How Was…Caroline Busta’s ‘Choosing Criticism’ Lecture?

Before I post about the numerous Halloween festivities of the weekend, here’s a recap of yet another fascinating event at the Tang.  This past Thursday a small group of students gathered in the Somers classroom to listen to the next Alfred Z. Solomon Residency lecture, this one given by Caroline Busta ’01, a Skidmore alum and assistant editor of Artforum.

The first part of her presentation was a history of Artforum, which was founded in 1962 at a time when art was transitioning into something somewhat less accessible to the average viewer.  Art, according to Busta, “needed a community” once the recognizable figures and landscapes of yore started giving way to abstract expressionism – hence, Artforum was born not because art critics needed another realm to criticize, but because the world needed a genuine forum for discussion.

The magazine isn’t immune to controversy, as evidenced by a mini-scandal in 1974s when artist Lynda Benglis wanted a photograph of her (posing nude with a certain kind of phallic sex toy) included in the magazine.  On one hand, Artforum was concerned they’d face flack from anti-pornography groups, plus they’d have to deal with the hassle of putting the issues in plastic bags; on the other hand, it was a time at which the women’s lib movement was “kind of a huge deal” (in Busta’s words) and the magazine knew the photograph was important.  In the end, they used the photograph but positioned it as an ad – the Paula Cooper Gallery, who represented Benglis, paid for it – and solved the editorial problem.

Busta, a bubbly and bespectacled blonde who talked as fast as Usain Bolt runs, also clued us in to the daily grind of working at Artforum: long hours, going to as many gallery shows as possible, staying on top of both the microcosms and macrocosms of the art world.  Busta acknowledged her precarious position – “If I’m not willing to do the work, a thousand other people are there to take my place” – and told us that part of the reason she got the job had less to do with snagging great internships or having a bulletproof resume than it did with her simply being immersed in the New York art scene.  This is heartening news for anyone interested in working in a creative field – immersion in what you love can lead to good things.


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