Episode 60 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Building a Collection

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: So what happened after that?

Stoffel: I went back to school. That was an important catalyst. I went back to Columbia and got my masters in arts administration. I figured that I have been doing that for so long that it was time to put the diploma behind it. So my mentor at Columbia, Joan Jeffri was the founder of Arts Administration program there, put me under her wing and kind of professionalized all this intuitive knowledge and experience that I had and with that I was able to go to work and establish my professional credentials in New York. And that was a major moment as well.

Carey: So let’s talk a little bit about your professional credentials, before that you didn’t have any degrees in Arts Administration or the Arts?

Stoffel: Not in Art Administration. I have a couple of degrees in arts history. I do have huge arts historical background but not in Arts Administration which is different because you’re working with funders, with granters, with foundations, government, sponsorships, boards, budgets, very different than just having an art history background.

Carey: Right and since then what’s been happening?

Stoffel: 2005 I started a contemporary photography collection for a law firm in New York. I was given a grant for a mandate to work with 6 floors of their New York offices putting up contemporary photography which was very rewarding. I loved every minute of it, it was a great acquisition committee of lawyers who understood the value of putting art in their conference rooms and in their hallways and in their public spaces.

And then 2008 hit and I watched my 2009 budget disappear. The whole world changed when Lehman Brothers fell. I partnered with a woman to start a new business and it’s still going on. I do collections management for collectors who would like to acquire contemporary art and I take care of other people’s collection as well.        

Carey: And when you build collection, maybe we can talk a little bit how a collection is built.

Stoffel: The art market has changed so dramatically. I think you probably know that just from reading the papers this week. Auctions are selling…

Carey: Right, it hit the billion mark this week in just one art auction.

Stoffel: Yes, the billion mark is only one auction house alone. Collecting contemporary art is a very long process and I’ve worked with clients for maybe even a year before they even write their first check.

And so there’s a huge learning curve involved in understanding of what artists are doing, why they’re doing it and why contemporary art looks like it does today. And so it’s very hands-on and I love working with people who don’t know a lot about contemporary art because I watch their eyes brighten up and they kind of sort to get it after a while that it’s just not garbage or junk or mishmash or “my kids could do that.”  The understanding that there is a process and a talent. Something I call the mind, heart, hand continuum, where you need to see the hand of the artist, and the heart of the artist in the final product and understand what his mind is thinking while he’s creating. And that takes time and dialogue and conversation and looking at a lot of art and going to galleries and museum shows and reading and following what’s going on in the world. And of course working with artists as well. I go to studio visits, I start to figure out what they’re doing and it’s very much a labor of love because I put into practice what I do for myself therefore I can speak to it in a way that appeals to people who are trying to start a collection.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 59 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel cont’d / Contemporary Art

Sue Stoffel interview continued.

Carey: That’s very interesting. What you’re doing for the museums or what you offer to the museums in New York was to help educate people about collecting. It was something they weren’t doing. Is that correct?

Stoffel: It was a long term plan to develop patronage because that doesn’t exist. Where you have Rockefellers, and Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Whitneys and even the 3 women behind MoMa who were building museums on their own. The U.S. is famous for not conforming and starting out on their own and doing something different, particularly by women which is an interesting fact as well.    

Carey: So that began your career in both collecting and in arts administration and fundraising. It sounds like it was all wrapped up in that to some degree.

Stoffel: Absolutely. I came back to New York in ’98, joined the board of Creative Time in 1999 and the Brooklyn Museum right in the middle of the Sensation exhibition, which was an interesting time of course to be a new trustee of a museum.

Carey: Right, that was the museum was really under fire then.

Stoffel: Under fire, yes and former mayor Giuliani never even came to see the show. He didn’t know what he was talking about.

Carey: What always seems to be ironic about that, is that it also created worldwide attention for those “controversial” works that many people may not have known otherwise. I think censorship is awful, and that kind of thing is awful but what’s incredible is how those acts of censorship make this work almost iconic and part of the public consciousness in the way that nothing else really does.

Stoffel: Contemporary art it is a repository for the art of our time, it is the  history of our time, it is a truer documentary process than written history. Art that’s made in its time reflects the society in which the artist lived and that’s something that sometimes gets lost in translation.

If you think back to Manet and the Execution of Maximilian, and Marcel Duchamp during World War I, it was absolutely retaliatory against what was the norm. Even the impressionists, they decided they were not going to paint what other people saw but they were going to paint what they saw. And that was a major milestone in the realization that contemporary art is a very vital contribution to history and I think that sometimes gets lost.

Carey: Absolutely. So now you’re back in New York, these are, we’re moving into the early 2000’s, you’ve been on the board or still are at Creative Time and at that point and I know the history of Creative Time so much because that’s when Anne Pasternak was beginning .

Stoffel: Correct, and she’s a force, she’s a major force. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with her and the other board in developing Creative Time into what it is today. I think she came on in 1994. I joined in 1998 and stayed for 10 years.

Carey: So part of your role there was also to organize fundraising and also exhibits?

Stoffel: On both ends. I worked with artists, I worked with Vik Muniz on the skywriting project he did over the skies in New York in 2000.

Carey: That was a beautiful project. I’ll never forget that project.

Stoffel: Yes, it was gorgeous. Of course that could never happen now, after 9/11 but we were busy on the phones trying to find a sky writer who would work for nothing and get that project financed and off the ground. It was so much fun. That’s the best part of being able to contribute to the contemporary fabric is to help projects get realized like that.

Carey: There was a number of things that changed pre and post 9/11 like all the giant shows in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge which was called the anchorage, the  shows were absolutely wonderful but I guess that’s impossible now.

Stoffel: Right, that’s correct.



Episode 58 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Sue Stoffel Interview

Carey: Today on our show we’re talking with Sue Stoffel. She’s a collector and an art administrator with 25 years of professional art experience in numerous aspects in the art world. Sue, thanks so much for being with us today.

Stoffel: An honor to be here, thank you.

Carey: When you were growing up were you influenced a lot by the arts? Were your parents involved in the art? If we can go back that far, how did you get involved and influenced by the art world?

Stoffel: Very much influenced through my childhood. I grew up in New York City. I’m fourth generation Manhattanite and my mother is an artist, both my grandmothers were artists. One aunt runs the oldest non-profit cooperative gallery in New York. And my other aunt on my fathers side was one of the founders of the African Art museum in Soho in the ‘80’s. And so my mother was taking me through SoHo in the 60’s, a greasy haired teenager looking at the works of Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg and Warhol, and so it all went in through osmosis.

But it really didn’t come out until I moved to Switzerland in 1980 and started collecting. I was getting married and I went to visit a wonderful old dealer, named Anne Rossler and I asked her what I should buy my future husband as a wedding present and she said there’s only one thing and that’s art. And so I bought my first piece which was a Christo and from there it’s 30 years later, maybe even more, and 350 works later.

Carey: Wow, 350 works that’s how many art works are in your own collection?

Stoffel: Yes, correct. I am a collector. We call ourselves junkie collectors because it’s what we do. We don’t do anything else. My husband used to call it “Susan bags” because he would rather me spend $2000 on a Prada bag than a work of art-  and I disagreed, and so we were collecting Swiss art when we were living there. Then I started to go to Art Basel in 1985 and that changed my perspective globally in terms of what was happening in the contemporary world. And that’s when our art collection started to expand.

Carey: And what was the first Christo that you bought?

Stoffel: It was the Wrapped Leonardo in Milano. It was a work on paper that he had attached a wrapped sculpture on and then there was the matching photograph that went with it. So this was from 1982.

Carey: I didn’t know that. Could you just describe that a little bit more.

Stoffel: Sure, I’m going to walk over and looking at it. Yeah, I don’t know exactly which Piazza in Milano it is, maybe it says on here. Yes, here it is, wrapped monumental Leonardo project for Piazza della Scala in Milano, it’s signed and it is a piece of a cotton wrapped sculpture with his iconic string stapled onto a photograph that he has penciled around of the Piazza della Scala.

There are some really old 1950’s, 1960’s cars parked in the background. So it’s a cool piece and you’ll see it as you come into my apartment. It’s the first piece you see and kind of opens the dialogue to everything else that’s hanging in the apartment now.

Carey: Wow, that is a cool piece. That’s amazing, sounds gorgeous and also of course now very, very valuable piece. Those are quite amazing things to have. That’s essentially an early preparatory drawing of his, isn’t it?

Stoffel: It’s more than a preparatory drawing. There is a depth, there is third a dimension. It is actually a sculpture on the wall.

Carey: So then let’s move forward from there. That was your beginning of kind of your foray into your collecting. You’re in Switzerland, what happened next? And I assume at this point you’re not involved in art administration?

Stoffel: Not yet but that kind of change in 1994, 1995 when we were collecting quite intensely.

I came back to New York for a trip and went to visit the marketing directors of the Whitney and MoMa and put together some best practices of how museums were approaching their contemporary collectors. And I took that to the Kunsthalle in Zurich and I said, “Listen I’ve got this idea, there are a lot of contemporary collectors now out there who don’t feel connected to the museum. I’d like to develop a program,” and they actually bought it and asked me to direct it. So I did that for 5 years before coming back to New York.

I was working with other collectors around Switzerland and organizing lectures and tours and getting into private collections and taking them to art fairs, to the opening of the Gugenheim, I developed kind of a network of very interested contemporary art collectors around Europe and I brought that back to New York with me.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 57 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Finding Art Collectors

How do artists meet and work with collectors? Can artists sell work directly from their studios? This chapter will discuss how collectors operate, how to approach them, and how to make sales from the studio.

Where are all the collectors? They are on the board of all the non-profit organizations around you from universities to museums, theatres, and art centers. They are in attendance at museum openings that are open to the public. Their names are listed on the brochures of museums under “donors and patrons.”

Usually there is a big list of patrons to any major local cultural establishment, and those are all potential collectors. Of course some of those names will no longer be living, but many of them will be, and new names have to be added all the time.

It’s easy to find those names with the internet and a search engine like Google. Get a list together of local collectors using the method I am saying, to find lists of donors and patrons to museums and art centers. Then research each one and see if they have their own foundation (many do) and take notes on what a search comes up with so you can get to know this potential collector better.

So that would be assembling a list of 20 or less people who you would like to meet and having researched them all, you are now familiar with them and if they have foundations and where they like to give money, etc. If that sounds like a lot of work, think of what just one relationship with a collector could yield.

The next step is according to your own style, but you must find a way to meet those people and befriend them with a conversation. It is that hard and that easy. These people on your list will be available to talk to at openings and arts events you are following, so you must find a way to say hello that is not too uncomfortable and that works.

It is clearly possible to meet these people if you do your research, and find the collectors and patrons you want to target. But if a public meeting sounds too daring for you, then you can also email them and introduce yourself online.

However, meeting in person easily trumps the technique of writing an email, because when you meet in person, there is either a rapport, a chemistry, that makes you comfortable or there is not. So I favor in-person meetings because even if it is an awkward first meeting, the email follow-up will be much more meaningful once a face to face meeting has occurred.

It’s all personal. We tend to be comfortable with people we have been around and trust for some reason. Because of that, I suggest trying to meet people at openings, because even if they are not on your list, the more friends you have in the art world, the better.

If you are determined to reach out by email first, then this is how to craft your letters.

Your approach to your letter should be personal, not a template of a letter requesting a view of a website. Ideally you have at least researched the person you are writing to, so make the first letter a form of a fan letter, since you will flatter the recipient by having a knowledge of who you are writing to. Anyone who receives a letter with sincere compliments in it is engaged. If the compliments are not sincere it will not work, so writing a letter from the heart is something you will need to practice and be truthful about. It is an art in itself and has a history that is filled with artists writing letters to collectors, charming them, and often asking for money. There are no strict rules to those letters, but politeness and charm tend to go very, very far.

Begin crafting letters that are like works of art in themselves. Send them by email and / or postal mail. If you do this regularly about things you are passionate about, you will get answers with similar passion and build strong relationships while doing so. These letters can be written to collectors as we have outlined above, but also a great letter to a newspaper can get published and a great letter to an artist or intellectual hero of yours often gets an answer. Try it, with all that you’ve got. This next interview is with Sue Stoffel who is a collector and talks about her expierence in the art world.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 56 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Artist Wanted

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

Carey: It’s amazing and that was a $10,000 prize?

DaSilva: Yeah and so it was a great moment for me because the New York Times was doing an article on  on “Artist Wanted” and on these companies that they’re trying to give more opportunities to artists via the internet, that these companies are finding artists through the internet and trying to give exposure to people who are either young or old or anything in between, just based on their work. It was a really refreshing, great thing because we all know that the art world is very structured and it has traditional hierarchies as any other traditional company does. People are vetted. You have to be really in the inner circle sometimes to breakthrough.

So this was a really great opportunity for me not only to have my work exposed on Times Square but it ended up in the article of the Art section of the New York Times on June 18, 2012. So I had a half a page image of the Never Sorry and I then got contacted by someone who had been working with Ai Weiwei in some kind of Twitter or Tumblr fashion and shared the image with him and he told me that he had seen it and he liked it. It just was mind blowing and at that moment I thought wow, everything is just going to take on its own. Everything’s going to come to me from this point but it doesn’t work that way.

It became an opportunity but I also knew better because I was winning this prize at 52 years old and I was actually kind of shocked that they picked someone who wasn’t younger, and that it was really based on the work itself. I was really proud of that, and I was proud that it happened the way it did because it was so organic and I didn’t have to ask for anybody’s help. It just happened the way that you kind of dream it happening. So I was wise enough to realize that this is an opportunity, it’s probably not all going to come to me yet – some things are going to come, opportunities are going to arise but it’s an opportunity for me to take this moment and go to every single person that wouldn’t look at my work before and have the images on my phone, two images. One image from the New York Times, “Hi, would you look at my work now?”  And just put it in front of them. I know the worst thing that you’re told never to do is to go to art fairs and ask gallerists anything if you’re an artist because they’re busy selling their artist’s work but you’ve got to have your own guerilla work there and your own guerilla marketing. So I would just take that opportunity, you have to be have your timing, it has to be right.

But you know, you have a little conversation, I was some artist and would say, “I know I’m not supposed to do this but I’m so excited, can I show you one thing.” And they’ll go, “yeah.” Because they’re curious, you make them curious and they’ll look at it. Would you look at my work? “Not now.” “Can I send you something? Can I follow up?”, “Sure.” So that’s how it works. If we get lucky and we get opportunities through our hard work to gain something, you’ve got to use it, you’ve got to put it out there and just ask because all anyone really can say is no and if they do respond to the work they’re not going to say, “No, we’re not dealing with you because asked me at the Armory Art Fair.” They’re going to be like, “Wow, you’re ballsy. You freakin’ have guts to do that.”

Carey:  Interesting.

DaSilva:  I really believe in that, it’s never too late. So I’m represented and I’m working with a few different galleries. The one I’m most affiliated with and represented by is Cheryl Hazan Contemporary which is in Tribeca. But but I’m still looking for other opportunities and I’m still kind of a free agent. I’m doing my own shows because it’s important, I have to, it’s important to me to make my living from selling my work.

And I firmly believe that I could be selling shoes or I could be selling art but whichever way I’m going to make it happen. So you can make arrangements with galleries too that enable you to work with them but enable you to work with others. Anything can be ironed out to work for everybody. It’s just a matter of negotiation. So that’s been really great and I do thank her for that I also thank Woodward Gallery. Kristine and John were awesome and they gave me a great opportunity last spring to have a solo show in the lobby of the iconic Four Seasons restaurant and so that put my work in front of the clientele that goes to do a power lunch at the Four Seasons. I sold several pieces to them and this kind of thing just keep going, you take it a day at a time, a year at a time and every year my chart goes up a little bit. It’s not a dramatic rise but it’s a steady increase so that’s the good news.

Carey: It’s very exciting to talk to you, Vicki. In closing is there something you want to say to the people who are listening to this that are now thinking, wow, that sounds great maybe I can do what she’s doing or maybe they’re thinking I can’t do what she’s doing. I’m not as aggressive or as driven as you are. Is there anything you want to say?

DaSilva:  Well, if you want to sell your work that’s one frame of mind, one business aspect, that’s the business side. If you want to sell your work you have to be aggressive. If you don’t want to sell your work and you just want to make work and show work, however you can that’s absolutely fine too. You don’t have to sell your work at all if you don’t want to.  But if you’re trying to make a living with your work there are ways to do it and you just have to kind of see it as you would sell anything else and even though art is particular, you pick your price point based on your experience and based on your sales record.

I give a lot of work away to people just as presents or whatever to try and get into, get selling something. I’ve sold stuff to my accountant for their office. They go and do my taxes and say, “You guys charge a pretty penny for this, you should have one of my works on the wall.” This goes both ways. You just have to ask. All they can say is, “no, thank you” and you say, “okay” but you’ve done your job and you feel so much better if you’re trying to sell your work by asking because it’s really just a matter of asking enough time to enough people, someone will say yes eventually, it’s probability. I believe that.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 55 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Art Takes Times Square

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

Carey: So let’s talk about what you applied to, so in 2012 you applied to?

DaSilva: There was a new organization called “Artists Wanted” that had been around for over a year or two. And they were putting on competitions for fine art to try and give artists new opportunities and they were offering significant prizes of $10,000 and showing your work in Times Square, this kind of elaborate type project. And I thought, “Wow this is incredible,” and it’s a part of our internet age where when you have the numbers coming in and most of these competitions you would have to pay something for like to enter $25, $30, $50 but this particular competition which was called, Art Takes Times Square was free. It was free if you got a certain amount of votes, you set up your website through them, your page through them and if you got a certain number of votes, you would go on to the next round of voting and so forth but there are also was an option to pay $25 to skip that process of voting and go right to the next round of judging.

So I choose that because I’m not the big fan of vote for me, vote for me. So I chose that and I got to the next round, and that’s rolling round, and I ended up winning. I honestly never dreamed that I would win but it was amazing.  And in April of 2011 I was working at, I’d got permission from the city of Easton, Pennsylvania to work at the Simon Silk Mill which was being redeveloped but still extremely raw and abandoned.

So they gave me a permit and access to go in there at night. And we worked in there for about a month and in that time, in April, was when Ai Weiwei was arrested and detained by the Chinese police. So the documentary by Alison Klayman was already in the process called Never Sorry and I had wanted to do a text piece, my first text piece that would be from floor to ceiling in an interior, abandoned, factory space and we got these scaffolds and I didn’t know yet what I was going to do but when this whole thing went down with Weiwei, I decided that okay, I’m going to write “Never Sorry” along 6 panels of this giant space in one single frame time exposure.

So I worked on that for several days because it took practice to get it to the point where I was satisfied with the handwriting. I made that and I showed the image and Weiwei was released after 81 days. He was released the night before my opening. So I was like, wow that’s amazing. This is just a personal thing, like, wow, cool. So then after that I entered this competition and I guess it was like early January of 2012. I entered that.

So that was what really interested the judges, that particular element of my work and because of the timing, the stars aligned and everything was happening with Ai Weiwei, the movie was actually coming out in that summer as well, in June. So this whole thing kind of swelled and it just – I was actually in Canada in … and I got the phone call and I actually didn’t believe it. I was like, “Who is this?” and they said “Oh, …” I didn’t answer the phone, it was on the cellphone and I didn’t want to answer it because of charges so, “Who’s that?” and then I look at it and “That’s weird” so I called the number and he said, “Oh yeah we have some questions about your entry.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, what’s up?” And then they were saying, “Well, we looked at it, we looked at all your work, we’ve been researching you for a while.” And then they said, “Hold on a second.” And there was like a group of people and he said, “Well, we’re here in the office. We want to tell you something. Congratulations, you won the Art Takes Times Square!” I was like, “Oh my God, really?” And there was just like this great moment for myself that I had really broken through to an opportunity –  not even because of the $10,000 prize which is great because I can buy a camera but because my work would be on the 13 of the most iconic billboards in Times Square simultaneously at night for the month of July.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 54 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Pounding the Pavement

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: And in 2000 –  I was really also back into my photography. Antonio and I, we’d get babysitters and we would go out every weekend and we would shoot. So I was full steam ahead on that, in 2003 I decided that I was, with Antonio’s support, going to leave my job and try to do the art full time and give it a shot. So I was 43 at that time and I started really pounding the pavement, trying to get into shows, trying to get shows. I got my first solo show in New York in 2006 with a gallery called Art Gotham. They’re no longer there. A woman named Kimberly, she was wonderful, she give me a show. It was at 27th street in Chelsea, I was ecstatic. So that was kind of my big “okay, I can do this.” There’s some way, somehow, I can do this. And I was hustling. I’ve always been a hustler. I sold airport advertising, too before I have my job at Rodale’s so I was comfortable on the sales, and I would just start pounding the pavement, with people in my town, whether it was the hospital or corporations or whatever to buy my work, to try and sell something.

Carey: The hospitals in your town, and pounding the pavement is an interesting process. You would just walk into the hospital and in other places and say what?

DaSilva: I would find the facilities person. The facilities person is the person you’ve got to find, they buy the furniture. Whoever’s buying the furniture might be putting work on the wall, probably posters and probably not art but they will consider artwork but where there’s a will, there’s a way and because my work was being made locally and not with the intention to sell local landscapes but it just so happened that I was making these light paintings in around my area in various parts, and on bridges and things like that and so they were images that local people could relate to.

So knowing that art has a positive effect on patients and there’s studies that prove that, I used that as well to go to local hospitals and say, “Light is an element that heals. You’re using it in medicine and artists are using it, and these are beautiful images. May I please sell you one?” It kind of starts like that. If you work hard enough and don’t take no for an answer, eventually they’ll buy something just to get rid of you. But I’ve always wanted to be and maintain my practice as a New York artist because I know that you can be a local artist or you can be a New York artist and if you live close enough, I live two hours away and I knew the city from living there for 10 years, and I thought I can put as much energy into being a New York artist and I would probably reap the rewards much better than trying to just be a local artist. So although I was just trying to sell work just to get some money and fund my practice I continued to pound the pavement and try to show my work in New York.

Carey: And you weren’t living in New York at the time, right?

DaSilva: No, I haven’t lived in New York since 1989. I’ve been living in Allentown since 1993 and I’ve been commuting on a weekly basis for my art and for any potential interaction of my art and to see artists, to haunt galleries and such since 2003 on a full time basis. So then in 2012, I got incredibly lucky and I applied for – and I always was applying for competitions, having some luck here and then in there.

Carey: In the competitions, wait because I’m excited to hear about that. Where did you find out about applying for competitions? I know you’re going around and going to different galleries and places…

DaSilva: Mostly online, online through things like New York Foundation for the Arts and others. Lists like all these different internet sites that list all the different competitions. Mostly with photography, I started out looking for photography competitions because there’s more of those seemingly than there are for painting or sculpture. I mean, there’s tons of everything out there. Now there’s café, it’s a site (https://www.callforentry.org/).

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 53 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Night Photography

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: So all of these photographs that I made since like 1987 have been with Antonio and so it’s also a way for me to kind of be with him alone somewhere at night. It’s kind of very romantic for me. I don’t know if he thinks it that way but I sure do. So there’s all those kind of elements that go along with it. So I make two separate types of work. I make text based work and I make abstract based work. Both important to me for very different reasons.

Carey: So when you got out of school and you’re working, what was the beginning of you working with galleries or maybe we should move forward to the point where I was talking to you a while ago and I think it was, and correct me if I’m wrong, about when both your daughters were going into college that suddenly you began ramping up your efforts to get your work out there. Is that the case or what happened?

DaSilva: Okay, it’s a little earlier but the short story is that when I landed in New York in an internship in 1991 with Joan Jonas and was exposed to these very intense amazing artists I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t graduate till 1983 so I went back to Kutztown, and I really just started to focus on my own work.

When I got back to New York in ’83, I was also exposed to Richard Serra who I started dog-sitting for. I became Richard Serra’s main dog-sitter for about ten years in the 80’s. So I was around all – and the Keith Haring phenomena, I was around so many great, great artists that I knew I had a lot of work to do.

So I didn’t really feel comfortable trying to get my work out to a gallery. I was very insecure at that point. I was intimidated and I just didn’t think my work was worthy of it. And when I did try to attempt to talk to any galleries, I was rejected as most artists are when they start but I was just very intimidated by that. So I went the full time job route, I was printing black and white photography for Gary Schneider, who is a great artist in his own right. That went from there to Time, Life and People magazines and then I went to HBO and worked in their photo department.

So I went the corporate route and I was doing my light painting and my light graffiti on the weekends. And I was so busy just trying to maintain my lifestyle with my 9 to 5 and then with my own work – that as much as I was involved in the New York art scene I was removed too, and Antonio moved to New York in 1987 with me and a couple of years later we wanted to try to start a family. And so we moved to Europe and for the next  8 years I was having children. I had two children, we lived in Portugal and then we lived in Paris. We had a daughter in Portugal, a daughter in Paris and I knew that I couldn’t be the mom that I wanted to be and the artist that I wanted to be at the same time. I didn’t want to resent either and I didn’t want to fail at either.

I’m kind of an over achiever in my own mind so I decided that I would work, started doing night photography. It just wasn’t going to happen so I was always thinking about work and I always wanted to continue doing it but I did more like collage-type things that I’ve never even shown but I had this practice, but I was focused on being a parent. So about when the kids started school, elementary school, I started to get into it a little bit. The first time I went out on a photo shoot, I think I did my last night photo shoot in Portugal in 1989 before I got pregnant and then in 1990 and I didn’t really do any until 1999. It’s about ten years and I went back at it. The kids at that point where 9 and 7 and I was goofing around with stuff inside but I really got back into it about 1999 but at that point I had another full time job.

We had moved back in the states in ‘93 and I was freelancing shooting corporate parties and things like that as a commercial photographer but really on a low end scale. Like okay, I thought,  I do parties and second weddings, that’s about it. Nothing you can really hold me accountable for because I know there’s a lot of drinking involved. I did that and then I got another full time job as the creative photo editor at Rodale which publishes healthy lifestyle magazines such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, and a slew of books and bicycling magazines, sports magazines. So I was the creative director, the creative photo editor for a year and a half and then I went on to be the photo editor for Runner’s World magazine for 3 years.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 52 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Art School

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: I love art but I had no art education in the home. I think my parents’ idea of a museum was Las Vegas, to be honest. So I wasn’t exposed to it at all. I remember always loving art, but it wasn’t until I got to middle school and my new best friend was an artist and had been going to classes at an independent art school for a long time, since she was probably nine or ten years old, and she was really good at painting. And I thought, wow, it’s like she’s a magician, like superpowers. I couldn’t even imagine how you would learn to do this when you are a kid; you almost have this idea that you’re born with this type of gift to draw.

We all kind of know now that you learn to draw the same way you learn to play sports or you learn to play the piano or an instrument. So I started to get into it in middle school and then the same in high school but I never had any plans to even go to college. And my high school art teacher said to me, “So where are you going to college?” It was about April at that point of my senior year and I said, “I’m not going to college.”

My parents really didn’t encourage it and talk to me. I didn’t visit anything. So I didn’t know much about it, I was kind of clueless. And so he said, “Do you want to go? Because I think you could do really well in art school.” And I said, “Oh really?” And he said, “Yeah, I would absolutely make a phone call for you. You have enough work here from the past few years that we can put a portfolio together.” And he made a phone call, he got me an interview at a State University about twenty minutes from Allentown, and I ended up going to art school there and then I just threw myself into it full force.

Carey: And what does that mean? You were doing photography, painting, or different mediums?

DaSilva: I enrolled as a fine arts student and when I took my first photography class, I started studying the history of photography and I was also fortunate to study with a professor named James Carroll. And he would bring major artists from New York City as visiting artists and they would have residencies for two or three days, as students or even members of the public, and you were invited to sign up for one hour blocks and talk to these people.

So this became an incredible thing, because if you look up the New Arts Program you’ll see the list of artists are significant. So I started to become aware of a lot of the major artists of the eighties, seventies and even sixties. We met every one from Lawrence Weiner, Richard Serra, and Joan Jonas, who I ended up doing my internship with. All of this was so incredibly huge and life changing for me because I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood. This was all so mind blowing and I was so interested in it and I was determined to try and find something that I could do as an artist that would be as original as possible.

And so upon researching the history of photography, I started to become aware of images that were used in scientific studies from like the late 1800s that had used light as a way to study physiology. Etienne-Jules Marey was probably the first one to do a light photograph although his intention was to study the physiology of a human being by affixing incandescent lamps to the human body. To me it looked like art because it was very abstract and I said, Wow, that’s very cool that you could make a light painting. The history of light painting photography highlights these scientific studies because of the study of motion pictures and all that was happening, and so there was these artists along the way, most famously Man Ray, who had done his—what he called “space writing” with a pen light.

And then Gjon Mili, who had done a lot of light painting photography with a Life magazine photographer, and he had gone because someone asked him if he would draw with his lamp for his series for Life magazine back in—I think it was 1949. It was a very famous series, I’m sure you’ve seen it. So that’s a wow—everybody’s kind of seen that.

So I thought, wow that’s really cool and I want to try that. So I started goofing around with that, it was black and white and in kind of a more performative – type thing. So I was also learning about performance art. So would I set up these kind of stages either inside or outside and fooled around with a lamp and also make props and things like that and one thing led to another. The graffiti movement started going full speed ahead. One of my roommates was best friends with Keith Haring. He had grown up with Keith. Keith was visiting him all the time, Keith didn’t go to school in Kutztown but he grow up in Kutztown.

So there was these all different forces that were, that were flying about the street. The graffiti scene, the minimalism scene, the performance art scene and I was very fortunate to be involved in a little bit of everything whether as an spectator or as an intern or whatever. And so I thought, you know, it’ll be really cool to try and term what I was doing as light graffiti and so I started doing more and more of that until about 1986 when I started thinking about using larger lamps, fluorescent tube lamps so that I could do more installation based type work and cover larger areas and think of it more as sculpture.

In my mind, in the 80’s I thought, I was always worried that somebody was going to do what I was doing. You know as an artist you’re going to steal my idea, blah, blah blah, especially when you’re young. “Oh, I don’t have enough work so I got to keep this all in the down low, in secret.” But at the same time I thought everybody was going to be doing light graffiti, that didn’t happen until the digital revolution. And now everybody is doing light graffiti. Luckily, I got the url back in the beginning (http://lightgraffiti.com/) but I mean it’s extremely global and popular and there’s lots and lots and lots of light graffiti and light paintings photographers out there.

Now, using it as an art form is another calling, being able to think of our history and how you’re going to fit into that and if those are you’re kind of goals it becomes more than an ad campaign. So I try to think of it in those terms and push it in those terms as best I can as an artist. Sure, I like to make abstract images that are beautiful and allow me to be out in a landscape especially working with my husband who I’ve been collaborating with since I met him in 1996 in Paris. He’s an electrician, we work together.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


Episode 51 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Stand with Me

Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 50

Vicki: …And a documentary film crew from Still Motion came in and was documenting her and we were talking—and before I actually went down there I had the idea to go to a lemon grove to find some lemon trees and do a slogan that Vivienne likes to call out, which is, “be one person.” How can we be one person and help change the world in whatever way we can, with whatever we do? And so I did a light piece in front of lemonade, a lemon girl, where the owner allowed me to shoot in front of his lemon trees and I did a “be one person” photograph and that prompted the film crew to ask me to do a piece when I was up in Nova Scotia last summer—a piece called Stand with Me, with the hashtag #standwithme to help promote the eponymous movie. It’s premiering February 1 in San Francisco, and I believe my work is going to be used in the webisode. It’s a live filming of me making this hashtag, with me on the beach in Nova Scotia.

So that’s really exciting because that’s kind of then the biggest jump start for me. I also made a piece called I am Malala in February of 2013. I just wrote “I am Malala” over and over and over and I’ve been trying to contact the powers that be to donate this image as a digital download that people would get for free in order to make a contribution to the organization.

So that for me is the most inspiring and interesting thing as an artist and also as a parent. If there’s a way that my images could somehow help raise money for these organizations, especially organizations that help to free children who are slaves, which is probably in my mind the most important cause of today and it’s incredibly sad and the numbers are very staggering. If my work can somehow, in a small way, help, if I can give work away—not so much as prints but as digital downloads, because then I also lower the carbon footprint—people could share these images, and that would be great. That’s the way I’m going in but I’m also very interested in exposing more things and I’m going to try to do another shoot in front of the White House but this time I probably won’t be saying what I’m going to actually be writing, even though now I’m telling the world through a radio interview. Bring it on!

Carey: That’s a very powerful story about the girl. Holy cow, I can’t think of anything more important for the world to be focusing on. But it’s also such a counterpoint, the idea of child slavery and also this post Snowden world we’re talking about—I suppose it’s similar in terms of the lack of justice or immorality, but it couldn’t be further apart. The children carrying those stones on their back and being slaves and then the government using incredibly deceptive forms of technology of all kinds.

Recently I was reading about leaky apps. The government is tapping into what they call “leaky apps,” which means probably every time you have played games on your phone, when they have access to your Facebook friends and profile, which you click through pretty quickly without thinking about it.

Let’s talk a little bit about the beginnings of your work. So you now you are in this place, which I relate to in a number of ways—as a parent, and as an artist that’s also maturing in terms of your vision and what you’re doing—how did you get started in art? What were your first beginnings as a child or a student?

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.