Throughout our lives, we will come to find ourselves in a lot of different places.
A lot of different rooms.
A lot of different corners.
A lot of different wheres.
Those wheres will be unexpected. They will surprise us, scare us, change everything, change nothing, and break our hearts.
I’ve found myself in some pretty amazing wheres, and some pretty devastating places. But one of the constants was having the opportunity to be part of Postmasters Gallery, and to continue to feel like I am part of their huge art family.
Furthermore, outside of art, The Postmasters Family helped save my life… and helped me get back onto the path of trying to live my life. See Postmasters aren’t just a normal gallery. They’re everything and more. They’re community, they’re bravery, they’re hope, they’re protest, they’re US.
Let me tell you how, and just how their Patron rewards will LITERALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE to YOU if you invest.
In 2008, I got to chance of a lifetime. I had decided the previous summer (2007), whilst working with steadfast ambitious & economically supported college-aged Americans, that I needed to catch up with my life and career ambitions. And my career ambitions was to be an artist and to live and work in NYC. Preferably in a gallery. This was no small-feat for an under confident, working class kid from Doncaster, UK (DONX!).
I worked at a bookies and at a toy-shop part-time during term-time, whilst praying to the art gods that I’d get my artworld NYC summer. I did anything to make sure I could afford to go.
I remember exactly where I was when Magda of Postmasters Gallery said she’d meet me in person with the chance of getting to be Postmasters’ intern the summer of 2008. I was sat with my friend James Cotton in the Graphic Design-Apple suite at the old art campus. It was a super sunny day for the winter and the sun was blinding through the large windows. I just-re-read that same email, over & over again. I still have it archived even though I no longer have that email address (at hotmail.com?!).
I remember being incredibly nervous. I think I was practically mute for the first 2 weeks of being at Postmasters. But I learned so much.
I learnt around 26 years of Postmasters Show history, and art history in the making, as I was set to digitalizing their whole archive. Endless slides to be scanned, and amazing write-ups of artists in ArtForum, NYT, Art In America, et al – of still practicing, artists who have since disappeared, but a theme emerged.
These shows were often groundbreaking, urgent, courageous, some genuinely funny, ahead of the curves. New Media Art shows before new media art was accepted as it is today (though we still have ways to go with this medium). Women artists equally represented, and mostly – it still felt contemporary, and alive and represented the values that Magda and Tamas have sought to bring to the artworld their whole life.
I also learnt how to send invoices via fax (though still not into faxing), I met some of the coolest artists who continue to inspire my practice today, about art museums collections & how they buy art for them, at one point – I was left manning the whole establishment for a week?! and I learnt loads from Magda and Paulina’s experiences and ideas.
I was properly schooled that summer I was at Postmasters. I remember leaving after my last shift and I walked down to 9th Ave, and had to search for a working pay-phone to call my mom because I felt so sad I was leaving this amazing thing I had sort of been apart of for a short time. I left that summer with my heart heavy but inspired.
I got back to the U.K. and art school felt kind of boring after that experience. I had to do something. Magda taught me that literally, anything is possible, even starting from scratch, along as you have perseverance, some people and community who can support you.
So my friends and I started our own lil’ artspace called CAKE (rebranded CAKE Everyone). We were a small space above a bar on West Street, Sheffield, UK. We lasted around 2 years and we learnt loads and had so much fun. But the thing is, I took everything I had learnt from Magda & Postmasters, and I put it into action in Sheffield – and invested it back into our local community.
I am still employing these lessons from this time into my life and practice.
Now, it would be easy to say – I became, like, an awesome artist, or got lots of gallery jobs… but because i’m not very smart or that talented, that didn’t really happen (and that’s ok!). But the year after I graduated was HARD. I nearly lost my own belief. But Magda offered hope and advise on the end of emails. That really helped me push through what I thought was a dark time…
Then things started to work out… I got a residency at SITE Gallery, I was working freelance as an illustrator, doing some university lecturing… I came over to work a summer in Boston/New Hampshire in the U.S.A. but I had been feeling poorly for a good few months before I went… tired beyond belief, coughing up blood, endless nosebleeds, bone-pain, flu-like symptoms, drenching nightsweats.
And on the 21st August, everything changed. I found myself sitting in front an oncologist at General Mass Hospital. With my YMCA boss, 3,000 miles away from home. The doctor cleared his throat a few times and told me it looked like Lymphoma… Cancer. He told me, if it was time-sensitive and I didn’t get it sorted then I would die.
Well. As you can imagine, that wasn’t the news that I was expecting. I didn’t tell my mom for weeks (I was only 24). I felt ashamed, I don’t even know why. I thought it couldn’t be true. I googled the odds every-single-day. My boss kept telling me I needed to go home. The only person who I decided to tell who I didn’t work with — was Magda.
Because Magda was a person I knew I could trust, and always has a no bullshit take on everything but has an aabundance of empathy too.
After a crazy 32 U.S.A. state roadtrip (yolo!) Magda & Tamas put me up at their place, Magda cooked me an amazing breakfast before I left the USA for unknowns at home, not knowing whether I’d make it back again.
But the story is more complicated.
Magda nearly saw me go under. A few times.
I just had no energy. I laid in bed. Feeling sorry for myself. I was in pain. I was really sick. I couldn’t even watch Netflix. But Magda & Paulina would send reassuring tweets and emails and I slowly kept it together.
I worked harder at building my art-practice than on anything in my life, though it never felt like work. I devoted myself to it, though it never felt like sacrifice. I am also endlessly grateful. Those years gifted me experiences, skills, lessons, and friendships. I would not be me without them.
Many forget that it’s a rare privilege to find something you care about so deeply and be able to make it your life.
I had struggled to get back, but my heart wasn’t in it in the same way. I simply craved a new challenge. It didn’t matter why — I couldn’t lead my life in the same way, and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be caught without a plan if something happened to me again.
I realized I couldn’t have my old life back, but I also didn’t want it anymore.
So I decided to go into healthcare… radiotherapy & oncology! Of all things. But I’d kept all this secret from most people. It was furtive, shadowy work, and the secrets made my stomach ache.
But I reached out to M, and I hoped that she would still think I was an okay person.
The wild thing is, Magda still helped me through emails – giving me incredible advise and inspiration for my healthcare practice. To the point that I realized that I was still a fucking artist. I had got lost, but she never stopped helping me find the tracks back. I’m now doing my PhD combining all of my double agent status’ together. Just insane.
But here’s the thing about the Postmasters Fam., is that they don’t let you down.
Magda once said to me that we get dealt the cards that we get dealt, but we play them like they’re fucking Aces. She has taught me that experience is subjective. We get to decide what’s devastating, what’s beautiful, and what we do next. In the books of our lives, we are both protagonist and narrator. And narrators have incredible power.
In writing this, I thought a lot about the places that shape us, and how, in turn, we shape those places in our minds. Postmasters have really shaped my life, in so many ways.
As human beings living on earth right now, we find ourselves in a very particular where. The art-world mostly sucks, because it works for the 1%, lets not even talk about politics.
But this is something we can all help, maintain, and be a part of. Help sustain the legacy, help to make the future, help to secure a better history. Look down at your feet and decide what that means.
Instead of being afraid, I’m going to try to be brave. Instead of feeling regret, I’m going to focus on getting better tomorrow, and instead of hoping that someone else will say it or move it or mean it, I’m going to do it myself.
Postmasters has been there for us (in ways you might not even know yet!) so lets me THERE FOR THEM!
Let’s make art, and friends, and purpose, and be good to each other. And please spread the word!
If you got this far – Thanks!