Exclusive: Betty Tompkins x FRONTRUNNER for ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH 2018

For Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, FRONTRUNNER and Betty Tompkins presented an exclusive zine showcasing her work, alongside a double Q&A with Tompkins and gallerist Rodolphe Janssen. Tompkins was represented by Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels) and P.P.O.W Gallery (New York) at the fair.

Betty

What piece of advice or helpful hint do you wish had been given to you before getting your work out in front of other people?
You must have a dedicated place to work, even in a small studio apartment. My first studio in NYC was the few feet between the bed and the wall. You must develop the discipline to work during the blocks of time you know you will have available. Build up your circle of artist friends so you will feel you have support and can get conversations going about your work and concepts.

Is there one or two things a young artist should ALWAYS have in the studio? Is there anything they should NEVER have?
Always have enough materials on hand so you don’t panic about having it. Having only 1/4 tube of cadmium red to use is small enough to make you tighten up and ruin what you are trying to do. Unless you use digital devices in your work, leave them out of there. They will only distract you. Social media is addictive.

As a young student, yourself, you were constantly up against a wall of sexism and ageism; too young, not experienced, no clout, etc. When a young artist hears this now, what should their response be?
Fuck you!

Young artists seem to have so many electronic resources available to them with a single click. Is there anything non-electronic you would recommend to have or use in a studio practice?
Use what you need to to make your work. Otherwise, the electronic is driving you instead of the other way around.

Oftentimes, approaching a gallery is an intimidating prospect to young graduates or emerging artists. In retrospect, how would you court a gallery as a young artist without a massive CV or resume behind you?
The first thing to do is to identify a few galleries that might be interested in you who are developing emerging artists. Do you know anyone associated with that gallery? It is always better if you can go through a third party, one way or another. Follow them on social media. Be positive in your remarks to them. Go to the openings and don’t get drunk. If the person you are trying to go through says “no”, be gracious and understanding. There is no way you can grasp what their own relationship to the gallery is.

For young women, specifically, who follow in your footsteps in making NSFW or censor-prone work, what would offer as advice or anecdote to help elevate them now?
Be persistent. Be prepared. Have documentation up to date. Be cooperative. Leave your ego at home.

Money is an ever-present issue for young artists, and in the past decade or fifteen years we’ve seen the rise of the “gig economy” (where a full-time job has to support an artist, often in an unrelated field). Since teaching jobs are becoming so scarce, what would you say to a young artist who has to maintain a studio practice and still make rent?
I have aways been critical that grad schools and undergrad programs don’t insist that students have expertise in something that can support them that are broadly employable.Plumbing, carpentry, graphic design. Teaching is a real skill. It is not for everyone. There are very few jobs for adjuncts and almost none for tenure track full-time. At one point, I taught 6-7 classes at 3-4 schools to support myself. It was tough. I was very frugal.

In this highly abnormal political and cultural environment (since 2016), would you advocate for artists taking up a political position or remaining neutral, at best?
I would not advise them to do ANYTHING that goes beyond their beliefs and their willingness to spend to spend their minimal work time on it.

Betty Tompkins
Women Words (Van Dyck #1), 2017
Acrylic on book page
11 1/4 x 8 3/4 in
Courtesy of the artist and rodolphe janssen (Brussels)

Rodolphe

What piece of advice or helpful hint do you wish had been given to you before you opened your gallery?
Don’t do art fairs during the first five years.

Young artists and young galleries seem to have so many electronic resources available to them with a single click. Is there anything non-electronic you would recommend to have or use day to day?
A good coffee machine.

Oftentimes, approaching a gallery is an intimidating prospect to young graduates or emerging artists. If you were an emerging artist, how would you court a gallery without a massive CV or resume behind you?
Visit the exhibitions and share interesting ideas about them.

Money is an ever-present issue for young artists, even more for young galleries, and in the past decade or fifteen years we’ve seen the rise of the “gig economy” (where a full-time job supports an artistic pursuit, often in an unrelated field). What would you say to a young gallery owner aiming to break even in those first critical years?
Don’t expect to make money in the first years.

In this highly abnormal political and cultural environment (since 2016), would you advocate for artists taking up a political position or remaining neutral, at best?
There is no better solution. It really depends on each artist. Being an artist is, in a way, a political statement.

Betty Tompkins in her studio
Photo credit: Darrell Jamal Thompson, 2018

 

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