Anonymous (?) (2019)


As part of the Foundations in Art: Theory and Education conference’s “member’s exhibition” curated by Michael Goodson, I presented a project in collaboration with Grace Oller, a student from the local university, Columbus College of Art and Design. Our piece was a painting, a conversation about labor and authorship in contemporary art, and a new relationship.

Our work started with an email proposal from me to the organizers of the show:

For this project, I'd like to work with a college student from a university in Columbus who is interested in painting/collaborative art/socially-engaged projects/critiquing traditional modes of art-making to create a wall painting of the attached drawing. I will write a set of instructions for the student to use to make the painting in the gallery before the show opens.

The instructions will be something like this: 1) Purchase paint [four specific paint colors that match the colors in the drawing] according to the paint color names I've sent you, 2) Use a digital projector to project an image of the drawing so the dimensions of the projection match the intended size of the painting (5'x7'? - Michael, let me know what size you think based on your plans - I just think the bigger the better), 3) Use pencils to trace the image onto the wall, and 4) Use your painterly discretion to make a painting of the drawing, it should replicate the drawing as precisely as possible.

The student that you select for this project should be great with email or phone communication, a skilled painter, interested in or at least aware of questions of authorship in contemporary art, excited to participate in a private and public dialogue with me about where and how we locate "the author" in the final product of this work, willing to be a "co-author" of the work with their name and mine on the wall next to the piece (or in the printed guide), and they should be available to have a public dialogue with me in the gallery during my time in Ohio. Ideally the audience of this dialogue would be students from the local universities (at least one class, but the more, the better). I have a budget of $300 to give as a stipend to the student artist, and I can cover the cost of paint if necessary. In the last iteration of this project, the student painter was also the gallery assistant at the university gallery where the work was shown, so he was paid through his job there.

From there, I was introduced to Grace who is an amazing painter, and I sent her the following instructions along with the original drawing.

Instructions for Grace Oller 1.jpeg

She produced the piece without ever having a conversation with me on the phone or through Skype, and we scheduled a public talk that took place during the FATE conference. We met at the conference hotel about an hour before the event, and we discussed our plan for what we wanted to address during the conversation, things like: authorship, artistic skills, labor distribution, collaboration and participation, institutions and ownership, money, and relationship building. A class from CCAD attended the talk alongside conference participants, and Grace suggested that we let the audience name the project for us, so we did - they chose Anonymous (?). One of the students in attendance also suggested that perhaps the institutions that invited me to do the project were actually the authors of the work.

I received $2000 as a professional development grant from my adjunct union at Portland State University to make this work, and I used the money for supplies, travel/lodging, and a fee for Grace.