After the 'Watch,' What?

Alumni of AMOA's 'New Art in Austin' talk about the exhibition's impact on their careers

This year marks the third time that the Austin Museum of Art has curated an exhibition of "New Art in Austin" spotlighting work by at least 20 emerging and underrecognized artists who live within 50 miles of the state capital. Better known as "22 to Watch" (although the 2008 edition features just "20 to Watch"), "New Art in Austin" joins the multitude of shows – not only in the visual-art world but on television (America's Next Top Model, American Idol, Celebrity Chef, Project Runway, etc.) – that try to identify the future artists/models/designers/singers/dancers/chefs to take note of. I was curious about the past two 22 artists – make that 44 artists – who were included in the AMOA show. Where are they now? What have they been doing since then? How did the show affect them and their work?

Of the 44 artists, about half still live in the state with a majority still living in Austin. Several teach, either at the University of Texas, St. Edward's University, Texas State University-San Marcos, or in Houston. Some have started local galleries, which exhibit the work of young emerging artists from the area and beyond. Some have moved to New York City or California or even overseas. Many have been shown throughout the state, received awards, or been up for awards, as in any artist community.

To get more specifics, I checked in with 10 artists to find out what's happened to them since they were in "22 to Watch."

Heather Johnson (2005)

<i>hard/soft</i> (detail), by Heather Johnson
hard/soft (detail), by Heather Johnson

It's been a bit more than a year since I moved to New York. Most of that time I've spent getting adjusted to living and working here, building new relationships, and trying to figure out how my work responds to and operates within this place, which is vastly different from any other place I've lived or known. Last September, I made a public piece called hard/soft for Conflux 2007, a festival of mostly interactive street projects that took place in Williamsburg. This is an installation of chalk text on a 60-foot-long wall that supports the road connecting the Williamsburg Bridge to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. More recently I was in a group show in Summit, New Jersey, called "Between to and From," for which I made a similar text-based, site-specific installation called vox populi. The piece was designed to operate within the peripheral visions of the people who pass through the center, mostly Summit locals taking art classes, art center staff, and occasional visitors from outside the town. Right before I left Austin, I did a solo show at Women & Their Work that laid the groundwork for the text projects described above and current embroidery projects.

Roy Stanfield (2002)

Untitled, by Roy Stanfield
Untitled, by Roy Stanfield

"22 to Watch" was a great experience for me. I had not shown anywhere before this, and it really built my confidence to be taken seriously in Austin. And when I moved to Boston and then New York City, this same confidence made me take myself seriously and demand that of others. Dana [Friis-Hansen] and the rest of the [AMOA] crew were really wonderful to work with, and those relationships have lasted for me. Things have changed dramatically. I've found myself confronted with a huge art world and have been trying to understand where I shake out in all that. I've worked for many art galleries at this point and find myself questioning everything from my relationship to an audience, to any gallerist, to any potential collectors, the need for graduate school, and the need for the independent curator/art writer. I'm wondering if it is right to make a living off artwork. I know this is historically true of art, but it seems to me that I don't want to judge my work or my success (and possibly the lack of it) on whether or not my artwork was purchased. All of this has led to a change in my work. I find myself looking for ways not to have to show and wondering if I can change my art into highbrow illustration and magazine layout.

Mark Schatz (2002)

<i>Googling Mackinac</i>, by Mark Schatz
Googling Mackinac, by Mark Schatz

I actually think about the first "22 to Watch" exhibition fairly often as the moment when Dana Friis-Hansen scooped me out of a blissfully naive place where I made whatever I wanted to and thrust me into a bustling and very active field of artistic practice where spectators were engaged with the work and art history in a much more sophisticated way. The show was meant to expose artists to Austin, but as an artist I was completely oblivious to the breadth and depth of the artistic activity occurring in the city I had called home for the previous four years. Dana was and is very enthusiastic and supportive and gave me a real education into the art world from the perspective of the institution and the collecting community. That was all the Land of Oz to me before AMOA. Since moving to Houston, I've been making new installations and objects while teaching at Glassell, the studio school at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and as a member of the faculty at San Jacinto College.

Karen Skloss (2005)

A lot of good things came to me out of ["22 to Watch"]. First, I had a show in Chicago at Skestos Gabriele Gallery that came directly out of the exhibition. It was nice because the film I edited, Be Here to Love Me, was opening in Chicago that same weekend. Then I went back to editing for a while, worked on a series for CNBC and then another feature for PBS' Independent Lens. During this time, I decided to shift focus from smaller pieces in order to throw all of my energy into a documentary feature exploring the themes from my previous work. The working title of the film is Unbroken Home, and I was able to raise money for the project through a variety of grants, including the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund and the city of Austin Cultural Contracts. I've been working on the film full-time for the past eight months and plan to finish by the end of this summer.

Mike Osborne (2005)

From <i>Enter the Dragon</i>, by Mike Osborne
From Enter the Dragon, by Mike Osborne

I felt like the last installment of "22 to Watch" did a good job of representing the quality and range of work being made by young Austin artists. On a personal level, it's always been very easy for me to get wrapped up in the rather solipsistic process of shooting new pictures, which is really only part of my work as a photographer. The AMOA show was an opportunity, a mandate, to see some work through to completion. The exposure to audiences in Austin, as well as in Galveston and Dallas, was another significant benefit. This past September, I had my first solo show at Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas, an opportunity which came about largely as a result of the exhibition traveling to the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art.

Peat Duggins (2005)

<i>All Debate on the Subject Ends</i>, by Peat Duggins
All Debate on the Subject Ends, by Peat Duggins

I think ["22 to Watch"] was a necessary early step in getting my work in a museum, which was definitely important to me, though it was not a tremendous boom in terms of offers, sales, contacts, etc. But it was much more momentous on a personal level. My parents and extended family came to Austin (a first) for the opening. To them – and I think this true of a broader public – "museum" confirms canonization and thus bestows a high degree of professionalism and legitimacy. The piece that I exhibited in the show was, in my opinion, an unsuccessful fragment of a larger, more successful solo show, but easily 10 times as many people saw the AMOA exhibit on its opening night than during the entire run of the other show. My inclusion in "22 to Watch" provided potent justification for my work past, present, and future, which has been very important to me. My situation is not drastically different than it was three years ago, so the show is not the launching pad that many wish it to be. Ideally, it is a survey of what is good right now in this town.

Sterling Allen (2005)

Untitled, by Sterling Allen
Untitled, by Sterling Allen

I feel like the AMOA show was really validating for me in a few ways. It was the first official studio visit I had ever had, for starters. Also, it was a few years after school, and I had been on my own for a while. I had begun making these simple drawings and was always concerned in the back of my mind that the drawings themselves were maybe not enough. I also had been trying new things like the "rap drawing" equations that AMOA ended up showing as well. It really gave me the confidence to work on and try new things. I really enjoy humor in art, and I felt like the curators were able to see value in the humorous aspect of the work as well. Being able to follow that lighthearted aspect of my work has stuck. I think it also showed me that even though the work may be fairly quick and easy to execute, if it is strong conceptually and interesting, it still works. I think young artists get hung up on validating work by the amount of time involved to make something or other things like size and amount of detail, so it showed me that those things take a back seat to content and ideas, which is something that drives me currently.

Ledia Carroll (2005)

<i>Mission Lake Project</i> (detail), by Ledia Carroll
Mission Lake Project (detail), by Ledia Carroll

I live in San Francisco now and did a big project called Mission Lake Project, which was sponsored by Southern Exposure. The project took a full year to happen. I am now working on another project about the former sand dunes that used to be all over San Francisco – planning to reconstruct a sand dune in downtown San Francisco and do another bike race with historical checkpoints. San Francisco loves temporary artworks. It seems like part of the culture here. Still doing landscape design professionally, which I have been doing for many years as well. The plants in California are incredible, so that is a treat, and my work takes on a landscape sculpture quality. I am getting interested in working on bigger and more collaborative projects. I think that is going to be the next wave of my artworks. My piece Inland Sea, which I did at AMOA, was an ambitious piece with the water flowing through the museum. It was very cool of AMOA to take that.

Young-Min Kang (2005)

<i>Gravity Zero</i>(detail), by Young-Min Kang
Gravity Zero(detail), by Young-Min Kang

I just finished an installation piece in the Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, similar to the one [I did] at AMOA. I think this is just one of the good things that resulted from the exhibit. There are two major influences from the show: an artist like me lives/survives with the feedback from the audiences/viewers, so all of those rave reviews about the show pushed me further in the direction of considering art as a public activity, and it made me engage and reflect in the world that I am living in my work. The show directly and indirectly connected me to other chances for shows in states and abroad, and I think it is precious because the show was totally a local one. But at the same time, it bridged the artists to outside the local community. Currently, I'm doing more shows outside of Texas and since the last "22 to Watch," I have participated in artist residencies and in a variety of shows. These days I am working on designing a public art project at Austin-Bergstrom Airport.

Jeffrey Dell (2005)

Untitled, by Jeffrey Dell
Untitled, by Jeffrey Dell

In the last three years, I've continued to show at D Berman Gallery in Austin as well as Poissant Gallery in Houston. Also, I had a few pieces accepted into the 2007 Texas Biennial and done a residency at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy. The work has changed radically. Two years ago, I decided to devote my winter break to trying some ideas I had for screen printing, and I've not really turned back since. I said years ago that I'd never make screen prints for my own work, but even the various screen prints I've made in the last two years have a fair amount of variation – someone in the Chronicle called me a chameleon. I have sold many pieces far and wide to people who said they first saw my work at the AMOA show. Besides all of the above, the "22 to Watch" exhibit helped me in many other ways. I received tenure at Texas State University-San Marcos, and I got married three weeks ago to someone who attended the opening of the exhibit, Julia Dell Hlozek.

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More New Art in Austin
New Art in Austin 2008: The 20 to watch
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AMOA names the 20 Austin artists for its next 'New Art in Austin' exhibition

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New Art in Austin, Austin Museum of Art, Roy Stanfield, Mark Schatz, Peat Duggins, Young-Min Kang

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