For your listening pleasure ... I hope ... here's the link for a podcast of an internet radio interview that I recently did with Juanita Watson of "Inside Scoop Live."
Watson is an administrator of the literary website, www.readerviews.com
I've also created an edited version here if you prefer reading rather than listening. Either way, enjoy!
Juanita: Joining me today is Michael K. Corbin, author of the "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal." It's the winner of six literary awards. Michael, thanks for joining us.
Michael: Thank you so much for having me.
Juanita: First of all, we know this is a book about contemporary art, how did you come up with the title?
Michael: So many people out there are intimidated by art, art museums, art galleries and so on. So was I, but then one day I decided that I wanted to write about my art experiences in a down to earth, friendly, fun kind of way. In other words, this would not be another textbook about art. I'm an "everyday Joe," an everyday person and I wrote this book for the "everyday Joe." It's actually a journal of my experiences collecting art, meeting artists, travelling and connecting in the art world. It's my hope that through my experience, people will learn more about art and develop their own relationship with art and not be intimidated by it.
Juanita: Why do you think so many people are intimidated by art?
Michael: I think there's so much mystery surrounding art and quite frankly a lot of it is created by the art world itself. Scholars are really the only people you hear talking about art and when we do hear about art in the media, it's usually when someone finds a $20 million Jackson Pollock behind a wall in their basement ... or a famous painting has been stolen. However, my role is to remind people that there are literally thousands of living, breathing, working artists out there today, many of whom create great work that's affordable.
Juanita: We should remind people here that you've been a journalist for about 20 years. However, you're not an arts journalist, nor are you a curator, scholar or trained art professional. This is the second book in your award winning, "Collector's Journal" series. How can you write about art and you're not even an art critic!
Michael: Isn't that funny?! Well, I knew that as a journalist, I had the ability to write and to make subjects "relate-able" to everyday people. No, I don't have a formal art education, but what I do have is a passion for art that began when I was a NYC public school kid visiting the Museum of Modern Art or The Metropolitan Museum of Art during field trips. I fell in love with art way back then and my love for it is only stronger now.
Juanita: But it has only been in recent years that you even started collecting art or writing your journals. What happened between the time you were a kid and now? You're now in your mid-40s!
Michael: This is the best part! During that entire time, I kept visiting museums and galleries. However, I always walked away feeling empty and sad. I felt like writing about what I had experienced, but I kept telling myself, "What's the point? You're not an art scholar or historian!" But one day, I just gave into my childhood passion for art and I just started writing. It was like a tidal wave! The writing didn't stop. I have to also say that by this time I was well into collecting and I kept chatting with artists about how they were struggling to make a living in a world that really doesn't appreciate art. And so I was filled with this sense of mission for the artists and love for art itself. The next thing I knew, I had my first book, "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal," which came out in 2006. I think the lesson here is ... if something in your life is missing, look back to your childhood passion. Bring it back into your life. You won't be sorry.
Juanita: Okay, so you had the passion and the writing ability. Still, without a formal art education, how did you find a publisher willing to publish your books?
Michael: I would say for about a year and a half, I flooded art book publishers with my manuscript. It was torture waiting all that time for responses. And I have to say that for the most part, it was well received. I still have some of the nicest, warmest rejection letters! But as time went on, I got more and more concerned because I felt that maybe someone was going to steal my idea! So, I decided to just publish the books myself. I did some research online and found AuthorHouse which is located in Bloomington, Indiana. They're a fantastic company full of creative, caring people who love books and want to support emerging writers the way I like to support emerging artists.
Juanita: Wouldn't you rather sell your book to a mainline publisher for a great advance? Many authors consider that the ultimate.
Michael: I guess you should never say "Never," but I really do not consider that "success." I think that I went through all of the rejection so that I could be here talking about it. I think that I had to learn how to actually "walk my talk." If I'm claiming to support "independent" artists who are allowing me to reprint images of their paintings in my books, then shouldn't I also be independent? Fortunately, I can support myself as a journalist, but I think that I was really looking for a creative outlet outside of my career and I think it's tough to be truly creative without independence.
Juanita: Let's talk quickly ... a bit more ... about "The Art of Everyday Joe." The book is a compilation of essays and photographs of art from your own personal art collection. However, not all of the essays are about art!
Michael: The plot thickens, doesn't it? Here's the thing. I love writing about art in unconventional ways. My books are not just about art ... as in paintings or sculpture. I love linking art to the things of everyday life. For example, there's an essay in the book called, "Bubblewrap." It's about the experience of unwrapping a painting that has just arrived in the mail. I also have an essay in the book called, "Sweet Tooth," which is about how much I love desserts and next to the essay is a picture of a painting of a pineapple cheesecake. The painting is by Elijah Carey. I also wrote an essay called, "December In Deutschland." It's about my experience one Christmas in an airport while my artist friend Matt Beall was in Germany working on a painting that he sold to me and allowed me to call, "December In Deutschland." Through the book, I want people to see that it's really okay to have your own personal relationship with art. That's the whole point.
Juanita: Just so people know, the book is also full of tips about collecting, but let me ask you this ... the economy is still in pretty critical shape. People aren't buying much of anything let alone art. Why should people buy art? And why would they buy it now?
Michael: First, let me say that I write about art in three ways: I write about art in MY WORLD, I write about the ART WORLD and I write about art and how it functions in the WORLD AT LARGE. I want people to know that artists are everywhere and they are struggling. You can buy simple drawings from some talented artists in your own community for 10-bucks each! Great art is accessible and affordable! But more importantly, art restores my own sense of calm and humanity. It makes me more creative and makes me feel like I'm back in touch with my soul after a long day at work ... it makes me more patient and it trains my eye and makes me more observant. I use all of this in my life everyday! Art serves so many practical functions in the world and I go through many of them in the book(s).
Juanita: So what's it like living with art? How many pieces do you have and what do you like to collect?
Michael: I have abstracts, figurative realist paintings, nudes, limited edition photographs, you name it. Every day, I feel like I live in an art gallery. Art makes you feel wealthy ... not in a snobbish sense, but in a way that makes you feel healthy and emotionally well-balanced. My paintings are my friends, but what's even better is that I know all of the artists and they're the best friends to have. Knowing the artist is better than owning the painting.
Juanita: You mentioned that you also write about art and how it functions in the world at large. How do you think art functions in the world?
Michael: I think art is ultimately about human expression and connection. Through their work, artists ask questions about the meaning of life and why we're all here. I think art also holds up a mirror before us and forces us to look at ourselves as individuals and as a society. Art isn't just about hanging a painting on your living room wall. It's also about using our own creative vision to create the kind of world that we say we want.
Juanita: You have many collecting tips in your book. Would you like to mention some here?
Michael: Sure. First, there's no need to be intimidated by art. Remember that most artists, including famous artists create their work to be seen by MANY eyes including YOURS. So don't deprive yourself of the experience. If you don't understand what you're seeing, ask a gallery or museum staffer about it. That's why they're there! Two, find artists in your own community. Visit your local arts center or college art museum. Some high schools even have art shows! And three ... if you can't afford something that an artist is selling, they may have smaller paintings or drawings that you CAN afford. You have to ask!
Juanita: Finally, I understand that the next book in your "Collector's Journal" series is well on the way. Can you tell us anything about it? When will it be available?
Michael: Well, since my books are memoirs, it will be a continuation of my experiences. It will include more actual interviews with artists and it'll be even more fun and even more like a storybook for adults. It will also capture more of the urban landscape of art and how art functions in our lives every day. You know, I really focus on making my books more of a dialogue rather than monologue. If you're reading my books and find yourself almost talking back to me, then I know I'm doing my job as the author. It'll be more engaging. The next book should be out by next Fall.
Juanita: Finally, your website is www.artbookguy.com. Reading through your website, it has the feel of a loft or a cool house where an art writer lives. Obviously, you did this on purpose.
Michael: Yes, I want people to feel that art is warm and inviting. By looking at my website and reading my books, I want people to feel that they're chatting with me ... this is ultimately what art has done for me and I want readers to feel that casual friendliness as well. Through the website, I'm really using myself and making art more human for people and less academic. The website seems as if it's about me, but it's really about giving people permission to develop their own ideas about art. It's still a work in progress, but it's getting there.
Juanita: You've been listening to Inside Scoop Live and we've been talking with Michael K. Corbin, the author of the multi award winning, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal." It's an art memoir that's also a collecting guide, tribute to living artists and testament to the power of art in or world. Thank you Michael.
Michael: Thank you!
ENDNOTE: Juanita didn't ask, but sometimes people ask me who my favorite artist might be. My answer without a doubt is Caravaggio. He's the man! I think his work captures the entire spectrum of human thought and emotion ... the agony and the ecstasy. His dark realism and passion are astounding. The fact that he led such a troubled life intrigues me. However, through his work, he has set an almost impossibly high bar. Few, if any artists may ever match his skill, insight or passion in my opinion.