By Julia Park
“The museum is the Facebook of the past,” remarked Kerry James Marshall as he began his lecture last Wednesday night to a crowd of over 150 people. He humorously made this metaphor with respect to his earlier works and how museums and Facebook both have the capacity of holding on to material once they are released to the public world. This means that an artist cannot control paintings that are already out in the world and how he is perceived through them.
This raises a great question that always comes to my mind when I see exhibitions with original “sketches” by famous artists — would they have wanted their names associated with such simple pencil drawings? To the museum and the viewer, such drawings shed light onto artists’ creative process and developing style, but just as writers would not want to showcase their first drafts, I’m sure artists have the same fear of having their immature works be on public display. Marshall posited that all artists want to be remembered for their “better” works of art. Marshall went on to say, “The way artists want to be remembered is hard to chronicle. Successes and failures don’t quite follow the narrative of genius many want. Artists try to get attention, but it’s really more a bid for immortality.”
Thankfully, Kerry James Marshall’s pivotal early works, one of which is Nasher’s recent acquisition Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum (pictured), need not fear public display. Marshall appeared to be proud of the work he did over 30 years ago as part of the “invisible man” portraits, and signed the painting himself on Wednesday night Due to his unique “black on Black” style, the painting’s full effect cannot be captured on the screen — I recommend you come see it in person.
This was my first time attending a lecture given by an artist about his own works, and while I didn’t know what to expect going in, I came out of the lecture fully engaged. He was an amazing lecturer, giving us an outline of his background and his stylistic development. It is sometimes hard to make time in a busy schedule, but I encourage everyone, especially students, to come out to the free lectures and events held at the Nasher! If it’s your first time, I guarantee it won’t be the last.
Photo by J Caldwell