Get In-Sync with… Joyce Owens (interview)

Joyce Owens

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist, curator, educator, lecturer, Joyce Owens. Do not miss her personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

I have known Joyce for a good number of years. She is one of the hardest working people I know in the Chicago art community and one who is always exploring something new. Her restless spirit continues to move her forward in new directions.  I have had the pleasure of exhibiting with her and being under her curatorial direction as well.  Joyce loves to share her ideas and personal experiences that she has learned in the art profession. Enjoy this interview from one of Chicago’s art treasures!!  Enjoy…

Sergio: Where did you go to school and what degree you received?

Joyce: I was making art as a very small child according to my mother, deciding I would be an artist in 3rd grade. I took art classes in school and on Saturdays, in high school I attended Tyler School of Art, but I was mostly frustrated that there was little instruction. I attended Howard University in Wash. D.C. earning a bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The program provided 2 years of, primarily, Liberal Arts with the final two years concentrating on visual art. My M.F.A. was conferred by Yale University. I learned to draw well in undergrad and continued at Yale and was singled out by Bernard Chaet, who wrote his own drawing book, to display my work to undergrads. At both universities I worked for the literary publications.

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

Joyce: Art school prepared me to make art, just as medical school prepares doctors to practice medicine.  Neither med school nor art school can prepare graduates to make money. If artists read art history they are aware that financial success is not the end result for every artist. Patronage makes a difference. If not the Medicis or the Steins (Gertrude and Leo) then it is a Paul R. Jones or a Patric McCoy who acquires and promoted artists. Curators are vital to showcasing artists in their best light. Relationships are vital to success. Good work is, too, of course, but standards continuously change, so I advise artists to be who they are, not the artist they imagine museums, galleries and collectors are looking for. Of course graduating from a premier institution such as Yale has also opened a door or two for me, but mostly not art related.

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?

Joyce: That the art matters as much as who you know and who knows you!


Sergio: What is your website? and Google “Joyce Owens” to see where I am represented  on other sites beyond by website.

Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Joyce: I am doing more and more 3D sculptures. Wood inspires me and human faces always do.

Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space looks like?

Joyce: Don’t know if there are typical days for me…I generally have more projects than I can handle, but I take one step at a time hoping to get something done that pleases me.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.

Joyce: This is a documentary question. Creativity expresses my lifestyle. I have an energy and ability to problem solve. Art demands hard work and desire.  People have often asked me how I have so many ideas.  The simple answer is I don’t know. I surmise that having ideas teaches one to have ideas. It’s important to lose or overlook fear and failure.

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

Joyce: Living in contemporary times means artists address contemporary mediums including social media because it is important-just something else I have to do in a technologically engaged culture. My blog “Joyce Owens, Artist in Art” discussed that a while ago. (link)

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

Joyce: For me time is the biggest challenge.

Sergio: How much does the art market influences your art production/output?

Joyce: Some of my series are more in demand than others. That encourages me to make work to satisfy an audience and has gotten me commissions. If you are referring the Art Market that includes major art auctions, art fairs, etc. it has no meaning to me at this time.

Sergio: What’s next for you?

Joyce: I am curating a tribute to Marva Jolly in Chicago at the historic South Side Community Art Center coming in March, curating an invitational group show at Prairie State College in June, a solo exhibition at Preston Jackson’s Contemporary Art Center in Peoria in May. I am in a group exhibition at Carthage College curated by Anne Farley Gaines, and  a traveling exhibition currently at the Wright Museum in Detroit that has received good reviews, singling out my work in the Detroit Free Press with Carrie Mae Weems. I am in an exhibition around the Patric McCoy exhibition at Governors State University and will sit on a panel discussion on Feb. 6. I will lead a panel discussion at Bradley University, also in Peoria in Nov. I have work in Stockholm and recently, Swaziland.



Sergio: How do you manage your teaching, art making and curatorial career and how they influence each other?

Joyce: I work all the time to get a lot done. My curatorial career allows me to indulge in interesting ideas that, perhaps, would not permeate my own practice. I am intrigued by visual art. Approaches to media, interpretations of ideas, the potential to educate and expand thinking around the work that may be very different from what others see.  Your exhibition at Chicago State University with Judithe Hernandez was riveting and confrontational in ways I could not have anticipated, but, in my opinion, for the good.

Sergio: What curatorial projects are you working on right now?

Joyce: Several exhibitions for Chicago State including Cesar Conde, Trish Williams and Mary K. O’Shaughnessy and for February and March, Julian Williams and Nancy Charak in an exhibition called ” What’s Abstract?”

Sergio: What is your opinion about contemporary art fairs?

Joyce: I assume you mean Miami Basel, etc.? It is a forum for artists from prestige galleries that world class collectors attend to see a range of new work in one space. If you are hot, the art fair is hot. A Theastor Gates  or Kerry James Marshall make a bundle for their galleries. For the rest of us, the satellite venues might be good. Might not.  Art success is often about who you know and who knows you.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

Joyce:  I hope gallery representation is still important, at least for the galleries that actually understand the process of representation. Parrish Gallery in D.C., Just Lookin Gallery in Hagerstown, MD are just two galleries that have represented my work; they honor and respect artists in a way some other galleries do not.


Book… “Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery”, Deborah Willis

Art movie or documentary… From DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis

Art museums in Chicago… The DuSable Museum of African American History, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, The National Mexican Museum and many more…

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)… I have watched Theastor Gates from making clay objects, Dave the Slave, The Black Monks of Mississippi and giving back to blighted neighborhoods by using his Urban Planning expertise. I admire him and many others.

Place to be inspired by…  I was inspired at Ragdale

One sentence advice for an art student… work, work, work and collaborate

Chicago cafe/restaurant… John’s Place

YouTube video… Ted lectures


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