Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Michelle Rothman's "Egoless" at Femina Potens

A friend of mine, who has long worked in one of San Francisco’s premier museums, likes to refer to her place of work as the Mausoleum: the place where art goes to die. Femina Potens is once again quickening the pulse of the SF art scene, and ensuring that creativity and imagination are alive and well with its new show “Egoless.” I speak with the fiery master- mind behind this exhibition, FP curator Michelle Rothman, about this challenging and introspective show.
Francesca Ochoa, ArtXX Magazine

Hi Michelle! Could you start us off by explaining your position at Femina Potens?

I’m the visual arts director of Femina Potens. That entails the in- gallery visual arts program as well as FP Edge, which is our outreach program. I have been with the gallery about a year now, and I absolutely love it.

In a nutshell, what is this show “Egoless” all about?

We asked 15 different artists in an array of different medias to come together. We put them in groups of three, which were chosen out of a hat, and gave them three months to complete this project, and in doing so, give up their ego…

This is artists we are talking about. Did they really give up their ego?

They’ve really had to. Trust me, it’s been quite an experiment. The first month, each of the fifteen artists were asked to create a piece using whatever medium they wanted. Then, they switched with someone else in their group. Everyone swapped a piece, and then came back and swapped with the other person in their group. At the end of the three months, there are fifteen works, but each piece has had three artists work on it. Within each group, each artist will have worked on the beginning, middle, and end of a piece.

What inspired you to create “Egoless”?

Firstly, I have always been inspired by the exquisite corpse. Probably what inspired me the most, was a show started in New York about 10 or 11 years ago at the Guggenhiem. It was composed of a number of Robert Rauschenberg’s panels, and traveled to maybe twenty different cities in the states. Everytime the show went to a different city, different curators, celebrities, or personalities would be invited to take several of the panels and create their own piece with them. So, everytime the show went somewhere else, the end result was going to be markedly different. To me, it is really important that artists are kept stimulated. I think that a gallery shouldn’t just display work, it should inspire work. My goal in being a curator is to always be a muse, getting artists to create new work, and push boundaries.

What has the reaction of the artists been like?

It’s been very interesting, because no one knows what is happening to their piece. Every person who has been involved has had a different reaction. Some people have kept it really minimal, knowing that other people will add, and some people really went for it. Some people have been really upset with what has happened with their work, and others have loved it. But all the pieces have gone through a huge transformation, and the one’s that I’ve seen so far, are really spectacular.

Is this a project that you plan to continue at Femina Potens?

Definitely. We will keep this as an annual show. We’ve had such a great experience. So much of it is the trust of the people you are working with. We went into this blind. Some of the artists I knew, some of them I didn’t, and I have to say, I have worked with fifteen phenomenal artists. They all really let go, while at the same time really engaged emotionally, physically, spiritually- it’s been incredible.

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