An artist’s representative…hmm, what exactly does that mean? What’s the job description? You’re not a gallery, not a museum, not an actual studio assistant – so, then, what are you? I don’t know the correct answer. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I just know what I did do and what I do now. So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s what I remember about the gradual and chaotic evolution of this journey to represent Floyd D. Tunson.
I have a degree in English, not in marketing, let alone in art. My early introduction to art, in fact, was a bit odd. In my little Ozark hometown, there was one art teacher in the high school. She was a retired WAC (Women’s Army Corps) and a formidable presence. Besides being scared of her, I had no artistic talent, so I avoided her. My first high school boyfriend, however, became her protégé, and she managed to get him into the Pratt Institute. Once he left for Brooklyn, that was that. My vicarious experience with art was over – except for one thing that influences me to this day – The New Yorker. How this town of 12,000 people supported a newsstand that sold this publication is a mystery. All I know is that I read the book, theater, and art reviews every month, even though I hardly comprehended their meanings. Now, I’m terrified that Peter Schjeldahl will die before I do. Anyway, this was the fortuitous beginning of my journey.
The first little task I took on to help Tunson was to submit slide portfolios for various competitions and for gallery representation. Remember this was the late ‘70s, when slides where the standard way to document artwork. I was so naïve then that I assumed if the work was wonderful, the most reputable galleries in NYC would immediately beg to represent him. And when I finally learned how to create labels on the computer, I thought this was a big step toward creating a professional image… oh, so long, long ago.
As naïve as I was about working for an artist, I did understand one thing: that I needed to know, absolutely know, that my appreciation for Tunson’s work was not just based on my own taste, my own limited perspective, my love of the wabi sabi effect he created in much of his work. I needed to know if and how his work fit with other artists working in similar modes and with art history in general. I needed to see, for instance, one of his abstracts and one of Gerhard Richter’s abstracts juxtaposed. Sure, Richter and other abstract expressionists might paint as well as Tunson, but is their work in the same genre any better?
Untitled 112 acrylic on canvas 84 x 120 inches 2004
Year after year, then, I viewed a lot of art everywhere I traveled, I read about art, and I learned as much about Tunson’s art as he would reveal. Some artists like to talk about their work: Tunson does not. His stance is that the work is there to view, so view it, bring something of your own experience to it, and – for god’s sake – do not ask what it “means.”
You can imagine the delicate dance this journey has been to learn everything I want to know about Tunson’s work so that I can represent him with accuracy, integrity, and wisdom.
So, if your heart is set on helping an artist, my advice, again, is that despite the artist’s reluctance to talk his or her work, learn everything you can about the work and have a good idea of how your artist and other reputable artists can be compared and contrasted. Although knowing everything I can about Tunson’s work is a difficult part of my mission, I am lucky in one respect: I have Tunson’s trust. Annoyed with my questions as he might be, he knows that when I ask a question, I ask it because I’m serving his interests, and I need an answer.