“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” -Plutarch
We live in an age where our minds are often packed to the bursting point with information from every direction. It is all too easy to absorb what appear to be facts only to discover that they are nothing but misinformation bundled up and packaged as the truth. We are the keepers of our own minds, and it falls on us to curate the information therein. Much like it is good practice not to allow toxins into our bodies, we should have an awareness of what we are feeding our mind and how it may be affecting our perception of the world.
Bisa Butler spoke to us from New Jersey where she maintains a studio. She has been trying to push herself to move faster and prepare work more quickly but is finding there is a struggle after the last year of disrupted workflow. Butler has two upcoming fairs to prepare for – Expo Chicago opening in October and the Untitled Fair at Miami Art Week. During the last year, Butler began working slower and more carefully. While in 2018 it might have taken her a week to quilt a portrait of a life-sized person, now it takes the better part of a month. Her detailing has become more accurate, which takes up time. She is now trying to discover a middle ground where details are good but up to an unrealistic standard of perfection. Current work is focused on the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American infantry unit. To hear more about the Hellfighters and Bisa Butler’s work, listen to the complete interview.
James Esber spoke to us from Williamsburg, Brooklyn where he spent the bulk of the pandemic. He reports that the streets of Brooklyn continued to be lively even during the shutdown, though he adds that this is not a good reflection of how businesses are doing admitting that they continue to struggle. The beginning of lockdown felt like a snow day for Esber in that he and his wife, who is also a painter, already work from home and he doesn’t mind spending time this way. As things moved on, income began to dwindle and their studio lives went through unforeseen changes. Esber likes to work on his pieces over time – often he will put a start and end date on his work and those dates can be years apart. In this way, he feels at times like he is collaborating with a younger version of himself. To hear more about James Esber’s work and process, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
The mind is sacred, our main source for understanding the world around us, treat it accordingly.
Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Bisa Butler is a fan of Octavia Butler and has recently been reading her novel Fledgling. James Esber is reading Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls.
Residency 108 is accepting applications for fall residency in NY State. In their own words:
Residency 108 invites emerging and established artists, writers and thinkers of all disciplines to immerse themselves in their creative practice. We particularly welcome those who work with nature, ecology and the installation of temporary outdoor land-art works. The residency is free apart from the cost of travel and material expenses which must be assumed by the individual.
For more information, visit the website. Residency period is from October 10 – November 7. Deadline for applications is July 18.
Brainard Carey is an author, artist and educator. He is the director of Praxis for Aesthetics. He has written six books for artists; Making it in the Art World, New Markets for Artists, The Art World Demystified, Fund Your Dreams Like a Creative Genius, Sell Online Like a Creative Genius, and Succeed with Social Media Like a Creative Genius. His book, Making it in the Art World, is available now with bonus content here.
From 24 June to 20 August 2021, Marian Goodman Gallery and Holt/Smithson Foundation will present the first exhibition of Robert Smithson’s work in the gallery’s New York space. The exhibition, Abstract Cartography, will focus on a crucial five-year period in Smithson’s development: 1966 to 1971, a time when his “inklings of earthworks” began. This careful selection of artworks will trace Smithson’s radical rethinking of what art could be and where it could be found.