The GOLDMINER Project is an anthropological approach to observing the practices of visual artists. In October 2013 the project’s book—STUDIO LIFE: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations on the Artistic Process—launched through Princeton Architectural Press.

To date, the project entire includes over 250 artists in the US and abroad. The curiosities surrounding their practices are photographed and archived within the following six categories: MASCOTS, COLLECTED OBJECTS, RITUALS, RESIDUE, MAKESHIFT TOOLS, and HABITAT. The one rule is that the selections can’t be a direct representation of the artist’s work. In my documentation, I also steer away from typical portraits of the artist or general views of their workspaces.

At right is a video that captures an overview of the project. It was produced to raise funds for the project’s trip to Chicago in 2011.

 

HOW IT STARTED

When I started The GOLDMINER Project in 2009, I was working as a painter in New York, where I had lived for over twelve years. I wasn’t seeking to start a project such as this, but several threads of ideas—that I thought were extraneous to my practice at the time—came together so forcefully into one big idea, that I felt overwhelmingly compelled to set forth on what turned into a expedition.

The categories developed from various observations. A few years before I started the project, an artist friend noticed a piece of carved, layered foam in the corner of my studio. It was a sketch, of sorts, for a sculpture series that never manifested. This early photo at right doesn’t quite capture the amount of dust that had eventually ground into its porous surface, or that some of the layers had become unglued. My friend laughed, “It’s like the studio mascot.” I agreed.

Around that time, I began to pay attention to curiosities in my studio and in the practices of other artists. For example, to avoid trips to the slop sink, I had carved a hole in the top of a water jug to refill it (pictured right). These thoughts, among others, led me to wonder what an anthropological investigation of art practices would uncover.

-Sarah Trigg