Friday, August 13, 2010

Value of a Conversation: Derrick Adams


"The Root of it All," 2010 digital photograph 30 x 24 inches

I first met Derrick Adams on a sweltering summer day in New York. As an artist, he uses a variety of mediums to create an animated world populated by pseudo-educational characters. He was recently mentioned in the New York Times for his work in the "Lush Life" exhibit in the Lower East Side. Aside from being an artist and curator, Derrick is a connector.

I had just moved to New York City from Texas and was making an effort to meet all of the art professionals who had been reccomended to me by friends. Eager to meet him, I showed up at the gallery early-- laptop in hand, ready to take notes. It was his last day as director of Rush Arts Gallery. Derrick was stuck in traffic that day coming back to New York from Connecticut after the wedding of his friend, artist Mickalene Thomas.

I was so relieved when he finally arrived that evening. I was nervous and didn't know what to expect, but Derrick's demeanor was very kind and approachable. We went towards the back of the gallery and sat down. I plugged in my laptop.

I spilled the last 2 years of my life story-- told him I had recently graduated from law school, but was set on pursuing a career as an artist, etc. He asked me what kind of career I wanted to have as an artist. I told him I look up to artists like Wangechi Mutu, and Kara Walker. Then he took the time to look at some of the art slides I had brought on my laptop. For some reason not all of the slides were showing up (I would later realize that I had made an error in how I saved the remaining slides). Only a handful of slides came up; the only paintings I was able to show him were of women with afros.

Being the eager beaver, I asked him if he knew of any curators at that time who would be interested in my work. He politely said "No."

He said that he could see my talent in my technical skills but suggested that I push my work further. He observed the fact that my work is very tight and suggested that I loosen up. He also noticed that my paintings were very sparse-- a human figure surrounded by negative space. He suggested that I either help tell the story by adding more to the background or amplify the negative space.

He also said that while it is great to have talent in painting, I needed to find a way to distinguish myself from the many great artists out there. He looked at my paintings of the women with afros again, and said that he didn't see how I was distinguishing myself from someone like Mickalene Thomas. He suggested that I experiment and rework the way I think about creating art. He suggested that after I have created new works, invite some artists that I trust over to my studio to discuss the work and bounce thoughts and ideas. He said I needed to see what kind of conversation the new work inspired and if I felt it necessary, rework from that point.

There was so much more helpful advice given during that conversation, I will have to cover some of it in a future blog post. He was generous enough to speak with me for quite some time and answered all of my questions (I literally brought a list of questions). One thing that really struck me about our conversation was that it was such a wake up call. His constructive criticism reminded that I needed to step up my game and really distinguish myself as an artist. That is something that I will always work on.

To see more of Derrick's work, visit www.derrickadams.com.

Related Posts:
Value of a Conversation: Lauren Kelley

People I've Met in Houston Who've Influenced Me - William Cordova

2 comments:

  1. Great post. I really appreciate your brutal honesty and your willingness to reveal this particular part of the process behind the finished product. Crits are sometimes hard to hear. It's great that you were able to absorb the info and use it to grow. Keep experimenting, and don't be afaiad to MAKE BIGGER MISTAKES!!! Lol. Love your work.

    xoxo

    p.s. Would love to hear more about how you market yourself and the difficulties of getting out there.

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  2. I love your work as well...and am also impressed by how you handled the seemingly constructive criticism of your work even though it must have been hard to hear.

    Keep up the good work.

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