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Diary of an Art Historian

By: Becky Hunter

Journalling my AHRC funded MA in History of Art (leading to PhD)... Focusing on Agnes Martin, art and theory of the 1960s... I also write on contemporary art, draw, paint and am setting up a gallery in West Philadelphia, USA...

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Becky Hunter, 'possible suspended grid', Sept 2009. This could be exciting to photograph using different exposures and angles. At some points it would probably disappear completely. 

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Becky Hunter, 'possible suspended grid', Sept 2009. This could be exciting to photograph using different exposures and angles. At some points it would probably disappear completely. 

# 21 [5 September 2009]

Idea for suspended thread or rope grid in the nature reserve. Sketchbook page image. 

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Hi, your drawing seems to have deve,oped into a 3D form, or are the grids still seen as a drawing fixed in situ?

posted on 2009-09-06 by Anthony Boswell

Becky Hunter, 'nature walk', photograph, August 2009.

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Becky Hunter, 'nature walk', photograph, August 2009.

# 22 [18 November 2009]

A full time MA in History of Art is exhausting! I'm feeling frustrated that there's no time to make art, or to rest properly. I've been out walking this morning at St Nicholas Fields conservation site near where I live, partly to have space to think about what to do... I want to use this blog to keep engaging with some kind of art practice while I'm studying. 

Keeping an art practice going while studying full time must be possible. It has to be, if I'm to begin a PhD in History of Art next September but don't want to lose my creative core. I'm going to make a commitment to blogging once a week (but trying to keep off the internet otherwise!) and to try to give one day per week to making art. I'm going to set a goal of exhibiting something in June 2010 so that there's an end point in sight, to focus on. 

Right... going to find some inspirational images and get drawing.

Becky Hunter, 'test piece', folded newspaper, cardboard, glue, november 2009.

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Becky Hunter, 'test piece', folded newspaper, cardboard, glue, november 2009.

Becky Hunter, 'plate ', plate, graphite, august 2009. experimenting with lines

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Becky Hunter, 'plate ', plate, graphite, august 2009. experimenting with lines

# 23 [29 November 2009]

CRITICAL WRITING: My most recent review of 'Dance With Camera', an exhibition at the Philadelphia ICA concerned with the past forty years of dance and film/video collaborations is up on my portfolio and can also be read on the beautiful, soft paper of the brilliant contemporary art publication MAP Magazine.

ART HISTORY: My MA and future PhD plans are pretty demanding on my time at present. Have written my first draft PhD research statement on classical and materialist interpretations of Agnes Martin's grids. Today I'm writing a coursework essay critiquing Briony Fer's recent lecture at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, on Eva Hesse's test-pieces or Studioworks. 

ART PRACTICE: Have taken up drawing and making almost nothings again and am committed to working a little each day. My work is now included on the Centre For Recent Drawing's online community page, perhaps something interesting will come of this. Will try to update once a week with progress on art activities.

Becky Hunter, 'sketch', cardboard, pencil, November 2009. perhaps this counts as a studiowork - Fer's new term for experiments made in the studio but not intended to be exhibited

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Becky Hunter, 'sketch', cardboard, pencil, November 2009. perhaps this counts as a studiowork - Fer's new term for experiments made in the studio but not intended to be exhibited

# 24 [7 December 2009]

ART: Have committed to drawing for 30 minutes per day in an attempt to refresh my skills in this area. I hope this time I can keep it up! I've been shading recently. Will try and post some examples and thoughts once a week though I may cringe with shame to begin with...

ART HISTORY: Finished writing a critique of a lecture by Briony Fer, my supervisor at York University liked it a lot, I might post it on my website, or on here. The Fruitmarket's Eva Hesse conference, at which the lecture was presented, was excellent and its effects are still resonating in my brain and throughout my tactile senses. Have also almost finalised my PhD application statement and essay, a scary business, but one that I hope will pay off and lead to exciting intellectual challenges and friendships in the near future. 

WRITING: Am very happy with the two most recent pieces I've had published (see them at my portfolio) and am going to set aside a little time this week to look for new outlets for my critical writing. Will update on any successes.

 

Becky Hunter, 'beginning of a copy of a photograph', january 2010.

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Becky Hunter, 'beginning of a copy of a photograph', january 2010.

# 25 [9 January 2010]

ART: Operation hone drawing skills is still underway... have started something tiny (a drawing from a photograph of one of Rosetti's models) so that it doesn't seem like an unmanageable task and will post the results when it's done. Still trying to figure out how to continue an art practice while studying full time. I'm glad that the desire to persevere keeps on surfacing and that friends are encouraging me to carry on in spare moments! A friend has recently set up a textile business and has been coaxing me back into creative things. 

PHD: Have submitted my Art History PhD proposals to the USA and may start my UK applications this month. 

 

Becky Hunter, 'new drawing in progress', January 2010.

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Becky Hunter, 'new drawing in progress', January 2010.

Becky Hunter

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# 26 [11 January 2010]

DRAWING: Developments of a current drawing from a photograph of one of Rosetti's models. 

Philadelphia ICA, Becky Hunter, 'Dance With Camera Review', MAP Magazine, Winter 2009. As an example of my writerly ways, here's a scan of a recent review of a marvellous show at Philadelphia ICA. Curated by Jennelle Porter, 'Dance with Camera', 2009.

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Philadelphia ICA, Becky Hunter, 'Dance With Camera Review', MAP Magazine, Winter 2009. As an example of my writerly ways, here's a scan of a recent review of a marvellous show at Philadelphia ICA. Curated by Jennelle Porter, 'Dance with Camera', 2009.

# 27 [11 March 2010]

I think the title of my blog here on [a-n] might change to 'making words to think about things'.

As I'm studying full time and getting writing published elsewhere the 'writing' part of my practice is coming to the fore and I'm starting to think I'd like to make a living that way... I'll keep you updated on how that goes... (I reckon it's ok to be on [a-n] as someone negotiating an artistic-historical-writerly practice that seems to be slowly drifting away from making things of my own... that's kind of sad... but I'm working on the premise that everything has its season.)

On that note, I'm getting interested in the written work of Lucy Lippard, both in terms of her gradual acceptance of feminism (of personal interest to me right now) and in her transformation into a kind of visual-word artist. Though she often moved in the 1960s and 70s art world as a kind of prototype, all-powerful contemporary curator, to me she seems much more of an artist in the way she created catalogues in the form of boxed index cards or made random selections from encyclopedias to accompany artist biographies. I'm also trying to get hold of her 'novel' I See, You Mean, from the late seventies as I've heard it's a wonderful example of

While I'm here, I'd also like to signpost a a new piece of published writing on Axis Web that has generated loads of debate in the comments.. which makes me very happy... and has really brought out the nuances of the issue (namely, 'Is all art politically useless?') from philosophical, artistic and art historical viewpoints.

One last thing! I've started blogging more regularly (and academically) on my portfolio website and next week (Monday to Friday) is going to be MONOCHROME WEEK as I'm currently researching an essay around that topic. So if you have any interest in that area, I warmly invite you to come along to my academic site and join in the debate :)

Oh, ps - you can also follow me on Twitter, how exciting, entry into the digital information whizzy landscape.

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Hi Becky, thanks for introducing me to your blog. I found it particularly interesting, as I too have had similar thoughts about making a living as a writer (although I'm aware I'll need some practice and I'm not even sure whether I'm any good or not). Writing, especially on this blog, has become gradually more important in this final semester, and I'm finding that I'm spending increasing amounts of time on it. So, the article... Although it doesn't relate to my practice, I did find it interesting to read as the Jenny Holzer exhibition has just opened at Baltic. Her work has obvious political tones; the redaction paintings, the LED sculptures and the edited classified documents; with sources ranging from emails between US Military officials, emails discussing the interest in oil as the cause of the conflict, and documents regarding prisoner questioning methods. All are very current issues that we hear about almost daily on the news; yet while I heard an “Ooh it’s making me feel sick” comment from one viewer, I don’t think Holzer had hit a nerve, I think the flashing text just made the viewers eyes feel uncomfortable. It is this point that encourages me to agree with “If ‘political’ shows usually, dishearteningly, reflect on art’s impotence or distract us with flashy displays, then artists, galleries and their audiences are in serious trouble.” The other point I’d like to address is “Or does it just reduce the anarchistic spirit to aesthetics and art dollars?” While Holzer’s Truisms were out on the street, make-shift and in hard to ignore, we are now seeing a shift in presentation. Not only is the new work shown inside an institution, reducing the amount of people the message reaches, but the production values; the expense and technical expertise required to present the works; are almost more worthy of note. By touring the show and bringing it to my city, it makes me feel as though I’m not as far removed from the political issues as I thought I wa

posted on 2010-03-11 by Nathalie Bouleau Chabot

# 28 [20 March 2010]

I have been mostly taken up with reading for, and planning, essays... I'm particularly excited about my current work on Cornelia Parker's 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View'. It's been interesting to think about it in terms of the modernist tropes of the grid and the monochrome.

While Parker's installation is neither grid nor monochrome, its photographic documentation tends to present it as a dramatic black mass and it is hung from a wire ceiling support (in a gird shape). Its elements are actually carefuly ordered around the central lightbulb, starting with the tiniest fragment and expanding outwards to the largest sections of broken down shed - which form cross and grid shapes like barriers between the viewer and the work.

In particular I've been looking at Briony Fer and Rosalind Krauss's writing on avant-garde originality and sequence. Both art historians are concerned with the fiction of origins, found in grids and monochrome works by artists such as Malevich.

By origins, Fer and Krauss mean both the artist as a unique creative genius, whose super self manifests unique works of art, and also the idea of the monochrome or grid as a radical paring down or peeling back of the picture to it 'original' or basic rectangular shape. Of course, both historians are highly suspiscious of these modernist beliefs. (I might go into this more if people are interested?)

To me, Parker's presentation of a huge, frozen explosion in Cold Dark Matter harks back to these ideas of artistic origins, albeit in a rather slapstick or parodic idiom. I will be exploring in my essay what it is that Cold Dark Matter might help us to think about earlier art historical reliance on the idea of the original.   

It would be interesting to hear from artists that are blogging on a-n who consider their contemporary practice in terms of an ongoing dialogue with modernist thought, figures or forms - this might be critical or pleasure-driven, or a form of re-working for the contemporary moment.

Please do get in touch as I'd like to do more work on this in the future.

ps - I'm really enjoying being on twitter. Following AxisWeb is especially helpful as they signpost interesting events and opportunities... I also hooked up with the wonderful Miro Dance Theatre in Philadelphia. Love being international!

pps - I have ordered Lucy Lippard's novel, mentioned in my previous post, so will write more about that when it arrives. Can't wait :)

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Hi Becky, thought you might like this exhibition....http://www.gvart.co.uk/

posted on 2010-04-17 by Nathalie Bouleau Chabot

# 29 [29 March 2010]

A friend told me a while ago that one of the most worthwhile human characteristics is resilience. I've recently come to believe this is so. Having been rejected (albeit with the nicest possible letters on creamy, thick, embossed paper) from several US graduate schools and not having applied for UK PhDs this year, I'm attempting to bounce back with a bright new idea to get me through next year, before the round of doctoral research proposals begins again!

So... I've started writing a business plan with the help of Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed's excellent template (http://www.yfsentrepreneur.com/2009/12/dream-by-da... - totally recommended for getting a new, inspiring perspective on your business, whether you're an artist or a maker of widgets). I will be a critical and informed freelance art writer and speaker for hire, specialising in relationships between contemporary and modernist art practice and theory and a passionate approach to my subject (sympathetic towards artists), combined with a cutting criticality that's not afraid to be true to my artistic values.

I must admit that I've been inspired lately more by writers and designers with an online presence, work ethic and enthusiasm, rather than by art world figures. Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet and Molly Crabapple are three current role models - intellient, articulate and talented, and making a fulltime living from their writing/visual practice. I wonder how other people here at [a-n] feel about this. Do you have mentors, models or support groups, or work more through intuition, or reading up on stuff? Doy you feel that artists should be concerned with business to a similar extent as more mainstream visual professions such as graphic design? I'm really interested as I sometimes feel as if I'm betraying myself in some way by focusing on how to earn a living rather than on creative flow.

NEWS: Upcoming Lectures:

- May - Lecture on Felix Gonzales Torres at MIMA, Middlesbrough

- June - Lecture on Agnes Martin at Empty Shop Gallery, Durham City, and at the University of York

(More info will be given when dates are confirmed)

# 30 [4 April 2010]

I went to see my University careers adviser last week. Partly, I went as a distraction from my impending essay deadlines, however it an was eye-opening, practical and exciting meeting. The focus was on making more of my writing and critical abilities to actually make money, thereby having more freedom to travel and to support my studies - or even, dare I say it, art practice - in the future.

I summarised the basic, but great, advice in a recent blog post. Even though it's obvious stuff, it is far more motivating to speak to an actual person about your life plans than to simply makes notes in your Moleskine. It might be of use to artists too.

While writing my post I found myself feeling creeplngly guilty about a) working hard and b) seeking to find out about such slimy things as networking and taxes. However, this is practical life stuff, right?

As a teenager, I spent a lot of my spare time making art and music and writing for free, for joy, hanging out with artists, reading about art and philosophy. I was so idealistic about these things. I have been feeling restless lately and have been thinking about the past. Shouldn't artists have some kind of freedom from these slippery concerns - or at least be more interested in the integrity of their work than pleasing people? How ought money and art to relate?

I would love to hear from any other artists or writers out there and how you navigate this tricky area.

 

 

 

 

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Becky Hunter

Art historian in training, writer, guitar player, learning to draw, setting up an exciting project space in West Philadelphia.

www.beckyhunter.co.uk