Though his desk isn’t even fully stocked yet, he is clearly game to embrace all of the art and culture Lexington has to offer, from his optimistic hope for great seats at Keeneland and Rupp Arena, to his possible willingness to consider tattoos for the sake of community engagement, and a presumed embrace of the music and moonshine that characterize our kickass-edness.
(And since he still misses Fat Matt’s in Atlanta, for heaven’s sake, someone take him to County Club on a ribs night.)
How do you plan to adorn the complimentary horse that is issued to every Lexingtonian upon arrival?
With items from my vast collection of memorabilia related to the film, The Outlaw Josey Wales.
What song do you plan to sing to express your love for Kentucky at your first karaoke night out with your new colleagues?
“Georgia On My Mind” would probably be a bad choice. Maybe “We Are The Champions” by Queen.
Your curatorial style/philosophy is….
I should quote Montreal-based painter and jazz drummer, John Heward, who said about his process: “intention, accident, acceptance.” Some other words I’d like to think might describe what I do: generous, provocative, empowering, empathetic.
What has been the biggest surprise of Lexington so far?
The many amazing artworks I am discovering in the Museum’s collection! A Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, the photographs of Doris Ulmann, several paintings by Milton Avery, and a Harry Bertoia sound sculpture to name a few.
Tell us about the character you might play if there were a Lexington version of Portlandia?
I’d rather play a complex knight in our city’s version of Game of Thrones.
What stereotype of Lexington do you MOST hope is not true?
That it will be impossible for me to get a good bagel.
What Lexington stereotype do you most hope IS true?
That all new museum directors get good seats at Keeneland and Rupp Arena.
How much time have you spent hanging with CoachCal so far?
He keeps leaving me messages about getting together to discuss ways of attracting some interest in his team, but we haven’t actually met. The museum and I are ready to help.
[speaking of millions] What could you do with an extra million dollars at UK Art Museum?
That would help us with acquisitions, publications, and technology.
In what ways does Kentucky kick ass?
Music and moonshine.
Funniest thing that’s ever happened to you involving performance art?
The performance art I appreciate most is not funny, more often they are unsettling and psychological. Vito Acconci, Yoko Ono, Chris Burden, and William Pope.L, for example. That said, I did a performance in graduate school and during it, artist Francois Morelli handed me some head cheese, which he knew I hated. Of course, I had to take a big bite. That was funny and problematic.
Top five favorite university art museums?
There are so many. Off the top of my head—The Blanton Museum of Art at University of Texas in Austin, NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, the Vera List Center at M.I.T., The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, and the Clark Art Institute at Williams College. They are rigorous and adventurous, two qualities that university museums must be.
Biggest difference between Atlanta’s art scene and Lexington’s art scene?
The fast answer is scale and diversity, but I am sure that there are many similarities. I’m looking forward to knowing the art environment here by immersing myself in it.
Do you see an Art Party in UK Art Museum’s future?
I see a very successful fundraising event in our future—building on the history and notoriety of Art in Bloom, and expanding the fun quotient in several ways. Stay tuned!
What’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to you about your book, The Art Life? What is the meanest thing anyone has said about it (that you know of)?
A range of art people, from Dana Schutz to Jerry Saltz to Wayne Koestenbaum, have all said they value it. That pleases me immensely. I don’t know of any mean reactions.
Tell us about the role Digital and New Media might play in the University’s permanent collection?
Whatever you want to include as “new media” must be represented in the collection, and in some cases, the digital already is, in various contemporary photographs for example. Contemporary artists are using the most up-do-date technologies in countless ways, even to produce work in more traditional mediums like painting and sculpture. Being at UK should help me stay very current in this area, talking with colleagues in the various art departments about this question.
“You give yourself a creative life; other people give you a career.” – How do you see UK Art Museum’s role in the life and/or career of our local/regional artists?
On the creative life side—artists can use the museum to be inspired, to stay in touch with history and the present, and as a space for new experiences, be they intellectual, emotional, or social. Come see an exhibition or lecture, think about them, talk with others, have agreements and arguments. None of that happens if you don’t show up. On the career side, the museum will include artists in our various projects and help to promote and endorse their efforts whenever possible. I take the role of spokesman for artistic ambition and excellence very seriously. We will be a connector to and from the region.
You like multi-taskers and people who have a second life; what would your dreamiest “second life” be?
Can I be a philanthropist chef?
What are some opportunities for Lexington/UK’s Town-Gown relationship as you see it from the Art Museum’s perspective?
More dialogue, more collaboration, more ways of understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of who and what is here. I hope to partner with a much wider range of people than the museum has ever done before. I will seek folks out, and I hope that others will approach us.
Word is, you don’t (currently) have any tattoos. To express your affection for your new city—and convince us of your commitment—what tattoo are you prepared to get?
I have always thought about getting the word “here” as a tattoo. A reminder to stay present. What font, size, and where it goes on my body might be something the community can weigh in on.
What is your most treasured possession?
Two treasured possessions of note: the letter my brother wrote me on my 50th birthday, and a Charles Bukowski drawing of a man smoking a cigarette standing next to a woman sitting on a burning couch. I love them both.
This article also appears on page 9 of the July 3, 2014 print issue of Ace.
Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, and entertainment, delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.
BONUS Lightning ROUND
Quick: Is Lexington the South, or the Midwest?
I just left Atlanta, so it is the North.
Any art on your bathroom walls?
Not yet, but there always is.
Name five things in your refrigerator right now:
Hummus, turkey breast, arugula, half n half, and mango lemonade.
Name five things in your top right desk drawer right now:
There are only three: my new business cards, tropical lip moisturizer, and stamps.
Your first restaurant meal in Lexington was what:
A dinner with Dean Michael Tick at Panda Cuisine. We discussed experimental theatre in New York and ate Mongolian Beef.
The restaurant meal you most miss from Atlanta:
I could go for some Fat Matt’s Rib Shack right about now.
The brunch you most miss from Portland:
Anywhere with my good friends who live there.
Last movie you saw?
The Pawnbroker on TV last night. You can’t go wrong with Sidney Lumet.
Your greatest extravagance?
I’m not that extravagant. A new book of poetry, a cool sport jacket, and a deep tissue massage, and I’m good.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies by Dave Itzkoff.