House3
CLOSE
MENUCLOSE

Sarah Potter Offers Up Advice On How To Break Into The Art World

Culture
Photographed by Tiffany Nicholson.

We spoke to the curator and art adviser about her business

The following feature appears in the August issue of NYLON.

When Sarah Potter was in art school, she found setting up shows for her friends and selling their work to be more fun than creating her own. After graduating from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, she snagged an internship at a gallery and quickly worked her way up, doing everything from emailing artists and coordinating shipments to dealing with clients directly. She has since started her own art advisory and independent curation business, SP Projects, based in New York. Here, we chat with Potter about the group exhibition she curated for Spring/Break Art Show titled “Season of the Witch,” the artists she’s most excited about, and the ties between art and politics.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I split my time between Manhattan and upstate in the Hudson Valley. I like to always be on the move and doing things. I wake up and check my phone to see if there have been any emergencies overnight. Then I make coffee, start my emails, and often will do some studio visits with artists or visit clients’ homes. Every day is different.

How do you find the artists you work with?
I connect with a lot of artists through Instagram. Sometimes artists I work with will recommend other artists to me, and that’s a wonderful way to find new people. I like working with artists who go crazy if they’re not creating. 

Who are some of your favorite artists that you’re working with now?
Evie Falci, Heather Gabel, and Lala Abaddon. Evie calls her work “aggressively feminine,” and I feel like that applies to Heather’s and Lala’s work as well. I just fully believe in [these women] and stand behind them. I love that they challenge me to think more critically and create strong exhibitions—they push me in the same way that I try to push them. It’s a wonderful balance.

Potter holding Archaica (2011) by Astral Eyes. Photographed by Tiffany Nicholson

You collect art as well. What makes something worthy of being in your collection?
I like a strong feminine feeling. I love surrealism, magic, and color, so you’ll see those in a lot of things that I collect. I am also interested in the intersection of fine art and craft. 

What advice would you give a young woman who is looking to break into the art world, whether on the creative or business side? 
I would say that you absolutely can do this. Look online, go to museums, go to gallery openings—even if you don’t like something, that’s important because you can start to develop your aesthetic and your point of view. Take on as many opportunities as you can, and create your own opportunities. No one’s going to hand anything to you, so make sure to ask for it. It’s really important to stay flexible, stay current, always be pushing yourself further, and think outside of the box because the art world is changing rapidly.

Potter holding (from left to right) Chelone and Silibo (both 2016) by Evie Falci. Photographed by Tiffany Nicholson

What was it like curating an exhibition for New York’s Spring/Break Art Show?
The theme [this year] was Black Mirror, and I created “Season of the Witch” as a response to the election with the idea of artists being witches. A witch to me is someone whose power comes from within. It’s usually a person on the fringes of society. After the election, I was feeling really alone and like my needs didn’t matter, and many people felt the same way. But we’re a lot more powerful together. 

Art feels intrinsically connected to politics these days. 
Yeah, and I really do think that it’s a rallying cry. People don’t know what to do so they have to get out and create and feel and be heard. From this horrible situation, I feel like we’re going to get a lot of really great art. 

What upcoming project are you most excited about?
I’m bringing “Season of the Witch” to the Seligmann Center, which is Kurt Seligmann’s estate. He was a Surrealist painter who was fascinated by magic. His estate is in Sugar Loaf, New York, and there’s a wonderful presence of energy there. It’s been great working with the center to expand upon this show and have it run for three months—[it was on show at Spring/Break for six days]-—to really delve deeper into the ideas. 

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

True
FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

True

"Nothing is truly a binary"

We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

True
Asset 7
MORE in VIDEO

We put the two activists in conversation

Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Dani Okon + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Charlotte Prager

Illustrated by Sarah Lutkenhaus

Because traveling far doesn't have to suck

Travel can be tough. Sure, there are definitely the exciting aspects to it, especially when it means we're going on vacation, but if it involves traveling to different time zones, then we have to deal with jet lag, which is... not fun at all.

Keep reading... Show less
True