Talking about Jennifer Sullivan and Tiffany K. Smith (and David Bell)

Where, my friends, will we all be on Friday? To which salon des artistes shall we all bring our custom? Um, you really don’t know? DAVE GALLERY of course. I had the good fortune to meet Tiffany K. Smith at Las Cienegas Projects some weeks ago when I was in to view Jennifer Sullivan’s film Adult Movie, which, by the way, I found to be a sweet, heartfelt essay on growing up and moving out. (Oh dear, I need to move to a new paragraph, so not to confuse you with mixing artists. Bear with me.)

Jennifer Sullivan, Jail scene from Adult Movie. "Loosely inspired by Les Blank's documentary Burden of Dreams, which chronicles the myriad adversities faced during the making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, Adult Movie explores the internal conflicts and struggles of art making, money making and adulthood through a non-linear, diaristic narrative and a fragmented melodramatized movie-within-a-movie format, reflecting upon my past work and desire to move forward artistically, as well as a recent residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a brief career as a dancer at a lesbian strip club."

Movie Poster by Jennifer Sullivan

Jennifer Sullivan, photo by Luke Stettner

Not so much moving out of home, rather in Sullivan’s film her character’s rite of passage has her moving beyond her own expectations and assumptions about life and herself. She dances with poles, burns her clothes in her father’s backyard, attends Skowhegan, sleeps with a relative stranger because it’s what one does at Skowhegan, befriends a young artist who is researching strippers, etc. and etc. [Correction on Jan 3 – Sullivan did not sleep with a stranger at Skowhegan. Sorry Jennifer for my misreading and misquoting of your film.] What she finds when she breaks through to that other side is poignant and powerful, free and clear, and full of responsibility. Life really is what we make it. Sullivan has a solo show opening in January at something with the delightful name of Engineer’s Office Gallery.

Jennifer Sullivan website:

Engineer’s Office Gallery website:


Engineer’s Office Gallery

24 inches wide
72 inches high
24.5 inches deep


1230 Avenue of the Americas
between 48th and 49th street
Basement Level
New York, NY 10020

Rockefeller Center stop
on the F/M/B/D

[email protected]

But I digress…)

Back to Dave Gallery and Tiffany K. Smith. Smith and I talked for a while, about writing (hers and mine), film making (which you will see at the show), school (is pretty much school – what can one say?), and work (is, well, what we all do to do the thing we love), we exchanged contacts, and as a result I spent some time on Smith’s website reading and watching. When this afternoon I received an email with the above announcement pasted below I put the opening into my calendar right away. Quoting myself from a December 12 email  to Smith regarding the work on her website, because I have not seen and cannot comment on the new stuff:

You have interesting insights in your writing. Um, sorry Tiffany, I was about to launch into a series of platitudes and realize that what I read on your site deserves better.

I really like what I read. The brief passages as well as the one long piece that I found, “Autopilot.” Some of your sentences are really wonderful! I feel like the shorter pieces, where you use the denouement (if you will) also as the title, feel a little like haiku – I hope this doesn’t sound too corny. I mean that the ideas you express are moving for being personal, yet once read become inevitable because they are so universal.

I can really identify with “An incubator for premature art.”

“Autopilot,” the one longer piece that I found, is also particularly effective – not a word too many, and while your thinking wanders around an emotional landscape as your car wanders around the geography of LA, each moment is connected to the last and the whole feels, again, universal in its particularity to your own life. Or perhaps it is particular to a life in your fiction? I am not certain, and I like this.

I tend to read as though I am learning truths. I lose track of my suspension of disbelief and simply believe when I read.

Image from Tiffany K. Smith's website

Continuing the cut and paste thing with the show’s press release, since you may not yet be on the email list:

You Had Your Chance, You Blew It

Dave Gallery is pleased to present video, performance, sculpture, and spoken word by Tiffany K. Smith for the inaugural exhibition, “You Had Your Chance, You Blew It. ”

Smith is elated to be showing her work outside of a group show context. Among other things, Smith has recently taken up meditation, which she believes is helpful not only for the sake of individual well-being but for the advancement of humanity in general. In spite of her attempts to “do nothing,” she has produced four new works. Smith says her only regret is not failing more.

Since she won’t go to therapy, the artist has found other ways of coping with life’s little problems.


Obsessive Thoughts.
Rationalizing Trivialities.
Constant Complaints.
Quitting Cigarettes.
Road Rage.
Self Medication.
Dressing Up.

Reception 6-9 PM
Poetry slam 7 PM

For more info please visit


2325 South Holt Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90034

[email protected]

Dave Gallery is a new contemporary art space dedicated to showing the work of young artists near the burgeoning Culver City arts district.

Still from Group Dynamics, 2011 David Lucas Bell, Tiffany K. Smith and Noah Spindler

Still from Group Dynamics, 2011 David Lucas Bell, Tiffany K. Smith and Noah Spindler

(God help me, but I find myself thinking of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On. Oh lord, the things I thought I’d left behind in Diamond Bar.)

Tiffany Smith, Splitting Hairs (detail), 2011

Tiffany Smith, Thinking, Planning, Sitting, Staring (detail), 2011

I feel right in pairing the otherwise unrelated work of Jennifer Sullivan and Tiffany Smith not due only to their temporal and geographical proximities in my own experience, but because in each of their practices I find the presence of personal and emotional content that does not apologize, nor does it ask for the favor of my attention. Feelings and psychology exist as material for these artists, and I can like it or not. I suppose they might be pleased if I do like their work, but I doubt that my displeasure would dissuade them from making it. Word.

In her film, Adult Movie, Sullivan offers us moments from her life in something like a home movie that avoids any cruddy feeling of self-regard. The artist embraces a ‘loving hands at home’ aesthetic, and her art lies in persuading us of her artificeless-ness.

Smith similarly draws on her own life in her writing and films, which mix philosophical insights with honest narcissism. Each of these qualities might be attributable to Smith’s place in life: narcissism is necessary when we are young, it keeps us breathing while we figure out how big the world is, and an interest in philosophy is part and parcel of life as a liberal arts grad student; but the honesty is entirely Smith’s own, and I take pleasure in her lack of guile.

I offer you two brief texts by Smith that have lately functioned as koans for me:

Every time I open my mouth I admit something. The significance of this problem sunk in a couple of weeks ago but I can’t remember what triggered it. I remember I was working my first job at a bookstore when a polite customer asked me if I’d heard of The 48 Laws of Power. He told me that reading it would help me in my love life. I found it in the psychology section. One of the laws that I found particularly helpful was to let others talk. Let someone else spill his guts. Reveal less about yourself. I didn’t read the whole thing. Some of the rules were already familiar to me so they required no explanation. Help yourself. Fuck with everyone else to get ahead. Be more powerful and shut up.


The closest thing I’ve had to a studio is my car. It’s been mostly everywhere that I’ve been and has assisted greatly in developing my sense of agency. The moving container where I curse my fellow man and feel all manner of strain is also an incubator for premature art.


And now my friends, heeeeere’s Dave!

That would be Dave of Dave Gallery. First, the briefest of bios:

David Lucas Bell, in partnership with Noah Spindler, exhibited-participated-performed in Lean On Me at Control Room, for which exhibition the opening line of the press release read,

“Trustworthiness. Loyalty. Helpfulness. Friendliness. Bravery.”

and the the statement closed with,

“David Bell and Noah Spindler’s collaborative effort does not attempt to answer the challenge that an art space offers; rather, it concedes to a state of contingent reluctance.”

Pertinent link to Control Room:

Now to the present project, Dave Gallery:

Bell intends that Dave Gallery will be run as a space “…dealing with similar issues that this show (Lean On Me) typifies…networking, social climbing, and what it means to show your work in general.” Bell also shared with me that “it all seems to remain contingent upon how things are received by viewers, some things start as a joke, and end up blossoming, and some things begin extremely serious and you end up laughing at yourself” Which could refer equally well to Dave Gallery, art making, and life.

Go by the show, as Tiffany wrote in an email, “Before the cops show up!” Think they’re gonna party?

Fro what it’s worth, I never watched Letterman. I never watched Arsenio Hall either, but I liked his intro. Cheers.

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