I was talking to Walter Hopps on the telephone not sure when maybe when I was bailing out of my First Avenue Studio where I had been for many years. 2nd divorce in progress , Hopps is trying to help me get out of Minneapolis worried I will get bored to death. He was a legend by then . I had no resources except my art which I had in great quantity it was like selling snowballs to eskimoes here a real cold fish capital nice but disengaged from everything intense or fetishistic. Hopps was very supportive he had nominated me for a big under 30 show in Paris a few years earlier and he was I think at National Gallery (Smithsonian). Even though it really didn't get me out of Dodge it was what I needed to feel like I would survive yet another of my Kamikazi marriages. Philippe Vergne told me once that Hopps was his idol his role model for what a curator should be. And it was another case of a curator who was very supportive (I did a big billboard on Hennepin Ave. thanks to PV choosing me to be one of 5 artists most of whom were quite famous, much more famous than me). And along the way Philippe was supportive and encouraging when things were very bleak for me. I think I got $3000 for my Walker Without Walls billboard design and Philippe got me the check when I needed it most. I had been living in my studio hiding out from the landlord trying to get my ass into a more secure situation. Each big sale or gig moved me from place to place between 1989 and 2003 maybe 7 different studios and it was harrowing.
I worked in warehouses bedrooms garages basements apartments anywhere I could get it on. I'm not saying curators are cheerleaders but they can be emotional supports evn when they can't acquire works. And who else really gives a flying fuck about artists? Artists themselves tend to be very ego driven, it's hard to get some artists to collaborate or work with each other a lot of lone wolves in the art business. The Artpolice zine was a rare instance of artists working on a project together but it was so anarchistic at times that the only thing holding the artists together was the staples in the magazine. The best curators care the most about artists. Vergne loved Mike Kelley and he also loves Carl Andre. He has a catholic vision of the diversity of contemporary art being one of it's primary strengths.As with a 12 step program artists need more than survival they need to be nurtured and cared about they need advocates, articulate voices that can direct attention to your projects.
My first encounter with Walter Hopps was when he wa juror for a Vicinity show in Chicago in 1967. Later the painter Sam Gilliam hooked me up with Walter when he was in D.C. (1970-1) this was a connection that led to Artpolice comics winding up in the Smithsonian portrait library and helped me understand many things about how the cookie crumbles in the art world. But also I began to understand that their was a network out there long before the internet. It was artist's sharing opportunities and opening up the field for people in the flyovers. That show at the Art Institute of Chicago that Hopps juried with Lawrence Alloway was the first museum show for the Hairy Who artists and for me a 4th year undergraduate student at SAIC.(22 years old) and in Artforum reviews that same year. Pretty good debut.
The list of curators and museum people who have helped me is rather long the point being you need people to support your art in many different ways. I wish I could have stayed in California most especially when the weather here is very arctic like now. I loved Los Angeles and the artists I knew there the attitudes the chutzpa. Peter Saul was not just a great painter he was a fucking inspiration as was Mike Kelley . It's harder to dream in the upper Midwest, the cold and the cold people. What we used to call the distance to everywhere else. The internet changes that some but this is an outpost on the frontier still. And you have to be pretty fucking hardcore to make a go of it here. One trick ponies move along this is the land of the bricoleur.
jpgs Walter Hopps blak & white photo / Philippe Vergne with my sign upon leaving Walker Art Center