Spector, Buzz

Acclaimed artist and Chicago native Buzz Spector candidly addresses the challenges of being a teaching artist while also discussing his artmaking process, collecting artists’ books, and the synergy of his overlapping work as an artist, teacher, writer, and editor.

“I’ve had to wrestle with a problem that all teaching artists face… it puts you in the position of feeling like you need to be successful when you’re in your studio. And this is a terrible problem… A day in the studio when I’m really experimenting is a successful day, but it won’t necessarily result in successful work. Whereas, when I have to succeed, any problems that arise have to be gotten rid of instead of examined and looked over, and I believe that you’re at risk of losing some inspiration in that way, losing ideas that might otherwise take root.”

Buzz Spector is an internationally acclaimed artist who works with drawing, installation, photography, and most notably artists’ books and editions, using text as art and exploring the book as both subject and object. Spector completed a BA in art from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (1972) and an MFA University of Chicago (1978). The same year he co-founded WhiteWalls, a magazine of writings by artists, which he edited until 1987. He is also the author of numerous catalog essays, articles, and books, including The Book Maker’s Desire: critical essays on topics in contemporary art and artists’ books (Umbrella Editions, 1995). He has exhibited internationally, including at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. Spector is the recipient of numerous awards, among which are an Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2005) and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1991, 1985, and 1982). He taught at Columbia College Chicago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of at Urbana-Champaign, and Cornell University. Spector is now the Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.