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Judith Christensen


Scene One: College. We’re sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning against the cabinets, when my boyfriend, a sociology major says, “What I really want to be is an artist.” The yearning and commitment in his voice captivates and excites me. I, on the other hand, have no clue where I’m headed. Later, we both transfer to UC Santa Barbara, he to the College of Creative Studies, run like a graduate program. On many an evening, we settle into the couch in the living room of Paul Wonner, his advisor, and Bill Brown, pouring over their collection of art books and original artwork. Occasionally, Paul sends us to San Francisco to see a particular exhibit—never mind missing school. So unlike my classes, this utterly absorbing and pleasurable exploration of art—with no pressure and no grades—must be my leisure, or so I assume.

Scene Two: We’re both graduate students, married now, at UC San Diego. In my department, Philosophy, we grad students refer to our realm as “the morgue”—it’s that bleak. Visual Arts, his domain, buzzes with discussion, life, art, art as life and life as art. I spend more time at Vis Arts than Philosophy, wandering through studio spaces and sitting in on seminars. Exploration of the art world remains exciting, enjoyable, effortless. Still, I turn in other directions.

Patricia Patterson, "Two Doors,"
1987, casein on canvas, 84 x 45".
Courtesy Quint Galleyr, La Jolla.
Scene Three: Graduate school in the past, living in LA, I am an aspiring fiction writer, making my living writing about the likes of “Yosemite in Winter,” “Ceiling Soffits,” and student debt. Patricia Patterson has an exhibit and I have something I want to say about her work. I contact Artweek, file the story, and become a contributing editor. At last, I cross the threshold from observer to participant.   

Epilogue: At least, that’s how I remember it. Being the fact checker that I am, before I file this story, I look back through my early clips and find my memory is flawed. There were a few art reviews before the Patterson article, but they are lost in my memory, insignificant. Her’s remains pivotal because it was the first to recapture the genuine engagement with the subject that characterized my earlier encounters with art.