3 Questions

3 Questions with Martha Buskirk


Art historian Martha Buskirk on uncertainty, getting started, and digging deep.

3 QUESTIONS is series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.

The Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies welcomes Martha Buskirk as part of the 2012-2013 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series. You can listen to a podcast of her lecture here.

“A career in the arts is not necessarily the same thing as being an artist.”


Photo by Robert Moeller via Montserrat College of Art.

What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?

A career in the arts is not necessarily the same thing as being an artist. No doubt a high degree of professionalism is needed in order to get one’s work out into the world, but there has to be a strong core of irrational idealism. It’s rather unfortunate when market success is taken as proof of artistic significance or when the primary attraction seems to be based on art as a lifestyle choice.

How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?

Uncertainty, and wanting to know more about the how and why of a given situation — these are the queries that generally drive my research and writing. Trying to answer what might appear to be an obvious question can lead to interesting and unexpected places if you dig deeply enough. It should also be clear that you can’t succeed at a project that you haven’t actually started.

Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?

Moving to NewYork in the early 1980s definitely helped shape my understanding of what has come since, both good and bad.

MARTHA BUSKIRK is Professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she has taught since 1994. She is author of The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art (MIT Press, 2003), and she recently completed a new book, Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art between Museum and Marketplace, which was published by Continuum in April 2012. She is also co-editor of The Duchamp Effect with Mignon Nixon (MIT Press, 1996) as well as The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents (MIT Press, 1990) with Clara Weyergraf-Serra. Buskirk earned her Ph.D. in art history from the City University of New York, Graduate Center and has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2000-2001, the Clark Art Institute in 2004, and the Henry Moore Institute in 2006.

— Posted on 06/26 at 10:41 AM

Share this story: