Interview with Wayne Adams

May 13th 2010

Interview with Wayne Adams

With his high energy paintings, prints and works with tin foil, teamed with the sheer number of works he’s produced and long list of exhibitions over the last few years, I got the impression Wayne Adams wasn’t one to dilly dally over things.  I thought if anyone could handle some quick fire questions, Adams could. I certainly couldn’t describe my practice in six words.


IS: How comfortable are you talking about your work?

WA: I’m comfortable talking about my work but it certainly isn’t always easy.  I often process things through talking about them anyway, so it can be very helpful to talk about my work in order to understand it better – or at least in a different way.

IS: If you had to describe your art practice in six words, what would they be?

WA: That’s more of a challenge…

Intensely personal, abstract and representational paintings.

IS: Would you say you are good at networking?

WA: My first reaction is to say no, but I’ve gotten a lot better recently. It takes practice and I think there has been a negative stigma around networking for a lot of artists until fairly recently. It’s much better for me to look at it as building relationships.  It makes it more personal and changes both how I think of the networking/business side of the art practice and the people I want to network/do business with.

IS: Do you think this is an important skill for artists to have?

WA: Absolutely.  Although networking can be pretty broadly defined, it’s necessary for almost any level of participation in the contemporary art world.  Relationships have to be made in order to form a dialogue, no matter what form of dialogue you’re interested in.  I’m invested in and enthusiastic about the relationships I have developed.

IS: How would you go about striking up a conversation at a gallery opening?

WA: ok, short answer and long answer:

Short answer:

I say “Hello” or ask a question about the artwork or the person I’m talking to, like, “What do you think about this work?”.

Long answer:

It starts with being interested in the work or the artist or the gallery I’m in.  It was actually really helpful when a friend reminded me that  if you’re at a gallery you like, at an opening for an artist who’s work you like, then you have something in common with the other people at the opening.  Once I realized that, it hasn’t been as intimidating to start talking to people.

It’s also helpful to remind myself that I don’t have to have a meaningful conversation every time I come in contact with a dealer or curator.  Building relationships takes time.

So first, I remind myself of all that.

Then I’m more relaxed and conversations come more organically.  I also don’t let myself leave without at least saying hi to the person or people I want to talk to.

IS: Are you represented by a gallery?

WA: Not currently

IS: How do you feel about the idea of someone else speaking about your work on your behalf?

WA: I’m fine with it generally – as long as I trust the person doing the speaking and that they’re enthusiastic about my work.

IS: You show your work fairly regularly. Have you had any negative experiences?

WA: Sure, but those are generally few and far between.  My worst experience was when I was just finishing graduate school and someone very publicly offered me a solo show and then recanted a month later for some super-lame reason.  It was really disheartening.  Fortunately, that’s the only decidedly bad show experience I can think of.

I think most of my bad experiences have come from being naive, self-conscious and not actually taking an active role in building relationships – like following up with people.

IS: How much control do you usually have over how your work is shown and is this important to you?

WA: Right now, this type of control mostly comes from choosing what shows to participate in and from shows I help coordinate.

How my work is shown is important to the extent that I’m interested in some pretty specific conversations and look for people and places to have those conversations.  That both opens me up to a broad range of venues and circumstances and helps me avoid spending energy on other things. OK, that’s a little vague, but I think it’s different for everyone.  I guess it’s important to look for who’s interesting to you (both at your experience level and others) and then find out what they’re doing and talk to them.