Gays Reading

Bianca Bosker (Get the Picture)

February 20, 2024 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Bianca Bosker Season 2 Episode 40
Bianca Bosker (Get the Picture)
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Bianca Bosker (Get the Picture)
Feb 20, 2024 Season 2 Episode 40
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Bianca Bosker

Jason and Brett talk to Bianca Bosker (Get the Picture) about the immersive approach to her writing, why we need to unlearn how to behave around art, developing new tastes, and the importance of context in the context of art.

Bianca Bosker is the New York Times bestselling author of Cork Dork and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Best American Travel Writing, and been recognized with awards from the New York Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, and more.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Bianca Bosker (Get the Picture) about the immersive approach to her writing, why we need to unlearn how to behave around art, developing new tastes, and the importance of context in the context of art.

Bianca Bosker is the New York Times bestselling author of Cork Dork and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Best American Travel Writing, and been recognized with awards from the New York Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, and more.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Brett Benner:

There we go. I couldn't find, um, oh, I saw this interview with him where someone said, you know, what made you choose to do this? And like, what were you trying to, like, you know, it was because you wanted to turn him on his head, blah, blah. And you know, he was like, I needed to pay bills. I wrote a book. I needed to pay my bills.

Jason Blitman:

Brett and I are talking about James by Percival Everett, which we both just finished and is terrific. It, isn't a retelling of Huckleberry Finn. It is not a reimagining of Huckleberry Finn. It is, the story of Jim,

Brett Benner:

giving him his due.

Jason Blitman:

yeah, he finally gets to do in this book, James, and it's so terrific and we both highly recommend pre ordering and doing your library holds for the book. now while you can.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. And for those people in LA, I'm going to go, I, I, I I'm absolutely going to go see him. I know he's doing an event at the Grove in Los Angeles. I'm so I'm just so excited to see him. I just think it's I think he's going to I think he's so interesting, but. God, what a, I really was really moved by it and, uh, really interesting, really interesting.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, and it made me want to read Huckleberry Finn, which everybody says is, a great American novel, if not a little problematic. I'm, excited that that story, is getting told from, from Jim's perspective.

Brett Benner:

It's funny because as I read it, I kept, I was, as a young person, I was obsessed with the musical big river,

Jason Blitman:

Mm hmm.

Brett Benner:

I mean? And in fact, when they did the revival of it, if like, I don't know how many years ago, that was 10, whatever.

Jason Blitman:

more,

Brett Benner:

Yeah, my friend

Jason Blitman:

was like 2005.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, my friend Michael was Jim and so I reached out to him the other day and I said, you have to get that you have to get this. so, but I just kept hearing, look out for me. Oh, my water.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, Big River is terrific.

Brett Benner:

It's a great musical. I mean, it's beautiful. Um, and Daniel Jenkins, who was the original Huck, his father, Ken Jenkins was in scrubs. He played, um, You know, one of the old doctors on that show. So that was kind of a weird moment. A cool moment. Whatever.

Jason Blitman:

a few books that came out last week that I neglected to mention that I do want to shout out, one is I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both by Mariah Stovall. The cover is amazing. It sounds so good. And I've not read it, but I'm excited to, so I wanted to just shout that out. And also, Bugsy and Other Stories by Raphael Frumpkin. And again, have not read it yet, but I'm very much excited to, and keep a lookout on our Instagram, because we'll be doing a giveaway for that. very soon. So make sure to follow us at Gay's Reading to check that out. Also, Mary Liza Hartung, her book Love and Hot Chicken came out last week, which is like, fun lesbian love story and shouldn't go unnoticed. Like all of these books I have not had a chance to read yet, but I'm excited to check them all out. seem really great.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. And then out today, um, which I just wanted to give a shout out to is, is Ours by Phillip B. Williams. Which has honestly, has one of the most beautiful covers of this year so far, or like even last year, just a stunning cover. Um, but it really sounds amazing. I actually started this on audio, but he's also a poet and, and it, the, the writing is so gorgeous that I, I ordered a copy because I thought I'm going to have to read this and I don't. I don't just want to have it wash over me that way. Um, and it's a big, it's a big chunker of a book. So anyway, it sounds fantastic. And what I've heard is beautiful.

Jason Blitman:

And all of the books that we are talking about, you could find links to in our bookshop. org page, which you could find the link to that in our show notes. We also, of course, ask that if you like what you're hearing, please share us with your friends. like us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And if you can give us a five star review, that is greatly appreciated because that, as we always say, is how folks will get to find us when they're looking for book podcasts. It's, you know, the, the algorithm makes it so that the podcasts people are liking and reviewing and subscribing the most are, are the podcasts that get shown first. So that is certainly greatly appreciated. So excited that we have Bianca Bosker on today's show. She's so terrific. I was in the middle of reading Get the Picture and was headed out to New York and my husband and I like to go to galleries anyway. And I was like, I'm going to be in New York. I should reach out to her and see if she'd want to come gallery hopping with us. And she did. And it was. Such a delight, and we had a great time, and it was really special to get to sort of see her in action. And we talk a bit about this, in the episode, so I'm excited for you to hear. Here's a little about Bianca. Bianca Bosker is the New York Times best selling author of Cork Dork and a contributing writer at the Atlantic. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Best American Travel Writing, and she's been recognized with awards from the New York Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists, and more. The full title of the book is, get the picture, A Mind Bending Journey Among the Inspired Artists and Obsessive Art Fiends Who Taught Me How to See. And it was just an instant New York Times bestseller.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, and it should be. It's so fantastic. It's so fantastic. One of, Turloop, so far, one of my favorite books of the year.

Jason Blitman:

so without further ado, I'm Jason,

Brett Benner:

I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this episode of

Brett Benner:

Gays Reading

Jason Blitman:

Hello.

Bianca Bosker:

nice to see you. Jason, you're still in New York. I'm literally sitting on a heater right now.

Jason Blitman:

girl, you should have come back to California with me. I'm back already. We just missed the snow. And so I feel I'm very lucky.

Bianca Bosker:

Very happy for you. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

Brett, when, when Bianca and I and Franklin, I can't, I can't, can't have Franklin erasure today, but when we went to that was one of the first snows of the year. So we're like walking around the Upper East Side, bopping in and out of these beautiful galleries flurries and snow just start trickling down from the sky. And was, it was really quite magical.

Brett Benner:

It always is that first time in New York, I remember walking out that first snow and everything's blank, it didn't stop. It's quiet. You can literally hear the snow falling, that feeling. And then getting up the next morning, it's fucking black slush

Jason Blitman:

if you need to wrap yourself in a blanket or something, we don't share the video of this. So if you're, if you get cold,

Bianca Bosker:

I am wrapped in a blanket.

Jason Blitman:

can look however you need to

Bianca Bosker:

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

No one will see this. I'm so excited to talk to you about this book. almost texted you a picture of all of the tabs and all of the, when I was away from my tabs. And so then I started dog earing the book, which like. Feels very sacrilegious, but I was like, no, this is my piece of art. I'm going to just do whatever I want to it.

Bianca Bosker:

Go for it. No, I dogger, I underline, I make a mess out of my books, but that's how, you know, they're loved.

Jason Blitman:

I know First of all, it's so hard to make nonfiction accessible.

Brett Benner:

really, it really is.

Jason Blitman:

And coming in hot with jokes and making it clear that we want to have a good time on this journey talking about art is super cool.

Bianca Bosker:

Thank you. I know We should have a good time. Art should be a phenomenal time. It isn't always somehow,

Brett Benner:

That's a testament to you though as well, there was so much that you get into. And in such a great way, like you're so funny and you're so charming. You're so immediately accessible right on the page that it feels like you're going through this journey with a pal and like it's the greatest feeling.

Jason Blitman:

This isn't a podcast conversation. We're just gonna sit here for an hour and tell you all the things we loved about them.

Bianca Bosker:

yeah, if you want to just rename it the Bianca Bosker fan club, I'm totally in, but thank you.

Jason Blitman:

For our listeners who. Have not heard of it yet. We're talking about Get the Picture. The subtitle is, A mind bending journey among the inspired artists and obsessive art fiends who taught me how to see by Bianca Bosker. Can you give us like a one liner, an elevator pitch of what you'd say the book is about?

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah. So I'll tell you what I tell people at dinner parties,

Jason Blitman:

Perfect! Yes, the dinner

Bianca Bosker:

is yeah, this is a book about the years I spent disowning my regular life to work at galleries, help artists in their studios, patrol museum wings as a security guard, and much, much more, all as part of this journey to understand why does art matter and how can any of us engage with it more deeply. And to me, the book is like part user guide to the hidden logic of the art world and part quest to learn how to live more expansively. I think it's also a celebration of beauty. I think beauty tends to be a kind of a dirty word in the art world these days and in polite company these days. And it's also I came to see absolutely necessary. Yeah, that's what I tell people. And then hopefully their eyes don't start glazing over and we can talk more about it.

Jason Blitman:

No,

Brett Benner:

That was excellent. That was

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about your process? Cause the way that you just described your pitch, you started by saying you like leave your life behind to die.

Brett Benner:

your life.

Jason Blitman:

And I think that is so fascinating for folks that are unfamiliar with cork dork. You really immerse yourself in the world of wine for that. Everything from not just learning about it, but becoming a sommelier. Can you take us on the journey from even picking a topic, like, how do you begin, and then what is it like leaving your normal life behind?

Bianca Bosker:

I think that I tend to find myself drawn to topics Where I feel like I've experienced like seismic activity in my soul, where like I come across something and I feel like shaken to my core where I just feel like I have been living my life all wrong, potentially, and I think what attracted me to art was, art had been a passion of mine when I was younger, like a lot of people, right? Like you have something that's an interest, a passion. And then, adult Bianca grabbed the wheel in my case. And I also found that as I got older, like I realized it my naive innocence disappeared and it dawned on me just how little I really understood how to do art. I moved to New York, I would go to galleries and museums and I felt like I was consistently like two tattoos and a master's degree away from figuring out what was going on. And I was like, also, I was like, who has time for this? I was at this phase in my life that was going for a very long period of time where I was like living a very hyper optimized routine that involved a lot of, texting from the toilet while listening to podcasts on 2x speed. And I didn't make time for what I thought were frivolous things like art or, bathroom breaks. And it began to dawn on me that maybe. Maybe I should try again. Maybe I should start poking around again, partially because I discovered some paintings of my grandmother's that she had done and I began to realize that I, by turning my back on art, I was missing out on what seemed like something very big, I get into topics because it's the people, something about the people in this world. I will confess I was going out to galleries and museum and the art did not speak to me, but the people around it fascinated me, you know, they maxed out credit cards to show hunks of metal. They swore could change the world. They treated 100 year old paintings like they were as necessary as vital organs. Like I've never met a Group of people willing to sacrifice so much for something of so little obvious practical value. And, as I would walk around these galleries watching people oohing and aahing over these, sculptures of mutilated chairs, I just couldn't help wondering, like, why, right? Like, Why does art matter? Why do we engage with it? Can it really shake us to our core? And I was surprised to find that scientists are right there with artists and arguing that art is a fundamental part of our humanity. Something as necessary as food or sex, as one biologist put it. And I also wanted to, figure out these art people behaved in a very Fascinating way, like they acted like they'd access this trap door in their brain. And I, my life felt very claustrophobic by comparison. And yeah, I decided I wanted to see if I could learn to see art and also the world the way they did. And It started with asking questions, but to your point, it quickly spiraled into something much bigger that took over my life, and I decided that I was going to throw myself in and try and start working in the art world. My plan was to get a job at a gallery, which everyone who knew more about the art world than me assured me was not only impossible, but potentially dangerous in its own way.

Jason Blitman:

Sure. Would you go on To like, explain why in the book?

Bianca Bosker:

Right, right. But yeah, so I think, my method is I do believe in learning by doing. And I will also say that the secrecy made me convinced that I had to get inside, yeah, like the I started off just going like a lot of journalists. I do interviews. And I started off just reaching out to people to ask them what I thought were pretty fundamental questions. How do you do art? And like, why does this matter? And I was surprised that the response that I got was a pretty unequivocal but out. Like people did not want to talk I got threats, people went, refused to talk on the record

Jason Blitman:

And of course, the more that happens, the more you're like, okay I want to keep diving because that's

Bianca Bosker:

totally, yeah, the absolutely.

Jason Blitman:

Before we dive into the actual art world, because that's fascinating in and of itself. I think Brett and I are both so curious. Like we both have a background in, in theater and film and television and casting. And we, we know a lot of actors and there's this concept of Code switching for you. You were essentially method acting, right? You're like,

Brett Benner:

Right.

Bianca Bosker:

method journalism.

Jason Blitman:

method journalism, right? Did you put a part of you away when you got home at night? Was it all encompassing? Were you gallery assistant by day, journalist by night? Was it always journalist?

Brett Benner:

Was your husband and friends concerned

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, if they were concerned, I wouldn't know about it because I basically didn't see them. My first job was working as an assistant at this up and coming gallery in Brooklyn. And, I quickly realized that in order to Really figure out what was going on. I basically needed to just put myself at my boss's beck and call. And we would be like, Spackling walls until 11 p. m. Like, I just, I never knew where the day would head, right? So, I'd show up for work, we'd paint a wall he'd have a studio visit, I'd go with him to do a studio visit. He'd go to the hardware store, I'd go to the hardware store with him. And, he'd spend hours editing photos while our conversation would range from the problems with puppy mills to, the masterpiece that he saw at the Guggenheim. And so I felt like I had to just be underfoot to really see the whole picture, right? And I do believe that oftentimes the miraculous emerges from the mundane. And also with art, it felt really crucial to understand all the decisions that get made. I felt like I really wanted to see how does an artwork go from the germ of an idea in someone's studio to this revered masterpiece in a museum? Because I feel like all the decisions That get made along the way that affect an artwork are also the decisions that affect us, right? Our idea of art, who makes it, why we should bother with it. But yeah, it was it was very all encompassing and, I think a lot of people gave me, in my sort of quote unquote regular life, gave me up for dead because it just, I was constantly seeing art. I was going to artist studios. It was, and It was a blast.

Jason Blitman:

it got overwhelming for you, did you have this moment of like, but it's all for the book, so it's okay. Or, but I'm still learning, so it's okay. I

Bianca Bosker:

it's not, it's for a, it's for a book, but it was also for me, right? It was this like personal quest, so I think like I, if it was just, For the book, I don't think I would have gotten my face sat on by a nearly naked performance

Jason Blitman:

Spoiler alert.

Brett Benner:

Exactly. Did the journey reveal itself to you as you went along? Or did you have a framework that you build out to start to say, these are the points that I want to address in my journey?

Bianca Bosker:

A lot of it revealed itself. I believe that with writing, it's good to have questions rather than an agenda. And I believe that like really honest nonfiction comes from a place of just asking questions and following your way to interesting answers. And just as one example, one topic that I desperately did not want to cover that I ended up having to cover was this question of like, how do we define art? What is art actually? And that's where Mandy Golfier, the aforementioned performance artist comes in. That is just a but I think it's one that ultimately I'm really glad I tackled because it's allowed me to see art everywhere, to really approach life with this art mindset in a way that's thrilling, I think art is this moment where our mind jumps the curb, and now, grappling with this question of what is art, I feel like I can have those moments in a gallery, but I can also have them in Central Park, on the subway in a department store, in a supermarket.

Jason Blitman:

And it's so interesting for you to say all of that, because this conversation can go in so many different directions just from talking about what is art, because, the idea of seeing art anywhere, and yet there is this inaccessibility when it comes to galleries. And yet, when you actually start to think about what is art. And an art from a, like if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound like if art isn't seen by somebody, does that make it art because nobody is there to appreciate right there so much. And then there's this great line from the book where you're talking about. These two gallery owners, and we're talking about going to Art Basel in Miami, and you say Elizabeth and Rob were betting 39, 000 cobbled together on credit cards that they could fly to a different state, hang 21 pieces of colorful paper onto a glorified elementary school science fair booth, and over the course of five days, convince strangers to fork over tens of thousands of dollars for said paper. And it's like when you think about not even just art, but like anything in general. It's like a movie is just a grownup putting on a costume and playing pretend and people pay a lot of money to go see it. And those actors are paid a lot of money to play pretend, but like when it comes down to it it's a huge economy. There's, it's just crazy when you strip it all away. Art is just piece of paper hung on the wall

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, but I also love, just the way you describe movies. I love that. And I think that to me, though, it's a sign that you have been infected by this wonderful art mindset. I think art taught me to see things by unseeing them. And I feel like that's what you're doing there. And I came to art feeling like it was. Art can't feed us, house us, or be used to kill predators. And What I came to find is, all the ways that research shows that art is really essential to our experience. And there's different arguments for, why art seems to be this fundamental part of the human experience. And one of them that really resonated with my experience and what I think you're what I'm hearing you say is this idea that art Like dreams evolved to help us fight the reducing tendencies of our minds. Like when we look out at the world. We're pretty crummy seers, actually, right? Vision is really a hallucination.

Jason Blitman:

which is a terrific section of the book.

Bianca Bosker:

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

yeah.

Bianca Bosker:

yeah, right? We look at, we are not this dispassionate video cameras accurately recording the world around us, right? in fact we look at the world, and even, before the data kind of gets into our brains and we make sense of what we're seeing the information is being compressed and prioritized and dismissed. By all these filters of expectation. And I think art Research shows helps us lift these filters of expectation. It helps us fight that reducing tendency. Those that instinct to compress that they help us fight our brains instinct to be a trash compactor, essentially. And so I think that you know what you're describing is that way of seeing a movie to me is like removing that filter of expectation, right? And I think art like I said, like dreams. The idea there is that it Reminds us that what we see of the world is not what is necessarily right, like that. There's so many other options that there's so many other permutations and it keeps our brains from kind of overfitting to the data that we're familiar with, which I think is really exciting. It's So much, like I said, changes, and that's what allows you to see art in, in that book you held up, right? That underlined copy of a book, right? That could be art, right? Or like I said, in the subway.

Jason Blitman:

talking about, you hearing me describe film or theater or, that sort of stripping away art, how you were saying it back to me, what it made me think of is. an illusion. And you could see a magic trick, you could see an illusion, be wowed by it, but we also know that, spoiler alert, magic isn't real. But you're still wowed by it. You can learn how a trick is done can be impressed by the skill behind it. And then see it done again. And even though, you know, more and know how it's done, it's still impressive to see when you add the skill and you add this and you add that. Sure. There are people who are putting on a costume and playing pretend. And yet when they pull the illusion over on you, you are moved, you cry it can laugh, you, whatever it is, which brings me to another huge part of the book, which is context. And more context we have with something, for something, in something, about something, it really changes the way we experience whatever it is we don't have context or are getting context from. I could talk to you about context. This whole conversation could have been about context

Bianca Bosker:

I think context, for those who obviously I think people are familiar with the word, but

Jason Blitman:

in relation to the art

Bianca Bosker:

it means something very specific. It is what you're describing and I think it is similar to its meaning elsewhere. But to me, like the simplest way of describing is context in the art world is the web of names surrounding an artist. And their work. It's like the social capital, this like cloud of social capital that follows them around. And what I found really stunning is, I had set myself on this journey of developing my eye, right? Which among connoisseurs is this idea that an eye is this painstakingly cultivated outlook that enables you to see a lot that doesn't meet the uncultivated I like, who's going to be the next Picasso or what's transcendent about art show of mutilated chairs. And. Artists had warned me that I lacked, like many of us, like visual literacy, which I thought, very interestingly, they swore was downright dangerous in a world like today that is so saturated with images and, you know, it's true, it's like that image is yelling at us from Instagram or like hollering from the frozen food section, like all trying to influence us. Anyway, I was really just developing my eye. What I found was so off putting is all of the things that I thought were utterly irrelevant. To understanding and appreciating a work of art were these. Connoisseurs who were, around me. They insisted actually absolutely crucial to figuring out what was going on and appreciating it. Things like where an artist went to grad school, who owned their work, what museum collected their work, who they were sleeping with. I literally had a gallerist, telling me like, oh like This painter, is dating this very famous painter, and it's, I was like, do I need to know that? I don't think I need to know that. And really, I think we've gotten to this very strange point in the art world where having an eye increasingly means having an eye for context for that web of names. And I find that a little depressing. I find that a little off putting

Brett Benner:

that's, but that's not limited to just art.

Bianca Bosker:

Of course

Brett Benner:

larger context. That's, working in entertainment because I am a casting director by trade. That is our current state right now. think with

Bianca Bosker:

Are you happy about that?

Brett Benner:

Oh no. And I don't frankly, I, and I

Jason Blitman:

How many followers does someone have?

Brett Benner:

exactly right. In a casting community, when we're casting a television show and putting together the ensemble cast for anything, many times if you bring in two actors to a studio and a network, say they have equal talent, the comments you will sometimes get from a studio or network executive, Is who has more followers on social media, and that will be the determining factor for them getting that part, which is such bullshit.

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

It's impossible for us to just see art without anything that's around it. Bianca and I went to a gallery that I loved the paintings, they almost felt retro, Brett, I was like, oh, these sort of feel like they're from the 70s, it was, and it was exciting, and you, these were like pieces of art that were like big and impactful. And then we learned that they were actually painted in 2023. And I suddenly liked them less. And it Interesting because I couldn't even explain why, but there was something about my sort of initial experience with them that made them feel a little older. And then when I realized that they were quite contemporary, that context gave me a different feeling. And sometimes it works in the opposite direction, the idea of seeing a piece of art on a, crisp white wall in a gallery where the person at the front desk doesn't look up at you when you

Bianca Bosker:

It's a little mean at you,

Jason Blitman:

is a little mean at you. And it looks expensive just because it's on 26th street in Chelsea. If you saw that exact same piece of art, literally at a thrift store, you wouldn't have the same feeling about it. that, to me, blew my mind when I really started to think about it.

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, but I think one thing that bothers me about context in the context of the art world can often feel alienating, right? And disempowering. And I think that I was really, I don't know about this as I started working in galleries and getting to Ushered into the ways of the art world. I began to recognize all the ways that the art world wields strategic snobbery to keep people out and to keep the gatekeepers in charge and to, I think I'd unfortunately keep art as a sort of clubby in crowd sort of thing where you're like either one of us or you're not. And I think context is within that, right? If we're told that, you need an art history degree, years of going to art fairs, being able to memorize the biography of all these artists. If you need all these things in order to really understand an artwork, suddenly the gatekeepers become that much more important. And, certainly I think the emphasis on context is just one way that the art world has these sort of very strategically erected barriers to entry that. Keep people out or at least dissuade them from trusting themselves or from going further. I discovered it even in the way that, I worked with a guy who was basically like, you need a makeover before you can make it in this world, right? And, gave me feedback on all the ways that I dress the wrong way. I use the wrong language, right? I said sold instead of placed. Right. I had to memorize start to fit in in the art world that like tortured art speak alter egos of words like website which is an online viewing room. or like one of my favorites like indexical marks of the Artist's body, which is what you and I would probably call finger painting.

Jason Blitman:

mean, even the fact that the gallery is really just an art store.

Bianca Bosker:

an art store. It's an art store. Thank you. It's an art store. The YQ Bright is one of those ways that they like, make it this shrine.

Brett Benner:

I have to speak to your resilience because many people, even in that first, with him alone, would have withered and shrunk and died on the vine. You have a personality and God love you for it because many people wouldn't that has made you resilient So I really appreciated that and I was like God good on her. She is just in it and In it for the hall, and I really

Jason Blitman:

Well, Brett, it's, what's so cool is that I got to watch it in action. We were at a gallery, and I, there was a relatively small painting, I would say maybe 12 by 12 inches, not

Bianca Bosker:

Maybe smaller.

Jason Blitman:

Maybe even smaller,

Bianca Bosker:

six by six. It was teeny. I'm

Jason Blitman:

maybe, it was quite small, and I was like, how much do you think that would go for? Because, you read the book, you I started to immerse myself in the art world, and like, When you start looking into pricing, you even say in the book, it's all irrelevant and it's all made up. I asked Bianca, how much do you think that is? I think you guessed 90 or 110? Oh no, you guessed 90. And 1000. No. I was shocked, because even in my research, I was like, oh, maybe 25, maybe 40 on a higher end, because it was so small. But Bianca had the context of who the artist was, understood the gallery, etc. And then was like, I'm going to do it. I'm going to work up the courage and ask, which in and of itself is like barrier upon barrier. There's not just like a price tag on the wall. And if there is a price tag on the wall you probably know you, it's extra context for thinking this gallery isn't worth anything because I don't want to see the price tag on the wall.

Brett Benner:

You wanted the laminated card with everything listed for you, right? Color coding, this much for these.

Jason Blitman:

Bianca takes a deep breath and goes to the desk and asks,

Bianca Bosker:

And this is, I have to say, this is a big deal gallery. This is you know it's a serious gallery because you can barely open the door. My hypothesis is the bigger the door, the more serious the

Jason Blitman:

The door was so big,

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, Yeah, it was so big. And, the ceilings are like, double height, which The elevator is enormous. All to say that it was, it's a fancy fucking gallery.

Jason Blitman:

So Bianca works up the courage to ask and then they had to call. The gallerist, the gallery director,

Bianca Bosker:

the serious professional. As I put, the black turtleneck person.

Jason Blitman:

Specifically cut hair, dark black turtleneck, tall, probably of Eastern European descent, and then tells Bianca, of course, that it was

Bianca Bosker:

Ninety thousand great British pounds. Yes. Of course, being in New York, for some reason the price was quoted in Great British Pounds, but anyway, that's a side note.

Jason Blitman:

which I believe we looked at, it's like 110, 000. So Bianca was quite close in terms of the guests, but it was just so interesting to watch the resilience, Brett, that you're talking about.

Bianca Bosker:

You know that you're not going to buy it, right? I know I, because I thought it was very, I felt like I knew I wasn't going to buy it, but yes, it is. I'm sweating just thinking about this story, and I was sweating at the time, because of course that's part of the way that the art world tries to build up the mystique is to put up these velvet ropes and you don't want to sell the art with something as crass as money, right?

Jason Blitman:

But I watched your curiosity overpower the anxiety.

Bianca Bosker:

it's true.

Jason Blitman:

Right? And I, and I think to your point, like the curiosity of what's going to happen next is probably what made you paint that wall white eight times, right? You were like, okay, I'm going to bust my back and let's see what happens.

Bianca Bosker:

yes. The masochistic curiosity.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. The

Bianca Bosker:

But I think, yeah, it's sweet, right? It's you to say, but I think you're right. That is a good, I think you, you understand my process. I think you're right. I think that there's like a, like asking the question and, overpowers the the awkwardness I feel to do but it does require being willing, having no shame, like being able to just put myself in rooms where I'm not sure people want me where I'm sat on. Yes. Which

Jason Blitman:

I saw more galleries as the week went on and. there were two in particular that I was like, I have to ask questions about this because I am so curious even though these are like ridiculous art novice questions, I need to ask them. One example is there was like a giant, essentially a giant sandbox and I was like, Who's buying this? What is this for? The question that I asked the gallery was, how does this artist make money? Because no one is buying this massive, truly, it like filled an entire room.

Bianca Bosker:

I'm so curious. What was the answer that they gave you?

Jason Blitman:

they basically said, this is not for a collector to buy, this is for a museum. Sometimes pieces like this.

Brett Benner:

A playground.

Bianca Bosker:

Brett, have you learned nothing?

Brett Benner:

I don't know. I'm just trying to be practical here.

Jason Blitman:

And she also said sometimes, an artist will get a grant just to make something for this space and then it will go away, right? And I was just like, oh, that's so fascinating. It's Again, just like these barriers of entry and it's like these people that are getting tons of money just to make a giant sandbox with stuff in it. It was interesting.

Bianca Bosker:

but I think that there's something we should unlearn. Which is this reticence of asking questions of art when I eventually was working as a security guard at the Guggenheim, I got really interested in this question of like, why does everyone behave essentially the same way in museums, right? People are mute they're the same. Go and, even if you love an artwork, you're expected to frown at it silently, right? Everyone's nodding is maybe as dramatic as it gets, right? There's this, if you notice it, right? If you go around museums, people tend to whisper they're very self contained. Yeah, totally. And I think as I dug into the history, I was really fascinated to understand the ways in which that was coached behavior, like these institutions, right? In the 1800s, I went through this big effort to quote unquote civilize the, as they refer to it, unwashed masses. And that was really strategic. And it was part of this idea of separating art as this thing that was, So decided by a certain class protected by a certain class. And of course, anyone could engage with it. But I had to be on those terms and on their terms and one. And this was some of a movement that happened in the U. S. But also in Europe. And there was a fascinating article I came across where, it was like a working man's guide to behaving in museums. And one of the instructions was to not ask questions, right? It was like, don't disturb people. Don't disturb the peace and quiet by asking questions. And in fact, when the museum of fine arts in Boston opened up there were complaints by I believe it was one of the board members there. About the quote unquote loquacious Italians that would come into the galleries. And so there was this sense of oh like loud people of a certain class or like spoiling the experience. And I think that's unfortunate, if you trace the history, I think there's an argument to be made that when we stopped using our voice, we lost our voice as an audience and. It's time we take it back. And I think that starts by developing our eyes. It starts by looking. It starts by not just paying attention to context. It starts by, paying attention, like I write about, like the decisions that went into the piece. Like working in artists studios really transformed my relationship with art and made me see that everything you need to have a meaningful experience of art is right in front of you in the piece itself.

Brett Benner:

What's also really, what's also, what also, and this is one of the things I love personally about nonfiction, and in this book it's so resonant to me, I did deep dives. Into everyone you talk about in this book, and I was looking, Almost all of these artists, first of all, are on Instagram, so you can immediately go in and see their pieces and see, if not the exact pieces that you were describing, then something similar or to get the sense of who they were. It's a really cool thing to suddenly look at this and think, wow. And see things actually as perceived through your eye and then to take that in and apply it to what you were looking at. I loved that so much.

Bianca Bosker:

Thank you so much. That's great to hear. That was the idea. Also the idea that yeah, that you hopefully take it forward, which it sounds like Jason, you did right in your experience of going through galleries in New York.

Jason Blitman:

At some point I sought out context because there were moments where I was like, I need to know more about this because my brain cannot process the wackiness that I am experiencing right now. One of them made my mind melt. And I, when I asked about context, I think was disappointed in myself that I didn't work a little harder to create it on my own. And I went the easy way out. Anyway.

Bianca Bosker:

You're like, there's a right answer, I'm gonna get it.

Jason Blitman:

Or give me a little bit so that my brain can go in a direction. Brett Bianca and I also talked about titles of work to do the same thing. Give me the title so that I know what direction my brain needs to go in. Something that we're not directly saying, we haven't really talked about, is really how exclusive the art world is. And what was so upsetting to me was reading about these gallerists who were like, this art is gonna change the world. How is it gonna change the world if nobody can experience it? And I think, A question maybe is why do you think that is, but then I also want to talk really about the sort of elitism, the classism, the privilege, the racism that permeates the art world in a, in an extreme way that you do go into in the book a bit but, would be irresponsible to not bring up at all in this conversation because it's very real. Not to just say take it away, but do you have an issue with it?

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, no,

Jason Blitman:

There's like a lot to unpack there. So obviously we can't talk about everything, but it's just so exclusive

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah I think one thing that I, based, I think, on everything sort of art world advertised itself, I perhaps somewhat naively expected to be welcomed open arms by this world of, open minded iconoclasts who believed that they needed to include as many people as possible in the magic of art that embraced this inclusive, progressive mindset that was that it was a better place. And I was disabused of that notion rather quickly, and I think, as I described I was really taken aback by that really strategic snobbery, right? It's this idea of not just snobbery, but snobbery that felt like it was being used to differentiate Us and them. I experienced that in so many different forms. But, for example the fact that I work for someone who describes the general public as Joe Schmoes, right? Not the nicest term. And, or There's many ways to keep out the quote unquote schmoes, like where you put the gallery. And it was interesting to me to discover the ways that galleries in New York often hide themselves. And of course, like a ground floor retail space could be expensive, but it's not just that like to a lot of these galleries, like a ground floor storefront was actively undesirable because then you would have quote unquote random ass people walking in, which includes, the general public and, I think there's this idea of cloistering art in these almost like art speakeasies that most people can't find. And yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. There's something very strange about on the one hand saying, I want to show art that's going to change the world. And on the other hand, Making it difficult for the world to find that art. And I think that the other ways in which these boundaries are erected include obviously the language, right? It does seem unnecessary that we have to talk about art with this kind of made up language, right? In which we refer to, again, websites as online viewing rooms. I was surprised in which the art world embraced this mindset that I associate more with stodgy old country clubs, which is are you our type of person, right? Like, Do you believe what I believe, right? And, that goes back, as I was saying before, it's like my boss telling me that my, uncoolness was really dragging him down, and so he was, giving me pointers on what to wear how to conduct myself, I was overly enthusiastic, and of course, that only made me realize the way in which most art people discuss art in, a tone, a voice that's like this kind of flat monotone that makes them sound like they're running out of batteries but I think that there's something disturbing about the way in which it can not only keep out viewers, but also artists themselves, right? I worked with a gallerist whose go to question when considering whether to show someone's work was, would you hang out with this person? And of course, I don't have to explain to All the problems that are bound up in that question. And I spoke with artists who said that they, felt pressure to adopt this quote unquote artist personality, right? To change the way they dress, to change the way they behave, to be eccentric or flamboyant or weird, to essentially not be themselves. And I think that emphasis on context can lead to, a lot of really talented people getting excluded and overlooked. But I think that there's ways of trying to fix that for. Ourselves, right? It's hard to fix all the flaws in the machine, but we can make it a little better by widening our horizons, by going to see art in at art schools, by going to see it in the gallery in someone's apartment, by just trying to seek art out, not just at museums, not just at the big game galleries, but in the sort of You know, out of the way places where I think you're oftentimes finding art closer to its source in a way that's really exciting, like you're watching artists working through their creative process you're seeing things that are unexpected and weird and strange and jostle loose that filter of expectation, and that's at least what I've come to crave seeing. Like I think obviously I do go to museums a lot. I love it. They've come to feel almost like encyclopedias of taste. It's like the artworks that are there have passed through so many layers of vetting and consensus that it's almost like these are the works that a lot of people could agree were good, but does that mean that they're the only works that are good? Absolutely not. Does that even mean that they're the best works? I don't necessarily think

Brett Benner:

and, and, and, vetted and consensus through these particular eyes. these these designated people who are choosing this versus

Bianca Bosker:

and maybe choosing it on very different criteria than you care about, who do you want to hang out with?

Brett Benner:

yes.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, I mean, and this can all be said, too, about books, about theater, about food, about all sorts of things that we experience, and you also go on to talk about The more art you see, the more you can develop your eye, the more you can even just have an understanding of what you like and don't like, the more I read, the more I'm discovering, unfortunately, the more I read, the fewer books I like, because I have more to compare and more to like or not like,

Bianca Bosker:

but I also think it's that exciting. You know, I worked with this artist, Julie Curtis, who made me see that taste doesn't have to be a destination. I think I'd always thought of taste as I'm going, I have to develop good taste I have to the right things. And I think she helped me understand of taste as a journey, right? This idea that it's actually about developing new tastes. It's about challenging yourself. It's about exposing yourself to new things. And as she says that, with new tastes come, new experiences and almost like a new person, right? That we get to constantly change ourselves and reinvent ourselves through this experience of. Developing new taste of hunting for new taste. And again, that means seeing a lot, exposing ourselves to a lot and exposing ourselves to the unexpected, I can't tell you how awesome it was. I went to grand central the other day with my son to look at a miniature train exhibit. And that blew my goddamn mind.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Bianca Bosker:

I

Jason Blitman:

I imagine it part of what even blew your mind was watching him see it and experience it

Bianca Bosker:

no, I was too lost in the trains to really pay attention to how much he

Jason Blitman:

like I don't care what he thought or what he saw.

Bianca Bosker:

was like a meta, like a mini train inside the mini train, so I was like, this is amazing, where did my child go? But that's art too. I like, honestly, it's like that. Why is that not art? That is art. It's I like, as I write about I think art is often this kind of handshake that can happen between the viewer looking at something with an art mindset. I step out of, going to a gallery, a museum, and I'm like, there's art in the Mr. Softee truck is art. Like all of a sudden you have this ability to like, you know, as every art world press release says, the familiar becomes unfamiliar. But that's pretty magical.

Jason Blitman:

It would be exciting and cool to piece together for folks that are unfamiliar. a list of galleries that one can go to. You can just walk in. If you can't afford a barrier of entry for a museum, an art museum, there are galleries all over the country that

Brett Benner:

Or you can't open the door,

Jason Blitman:

because they're so heavy. Well, it's funny that you said that. Like the inaccessibility or or the exclusivity is insane. Not only sometimes are they hard to find. Sometimes the door is so heavy, you walk in, they literally do not look up at you. It's, you. start to chuckle because the more you go in, the more you're like, are they going to look up at me or not? Nope. Of course. Good. And then when you go out, I was the amount of galleries that I was like, wait, how do I get out of here? Because the doors were even hard to see. It's like a glass wall. And I'm like, which, how do I get out of here?

Bianca Bosker:

Jason is actually speaking to us from the inside of the gallery. He's still

Jason Blitman:

still here. I have become art. I am now art.

Bianca Bosker:

My hope is that Get the Picture is a playbook. Not only, but parts of it, I think, are like a playbook to this exclusivity in a way that I hope empowers people to get over it. I think that it's like watching how people put zombie makeup on an actor. It's it's a little less scary. Like, when you see how the magic gets made, when you see how the haunted house gets made it's, it is less You can by your own rules. Like you understand the rules. I would say I don't think that art needs the velvet ropes and made up language to be magical and moving. And it was interesting also the way that like seeing how artists construct a painting, seeing them at work in their studio, really also only enhanced the magic of art. I was thinking about your, you're talking about how you watch a magic trick happening. And it's I think the more you learn about, at least for me, I felt like the more I learned, the more enthralled I was. And, Knowing the less savory sides of it feels very important but I think it's also, like I said, empowering.

Brett Benner:

is. It's almost like you're living, you are living a more expansive life because of it and because of everything you're perceiving. And that to me is something I pulled from this in terms of looking at art, in terms of how to perceive art, in terms of the whole thing, but it's also approaching it a larger mind or an open mind,

Jason Blitman:

yeah. It inspired me to see art and look at art in different ways. And it was so cool and so interesting. And for our listeners, something that the book does, Bianca really goes out and talks about. Why art matters and why our instinct as consumers is to just say, just tell me what you mean when you Are looking at a piece of art and you know what makes art art, what makes art good and, and demystifies it in a way that makes us appreciate it. And I think It's so accessible. It's so fun. And there were just pieces that made me think about life and art and just new and different ways and art in every sense of the word.

Brett Benner:

Bosker gallery tour. That could be your next thing. Just

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah, totally. It sounds like a blast. No, but I'm so I'm very appreciative to hear you say that, Jason. That was a real goal for me, was that it would inspire people to embrace art in their own lives. And I hope that inspires people not just to appreciate art, but also to live more expansively. And I think that art, ultimately, I came to this place of seeing that art is practice for appreciating life. But it's also helps us create a life that's worth appreciating, right? It helps us think in different ways. It helps our minds jump the curb. It helps us, like I said, fight this compressing tendency of our minds. And ultimately like, find beauty in more places, which. It's really life altering, as you know from reading the book there's a bunch of shit tits, these sewage digester eggs that I now think are some of the most beautiful buildings on the New York skyline.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah.

Bianca Bosker:

I'm biased, obviously, but I feel like culture goes through different periods of seizing on things as the sort of shared status slash cultural touchstone, right? There was, music, maybe more in the 90s. And it was like, the whole food thing was like, huge, right? And, I'm, I feel like we're in this moment where art could be next. I've heard of enough tech bros getting into art, and they always feel like they're, like, a harbinger of

Brett Benner:

of what's to come.

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah the sort of

Jason Blitman:

Well, maybe with like the death of NFTs, it's like, oh wait no, no, no. Let's have real art on the wall.

Bianca Bosker:

right, no, totally. And I think people are also there's something, I don't know like, art is It has that like experiential element, but it's also like just tactile. I think a lot of people are looking for things to do offline, right? At least I am, right? And whether they're making art or going to see art or like making art and then wanting to go see art, cause they're starting to make it.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you for indulging me in New York and

Bianca Bosker:

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's such an honor. I'm a big as a big fan of the podcast and also a big fan of talking about myself,

Jason Blitman:

Amazing. Well, so speaking up before I let you go, you do a little Easter egg at the end of the book where you say you surprised yourself by what you put in your notes app for next things that you might be interested in diving in. You mentioned WWE, jellyfish, beauty pageants, and Dolly Parton. I'm here for every one of those things. I literally had a moment of Ooh, should I throw and I should I say that I want one over the other? But I was like, no they're all amazing. Did you, are you working on something else? Can you talk about it? Or what's,

Bianca Bosker:

about art forgery coming out soon, and then I have a couple pieces like in the works, but unfortunately, none yet about WWE, jellyfish or Dolly Parton, but the appetite is there. I know, like any time I just need to find the venue or just, talk to myself about it, but I still think they're fascinating.

Jason Blitman:

if you haven't listened to the podcast series, Dolly Parton's America, highly recommend.

Bianca Bosker:

will be

Jason Blitman:

good.

Bianca Bosker:

list. I'll have it to my list.

Brett Benner:

Jellyfish over octopus.

Jason Blitman:

Octopus are overdone,

Brett Benner:

No, but I'm saying jellyfish over octopus

Bianca Bosker:

Yeah. Yeah. Jellyfish, I feel are under appreciated. You know what I mean? Like jellyfish are the curse of swimmers everywhere, but they're also like more people die from jellyfish stings than die from shark attacks every year. Jellyfish have capsized a boat. Jellyfish are also immortal. Like they're, this They're incredible. They're incredible survivors. They, I think they're living fossils, right? Like one of these, select handful of creatures that is basically unchanged evolutionarily over like hundreds of millions of years. They're, they're the superheroes of the sea. They're the superheroes and the

Jason Blitman:

Wait, can we just talk about Jellyfish now? Do you have another hour? Like, what the oh my god. Bianca, congratulations. We're so excited about the book. I can't wait for our listeners to check it

Bianca Bosker:

Thank you so much. Well, thank you for having me

Jason Blitman:

We're obsessed with you.

Bianca Bosker:

same Anytime you want to look at art, let me know.

Jason Blitman:

You know I'm going to. Next time I'm in New York, we're going. thank you so, so, so much for being here. Make sure to get your copy of Get the Picture, wherever books are sold. But if you want to support us and local bookstores, you could check out our bookshop. org page where the link is in our show notes. Follow us on Instagram where we are doing some exciting, giveaways coming up and

Brett Benner:

out who's going to be on. That's the first place we let it go. We have a lot of things happening.

Jason Blitman:

much to all of our listeners and we look forward to seeing you next week. Bye.