We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew Beckham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrew, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Well, I came out of art school in the early 90’s and wanted very much to make a go of it as a working artist. The reality was that the economic challenges were so stressful that my work really suffered as a result. I came into teaching sideways: first with some success applying to artist-in-residence grants for which teaching was a component, and then culminating with a Fulbright Fellowship in 1999 that really cemented my relationship with instruction and studio practice as a kind of mirrored, double career path. I’ve been teaching full time and chairing and art department at a college prep school for the last 20 years. The stability that a salary provides, combined with a genuine love for the classroom, allowed my studio practice to flourish. From where I sit now, I can’t imagine one without the other. So for me, the balance was finding how to establish an equilibrium between studio practice and teaching. It’s all work, of course, but it’s also my life, and exactly the one I had hoped to find.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
While I’ve been working at the fine art end of the photography industry, I have a background in works on paper (drawing and printmaking), which has come back into my creative practice in recent years. But to answer your question about how I came to where I am today, the answer is that it took decades, patience, and a real belief in what I was doing. While I’ve been a maker for 30+ years, it’s only been the last decade or so that I’ve seen my work published in book form (The Lost Christmas Gift via Princeton Architectural Press in 2012 and Firmament via GFT Publishing in 2013), as well as a steady stream of acquisitions of my work going in to Permanent Collections at the museum level. The 20 years prior to these kinds of opportunities were spent applying for grants, finding representation with commercial galleries, entering work in calls for entry at institutions that I thought could help advance the visibility of my work to the audience I was trying to connect with, and, of course, teaching full time all the while. As for what I’d like folks to know about my brand and story, I’d say this: my work is concerned with place, from the local to the cosmological. I make images that point from the empirical toward the ineffable as a means of contemplating our presence in the universe. These are concerns that permeate all of my projects, and inform my practice as an artist. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan famously said, “we are star-stuff, the ash of stellar alchemy emerged into consciousness.” A hundred years earlier, the great American poet Walt Whitman penned a similar insight when he wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is nothing less than the journeywork of the stars.” A scientist and a poet, speaking across time about the same profoundly human concern: the assertion that we are all connected. My work follows in this tradition.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Denver has a thriving culinary scene that is trying desperately to weather the storm of the pandemic. So I’d definitely want to share some of my favorite local spots, not only for the amazing food, but also to support these small business owners. A few places on the list would be Duo, Lola, and El Jefe. As for the arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Clifford Still Museum, and MCA, (our contemporary art museum), would all be on the list. Redline is such a great community hub for the arts as well, as is the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, so lots to choose from. And for me, much of the draw to living in Denver is the mountains: I’m an avid hiker and (non-technical) climber, so I’d definitely want to get up to the highcountry at least a couple of times for some big days above treeline.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Too many to list here, for sure. But someone who’s been on my mind lately is Barry Lopez, the acclaimed author of Arctic Dreams and Winter Count, who passed away just a few weeks ago. Barry’s work has been a touchstone to me for nearly 30 years. His meditations on the wonder of the natural world, as well as his incisive critique of human folly and greed, were always delivered with compassion. His short stories in particular spoke to the deepest parts of my own experience, while pointing toward a numinous mystery at the heart of the living world. His voice, in so many of the stories he penned, was quiet, reticent, clear as mountain water, and always tinged with wonder. I had a brief correspondence with him about a decade ago, and I carry that conversation with me now as a talisman, and with enormous gratitude.
Facebook: Andrew Beckham Art and Photography
Other: This is the home page on Film Freeway for my short film, A Rent in the Veil: https://filmfreeway.com/projects/1659718