June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Everyone deserves a mentor. I met my mentor through a curator named Elizabeth with whom I worked in Pittsburgh for a show I did called Urban Iterations. I was living in NYC at the time. I had left art school and truth be told, I was feeling a bit adrift. Elizabeth could tell I needed help and she strongly encouraged me to go back to school. I was very hesitant to go back again, I was really struggling with what I wanted out of my education. She told me to go meet with her friend Francie, who at the time was a recruiter for SAFI. We decided to meet on a Sat morning and she agreed to meet me at my apartment , which I had also used as a make-shift studio.
Looking back, I believe there are no coincidences in life, just life. I had stayed out all night after seeing Gogol Bordello at the Knitting Factory. I was naive about being so cavalier about our meeting. In my young mind, I thought that I was the cat’s pajama’s and was not sold on going to art school. Hadn’t I just had a solo show in Pittsburgh? I had another solo show in Idaho the year before, so I was thinking I was doing quite well on my own.
Francie showed up at my little apartment which was crammed with stuff. The walls were covered with magazine tear-outs,photographs, and polaroids plastered all around my mirrors of friends. She carefully looked at my portfolio and then we quickly got into a lively discussion on the pros and cons of art school. And what I mean to say is we argued. Little did I know how wonderful it was we butted heads. We got into it in a way that I had never been challenged before, it was amazing. I stood my ground firmly. I argued that despite only attending a year of college and a year at a French Photo Institute in Paris I was doing quite well with my two solo shows. I was doing projections with my photography that not many people were doing at the time, so I felt special like I was doing something original. We went back and forth about the work and then all of a sudden she turned to me and said “yeah bur you are not happy hear in New York, in fact you are quite lonely.” I was shocked. She said such a pure statement of truth to me I could not believe how she had come to that conclusion. “I can tell you this because you have a shrine for all the friends you miss that don’t live in NYC.” She pointed to an antique door with a mirror inside it that I had outlined the the border with polaroids of all my friends who had come to visit me while I was in NY. I put them there so I could see them every day as I got ready in the morning. By looking at their faces, it felt like they were closer to me, as if I was enjoying my morning coffee with them every day.
“You are living in some kind of installation of all of your friends that you miss” said Francie. I was gobsmacked. “You don’t have a community here, you are on your own. Artists need a community. “If you got to art school you will find that community. You will take classes there where you will make art you never thought you could make. It will change your art. Your art will get stronger. Art school will challenge you in ways you have not even thought of yet in terms of who you are as an artist. That is why you should go to art school. I am going to change your life.”
And like a Greek oracle she said those words, and it was so. I applied to SFAI that fall and by January I was in class. I felt that our conversation that morning changed the course of my life fundamentally. Eight years later I am still on the west coast making art, surrounded by an incredible community of artists and my work has evolved greatly beyond photography. I could have asked for a better person to come into my life and turn it upside down. I needed to be brought back to reality and she was able to do it in a honest was that I could really, really hear. I think there isa particular relationship one can have if one finds the right person who can see one in life and allow one to change for the better. Francie changed my life and I will always be incredibly thankful that we met and argued for hours that Sat morning about art. Thank you Francie Caprino for kicking my ass when it needed to kicking and thank you Elizabeth Reiss for introducing me to the right ass kicker.