I have a love/hate relationship with the Chelsea gallery scene. When I started sending my resumes out to galleries looking for internships two- three years ago, I did my research in choosing galleries I knew showed work I enjoyed. Along with the galleries, I enjoyed, there were a handful of places I was hesitant about as I either never been to the place or knew it had large spaces and pieces of pretentious art with pretentious people. Being young, I thought, “what the hell.. it’ll be a learning experience.”
Let me take you through one of my interview sessions at one such “pretentious” place.. where the walls echo.. and gallerinas’ heels click with annoyance… and nobody gives a crap who walks through the doors.
Fashion-wise, I am a t-shirt and jeans type of person and slap on a pair of sneakers and I’m good to go. Knowing I was heading the Chelsea for an interview, I snazzed it up a little bit with dress pants, a button down shirt, a pair of ballet flats, and my portfolio. Nothing too fashionable, nothing designer-made.. nothing close to what gallerinas wore on that day at that top Chelsea gallery.
The gallery was featuring a video piece that month, so after opening the huge and heavy door into the space, you get to deal with the very busy “gatekeeper” who’s usually either typing away or on the phone. No “hello, how may I help you.” Nada.
“Hi, my name is Jane Tam. I have a meeting with blah blah.”
You couldn’t see the space because there was a floor-length curtain blocking you from entering the space.
You hear the heels click and out comes your interviewer, dressed to impress, topped off with a red lip. She was wearing 3-inch heels, some fancy dress, and had perfect highlights to her haircut. From that.. I already knew.. “fuck, this place is not for me.”
When the art doesn’t impress you, and that video that was playing definitely did not impress, and the woman interviewing you seemed to spend a fortune dressing herself.. as well as the rest of the staff, not giving two shits about a new intern, please, just walk away.
Sure, I thought,” Jane, suck it up and maybe you’ll be able to expose yourself to lots of important people.” I’ve tried it. For two weeks, I tried being good and gritting my teeth while I filed for the 50th time and ran to get lunch and researched where to get concrete for some new piece going up, but I just couldn’t get over how a gallerina I worked with flirted with every guy who came in and looked like he had money, how she complained about her high heels that she wore everyday, how my black jeans and flats just didn’t look professional enough, and how every job I was given was in no way challenging. I hated how fashion was as important as the job and how fashion and trend was a priority to hiring.
Now I know interns do get all the grunt work.. but when you see the gallerina above you on a smoking break, clicking her shoes, and fondling over her blackberry, and you’re compiling the represented artists on file.. and there are 10 male artists and 2 females.. you wonder, where the hell are we?
I don’t know… I just could not deal in that environment.
(People know I interned at Jen Bekman.. and by far, one of the friendliest, most welcoming, and diverse gallery. I chose Jen over Chelsea.. just from the environment, the opportunities/responsibilities given to me, and the feeling.)
Read Cara Phillip’s “What’s a Lady to Do?”
Submit: Women In Photography contains a simple concept:
-To create a collection of strong work by women actively creating work.
-To reach new audiences collectively.
Those interested in participating can submit as follows:
-5 jpegs from a cohesive project or a work in progress.
5×7 @150 dpi named “myname_title.jpg”
Email submissions to
womeninphotography at gmail dot com
Submission deadline for first monthly spotlight: May 1st. 2008 (11:59)
The 4 selected photographers will be given a week each to showcase a current project or a work in progress.