The Art Cart: Saving artist’s legacies

One of my key sources of information as I help artists plan their legacies, and create inventories of their life’s work, has been the Art Cart, a project of the Research Center on Arts and Culture. Researcher Joan Jeffri from Columbia University has studied artists extensively: her reports, including Above Ground, make for delightful reading both for nerds and those who know and love artists (I count myself in both categories!). Through the Art Cart project, 20 artists in New York and Washington, DC, have been able to document their careers, with a high level of professionalism, with photographs. The video below gives you a great sense of the project and the benefits, both for participating artists and for society as a whole. The video, like the project, is full of heart and life and what makes artists tick. Please view it! One idea, for example, is that artists tend to do well as they age — and there may be things we can learn about resilience among older people that studying artists can demonstrate. Less heartening are the numbers about artists and their legacy preparations. Jeffri’s research, based on studying hundreds of older artists, gives these startling statistics: 61% of professional visual artists age 62+ have made no preparation for their work after their death 95% have not archived their work 1 in 5 have no documentation of their work at all) 97% have no estate plan 3 out of every 4 artists have no will While the project can only take on a few artists each year, you can always start an inventory. Learn more about artists’...
“A little help?” Seniors (and others) online

“A little help?” Seniors (and others) online

One of my great passions is demystifying tools that have the power to improve your life — and in this day and age, that means technology. Yes, I am a zealot for the Internet and a nerd when it comes to all things digital, but I only like this stuff because it works. Unlike many “digital natives,” though, I understand that using new tools doesn’t always “come naturally” — it’s not always steep, but there is always, always, always a learning curve. When I work with people who are new to any system, I have to be nerdy and effective — and warm and patient, too. My passion for working with older people learning to use new “tech” comes from a simple place: my grandmother was the most creative person I’ve ever met, and she kept learning all her life — what an inspiration. When she was 94 years old, one day she told me how frustrating the “new computers” were at one of her two volunteer jobs. “It’s this ‘mouse,’ ” she complained, mimicking for me how she thought it was supposed to work. “I just can’t figure it out.” The newfangled device was fixating — she couldn’t stop staring at the mouse. I had an “Aha!” moment. ” “Grandma! It’s like a sewing machine pedal. The mouse is like the pedal. The pedal is what keeps it going, but you don’t look at the pedal when you’re sewing, do you?” “Of course not!” My grandmother looked at me, outraged for a minute that I had forgotten the sewing lessons she gave me. “You have to keep your...
My Proust Questionnaire

My Proust Questionnaire

I have always loved Proust Questionnaires — they are the perfect combination of personal and impersonal, profound and a bit superficial, and the language is so gentle. Reading them (there’s one each month in the back of Vanity Fair) feels like engaging in almost-respectable gossip. Filling one out is like eating an entire meal of delicious petits fours sitting at a café with someone you care deeply for. It’s smart fun. I’d love it it you would take several minutes of your quiet time and fill out my Proust Questionnaire. (It’s not a quickie). The questionnaire appears at this link and is also embedded below in this blog post. Please note, if you are an artist, I might like to publish your response! At the end of the form, you can sign or deny your consent for this. UPDATE: By popular demand, I have created short versions of my Proust Questionnaire — I’ve pulled out only the most vital from the original 43 questions. My Shorter Proust Questionnaire for artists (link) has just 23 questions. My Shorter Proust Questionnaire for general audiences (link) is 25 questions. I hope these new choices are equally fulfilling and provocative for...
Kevin’s paint “flower”

Kevin’s paint “flower”

I hate to admit that it was a treat (after some time had gone by) to look over all the things in my late husband’s studio after he died. I discovered a variety of treasures… only a few of which were total surprises. Most were simply items that meant something different in his absence. There were objects that had worked hard, those that were used once in a while, and those who earned their keep as totems — all now idled. One of my favorite finds was this efflorescence of dried up paint, scraped from 30 years’ worth of palettes, bursting from an old jam jar with a faux-snooty French label. I call it his “flower.” In his time, the flower was just a tool in his studio, a structure based on tidying up (Kevin was very neat), and in fact, just a short step up from garbage. Now I see it as something truly unique, a keepsake, and a trace of his working method that is just so him. We’ve had some artist friends who’ve found creative uses for their old paint scraps (Clark V. Fox, one of Kevin’s oldest and closest friends, used to slice them thin and make brooches, I was told) but I’ve never seen anything like this. Kevin didn’t even produce that many paintings (works on paper were his specialty) — though I do recall him being somewhat proud of this lump of lumps in its ordinary grandeur, its order of chaos. The flower is his palette — I mean his color choices, obviously it’s his palette, literally as well — and changes endlessly...
Inventories for artists

Inventories for artists

The first task of an artist, is, of course, to create art. And each artwork you bring into the world carries a bunch of additional information with it: its measurements, how to care for it, how it should be installed, where it has been shown, the appropriate price, where it’s stored, and so on. How do you collect and store that information? How do you share it? For most artists, the ideal tool is an inventory. I specialize in creating inventories that work for artists, both as ongoing documentation of their careers, and as essential collections of data for others who wish to help manage that artwork. This includes those who might care for your work after you die, whether friends, family, loved ones, or hired professionals. Since 2006, I have been refining the inventory of my late husband’s 35-year career. I have created a system that answers the questions of tax attorneys, galleries, curators, appraisers, and the IRS. Because my system is so thorough, it will be useful for many years to scholars, journalists, family members, and anyone else who wishes to be part of the long afterlife of his life’s work. I have translated this product into templates that work with a popular Mac-based database system. (I also create or adapt solutions for Windows computers and tablets, and even have a non-computer solution for a few clients.) My system is easy to use (you can use only the parts you need — and continue to add to it for years) and intuitive, and it’s the most thorough of all the ones I’ve seen — including systems that...