It’s no secret that Durham is a 90-minute flight from LaGuardia. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?
We asked two Durham-based artists, Harrison Haynes and Stacy Lynn Waddell (a contributor to this blog), to talk about life in Durham and the exhibition “here.” which was recently on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. A Durham-based curator (also an occasional contributor to this blog), Teka Selman, included Harrison and Stacy’s work in her portion of the exhibition, which explored regional art markets, among other themes. Read a lovely review of “here.” by Chris Vitiello for the Independent Weekly.
Nasher Museum Blogs: How does your choice to set up an artist studio here in Durham, NC, relate to the way that you conceive ideas, work and live?
Harrison Haynes: I think that I probably get ideas the same way any artist does-through some mental roulette combination of absorption of other art ideas, personal life experiences and current events. I don’t think that changes for someone here vs. someone in NYC except perhaps in terms of the ratios. Like, an artist in NYC might make work primarily in response to other contemporaneous art activity, simply because they are immersed, first-hand, to a degree that we might not be here. Quality of life here is fairly incomparable to somewhere like NYC, but it’s a dual edged sword. Pluses and minuses on both sides.
Stacy Lynn Waddell:
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I considered being here temporary. Like most newly vetted MFA’s, my plan of attack was to float into New York on a cloud, sprinkle my special brand of pixie dust across the city and rise to the top of the art world.
Thankfully, that did not happen-at least not yet.
What I have realized by being an artist and citizen of Chapel Hill/Durham, is that setting up shop here allows me to do a sometimes near impossible thing in a place that supports me in a more necessary way than New York or any large city is willing or able to do.
Artists, especially those at the beginning of a career, need certain types of support to develop and grow.
NMB: What are the benefits of making a conscious decision to live outside of the larger art market? Negatives?
HH: If you can maintain up to date awareness of contemporary art conversations and activities, which isn’t hard with all of our devices, living here isn’t bad in terms of making art. Arguably it can be way easier with the lower cost of living. It’s the getting your art seen and exhibited part that’s tough. What we miss out on by not being somewhere like, say, NYC, is the opportunity to engage in daily, human conversation about your work, to have human eyes see your work, to have someone experience it physically. Those opportunities are here for us, but they are less frequent.
SW: There are several benefits to living outside of the larger art markets. The problem with several of those benefits is that they can make you “second guess” your need to test the waters elsewhere. The most enduring benefit of living here is the ability to create relationships with area arts professionals in a less saturated environment. An art career is sustained, in part, through relationships that take a good deal of time to create and you need to build those ties wherever you call home.
NMB: Do you find camaraderie, support and inspiration among local artists who work in studio spaces around the Triangle?
HH: Yes. But there is the tendency for artists here to burrow into their warrens and not come out. (perhaps that’s a self-inflicted indictment). There could stand to be more opportunities for artists to discuss each other’s work on a regular basis.
SW: There is some camaraderie, but it’s in pockets here-and-there. People tend to stay within their own circles. We see each other at art openings and events, but for some reason, there is not much broad integration beyond that. For support, I am a part of an occasional Salon and I have a few close art buddies that are my go-to people for support. As for inspiration, I am able to find that anywhere and there is plenty of it here in the Triangle.
IMAGE: Photo courtesy of Chris Vitiello.