By John Baldessari

As an artist, I use appropriation as a tool. I have often used the words of another in the same way I would use found photography. As an experiment, I have asked a former student to write about what she has learned from me. My idea is that I am not who I think I am but I am who others think I am whether or not I agree.

The writing that follows is meant to provide one glimpse of whom I might be. In this case an obstetrician for young artists.

The Baldessarian Method

By Analia Saban

I recently came out of what my therapist calls “the crisis of reaching adulthood.” I had reached 25 years old and it was finally time to get my shit together. Coincidentally, it happened at the same time I got my Masters of Fine Arts from UCLA and I finished my first solo-exhibition in Los Angeles. So, the crisis extended not only to reaching adulthood but also to realizing that I had fulfilled all the “standard” requirements for becoming an artist. “Aaaarrrtttttiiiiisssssssstttt,” I kept repeating to myself, unable to digest my new title. How did this happen? Worst of all, I received yet another assignment from my most important mentor, John Baldessari, to write this essay with the intent of describing the “the process of becoming an artist” and how his influence, what I have baptized “The Baldessarian Method,” helped me, as well as dozens other students emerge as artists.

In my therapy sessions, we looked at my “early body of work,” that is, the series of drawings and collages I did when I was between four and five years old. Indeed, there was a lot of expression. I was sensitive to my surroundings, to my dysfunctional family and to my parents’ divorce. I remember the comfort that my drawings provided. Every afternoon

I would sit at the dinning-room table and draw for three to four hours. I drew hundreds of houses, probably trying to replace my own. And every time I represented the family,

I would scratch it with a thick, jail-like grid of black marker or crayon. Then, on a happier note, I depicted the fantasy of a saner father, a colorful, all-powerful giant next to the houses, which shows, as my therapist pointed out, my “joyful Oedipal phase.”

We also talked about the work I did during high school and undergraduate-level courses. Even though the works were less “ fresh” than the childhood ones, they still showed a lot of dedication and a good visual sense.

Nevertheless, the question kept bugging me: at what point, in the middle of the Masters, did the work that is now the core of my studio production and the origin of my upcoming exhibitions start to emerge?



Excerpt from A Person Wears Many Masks and Perhaps We are Not Who We Think We Are

John Baldessari


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