Art History and Photography or Choose One?

I am sitting here at the kitchen table again. It is January 26, 2017. Last night I heard the Dixie Chicks and now I am sitting here listing to them. The weather is pleasant; it’s in the high 60’s. It rained this morning, a thunder storm. It brought a cool breeze with it. I am continuing the journey of explaining my interests and how I got where I am. Here I am going to talk about my interests in both art making and researching art, how they inform each other and how they hinder each other.

When I started college, I never considered that I might have an interest in art history. However, I knew I had a fascination with archaeology (I spoke briefly about this in another post). I followed my passion for photography through my whole college career, I never changed my major. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I learned all that I could how to use the camera, darkroom printing, processing film, hand-applied emulsions, digital processes, studio lighting and digital printing.

It was not until the end of my bachelor’s degree that I became a little interested in art history or art theory more specifically. I became interested in conceptual art and how it applied to photography. I began looking at artists from the 1970’s who used photography like Joseph Kosuth. This lead to artists like Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine. These artists were making art about photograph about and about the theories surrounding them. This is really how my interest in the broader context of art came about.

I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2006; however, I did not start graduate school until 2008. During the two years in between, I took more classes some studio art classes to have access to the facilities but mostly art history classes. Through these classes I gained greater insight into conceptual and appropriation art, as well as, art around the globe.

When I decided to pursue both photography and art history in graduate school, one of my professors from undergrad, Leighton McWilliams, told me one day I would have to choose and become either an artist or an art historian. This idea still enters my mind. Perhaps he is right; perhaps I should choose one path or the other. Obviously I still have not. This has its pro’s and its con’s.

The main positive to continuing my interests in both subjects is that any time I am starting a new project I look to art or photo theory for direction in the work. I love to read about art history and theory. Often times it is while reading that I generate new ideas for projects. My curiosity is also nice because I am always looking at new artists.

On the other hand, perhaps these two interests conflict with one another. I sometimes wonder if I would be further along if I focused all my efforts on one subject or the other. Maybe I would be showing my work more often if I was only focused on being an artist. Maybe I would be more published if I focused solely on the research and writing.

At times I consider giving up one or the other, usually when I am frustrated about something. However, I cannot bring myself to give up either photography or research and writing. For now this blog has become my answer to connecting the two interests. In the end, all I can tell myself is that I cannot judge myself by other people standards. When the time is right I will have another exhibition and when the moment comes I will be a published writer (in a peer review journal). Until then you can follow my interests here.

NOTE: As for Leighton, he continues to be a close friend and mentor and I will always hold what he says in high regard.

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By |2018-10-12T16:40:20-05:00February 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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