Sometimes an artist’s day job can result in enriching her or his work. You can watch this happening 23 separate times in the Drawing Center’s current exhibition, "Day Job," on view Dec. 10, 2010-Feb. 3, 2011.
Like several other alternative spaces, the Drawing Center has a well-established artists’ registry, where curators and other interested parties can survey the works of artists in the file. The curator of that program, Nina Katchadourian, an artist herself, recently put out a call for statements about how artists’ day jobs influenced their esthetic. The results, culled from more than 300 responses, include the artists’ statements and examples of their work.
This is one show where the wall texts are almost as interesting as the works on view.
Take Raul J. Mendez from Miami, Florida. His drawing Vexingly Placeless (2007) shows a series of conceptual spaces, linked and on stilts, right in front of a body of water with black sky in the distance. The tiny people inhabiting this odd world were conjured, at least in part, from his looking down on the landscape while piloting a cargo jet. His travel and the photos, videos and drawings that resulted from it are other factors in his work, according to his statement.
For Julia Oldham, making science videos with her father, a physicist, allowed her to work with two other physicists on performances and narrative artworks, like her video Frustration (2010). In Frustration, Oldham records in diagrams a theory from physics involving a theory of instability between neighboring particles in opposite states. She and her two collaborators end up being the "particles" in this experiment, which she narrates while drawing triangular diagrams.
Many of the artists have jobs relating to art in some way. Harvey Tulcensky, an art handler at the Museum of Modern Art, started working in accordion-style notebooks, taking his art with him to his day job. Whenever he had a moment free, he would make small strokes on one of the small, connected notepapers that, when added together, end up being, according to the artist, "a museum within a museum."
Want to see some of the characters that you have to deal with in a public university art department? Look at Dawn Hunter’s Art Department (2009). This 60 x 80 in. acrylic and ink drawing highlights the individual identities that collide in such a hotbed of artistic fervor.
Medical illustrator Roberto Osti puts his illustration skills to good use in his flayed, eyeball-popping Shaman in Spring (2008).
Tom Hooper, the "master scenic artist" for the soap opera One Life To Live, supplies faux finishes for the sets, creates works for a character who’s an artist, and generates computer graphics among various other duties. He brought his own art-making to the studio by working on a large illustration board that catches all the spills, sketches and paint tests. At the end of the day, when his job disappears, what’s left becomes his art.
For Caroline Falby, her day job is as mother of twins, and for her artworks she incorporates figures and tropes from her twin sons’ storybooks and some of their toys -- as well as her own anxieties about the world they were growing into -- in her "Changling" series. One drawing has a wave of menacing elves. She mentions the "war against terror" and Grimm’s "German Mythology" with its warnings of how mothers might best protect their infants from elves abducting them.
No matter what the job -- jewelry-designer, mat-cutter, digital photo-retoucher, landscape architect -- you’ll be charmed and inspired by how these artists translate their day jobs into art. Kudos for curator Nina Katchadourian.
Group Show, "Day Job" Dec. 10, 2010-Feb. 3, 2011, at the Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10013
N.F. KARLINS is a New York critic and art historian.