IN PRINT: Helping You, Helping Me—Artist Assistants

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Rocio Rodriguez in her studio, where she prefers to work alone.
Rocio Rodriguez in her studio, where she prefers to work alone.

Assisting a professional artist is almost a rite of passage for emerging artists. The experience can range from running errands and bookkeeping to building crates for shipping and hands-on work in the studio. The benefits are usually access, experience, and an invaluable network of contacts.
BURNAWAY asked some established and emerging artists, as well as students, to share their experiences with us. Here is a sampling of what you’ll find in BURNAWAY #2: EXCHANGE.
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ROCIO RODRIGUEZ, Atlanta
Do you have any assistants?
I can’t afford one … I’ve actually not taken on interns because
 I have to explain how to do certain things, and by the time I’m done explaining I could have done
 it already. Also, I mix my own paint, paint my own paintings, and kind of like my privacy in the studio. I can’t work with someone in the room with me; it’s a distraction.
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CRAIG DONGOSKI, Atlanta
Do you think being an assistant helped further your career?
Maybe.
What’s the most important lesson you learned?
That although his work had nothing to do with mine, there were technical and attitudinal things I picked up on and used. Also, I learned the importance of having many works in various stages simultaneously to create a necessary immersion in the work.
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JOE PERAGINE, Atlanta
Do you think being an assistant helped further your career?
Not directly, though certainly it helped in an indirect way. I gained a great deal of knowledge about the machinations of the art world and developed friendships with other artists that led to opportunities.
What’s the most important lesson you learned?
I learned that every good artist, no matter how famous, is still trying to figure things out and is open to ideas and suggestions.
What’s the weirdest thing you were asked to do?
Create a “security system” to keep Mike Kelley thrift store stuffed animals from being stolen.
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Andri Alexandrou sewing a curtain for Vesna Pavlovic.
Andri Alexandrou sewing a curtain for Vesna Pavlović.

ANDRI ALEXANDROU, Nashville
Do you think being an assistant helped further your career?
I would have no career had I not been an assistant first.
Who have you worked for and for how long?
I worked for 2½ years for Vesna Pavlović and still do if she needs me.
What’s the most important lesson you learned?
In the American education system, being outspoken and gregarious is usually rewarded, or it was in my experience. In the professional world, however, you are well served to be humble and to listen first before you speak. By that reasoning, my time with her was 21⁄2 years of advanced “listening,” though that’s not to say my voice and opinion were not invited.
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SUSAN KNIPPENBERG, Atlanta
Who have you worked for and for how long?
Pam Longobardi, eight months.
What’s the weirdest thing you were asked to do?
Scavenge materials off the side of the road.
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Mark Errol in his studio at Georgia State University, where he earned his MFA.
Mark Errol in his studio at Georgia State University, where he earned his MFA.

MARK ERROL, Atlanta
What did you learn?
As a clay artist, I learned techniques. As a person, I learned gallery procedures, presentation, and how to speak about my work.
What’s the most important lesson you learned?
Time management and stamina.
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DANNY SANZONE, Atlanta
Who have you worked for and for how long?
I’ve worked for Scott Ingram since January 2014.
What did you learn?
I’ve learned how to plan and execute large-scale installations, finish and frame artwork in a very professional manner, collaborate with other artists to produce exceptional results, and work with separate clients to coordinate art sales.
Danny Sanzone in front of a Scott Ingram painting.
Danny Sanzone in front of a Scott Ingram painting.

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MARIEL BOLTON, Atlanta
How did you find out about the job?
It was a co-op job through the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
What’s the weirdest thing you were asked to do?
Listen to awful music.
Read the full article in BURNAWAY #2: EXCHANGE!
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[Featured image: Susan Knippenberg at work on a painting.]