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Art Frankly /// Christina Massey - Curator-in-Residence, KUNSTRAUM

By on October 4, 2023 read article

Christina Massey is an independent curator with over a decade of experience in curating exhibitions that focus on and highlight underrepresented female artists. In 2016, she founded WoArt, a platform dedicated to promoting and showcasing the work of female-identifying artists through social media and curated exhibitions.

Her curatorial projects have been displayed in prestigious venues such as the Hunterdon Art Museum, Court Tree Collective, BioBAT Art Space, ISE Foundation, and Cluster Gallery, amongst others. Massey frequently collaborates with organizations and charities to create additional opportunities for artists. In 2022, she partnered with Rosebud Women to organize a week-long symposium and art fundraiser, raising over $35,000 in support of the Center for Reproductive Rights. She also collaborates with programs like All SHE Makes Magazine and Registry, the I like your work Podcast, and The Visionary Collective to curate online shows and expand opportunities for wider audiences. Her projects have been featured in notable publications including Art Net News, Visionary Project, and ABC News.

Currently serving as the Curator-In-Residence at KUNSTRAUM for the 2023/24 term, Massey is preparing for an exhibition project supported by Art In General at Space776 in Manhattan. She has been invited as a guest speaker at esteemed institutions like Pratt University, SVA, PAFA, Chico State University, as well as organizations such as the New York Artists Circle, Ely Center for Contemporary Art, and the Women’s Caucus for Art.

AF: Hi Christina! We are so excited to chat with you. First thing’s first, we want to know more about your upbringing. Where are you from and what are the arts communities like there?

CM: I grew up in a small foothills town called Cameron Park in California. It is not a region that is well known for the arts at all, so sadly there was very little in terms of an arts community there. Sacramento is about a 30 minute drive away, and was the closest location for any sort of cultural activities.

I was very happy to see when Sacramento expanded their only museum, The Crocker Art Museum a few years ago and is now a really beautiful venue showcasing largely California artists. I wish that had existed when I was younger, but at least kids now have a much better introduction to the Arts than I did.

AF: Please tell us a little more about yourself, when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

CM: I have been drawn to the Arts from a very young age. I would say in college however, is when I began to discover not only the joy in creating and discussing art, but the fun in organizing and planning art events.

For example, while in college, I once encouraged a group of friends to create an ad for a garage sale which was essentially a pop-up gallery. People would walk up asking where the bikes were, then end up actually looking at the work, asking questions, and we even had some sales. I would organize exhibitions anywhere I could, coffee shops to small local galleries, one was even a surprise exhibition using the interior of the art building’s elevator.

In curating I greatly enjoy how a larger conversation can be held, and a unique experience created through the collection of selected works. Each show is always a bit of a puzzle to solve, and I love the challenge and interaction I get to have with the artists I work with.

AF: You are Kunstraum’s Curator-in-Residence for the 2023-2024 season! Tell us more about this role and what it looks like for you on a day-to-day basis.

CM: Yes! I started my residency in February 2023 so I am about half way through at this point and so far it’s been a really wonderful experience. The residency has the CIR take the lead on curating 3 exhibitions throughout the year in their gallery space. This starts with an Open Call, and then a Members Exhibition, before the final residency project of which is of the curator’s own choosing.

Currently I am in the middle of preparing for their Members exhibition which shows in two parts, with each portion showing for 3 weeks. This has been extremely fun as the Members not only include those currently with studios in their lofts spaces, but past artists-in-residence as well.

One day in preparation for the upcoming show, I had a series of Zoom calls setup artists who will be in the show and ended up having conversations with artists in Taiwan, Belgium, Germany and Houston, TX all in one afternoon. It was so fun. That is one of my favorite things about this residency, is that I am meeting so many new artists, and from all over the world that I may not have had the opportunity to otherwise.

For anyone interested, we actually have the Open Call out now for next year’s CIR!

AF: You are curating Kunstraum’s Members Show, Memory Mirage, on view from September 17 – November 5, 2023. We would love to know more about this show and how it came to be.

CM: KUNSTRAUM holds a Members Show each year that the current CIR curatres. This includes their current studio members and former artists-in-residence. To prepare, I met with all the artists that are participating in the show, both local and abroad. As I did this I was taking notes of words, phrases or inspirations that would repeat through the artists statements and finding the overlap throughout their varied mediums and genres. I love finding those visual connections as well within the artwork selections. This can be a color, material, technique, sometimes even a title that overlaps and creates interesting conversations between artworks.

For example, one artist in the show is an illustrator, Henrike Lendowski. She has a beautiful landscape drawing in the show which is influenced by climate change, and how this serene setting she has created is actually in threat of flooding. Another artist Gesche Würfel’s created a photographic collage which depicts the Berlin Wall, provoking reflections on what was and what remains of the West and East conflict that serve as a reminder and symbol of the divide that the Berlin wall created and its continued presence today. While they have very different inspirations, the compositions of each piece have this beautiful swerve of the river and wave that mimic each other and create a wonderful visual connection.

Another example of this is in the ceramic works of Elena Syromiatnikova and mixed media pieces of Hyoju Cheon. Elena’s abstract organic sculptures are very inspired by her family experiences of bee keeping and have a created hexagon pattern as a texture within their surfaces. This visually connects with the use of chicken wire and that same hexagon pattern in Hyoju’s monochrome mixed media wall pieces, also drawn from memories of childhood interactions and play.

These themes of remembrance and the ways in which we reflect, intermixed with perception, and personal histories became overlapping themes within the artist’s works, and hence the idea of Memory Mirage was born.

AF: Who are some emerging artists that you are excited about right now? Who should people keep an eye on?

CM: So many! That was one of the inspirations behind starting my instagram account WoArtBlog as I felt there was just so much great artwork out there that deserved to be seen. “Wo” is short for women but also meant to sound like “whoa!” It’s less of a stereotypical blog, and more a visual blog of the work I see that I am inspired by or that represents something happening in my life or the world at that moment.

Some recent posts for example featured Julie Evans botanically inspired ceramic sculptures that were showing at Pamela Salisbury Gallery in Hudson during the Upstate Art Weekend, those were really wonderful. Another standout for me during that weekend was the 3-person installation by Jayne Rosenberg, Bonny Leibowitz and Belén Millán, it was a knock-out show!

I think one of the most inventive and original artists I have seen in a while is Alicia Piller. She is based out in LA, and I saw her incredible solo show at the Craft Contemporary that was on view last winter. I had the pleasure of working with her once for a show I curated at the Court Tree Collective in Brooklyn, and she just seems to have that “star power” and I am always thrilled to see what she does next.

AF: What are you most excited for this season in the art world as a whole?

CM: Fall in NYC is always exciting. There are always a slew of exciting shows opening and I love wandering the various art districts and soaking in all the post-summer shows that seem to have a new vibrancy and energy shift as the season changes. I particularly love it if it’s any artist’s first show, and tend to favor the smaller or mid-tier galleries in areas like Tribeca and the Lower East Side, however I have no complaints about those wonderful block-buster shows in Chelsea too. There’s something about fall though, perhaps it’s that there are also so many different areas that hold open studios in addition to the art fairs that it feels full of potential and is very exciting to see and be a part of.

AF: Do you have any personal goals for this year?

CM: My goal is to finish my residency with a bang and do the best job possible for the artists involved. I also have been working really hard to establish relationships and tools that will help the next curator-in-residence for KUNSTRAUM to be as successful as possible as well. One of my favorite things about the residency is that I get to work with the team over the course of a year. This allows me to make my impression on the residency and programming in a way that might not be possible otherwise and I find very rewarding.

AF: As you know, Art Frankly is a community that cares about job transparency and supporting fellow art professionals. What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

CM: Always have a back-up plan, and a back-up plan to that. I think it’s great to build a “team” so to speak of other professionals in your industry that you can reach out to in a pinch. And of course in return, you can help when needed. Your team can be as simple as a group chat where you can vent in a safe place, ask for advice, share opportunities, to something more organized and official like the many organizations that help people to network within the industry. Don’t try to do everything alone, it’s okay to ask for help.

AF: How do you think the art world can become more transparent?

CM: Something my mom always tried pushing me to do in college was to take a couple business courses. I wish I had taken that advice, and I think a lot of artists, or young curators, art industry professionals would actually really benefit from that. Calling Art a business I know is a cringe topic for many, but I think sometimes that’s one of the biggest misunderstandings in the industry. It can be that from running a small arts organization to teaching at a college, running a gallery, or working at the MET, they are businesses that if you haven’t seen or experienced the other side of the coin so to speak, there can be a lot of misunderstanding. As businesses, from the artist themselves, to the dealer or even the collector, transparency about the obligations, limitations, costs etc I think would help everyone to be a little more empathetic and understanding.

AF: Christina, thank you so much for participating in Frank Talks, it has been a delight to chat with you! To finish off, we’re curious: If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection?

CM: Well, if money and space were no issue, some of my favorite artists are Judy Pfaff, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Chakaia Booker, Miriam Schapiro and Annabeth Rosen. Although, if you look at my curatorial instagram @woartblog where I feature the work of female identifying artists, pretty much everyone I’ve ever featured there I’d love to collect! If only I had won that last lottery that was over a billion dollars…wouldn’t we all have done some art collecting?!


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