It’s 9 o’clock on a surprisingly warm September evening in San Francisco, and I’m already at my third art opening of the night. I should be in New York. Two years ago at a normal bar a few normal blocks from the normal NYU campus, my friends threw me a going away party. I was leaving town to get my MFA in Art from San Francisco Art Institute. With a giant grin on my face, I drunkenly told everyone, “don’t cry for me Argentina, I’ll be back. Two years, and I’m back. Trust me. No really, trust me.” Two years later, with an SFAI graduate degree in the back pocket of my NYC UNIQLO skinny jeans, I’ve found myself living in a studio apartment in SF’s Mission District making the most significant artwork I’ve ever produced, and I can’t tell if it’s because of my BFA, my MFA, my love affair with SF, my longing for NYC, or simply because I was born this way.
Regardless of where or what or who I’m fantasizing about, the point is, I’m at my third gallery opening on the hottest night of the year. It’s my buddy and MFA classmate Mitsu Okubo’s show, Subscription/Prescription. The “Who’s Who of San Francisco” is out tonight, and with four months having gone by since we all graduated and abruptly left our sanctuary graduate studios of the last two years, it’s a festive atmosphere to drink some sangria, chat about composting, and cry about our last juried review rejection.
I started the night at Matt Borruso’s The Hermit’s Revenge Fantasy at Steven Wolf Fine Arts, a gallery in the Mission. After I graduated, Steven and I became buddies and because of the proximity of his gallery to my apartment and the fabulousness of the Mission renewing itself as the center of contemporary art in SF, I like to pretend that it’s the West Coast version of Chelsea, and Steven Wolf is like Matthew Marks and I’m like Nayland Blake. I don’t know where the hell Nayland Blake lives, but I follow him on Twitter, he’s fabulous, and I bet he drinks ice water with Matthew Marks like I do with Steven Wolf. Matt and I were in Steven’s summer group show, Negative Space, and Matt teaches in the Painting department at SFAI but I didn’t work with him because I was in New Genres and I don’t own a paintbrush.
A bunch of my painting classmates showed up in support of Matt and luckily I got a car ride with one of them to the next space in Union Square – the Performance Art Institute (which I like to say in a grandiose voice followed by two echoes while gesturing a giant rainbow with my arms). A show titled Keeping an Eye on Surveillance was mounted and it was as normal and dense as the title itself. My mentor professors Tony Labat and Allan deSouza were included, but apparently Tony’s piece was unexpectedly removed and Allan’s piece was the curation of the work of his students in one of his current graduate classes. So unless some artwork slapped me in the face, which surprisingly didn’t happen at “the” performance venue, I was simply there to support my teachers, support my grad classmates still enrolled at SFAI, say my hellos, be physically present in the art world, and maybe find a boyfriend.
A short drunk walk up and down the urban SF landscape and I was at Mitsu’s opening. With all my friends and classmates and archenemies around me, I thought about the small, student-run galleries on the SFAI campus, the 9 AM crits in our freezing installation rooms, and whether or not Gwyneth Paltrow would show up. This is real. This isn’t an isolated classroom in the Dogpatch neighborhood of SF that seems so far east it might as well be in Ohio. Mitsu’s work isn’t tacked to the walls of his smelly studio – it’s in a gallery in the center of the universe. I giggled to myself that I’ve seen Mitsu’s work a hundred million times, but there are strangers and hipsters and old people looking at this for the first time — being horrified, being delighted, being confused. Someone who worked at the space must have seen me giggling because he approached me and asked me if I liked the work. I said, “I think so,” and he asked, “how did you hear about the show,” and I said, “oh, just around,” and he got the clue that I was done being market research, but not before gesturing to the collages and saying, “well let me know if you have any questions about it,” to which I mumbled under my breath, “don’t worry, I won’t.”
And it’s true, I did hear about the show from just around — just around the block, just around my friends, just around my Facebook wall. Having gone to SFAI and living and making art in SF is like, the sexiest thing ever. I can’t jump out my window and commit tragic creative 27-year-old suicide without accidentally landing on someone from the art world. For the past two years, I’ve blogged about my graduate school experience on Art21 Blog with a variety of confessional material. In the upcoming months, I’m sadistically excited to continue blogging here, but this time about my life after graduation. I’m thrilled to share the blog column with Jacquelyn Gleisner, who will approach her storytelling in a much different manner, including geographically, as she is across the planet from me in NYC. We’ll be covering a variety of topics that are pertinent to the post-student. We’ll try to make sense of the world with the knowledge we’ve gained and lost during grad school, and what it means to be applying these graduate ideas and concepts to this alien post-school terrain around us. First thing on the agenda: how can I get a student discount when I’m not a student?