We sit down this week with Miriam Parker, a multidisciplinary artist who uses movement, paint, media and sculpture/installation. Miriam has presented and performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Fridman Gallery, New York; at the Every Women Biennial, New York; at Vision Festival through consecutive years; Whitebox Art Center, New York; among many others. Miriam has received grants from LMCC in 2013 and Brooklyn Arts Council in 2019. She has collaborated with Jo Wood-Brown, Christina Smiros and Luke Stewart, to name a few. Miriam is also the co-founder and collaborator of Inner City Projects, a multimedia work group with Jo Wood Brown, based in New York. Please enjoy reading this inimitable artist’s Frank Talk below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
Dancing with my parents at age 5.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
My parents are wild and intense.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
Everyone in my family are either musicians, poets or dancers, so I always danced. I only began to identify as a visual artist in the past 7 years. I could no longer detach the making of space from the movement of bodies.
What do you do now?
I create installations, videos and movement designs, as well as perform.
Where are you from?
Lower East Side, NYC.
What is the arts community like there?
When I was growing up, it was vibrant. Many of the free jazz artists lived in the neighborhood; but now it is quite different.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
In my professional dance career, I moved away from my roots and connection to the lineage of free jazz. I now claim it and have placed the spirit of that movement at the center of my work.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Stay inspired; find your community and embrace the responsibility of the artist to share the unseen and unsaid. This responsibility can come at a price of being on the outside of mainstream culture.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
The work I am doing now and during the quarantine. I adapted my backyard and my home into a studio space. I really love the videos I’ve produced in my backyard.
What has been a challenge for you?
Being so passionate and intensely inspired in my conviction that art is an act of activism. Being less tolerant of oppressive structures including within my own mind. To work through the pain and trauma of being a woman of color who has internalized and normalized the power structures of oppression. Taking down those structures both within and outside feels like it is tearing me apart.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
Wake up; stare out my window; meditate.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
I’m pretty comfortable with weird things, although I haven’t been given many weird tasks. However, in the dance world I’ve worked with many abusive people, which is its own kind of weird.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee sees the benefit of what they are doing and is personally invested in the success of the project. A good boss shares what success looks like, gives the tools to their employees to get there and is invested in the success of their workers.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
They have to be reliable, can understand constructs, listens well, great at what they do and is excited to be there.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
What makes you stand out is having a good balance between listening and the clarity of what you want.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Find a reason why you are doing what you do. Hold on to it like a mantra. The art world – the art market – is not so different from any other business.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Shirin Nashat – https://www.gladstonegallery.com/artist/shirin-neshat/works
Swoon – Film (2019)- https://deitch.com/new-york/exhibitions/swoon-cicada
Fred Wilson (2019) – https://www.pacegallery.com/artists/fred-wilson/
Vivian Sutter (2019) – https://www.gladstonegallery.com/artist/vivian-suter/works
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Pat Steir, Quilts of Gees Bend, Simone Leigh, Kerry James Marshall and Roy De Carava.
What artwork is in your home office?
The painting by Jo Wood-Brown, my co-collaborator on many projects.
What is your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
It’s challenging to have my house be an art studio, dance studio, a place to teach yoga meditation etc. But I never want to lose the general slowdown I’ve experienced.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery?
I think it is already playing a role in the world’s recovery. Art, dance, music and poetry’s purpose is to heal – to uplift, to reflect our own humanity when we have forgotten it. It is not to be used as a way of discrimination. It is times exactly like these that the creative spirit must flourish because it is direly needed. Structures are being dismantled never to be put together again. We need to be connected to our own truths not those that have been fed to us.
The art practice and the art market are two separate things. ART is the fundamental element of real healing so I strongly suggest if it has not been used this way we must change. It is a time to heal through a celebration of our differences.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
Outside of the museums, outside in general.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better?
I feel suffocated by Zoom.
Since we are all at home and exploring more galleries and museums online, perhaps some for the first time, when the quarantine is lifted, what is your first art filled destination?
I don’t want to be in a museum! But I do want to go hear live music!
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?