Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Howard Singerman's Art Subjects

I recently posted about graduate schools, and the lists that are associated with finding the best school for you. I was going through my stacks of books today and came across something I read a few years ago. Howard Singerman, a professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, holds both an MFA in sculpture, and a Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies, so he confronts the issue of art students from many angles - artist, art historian, student, teacher. With his book, "Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University", Singerman tries to unravel the notion of how graduate programs (MFA programs) shape and define artists, artworks, and art movements. If you are considering a graduate program, or are anyway involved in the teaching of artists - this is a critical book for you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

craigslist, etc.

One of the resources that I use all of the time is Craigslist. Although it's not intended for artists, and it's not the most sophisticated artist material, it turns out to be helpful over and over again.

Most towns/regions in the US have Craigslist sites, and I'm sure most of you have used it, whether to find an apartment or sell furniture. But Craigslist can also be a great tool to find jobs, hire actors/models/assistants, and find really odd materials and services.

Also, a new site that I recently saw, called Padmapper, combines Craigslist rental/apartment listings and combines it with Google Maps. You can filter on what your specifications, then see where the actual locations are - helpful if you don't really want to get stuck with your studio far from subways, hardware stores, etc.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Widely considered to be the Bible of the art world, the publication ArtForum covers the international art scene on a monthly basis. Founded in 1962 in San Francisco, the office is now located in New York.

ArtForum employs some of the world's best art writers, who cover and review exhibitions and other art events. There are features including "top ten lists", Scene & Heard, and 500 Words.

Over the years, ArtForum has become thicker and thicker (a constant topic of discussion), with much of the magazine consisting of advertisem
ents. The ads, however, are typically for current and upcoming exhibitions, so they end up being really interesting and informational.

If you are anyone who is interested in contemporary art, you surely have heard of ArtForum, and may very well be an avid reader. While it may be impossible to read every current issue due to the volume of material, and there are certainly other excellent new and smaller publications, ArtForum remains the best source.

Friday, June 12, 2009

US News & World Report

Every year the US News & World report comes out with their list of the best graduate schools in the country. With the rest of the categories, they feature the best Fine Art programs, and further divide the list down into categories (i.e. Sculpture, Photography, etc.).

Now, a lot of people place a lot of importance in these types of ranking systems and hold them to be gospel. The truth of the matter is that the ranking systems for choosing these schools is based on many criteria that tend to give a general idea about the best. They send out surveys to current art professionals and professors - some of which send the surveys back. One theory is that alums or professors of the truly great schools may be too prolific or busy to answer the survey, or that some schools "strongly encourage" the surveys to be filled out.

The rankings also tend to take more value in physical considerations like studios, facilities, student:teacher ratios than other criteria that are harder to judge. For example, one school may have a great woodshop, while another is known for their stellar visiting artist program - the visiting artist program is very hard to put a numerical value on.

To give a specific example, this year's list ranks the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as the best Sculpture M.F.A. program as 1st, Yale School of Art as 2nd, UCLA as 6th and Columbia as 9th. While it is true that VCU has incredible facilities, great shops, and a really good specific program, the overwhelming majority of the art world would consider Yale, Columbia, and UCLA to be much higher ranked. Yale sculpture is known for their rigorous critique program and conceptually theoretical philosophy, Columbia is in New York - projecting many grads into stardom, and UCLA's faculty simply is astonishing.

So as advice - use these rankings as a general idea for the best grouping of schools in the nation - but don't take too much stock in who's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The simple fact of the matter is that they don't mean much. So if you're looking for a graduate program, just make sure you are really ready to go (and not just for a piece of paper, but to be open to learning and growing as a young artist) - and look into schools that you think would fit with what you're looking for.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book swapping

As an artist, I have an overwhelming collection of books - some of them art books, some philosophy, a fair amount of fiction, collections of essays, and a sprinkling of historical biographies. I try to get more and more books at the library - waste less money, less paper, etc., but something about having the books to keep is really nice. However, my bookshelves are crowded with books that I have already read.... so here to rescue me are the "book swapping sites". There are quite a few out there, but basically the idea is that you mail and book and get a book back - for free. The sites can be a great tool for students, as well, to get textbooks.

A few sites:




Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Now that we all seem to live in the digital world, so many of the great art resources out there exist solely in cyberspace. I previously raved about NYFA and ubuweb, but there are many more great sites out there.

The New York Times Art & Design section is often my go-to for reviews and interesting articles. They have the best critics and are in the vicinity of the best museums and galleries, although they tend to group all of the "arts" together.

As the Bible of the art world, ArtForum has long been a top-notch publication. As time has gone on, the magazine has gotten fatter and thicker, and is now full of many ads (although the ads are almost always for exhibitions, so they are usually beautiful and informative). Artforum's website offers a good selection of articles from the magazine, videos, a great search feature - plus the Diary/Scene and Herd section gives us snapshots from all of the fabulous art parties.

There are several websites that compile information about artists, museums, galleries, and articles, but my choice tends to be MutualArt.com. They let you add "preferences" to your profile, and make recommendations in a little gray box based on that - so you don't have to filter through all kinds of things you aren't that interested in. Also, their new advanced search option lets you narrow down specifically what kind of event you are looking for - like, for example - art fairs in Basel, Switzerland during the second two weeks of June.