18 May

Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

Curses!  My sudden idea of taking a quick nap has left me starting at 2 am.  This is a blog, not homework!  (Where it is not only more common for work to begin late, but its practically recommended)  This is a frustrating start, as I have a tendency to be slow and often think even slower in the wee hours.  Bah, enough face slapping, let’s begin!

Today was something a little bit different.  I had attended an art exhibition in the afternoon where I saw the works of dozens of artists and their various pieces.  Now, it is also significant to point out that this was a student exhibition, as it grouped many of the works into assignments and thus it stems that the product I saw may be the artist’s fulfillment towards a responsibility.

However, this does not take away from the creativity, boldness and beautiful imagination that I had saw.

And so, tonight’s Ted Talk is from Thelma Golden, and the art that has inspired her as a curator.

The artistic Ted Talk can be found here:

Length: 12 minutes, 29 seconds

Date Filmed: February 2009

There are two things that stand out to me the first time I watched the Ted Talk, and then two more while I watched the video multiple times.

For one, this was WOW, if I was an artist that suited her curator requirements (which she more than hints at), I’d totally approach her.  This is amazing, not only do I get to understand her perspective from what art could be, but I also get the idea of how a curator selects which art pieces will be on display.

It is very specific to the location, it’s immediate target audience that is hopefully being drawn into the museum and through that, the curator’s own purpose and goal comes to form.  How willing is an artist to match those goals?  In other words, should an artist create work to fit ‘into’ a museum or is it better to create what they want and possibly be rejected?

This is like being an actor/actress in the movies.  I think I might have made this analogy before, but I am tired and confused so I’ll do it again.  It is one thing to be very talented as an actor but just as important, what products/services can the actor effectively endorse?  It’s where the term ‘sell out’ comes from, where the artist distorts their original vision so it can be used to sell cars or Nintendo DS’es.

Personally, I say go for it all.  Money means more time to make art and less time worrying about money.  (Oh, a sad society we live in..)  And while looking at the various pieces today, it made me think about my own artistic skills and what I ‘had’ growing up.

Today, we have so many tools to create art and so much of it could be considered ‘cheating’ compared to days of old.  You know what I was good at?  Pencil sketches and maybe understanding three dimensional imagery.  That’s it.  And I was a member of the art club!

Ok, being a member of the art club means absolutely nothing.  It’s a ‘participation ribbon’, the only evidence that I have which showed that I actually liked art in general.  Right now I feel like I’m telling a professional opera singer that I was once part of a children’s choir.

So I strayed away from making the slightest comment out of fear of showing my ignorance to any of the artists present.  What the heck could I have said anyways, “I noticed you used a 2HB pencil.  Good ol’ 2HB… heh.. heh..  Excuse me while I hide under this table now.”

I mention this because of the elephant of the room.  Golden, in working as curator with the museum in Harlem, openly uses the phrase ‘young black artist’ multiple times.  It’s the works that she has supported, and has shared and of the works that I had seen today, I wonder which pieces would be viable to her.

Which pieces would be a good fit?  And for those that didn’t, it naturally stems that there must be galleries across the world where they do fit.  Near the end Golden speaks of how global art is becoming and that is a beautiful idea.

At the four minute mark she provides an example of art to culture which no doubt gave rise to the title of the TED talk.  It’s a powerful comparison.  Art is not much different from engineering.  It starts from a historical perspective that is preexisting.  One can’t simply ‘invent’ without it immediately being compared to already working models and innovations.  To truly create art demands that a knowledge of historical references to be respected.

In other words, anything I would draw, which doesn’t look like anything it should, would be garbage.  Ever play the game ‘Draw Something’?  I play it everyday, and all my pictures are sad sad stick figures that if they were real, they would kill themselves for being so horrible.

Poor damned ugly stick figures, you are my ugly art ‘children’.

One Sentence Summary

“Question art or is it better to question influences?”

This is the first summary that is a question, but I like it like that.  The first reference she shows is from a television show (that I’ve never seen) but I do recognize the character.  More significantly, she does and its impact on her and the rest of the world.  There AREN’T many artists as characters on television, who are artists drawn towards then when becoming artists?  The most common artists we see in media are from the Renaissance, but that shouldn’t mean we should limit our studies to those alone.

I have a Varley hat, he’s one of the Group of Seven and his hometown is just outside of Toronto.

(According to this link he actually was living IN Toronto, so I have no idea why his gallery was located outside of it.  I will blame.. politics.. and ugly stick figures.)

I found his work interesting, and if I ever studied art, he might have been a starting point.  (After all, famous and from Toronto.  It is something of a commonality)

What caught me off guard

Golden talks with her arms crossed.  I smiled when she did that.  (This is also part of the two other things I noticed on rewatching)

You’re not supposed to cross your arms when you talk.  Every stinkin book on communication I’ve ever looked at says this means the person is not being ‘personable’ and is showing a closed mind or cemented stance.  And when Golden does it, I disagree entirely with the notions I just mentioned.  It actually looks like a very comfortable stance to me.

It’s the kind of stance, a curator might make, while walking through a museum and describing various pieces of work surrounding her.  I think I would really enjoy her talking about specific pieces as her enthusiasm is high but it is tempered to the kind of presentation she is choosing to create.

This presentation could easily have been 300 hours and it would not have been enough to show ‘How art gives shape to cultural change’.  Art and Culture are such huge concepts that my mind is pasted at the notion.


Is there a Eugene museum?  One where the curator is looking for things that coincidentally coincide with my interests, thus making something I might have made into a museum piece?  Well, if there were an infinite number of museums in existence, maybe I could find one.  However I just realized I used the two words ‘Coincidentally Coincide’ and now I feel great shame.

So now that its been discussed, what can we do?

There aren’t any suggestions given in the Ted Talk (specific for myself) so I’d say going out and getting some ‘art on’ would be a good start.  I fear art has potential to become the fifth wheel of entertainment as there are so many other ways people can be distracted.

We shouldn’t let that happen, not if we wish to be remembered well.  Our art today is the product of our current culture and I can only hope that we are inspired.

– Updated every Friday

(Yeah, saying Thursday was misleading)

(Finished by 3:35 AM… DI-NO-MITE!)


Posted by on May 18, 2012 in TED Talks


2 responses to “Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

  1. Single Malt Monkey

    May 18, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    Good post. Guess you were rubbing your eyes by the end 🙂 Thanks for posting up the link to the TED talk, I’ll get over there right away. Art as entertainment ? Mmm , a fine line between selling ones soul and representing it. If you can do both then you can put bread on the table and “well done” but it’s the chosen few. I’m glad there are those who plough on regardless though. Where would we be if art was only to pamper to the masses? Hope you slept well. 🙂

  2. edtalksted

    May 22, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    Thanks for the comment! (I’m still learning how this all works, as I’m still new to this thing) Great blog you have as well. As for sleep, heh, I can do that later.


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