a good friend recently put me in touch w/ kirsten anderson the owner of Roq La Rue gallery, co-owner of BLVD gallery, editor-at-large of hi fructose magazine and blogger of 'right some good' (the latter two being regular readings of mine). pheww! as you guessed she is a very busy gal, and was kind enough to correspond w/ me via email for an interview. not only does kirsten have an impeccable eye when it comes to art, she is also incredibly down to earth and gracious. i was delighted to get to talk w/ her. kirsten clearly has her finger on the pulse of the low brow/contemporary art world, showing some of the best talent there is today.
kirsten talks about being a gallerist, past shows she's loved, art she owns and favorite works. she also gives some great tips if you are a new artist trying to get a galleries attention. i hope you enjoy the interview!
so lets get to the basics...have you always been interested in art? did you dream as a little girl of growing up and owning one of the best, cutting edge low brow/pop surrealist galleries? how did you get into this aspect of the art world? what made you want to open your own gallery?
i have always been into art, my parents were artists so it was always around me. i thought i would be a painter- it never, ever occurred to me to be a gallery owner. i really decided to open a gallery when i first became aware of lowbrow art. i loved it and wanted to be around it. it was more sort of punk rock at the time and it seemed like you could have a gallery without a lot of money and it would be ok. it was a new ideology about art that never occurred to me before. previously art was something to be in a museum like setting, in my mind anyway. when the thought formed in my brain that I could open a space, something in my brain clicked and i really never looked back. i'm not sure how to explain it. i can't even say it's my "calling" because there are many other things i'd like to do with my life...but it certainly seems i was meant to be a galleriest, at least for awhile!
are you an artist yourself?
i used to be but i haven't done any artwork since i opened the gallery a decade ago. first of all, i wasn't really that good of a painter and i found it really frustrating, secondly i don't think you can be an artist and also run a gallery effectively. you have to be fully focused on a gallery and if you are pulled away from it by trying to do your own art it doesn't work out well.
you co-opened BLVD gallery to encourage seattle's vibrant street art scene and to showcase some of the best names in street/urban art. what made you decide to open another gallery?
most of the stuff i do occurs to me as random thoughts when i'm on the bus or in a cafe. it just occurred to me that the street art scene was blowing up and i couldn't believe there wasn't a gallery in seattle devoted to it...so i decided to do it. that said, i would not have done it if one of my partners and the director of the gallery, damion hayes, didn't agree to come on board. he's the expert on street art.
monkey boy circa 1873. travis louie.
you recently became the editor-at-large at hi fructose magazine you also started 'right some good, yes, it's another art blog'. you feature incredible art, i'm always blown away by the work you feature. how do you do it all? honestly your life sounds like an art maven's dream come true!
thanks! the blog is purely a hobby to get myself writing and thinking about art on a daily basis. there is so much amazing art, and this way i can blog about really great art i might not have the opportunity to showcase through the gallery because it's from another time period or it's not genre appropriate. the blog is fun because I can be really casual and i think it makes it easier for people to talk to me or about the art because we're not being lofty about it at all. i have to be more formal with the gallery because i have to and should be.
the hi fructose thing came about because i was writing for them as well as several other magazines about art and i really, really dig what they are doing. i told them i wanted to just help out anyway they needed because i know the burnout factor can be high when you do everything yourself like Atta and Annie (the owner's of hi fructose) do. they asked me to hop on board so i said yes. it's really exciting to help be a part of something so neat. i like that i'm helping their vision because most of the time i'm so focused on mine. as far as being an art maven's dream, i can't complain because i love what i do, but it's also filled with annoyances and disillusionment, as much as any other job.
trinity. amy sol.
when you look back on the past 10 yrs what goes through your mind?
i'm pretty amazed. i was pretty lazy in my 20's and i can't believe i am the workaholic that i am today. the best way to sum it up is several years ago i was cleaning my windows or something and i thought about how my 14 year old self would have thought the current me had the coolest life ever. so i felt like i accomplished something i guess. i'm usually always looking towards the next thing.
the wish. lori early.
you've exhibited some incredible talent in the past ten yrs. who are some of your favorites? what were some of your most memorable shows?
hmmm. so many! the camille rose garcia and marion peck show was pretty amazing. ialways love my halloween group shows because i am all about the macabre and campy monsters. lori earley had her first solo show with me and it was fantastic. i had a dan clowes and chris ware show that was popular to say the least. and i just had a show with scott musgrove, brian despain,and ryan heshka
kittens. marion peck.
it seems like we have so many names for contemporary art nowadays: counter-culture, low brow, urban contemporary, etc. it can be confusing to figure out what is what for people who are not familiar. (even contemporary art is a category in and of it's own!) what's your feeling on the term "low brow". can you talk a little bit about the many terms and labels and what you prefer?
oh boy. well, all those names are for contemporary art that segmented off into different little scenes, but the irony is that they are all mashing together again. to me, lowbrow was what was happening in the early days when there was a group of mostly southern california who were doing really vibrant and provocative art. at the time no one would ever have thought it'd become what is has. as time went on and more artists have come into the fold it begot pop surrealism which is more formal and less "edgy", but more dreamlike and refined. street art seemed to be a whole different genre but those edges are fuzzy as there are artists who can really cross over multiple genres. it's really all just contemporary art to me at this point. contemporary art by artists who actually know how to draw.
the sleeping gypsy. henri rousseau.
if you had to choose your most favorite piece of art, what would it be and why? (feel free to name a couple, if it's too hard!)
that is really hard. i tried to name six of my favorite paintings on the blog and i only could do two! probably my most favorite painting that i never get bored of is "the sleeping gypsy" by henri rousseau. i think it was a painting that really affected me as a kid and went right into my brain. as far as what i own...it's almost impossible for me to pick. i have a little drawing by femke hiemstra that i love to look at, and i just bought a small painting by darren waterston that i have to pick up still. he's one of my most favorite artists ever, and i'm thrilled out of my mind i have a painting because i never thought i'd be able to get one. i got to meet him recently and i was nervous...if he was a jerk i was worried it may ruin my feelings for his art, but luckily he was super sweet, so that made buying the painting all the better.
the accidental usurper. brian despain.
what do you have hanging in your house?
my house is understandably crammed full of art, my husband likes buying it as much as i do! the artist list is long but we have work by people like mark ryden, liz mcgrath, lori earley, xiaoqing ding, lauie hogin, darren waterston, david choe, lots of old school lowbrow. we also collect anything unusual that strikes our fancy. i have a carved indonesian garuda sculpture that looks very big daddy roth-ish which i love, and we just bought a set of chinese gates that we have to find something to do with.
winged weasel. liz mcgrath.
there is an end in flight. anthony pointus.
who are you watching right now?
you deal w/ artists all the time, do you have any advice for someone starting out? do have any pointers for artists when they are approaching galleries?
i know it's really frustrating for new artists...but seriously people need to do a little research. some little things that matter are things like not cc'ing a bunch of galleries in one email saying "hey, look at my work!"...that seems desperate and like you don't care where you show. take the time to find out where your work would be appropriate and then take the time to send them an email or submission individually. also, spell the name of the person you are emailing right. a gallery will know right away if they can work with you, so don't keep asking the same gallery if they have not gotten back to you. don't take it personally as hard as it may be, it really is a matter if they think they can sell it to their collector base, it doesn't necessarily mean they think you suck. another thing i've noticed with a lot of young artists getting picked up by galleries and so many new galleries opening...getting something in writing isn't a bad idea, especially if the gallery is new and unproven.
the avenger. femke hiemstra
what is coming up at both Roq la Rue and BLVD that you are especially excited about in 2008?
to be honest i am kind of removed from BLVD these days, damion has really taken it over and i'm glad. he's doing awesome. at Roq La Rue i have all kinds of great stuff lined up. i'm super excited to have a show in the fall with victor castillo, and we will doing a big show with dan quintana which i'm psyched about. we have a few group shows that should be knockouts as well. oh, and travis louie and femke hiemstra! and esao andrews and fuco ueda! pretty much all my shows i'm excited about, i'm lucky in that i can book only artists i think are amazing.