to express those desires, thoughts and personal experiences. The artist tells the curator that it is ok to be creative, let go of tradition and encourages the curator to challenge herself and continue experimenting

In 2013, I have grown tremendously as a curator because I became ok with thinking outside of the box (literally!). This has allowed me to embrace creativity and take risks. I have learned to accept my mistakes, be open to failure and apply what I have learned from those mistakes to all future endeavors. I am still working on trying to be more “present” because I am always living in the future which includes planning ahead and thinking too much about new ideas. I need to slow down sometimes!

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