Based on A Popular Board Game

by Leona Cheung

A Look at Daylight Books' Art Desks

A quick glance at my current work station: my Macbook, iPhone 5, Ray Ban aviators, a Moleskine notebook, and Burts Bees lipbalm.

Though it reveals my (guilty) inclination towards commercial brand products, does it say anything meaningful about me? I would say not, but a passing observer might be satisfied with the small bits of information taken from my desk area.

E. Brady Robinson spent three years venturing along the East Coast as one of those curious onlookers, photographing the workspaces of artists, curators, art dealers, critics, collectors, and museum directors. The photographic journey manifested into a final compilation of 57 art desks, and published by Daylight Books. Art Desks offers a look into the otherwise inaccessible spaces of the creatives and influencers of the art world. In an essay included in the photographic book, Andy Grundberg questions whether workspaces are an accurate representation of its occupant, or rather are they choreographed backdrops of what we pretend to be. He believes desks are a form of the man—or woman—cave that speaks the social and psychological aspects of its dweller.

Flipping through Art Desks, one sees strangers’ photographs, reading material, and artwork, all of which give clues to create an immediate but shallow impression about the person: their profession, their family. There are art books, a Chinese takeout order to Kon Chau, a crumpled love note. My curiosity perks a little but not a lot, most likely because the photographs disclose a comfortable amount of personal details and interests.

But then there are the few that stick out like bad perfume. One, in particular, is the desk of Victoria Gaitan who is a photographer, only there is little desk space to be found because of all the stuff on there. It’s a chaotic cluster-fuck of multi-colored post-its, provocative pictures of women, electric cords, jewelry, and prescription bottles. She is also the first person to make a partial appearance showing a tatted up forearm and adorned with chunky metallic rings. Another photographer’s desk that struck me was the one that belongs to Michael E. Northup. Centered and hung in the middle of the space is a light-up paraphernalia of Jesus on the cross. Above and below it are big bold letters in red that scramble to say “TRY TRY AGAIN.”

“Yes, these photographs, like all photographs, show us exterior surfaces and not what lies inside or behind them. [...] Do they hold the key to who we are, or who we pretend to be? That, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder.”