The Story of First Person Artist

August 21, 2020
My First Exhibition since the Pandemic started in March 2020. Nir Hod @ Kohn Gallery

The art world has never been more varied and exciting, with more voices joining the chorus than ever before. We’ll look back in history at this time when the great wall of white male artists parted and the color and gender of the art world burst forth into a thousand different perspectives and wildly new and exciting multicultural art. The pandemic is having an equally profound impact as more of what we used to rely on in person is now online. Limited time “viewing rooms” are suddenly de rigueur.

Don’t blink!

I started First Person Artist in early 2000s when blogging yet a word yet and social media wasn’t even a glimmer in the internet’s eye. Most galleries didn’t even have websites and finding information about living breathing contemporary artists was behind a walled garden and curiously difficult. And yet I knew, as an artist myself, who cruised down the Sepulveda Pass every day to head to my studio in Venice, that there were tens of thousands of us, toiling away in solitude and I thought, what if could as a few questions and share their art online.

Those were the days…

So I started a “blog” devoted to writing about and interviewing artists. What struck me about the potential was the unlimited space and no authority or editor to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. The act could be as solitary as painting OR I soon learned, with the twist that I could pierce the bubble around an artist and share it. I could ask an artist no one had ever heard of one week and then a famous artist the next. It was simple. I created a weekly schedule. I would start writing at 8:00 am Tuesday mornings with the intent on publishing every Friday. That is how I started First Person Artist.

I found that writing regularly was just like oil painting, as long as you did it in layers: The first draft was always an atmospheric blob of thoughts, and then I would trace the outlines of the what it would be about. Eventually, coaxing and massaging would give way to buffing and polishing. My children were young and I would come up with ideas for introductions while I watched them play or when I rode my turquoise beach cruiser down to the Venice Boardwalk (the neighborhood was so sketchy then, now it’s so chic, I don’t recognize it) or sprawled on the tiny patch of grass outside my studio for some sun. Art has always been on my mind.

This all seems so quaint now, I know. But at the time, it was felt like a revolution, blogging. Like the prisoners had escaped and everyone with ideas finally spoke at the same decibel as the “professionals” (critics, etc.) who supposedly had the last word. One of those fugitives was certainly me.

First I started seeing my interviews and articles laminated or bound in the local galleries. Arianna Huffington, asked me to create an Arts section for the Huffington Post and it soon it grew into a place where everyone congregated. It was once the coolest thing. It got bigger than me, then bigger than the ocean, then bigger than my art career. So, after creating this mountain of literature and inviting all these people to blog, I left.

I entertained the idea of turning it into a book, and then that turned into another book, then another (one of which is being published by Chronicle next spring.). All the while I was having exhibitions and watched my two beautiful children who just a minute ago were bouncing on a trampoline in our backyard and are now in college.

Blue Forest (detail), Oil on Linen 2018 Kimberly Brooks

It’s been at least a decade. As for “Blogging”, well, people just don’t read like the used to. There’s too much noise,. Plus, the algorhythms are so fucked and you have to be a heat seeking missile to find what you want. We can blame all the villians –Twitter, the iPhone, Facebook, Instagram, our ever dwindling attention spans– take your pick. If you’ve gotten this far into my missive, it’s a miracle.

Even I would much rather watch video. Get to the point already! Double that speed! So I started making the tiniest films about what I saw and discovered that like painting and writing, video is just another pliable medium. I film what I want to share, I ask questions, I add commentary. I coax and massage, I buff and polish. It’s all the same.

Art is an enduring relationship with the world. Being an artist requires hours of solitude and perseverance. For many years at a time I only focused on my own art. Which is great! A deep dive into some topic that’s bobbling around in my mind. But when I come out of the water, I can see sky and clouds and want to visit land and eventually it makes diving back in so much more rewarding.

I’m revisiting the 78 artists I interviewed a decade ago, I am always finding new ones I want to share too. I look forward to sharing art from fairs and exhibitions and other artists with you. 

These are the days. All bets are off. There are no rules, only so much art.

Every so often, you will post more stories about art and artists. I’m so happy to have you here.

Kimberly Brooks