Occasionally a reader of Vasari21 has written or said to me, “I really enjoy your blog!” And I have been known to snap back, “It’s not a blog. It’s more like a magazine. I don’t know what to call it. Maybe I should call it a webazine.”
I don’t mean to be so prickly about making distinctions, but to my mind a blog (derived from the 1990s neologism “weblog”) is a very distinct kind of writing. It is usually one person opining, declaiming, describing—without benefit of an editor, or sometimes even an audience, other than one’s nearest and dearest—at no set length and on any given day. In many cases, a blog more closely resembles a diary entry and may fulfill the same function, except these are no longer under lock and key but tossed out into the uncharted seas of cyberspace.
There are some excellent art blogs on the web, like those of Joanne Mattera and Sharon Butler; these often incorporate off-the-cuff reviews of shows, photos of artworks, and maybe an occasional interview. And there are many artists who post ruminations about their work on their websites.
But none of this has anything to do with reporting.
When I launched Vasari21 about eight months ago, I envisioned the site encompassing all sorts of categories—essays from artists, podcasts with major players in the art world, reports on a variety of subjects, interesting gossipy tidbits in connection with museum and gallery shows, and so on. Two things I vowed never to include: written interviews (I think they are boring, unless scrupulously edited, as is the case in the New York Times Magazine or Vanity Fair) and reviews of exhibitions of any kind (there is an art critic born every five minutes on the Internet).
Well, of course, as a big dreamer, I way overestimated how much a staff of one could actually produce week in and week out. And there are categories on Vasari21 that have languished—like the Artist Essays, Artists Choose Artists, and Did You Know? (I still welcome your contributions to these; I just can’t pay bupkis at the moment.)
But each week I post at least three items—a short profile of an artist member, a podcast, and an “issue-oriented” report of some kind (for which I often seek your input), and occasionally an Editor’s Note, such as this one. An artist audience, however, may not realize what reporting can often entail. For a “story” I’m working on now, slated to appear next week, I am delving into the responsibilities of galleries toward artists and vice versa. This means I will try to talk to about 10 dealers and as many artists, making notes during the interviews, and then tossing everything into the creaky Cuisinart that is my brain and hoping all will melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a coherent report. And this takes time.
For profiles of artists, I once thought I could impose the rule that I would not write about anyone without doing a studio visit. That turned out to be totally impractical unless I choose to limit myself to artists within about 100 miles of Taos, NM, or make a lot of weekend trips and prevail on the kindness of near-strangers for a spare bed. So in some cases I have to rely on photos, which is okay but not my preference. I’m just grateful the quality of online images is so good. I’m also aware that I’m often writing against a self-imposed clock—without benefit of editors, copy editors, or proofreaders. (Consider that a seasoned journalist like Calvin Tomkins, who writes artist profiles for The New Yorker, probably spends up to six months researching his subjects and is paid handsomely for his efforts, or so I hope.)
Last week I did a podcast interview with Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, who told me he produces between 800 and 1200 words a week. When I added up the amount of writing I’ve been doing on a weekly basis, it came to around 2000-plus words. I honestly don’t mind the work (or the photo research or the captions or the podcasting or the proofreading) but sometimes I sure do miss a real office—the gossip around the water cooler, the staff meetings, the expense-account lunches.
So please be my water-cooler buds. Keep leaving feedback. Send your criticisms and ideas and constructive comments.
Just please, please don’t call me a blogger.
Photograph by Rama