“Artbomb is a daily online art auction featuring curated works of art from artists across Canada.”
What does it mean, to be a curator, to curate, to be curated?
The word comes from “cura”- to care, to take care of, to care for. A curate was originally a noun, not a verb, and referred to a person in the clergy who cared for the souls of the parish. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the word “curate” meant “he who was dedicated to the cure of souls.”
The word “curator” has long had the distinction of referencing a person who works in a museum, specifically with art. But its background goes a long way to understanding why there is also some mystique to the term. Today it generally refers to careful choosing, to a selective eye and inner knowledge to direct that eye. It’s a choice that moves beyond eenie meenie minie mo, to imply a knowing, an instinct, a selection process that is in itself artful. It’s not about choosing something red because the sofa is- not that there’s anything wrong with that. To me, art IS “care of the soul” and so the historical nuance of the word gives a lens into the implied gravitas of curating.
The New York Times ran a somewhat cynical column in 2009, decrying current trends to adopt the word in a variety of creative fields. “The word ‘curate,’ lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting… among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for ‘I have a discerning eye and great taste.’”
I see it fitting into any of these uses, not as a proclamation of undue importance, but to separate choosing something on a whim from a particular gift of aesthetic that is informed by passion, education or knowledge, and a certain je ne sais quoi. “The eye” is inspired, if you will, by “the soul.” You wouldn’t say someone “curated a few cans up from the beer store,” for a backyard BBQ, but if they thoughtfully considered an event and its people, then chose a unique array of beverages, then you could say the wine list was curated. The choice is only part of it- the soul is the key.
Tending to the care of the soul of the audience and the artists at ArtBomb is what our curators do. Six tremendous women from across Canada work behind the scenes to decide what to present to your inbox every day. Carrie Shibinsky, Mieka West, Karine Guyon, Vanessa Lentz, Lori Bagneres, and Jessica Hoflick select art that speaks to the range of talents in the country.
I contacted Karine (Ottawa), Vanessa (East Coast), and Lori (West Coast) to gain some insight into how they work, how they are inspired, and what drives their important work.
Lorette: What drives your curating style? How do you choose what you choose? What do you look for, and what don’t you want to see?
Karine: I am driven by diversity, edginess and experimentation. I choose works with personality, character and uniqueness.
Vanessa: Uplifting pieces- no woe is me, or pieces that are too dark in spirit. Collectors deserve to be happy when they look at a piece of art. I look for pieces that have been created with a fire burning in the artist’s heart and translate as passion in the paint.
Lori: Being an artist myself, above all I am looking for professional artists here on the Westcoast that trying to genuinely listen to an inner voice…. This voice drives them to express themselves in a particular medium – be it in painting or in sculpture or in photography. I am drawn to artists that try to hone a unique style in their personal expression and keep striving everyday to produce their art.
Lorette: What are your compliments and complaints about the Canadian art world in general?
Lori: Canada has some amazing artists that depict our natural landscapes and wildlife very well…and there are many indigenous peoples artwork that is outstanding and many of these talented artists have representation in top galleries… especially here on the west coast. But not all Canadian artists fit into this category, and Canadian art is much more than just than wildlife and natural landscape…There are excellent artists that strive to express themselves differently and uniquely through their chosen medium that don’t necessarily have gallery representation, yet their artwork deserves attention. I believe our curators at Artbomb are able to offer nation wide exposure to artists who are looking to get their work out there, and get noticed!
Vanessa: I often hear stories of how isolated the East Coast is from the large art markets of Toronto and Montreal. Showing their work on a national level is of course something that makes ArtBomb such an enticing opportunity for artists in this region.
Karine: I would like the Canadian art world in general to be more open minded and accepting of creative diversity. Our art is as diverse as our cultural backgrounds and our palette as complex as our landscape.
Lorette: What have you learned working at Art Bomb?
Lori: I love art and the process of visiting artists’ studios and learning about their art and techniques and what drives each one personally to create and produce art and craft it on a daily basis.
Vanessa: Artists are shy. Although I am always on the lookout for new talent, I think if I had to send artists a message it would be ‘to be more pro-active when it comes to their careers’. They do not need to be aggressive, but simply put themselves out there.
Karine: I have learnt more about the business aspect of art because lets face it behind the art world as we call it, there is a business and I am proud to be part of it.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Lorette is a creative working in painting, collage, photography, poetry and other writing. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review: writing and art on art and writing. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.