For three months this fall, the DAM’s staff and volunteers experienced something extraordinary—the chance to watch 17 world-class contemporary artists at work. Although we work in an art museum, we don’t often get the chance to work with living artists. After all, most of the nearly 70,000 works of art in our collection were made by people who are long gone.
The staff, many of us aspiring artists ourselves, relished the chance to witness the artists’ creative processes. Several artists planned their works in meticulous detail, sending ahead lists of materials and measurements. Others dived in with just a rough vision in their heads.
Some artists welcomed participation—in the form of volunteer sew-ins and help from local art students—and others just wanted to be left alone. A few of the artists enjoyed talking publicly about their work—answering questions from visitors and speaking at Embrace! Installation Insider Moments—but for others, it was personal.
It was fascinating to watch each artist get comfortable, creating a mini-studio environment to suit their unique working style. Dasha Shiskin requested a bag of apples to munch on while she painted. Nicola López blasted Motown hits on a boom box, while Rick Dula plugged into an iPod. Shinique Smith needed complete privacy to paint with her body (we even temporarily turned off the gallery’s security camera).
Tell us about your creative process. What do you need to be creative? Do you work alone or enjoy collaborating with others? Prefer to work in silence or crank up the tunes?