The Native Creative


Abigail Ekue blog - events, musings, travel announcement, exhibits, photography

Author, Photographer, Provocateur... Curator 

Installed .  Bare Men: The Group Show (self portrait)

Installed. Bare Men: The Group Show (self portrait)

I can officially add "Curator" to my title.

Bare Men: The Group Show took place from September 29 to October 4 at The Living Gallery. I selected and invited artists to be a part of the exhibition I curated and it was an experience. A working, creative, expansive experience. Press release, promo graphics, exhibit catalog, numerous emails, social media — the amount of work is tremendous.

I learned from the process. I grew from the process. And in order to go through the experience again there's tons I'd expand on and things I will never do again.

The search for a location was a bit discouraging until I decided to 'claim' The Living Gallery as the home of Bare Men (it's where I held my Bare Men Pop Up exhibit and recently work from my series was part of the ANYONE / ANYWHERE III: Bodies exhibit also held there). Because many galleries refuse to exhibit male nudes (photography), I had to rent a space for the show. The prices I was quoted for gallery rentals ranged from $8000 for a week to $5000 per day to $250 per hour.

Submissions were sent in from around the world and I enjoyed the process of piecing together the photographic story from all the images. I knew great work when I saw it. I knew the submissions that were bullshit and an excuse to send a dick pic. Did I accept work that was 'ok' because I knew the artist deserved a chance? Yes. Over lunch recently, I said to a friend that I didn't want to be one of those photographers that judges other photographers' work but I need to settle into the fact that I know good work when I see it. The same way I'm good at judging character...

During gallery hours one day, two men walked in. I allowed them to take it all in before I introduced myself and struck up conversation.

"How many artists are in the show?"


"Woof, that's 20 too many."

He'd curated shows in the past and we commiserated over the difficulties of herding artists — it's not for the faint of heart. And to think the original show roster for Bare Men: The Group Show was 32. But by not following guidelines, blatantly ignoring instructions and exhibiting entitlement, artists eliminated themselves right from the start.

More than one person gave the excuse, "they're artists" "you're working with artists" when I'd express my frustration or anger. I'm an artist too and I don't behave that way. It's about the kind of person you are. It's about having courtesy. It's about having reading and comprehension skills. It's about having the ability to communicate clearly and professionally. It's about being grateful and appreciative.

Microaggressions and entitlement were unreal. Repressing my clapbacks took a toll on me. I know for a fact that many artists would have interacted with me differently if I were a man. I also know if I were a "name gallery" they would not have behaved the way they did. I deal with entitlement a lot considering the bulk of my clients are white men but that doesn't mean I want to deal with it or should have to. I was careful not to be "mean" to anyone but I made sure they knew who was in charge.

Let me break it down for you, it's simple: you've submitted work for the exhibit because no one else is exhibiting work like yours. Your artwork was accepted. Great. Be grateful for the opportunity, do what's required and be professional. Once you decide to put a price tag on your work, you're a business. Conduct yourself accordingly.

Dealt with inexperienced artists who didn’t want to learn. Best of luck to them in their future endeavors.

There are artists whose intentions and motivations I do not want to be aligned with.

For all the bad, I know exactly which artists I would invite to participate in any future shows I curate or artists I would recommend to other curators, galleries etc. The artists who followed guidelines, did not ask for exceptions repeatedly, who showed appreciation and gratitude -- they exist, I'm aware of who they are and I would gladly work with them again. And right when you’re ready to say ‘fuck this shit’, you receive a sign or a nudge to keep going. In my case, it’d be a gentle email just to say thank you, I see you… The kindness and courtesy I did receive wasn’t lost on me. I appreciate those that respected my knowledge and experience. Here’s to those who were wise enough not to squander the opportunity that I was giving them or to burn the bridge getting there.

Nyssa Frank, owner of The Living Gallery, was great to work with. Supportive. As I mentioned before, I rented her space a few years ago. And I went back again. See how that works?

Then there are the people in my life. I didn't enlist their help as soon as I should've. But when I did, they rallied and it warmed my heart. Whether it was the physical labor they performed or the emotional labor when I went on a Scorpionic rant or when I needed an accountability partner for my self care or a partner for the nights I needed to let loose.

The overwhelm, fatigue, irritability, financial obligations -- that won't happen again for the next major project I undertake. I know what I will do again. I know what I won't do again. I know the people who I'll hire to be on my team. I know the kind of artists I will work with.

I set out to curate a group show, a male nude photography exhibit and I did it.

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