Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sunbeams come in all shapes and sizes.....

My favorite moment in nature is when sunbeams are filtering down through the clouds. Since childhood, I have considered those shafts of light to be directly from God above. Considering the thickness of our overhead air masses at the present time, sunbeams are just not making it down to the ground therefore one has to look elsewhere to see the shining moments of God’s handiwork. Every now and then, He directs a solar spotlight on someone or something. Either I was lucky enough to be a part of those moments this past week, or else I just stepped off of life’s roller coaster long enough to look around. Allow me to share a few of those moments with you.

This week I stopped into one of our local galleries to drop off some work. Sitting at the table, coffee cups in hand, were two other local gallery owners/artists passing the time, sharing a conversation. The wife of one of them was there with their 15 month old son. Typical small talk ensued until the sunbeam hit. Maybe nobody but me noticed it, but that family will be blessed. The husband asked the wife what her plans were for the day (granted, watching a 15 month old does not allow for much “planning”, it is more like riding shotgun on a herd of sheep with a mind of their own) and one activity was to make dinner. I know that chore seems trivial but the simple act and impact of family dinner is huge. The fact that the family was relaxed for a few moments in the middle of the morning and the little one was begin a typical kid with cereal container in hand and nobody was at all hyped up about it struck me as a moment right out of a 1950’s TV show. To even make it more surreal, there was broken bread being shared. Really! Leftover bread from a previous night’s event was offered to all of us. I almost looked heavenward and said “seriously God? Could you make it any more text book than this?” but had I done so, the other artists would have thought me even stranger than I am. So why are they blessed, because that child (and their other two) will grow up with a calm and loving environment. Making dinner and sitting down to dinner are a gift of time and dedication. Granted my years of that are winding down as my kids grow up, but the foundation of those early years lives on in their character as it will for this young family, which brings me to sunbeam number 2.

Last night I had 20 some teenagers at my home. They could not have been more polite, thanking us for having them over. Several stayed behind to clean up (and they did such a great job that I wish I had left a rag and some Endust discreetly on the counter). A few friends who knew this group was coming over just rolled their eyes in disbelief. I had no concerns. Why? Because I know many of their parents, I know the kids names, I did not interfere in their plans or activities but stayed close enough to problem solve. How does this happen in a day and age when all we hear about are hooligan teenagers? Well, it is a matter of putting kids first while they are kids. Just like that family in sunbeam number one, it is the biblical reference that one will reap what one sows. When you let (or show) young people that you care about them, they in turn will care about you. Too bad that does not work on cats. One of mine was decidedly pissed off that her world has been invaded by such creatures.
Sunbeam number 3 occurred during the party. Our neighbors whom we only see at the local club every now and then, stopped by (walked right in) having seen all the cars, figuring we were having a gathering of some kind, and wanted to follow up in an invite to stop by anytime. Most people would probably be shocked. I was delighted! It was like the 60’s all over again when friends and neighbors would show up on the doorstep with a glass of wine in hand (okay, I was about 8 but I can recall this happening at my house all the time) just to say hi. Why do they earn a sunbeam? Because it means they are comfortable enough with us to actually do what most people toss out only as lip-service, “drop by anytime!” My home is your home, it may be a house to others, but it is a home to me and not precious in the least. Wet coats on the floor, so what, a laundry basket on the kitchen table, so what, cat hack on the carpet….okay, I will try and pick that one up first, but one will not get pretenses here which is why kids are welcome at any time and neighbors can drop by for an adult beverage unannounced. Usually we meet in the street with a bottle each time my mailbox gets run over, but since it is buried in snow for now, that will have to wait.

And my last and largest sunbeam happened yesterday when my husband cut his ponytail off for Locks of Love. Yes, the hospital staff sold raffle tickets to be the one to wield the scissors and it was a running joke for a while. But the “event” was more moving than anyone anticipated (at least by me), No, I don’t care about the loss of hair (15” of it), my heart was struck by a little boy, a bald as a cue ball little boy, that came to watch the event, representing those who benefit from such donations (although I pity the kid who gets a salt and pepper wig that is more salt than pepper) he came to give my husband a plaque to thank him. I could have freaking cried. The hospital sent a photographer, a significant number of people came to watch and the winner was a former nurse who had just this wish (to cut his danged hair off) on her bucket list. There were donated gift baskets raffled off, cookies and punch, chants from the crowd, all because my husband just never got around to cutting his hair. A simple thing with such a big impact, but none as big as the smile on that little boy’s face to be the center of attention (or else getting out of school for a few hours could have had something to do with it too). Again, it is a child in the center of my sunbeams.

All these moments reminded me that we truly live in a small town which has not lost its Mayberry mentality. Forbes Magazine may say we are miserable in which case I will proudly park my behind on a lily pad here in Pouty Pond (I live in Noble’s Pond but “noble” is not good for the miserable image hence the new name) and let the sun shine down on me, my friends, my neighbors, our kids, and our local businesses. Rather ironically, I have an 8 foot Statue of Liberty in my front yard, a symbol that all are welcome here. So are you, but bring your sunglasses because the sun is shining all the time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Dilemma of Donations

One thing most visual artists have in common is that we are often asked to donate our work or our time to worthy (or in some cases unworthy) causes. These “donations” are a Catch 22 for us. According to my simple understanding of tax law, we can only deduct the cost of materials used to make a piece, not the retail value of it. The organization which gets our work, gets all the profit free and clear and we get the lame response “it is good exposure!” to which I say bullshit. I have donated work for more than 25 years and only one group has ever made good on the benefits of “exposure”. By that I mean this organization has supported my career with opportunities, their members have purchased pieces and request pieces, and they have gotten to know me as person, not as a source to be tapped. Who are they? The Red Ribbon Connection in Canton, Ohio. They are one of only a handful of groups now that still get my work with a full heart and no strings attached. Some on the list still get work because of “obligations” both real and assumed, and some get work because it benefits children, but the days of passing out paintings like pamphlets is over.

I am not talking about the small prints or prop pieces which we can often hand out like candy. I am speaking of our signature work, ones that have taken time and thought and are originals, not copies. The economy has probably contributed to the fact that more groups are asking for more freebies in order to fill their coffers. Can’t blame them, times are tough and art is a “want” not a “need” so our coffers are somewhat shiny on the sides too. There is a solution to this dilemma but not one organization has ever offered to take it. The method advised in art business magazines (an oxymoron for sure) is to have the organization purchase our piece from us at a fair retail price so we make a few dollars. The person, who purchases it from us, then donates it to the group and takes the charitable deduction off of their own taxes at the purchase price. Seems logical to me, but so far the concept has not caught on. I was recently asked to donate a piece (rather late in the game which means that other donations were not coming in) and I turned this group down. In the past, I have been generous to them. My reasons for saying no will remain unknown to all of you.

Maybe I am getting old and snarky, (older and snarkier?) but at some point we have to turn inward and reevaluate why we do what we do. Who does my work benefit? Why am I making this stuff anyway? How much exposure is enough exposure and when do we become overexposed if there is such a thing? When do we cross over from “up and coming, young, -insert adjectives here- “ to “mid-career” to “established”? I find those categories in competition shows. I suppose it is a matter of perception as nobody is checking my DL when I submit. I don’t feel “established” although I have been called a legend which is why one group wanted my work. I don’t feel “fresh and new” which is why one group wanted my work. Most of the time I just feel used because once the work is donated, my name is misspelled in the booklet, my work is hung in the back of a room on an unlit wall, or it is never promoted and sold dirt cheap for which I get laughed at later.

I don’t mind the groups that ask me to “participate” in something unless it is an event that takes me a long time to prepare for, lasts only a few hours and for which I get nothing in return. What is “return”? That is another judgment call. “Return” could be a chance for people to watch me work, a chance for me to talk with those who could become patrons, or a chance for me to be productive with my time. Hanging out for the “exposure” is no longer worth it to me. So back to the whole donation dilemma. I will continue to support those who support me…Red Ribbon Connection at the top of the list! Those people or groups that make a lot of promises and never seem to remember them (you can bet that I do however!), well, I will have to think twice or more about just giving away a part of myself to fill a bare spot on your table.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Forget Something?

Grey, gray or payne’s, no matter how you describe it, the color outside our windows is anything but on the rainbow. I just got back from a few days in FL where the sky is still blue, plants are green, sand is yellow and skin is red in case anybody has forgotten how things are supposed to look now and then. The one color I saw way too much of however, was black. I saw it in Chicago too. Black legs and black behinds encased in skin tight garments now called leggings or tights, which in my day, were called leotards and one was supposed to wear them under something. I guess wearing pants or a skirt or anything over one’s glorified panty hose is no longer a requirement. Before anyone gets all racist on me, I mean the color of choice is black, not the color of the people, I don’t notice that part. One can be blue for all I care (seen my artwork?). I guess the choice of black makes them look more like a real garment and not just a pair of tights. Tucked into black boots, topped with a black leather jacket, or extending out from a sweater that hits just at the waistline…..something is definitely missing. That would be bottoms ladies. I know that a current crop of pop princesses are going without lower level coverage, and some cities hold a “no pants” day to ride the subway, but women my age (Late ….very late…like almost no longer in….their 40’s) should not be a part of this movement. Why? Well….movement is part of the problem.

My husband and I found it quite amusing to sit on the street and count the “tights” going by, gauging whose were really “tight” and who looked more like a “panty ‘ho”, in between the occasional sports car that would dispense a legging clad lady. Maybe it is an alternative to the young men with their droopy drawers, sort of a female version of flashing one’s designer undies. Call me old fashioned, but I think the package in the store which shows the lady in the garment contained therein, sort of assumes one will put some pants or skirt on over them. Some of the sights on the street were only a step away from actually wearing just pantyhose. Understandably, some are marketed as “leggings” which don’t have feet in them, ending at the ankle so they sort of look like really tight pants whereas “tights” have feet but either way, 30 years ago, they were leotards, with or without feet. Don’t even get me started on the dreaded “drop crotch” issue for us taller gals who had to wear them before the manufacturer figured out that not all humans have the same length of leg. D-C led to the oompha-loompha walk and made stretching out in dance class a bit difficult.

So why does this have anything at all to do with art? Ummm…because artists are supposed to wear black? I don’t know, I just had to comment on this recent observation because I found it so weird. Maybe the Chicago women could get away with it because coats like sleeping bags covered them up most of the time and sweaters tended to be a bit longer in the north. The Florida ladies may get away with it because the average age where we stayed would lead one to believe that good eyesight is a thing of the past as well as remembering to put on one’s bottoms. Either way, those of us here in the miserable Midwest (thanks Forbes Mag Rag) may wear black tights too but I bet they are lined with fleece, tucked into some big old boots and covered by a waterproof parka!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Emperor Needs a Makeover

The absurdity of the art world never ceases to amaze me. I am the first to admit that my fashion selections for the emperor at least include viewable fabrics so when it comes to “art” that is so conceptual that it borders on BS, I can’t make a case for it. In my sketchbooks, I often include torn pages from high brow art magazines just to remind me how truly gullible some people can be. Below are three examples to make my case.

In a sketchbook from 2003, I have an image of a piece to be auctioned at Christies in New York. This is the verbatim quote/caption as listed next to the photo… (I don’t use any artists’ names because my point is not to review their work as an artist).”—Artist----- (1957-1996) ‘Untitled’ (Fortune Cookie Corner). Fortune cookies (endless supply) dimensions vary with installation. Approx, 10,000 fortune cookies, approx 36 x 100 x 60 inches. Executed in 1990. This work is unique and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist. Estimate $600,000 - $800,000.” Yes, those numbers are right! The picture of the piece to be auctioned is just as it says, a pile of fortune cookies piled in a corner. Okay, what idiot is going to pay that amount of money, even in 2003 when the economy was good, for a pile of cookies in a corner? Obviously not somebody with kids, animals or a brain! It does come with an endless supply so if you eat them, more will be delivered, I guess, and installed just “so” to preserve the nature of the piece. Can you see this owner having people over for dinner and a pile of cookies is in the corner? Gee Bob, nice stack of cookies ya got there….ummm…does it have a title like “I’m so fortunate that my friends know I am a total wackjob so they don’t laugh in my face”? or some such clever thing? Oh wait, anybody who buys a stack of stale cookies for half a million dollars or more would not be named Bob….more like Beauregard because obviously his knowledge of art is so far superior to ours. Wonder if can sell that stack of Oreos for a few bucks, or thin mints, those are like gold when the girlie scouts deliver them. Perhaps I should request them to be “stacked” just so and my receipt could be the certificate of authenticity. Hmmm….come to think of it, the “certificate of authenticity” which comes with my half million dollars of good fortune, may just be certifying me as being insane.

How about this one from a 2007 issue of the same magazine? -----Artist----- had an exhibit at ---name of place---(which I assume is a gallery) in New York. The photo of one of his pieces is a coat rack with coats on it. Yes, a coat rack, not a fancy one or anything sculptural, just a wooden coat rack in a standard mission style found in any office from the last century. It has 3 coats on it however. One is denim, one is suede and one is a trench with a designer plaid lining. The suede one has red gloves in the pocket and a scarf over one of the hooks. My parents have one like that in the front hall. Wonder how much it is worth? Wonder if somebody came into the gallery and added their coat to the rack not knowing it was a “piece” and that they are supposed to stand there with a glass of wine and look at it with contemplation. Maybe cookie boy bought it and now has a coat rack with coats next to his cookies, what good fortune that would be! At least ---Artist----could have used furs instead of denim so as to be more controversial or else make the price tag somewhat justifiable because I could buy the denim one at the Salvation Army (if it were on half price color day because I need to save my money for cookies).

Performance art is always a good category to consider. Just this week I tore out a small mention from a fashion magazine about an upcoming show. I quote…”Living Art. Sixty-three-year-old ----Artist----- retrospective ----Artist----: The Artist is Present’ arrives at MoMA today, featuring new work that invites viewers to sit across from her at a table.” Well holey hole in the donut Batman, but I did not know my family was part of a performance piece each time we had dinner! Stop the presses and print a postcard people! Come to my house and sit across from me at the table (BYOB makes it even better) and I will get myself a show at the MoMA. For those of you who don’t know art text before it became known as text and not anacronyms, MoMA stands for the Museum of Modern Art, not Momma’s house. Sometimes those letters would be better suited to “My Oh My, Arrogance!” because some of what is called ‘art’ today is just what makes art so intimidating to the masses.

Gallery and museum directors lament the fact that people don’t come into such places anymore or buy much art. Well if you want people to appreciate art, then make art that can be appreciated by most people, not a select few elites who orbit in a world so “out there” in comprehension that it is just laughable. Bottom line, but some clothes on there Mr. Emperor, swing by my house, put your coat on the rack, have a cookie and let’s sit down across the table and enjoy some good company and a good laugh. Oh, don’t mind that dinosaur in my house, she will stomp all over the place for the next few decades which is why I don’t have any cookies stacked in the corner, way too many crumbs.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Someday I will wear poop on my shirt. Okay, so when I had babies to haul around that outcome was a sidelight of the job, but I mean today, with my children grown (although they still toss a bit of shit my way every now and then), I refer to the T shirt that says P.O.O.P. which stands for People Offended by Offended People. Count me in as a card carrying member of that club!

This ties in with the annoying phrase of “they” as in “what would they think?”, “they say you should not do that”, and “they are going to be upset with that!” and so on. So tell me…..who are “they?” and why should I care? I like to respond that “they” should care about what “I’ think because “I” think “they” are full of crap most of the time. I expand on this concept in a few of my paintings on the other website (see link), so I won’t get all worked up about it again here because I have a specific point to make.

I am part of a book project entitled “Sex and the Salad, with a little Undressing on the Side”. The second half of that title is my contribution plus about 20 or so pieces of art. The author has been working hard to get it picked up by various venues. The specter of “they” has been a tough sell. Take for example the following interaction with a major retailer. Author contacts corporate offices, explains the premise and the concept and gives the promotional mumbo jumbo that all salesmen have to go through. Corporate Office says “they” are a family friendly, wholesome, conservative company and could never allow such a title to be on their shelves potentially seen by families. Newsflash to the C.O. ...where do you think the family comes from? Last I checked, the Virgin Mary retired long ago. Author then points out that their shelf contains the book The Vagina Monologues right there at eye level. C.O. counters that it has nothing to do with that word and did the Author ever read it? Now I am in agreement with the Author. If my 5 year old says “mommy, what is a v-----?” loud enough for other shoppers to hear, it would be more embarrassing than “mommy, what is sex?” I could handle question B on the spot with mustered dignity, but question A is a tad dicier. Let alone the fact that the stage play announcement of V.M. is often 5 feet high in glowing lights on a public marquee all over the country at any given time.

Other venues and potential contributors have passed as well because of the title and also the use of names in the stories. I find it extremely hypocritical in a number of ways. For example…do any of these self righteous upstanding citizens attend a pro sports game and put money in the pockets of those wonderful examples of moral manhood that we call athletes? Or how about this one? Do they let their children watch shows like “Rock of Love” and “For the Love of Ray J” where women are degraded through tasks of sexual humiliation and paraded like slaves on an auction block to be chosen by the “celebrity” each week for another chance to become the love of his life? And here the author and I have to justify the stories of a single man who dated a lot of women, each of whom was treated like a queen or a goddess? Our society tolerates Hugh Hefner and his harem with barely a yawn, but how dare some guy prepare dinner and then spend a bit of time on the rooftop while waiting for the timer to go off?

Basically the common fear factor is that the book might offend people. Umm…then don’t buy it? What about the rights of the people who might love a little spice and sauce on their daily bread? I guess it boils down to the fact that some of us just have to wear our poop proudly while others decide what is garbage and what it is “they” say is okay.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Time is running out...3 shows to go see....

Time is running out, but there are 3 exhibitions in Akron right now which offer a wide range of styles. Collage x 12 is on view at the Summit Art Space (140 E Market Street), Collider 2: Camille Utterback and Herb Rosenberg, Dialogue with an Ancient Forest, both at Emily Davis Gallery (150 E. Exchange Street) all on view until Feb. 27th.

The latter two are at the University of Akron so let’s visit them first. The Herb Rosenberg installation consists of 12 large scale (9 foot tall) aluminum columns on wood bases. They are positioned to act like a forest with “silent histories housed” in them. A sound composition plays in the gallery, written by the artist’s son, so the whole “silent” experience was rather ironic. Rosenberg is an international artist who happened upon his technique by accident, which is primarily how most good stuff happens anyway. One of those thesaurus induced statements is posted on the wall, but I did not see it until I had made my way through the forest stopping to see each tree. I am glad I did not read it ahead of time because what I viewed had nothing to do with what he was talking about. What I did see was really interesting however. My trip was a fantastic voyage, and by that I mean the movie where people are shrunk down and injected into the body of some person in order to accomplish some mission. Hey, it has been a long time since I saw it so I don’t remember all the details. Rosenberg’s aluminum creations, as much painting as sculpture, with their brush strokes, patterns and shading in addition to their dimensionality and holographic surfaces, are more body part than tree bark. The sound track would have been really cool to be a beating heart rather than a John Tesh-like new age whatever. Amongst the trees I saw bones and joints, a spine with intestines, chambers of the heart, and what could have been a shiskobab of gallstones. Okay, it sounds sick, but it really is rather fascinating to try and figure out where you are in a body. Even the organic curves of the columns hints at human form. What may have been intended to be a knot on a tree is just a bit too nipple-like to convince me otherwise. (Or else I have spent too many hours in life drawing class and see body parts everywhere….)

Downstairs is the Collider 2: Camille Utterback installation. She is identified as a “pioneering artist and programmer in the field of interactive installation.” AU has just added a new program called New Media Art since the art world is supposedly moving in that direction and the death knell has sounded for pencils and brushes. Is your coffee cup shaking? Because my inner dinosaur is stomping around again in protest. I have walked past this exhibit a few times looking in the window and wondering when it was going to be installed. Dummy me….it was there all the time. 2 apple computers with 2 projections on the walls, so one is to stand in a designated square and move around. Your body movements interact with what is projected on the wall via some kind of computer technology. Okay, that’s kinda cool. I remember doing that with my kids at the science museum in one city or another when they were little. I also just saw the same type of thing at the Chicago Art Institute in the architectural design gallery. I can’t comment too much because I don’t know much about computer art and technology. I guess it took a lot of work and thought. Not sure what one will do with it when the show closes, though it sure is easy to transport and store. The first piece is called “Untitled 5” which insinuates that there are 4 previously untitled computer programs someplace else. The other is called Text Rain which is a poem that is raining down in streams of letters in which the “reader” (that would be you in the designated area) has both a physical and mental interaction with the process. Yep, I sure did. It mentally annoyed me and the dizzying affect of the letters gave me a headache, mission accomplished! I will leave this type of new age art up to the younger generations in school right now. I just can’t appreciate it for two reasons, my ignorance of the media and my age based bias against it. I was trying to tell my husband about it and his response is dead on….”probably just another ‘artist’ who can’t draw”.

Finally, over at Summit Art Space, is Collage X 12, an exhibition of 12 invited members of the Ohio Collage Society. I like collage and do it myself on occasion so I was really looking forward to this show. For the most part, the works are hung in groups by artist with an occasional out of order selection. There are gems and there are clunkers within each grouping. I made notes on my handout beside different pieces so as to remember specific details, but rather than point out a title here and there, I think it best to explain my take on collage. To me personally, (and I stress personally), a collage is a dimensional design of various materials and objects that still needs the formal elements of art and composition applied to its structure and creation. Without those bones, collage can become a mess of newspaper clippings, snippets of photos, junk drawer finds, and “stuff” that has no place for the eye to rest, no focal point and may even come dangerously close to scrapbooking. A collage can very easily look like a second grade art lesson or a craft project found in the pages of a 1960’s how-to book. Good collages stand out as do the photo magic of Alexander Aitken whose work reminded me of the Bev Doolittle horse paintings. Jan Noden had her share of gems too. I know one is supposed to spend time in front of each piece enjoying the nuances of the components which I did for some of them. Like most people who come into a gallery, we stroll on past, giving each one a few seconds of our time. I watched several groups do just that. As an artist we have to know this and make our work worth stopping for. What can catch the viewer’s eye? What story can we tell? A pretty picture is not always worth a thousand words.

As I said in my original blog statement, my purpose is to tell you if a show is worth going to, what I like or don’t like about it, and my feelings on the current scene. These three are ones to be seen if you hurry. Summit Art Space is open Thursday through Saturday 12 – 5 with free parking, and Emily Davis Gallery at AU is open Monday through Saturday 10 – 5 and until 9 on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Advice from the classroom....

Being back in the classroom on the opposite side of the desk so to speak has been an enlightening experience at the introductory college level. For my license renewal, I must take 6 credit hours every 5 years so twice a decade I go back and sit with the 18-20 year olds and pretend to be a novice. Sometimes I can get away with it and sometimes not. What follows is a list of suggestions for current art students (the young ones in undergraduate school for the first time) who want to be successful in the arts someday.

1. Come to class on time and be ready to work. If a class starts at 1:10pm, be there by 1:10pm and at your easel with supplies out. Don’t’ come wandering in at 1:20 or 1:30 and expect to find out what is going on. The expectations of the assignment have been set and instruction has begun. And a note to the instructor please be on time too and ready to start the class without waiting on those 4 or 5 that are always late. Why do I have to wait for them too? I paid to be here for a set amount of time and want my money’s worth. In the real world, your boss expects you to show up to work on time.

2. Don’t wear those dang headphones. How can the instructor talk to you? Even worse, and you don’t understand this yet, but your senses are dulled by the distraction. When drawing from life, you need to observe your subject with all the concentration you can muster in order to train your eye. If your brain is occupied by sound, your eyes are not getting all the power they can. You don’t know it, but I see it, you are not looking at the subject. You are working the hand held device, adjusting the ear buds, fiddling with the cords, and moving to the music which affects your marking.

3. Don’t talk so loud and joke around with those working next to you. Because of those ear buds, you are talking louder than you think you are, the model can’t concentrate, your laughter is rude, and I can’t focus on my own work because you are being a jerk. Be respectful of the classroom and others in it. If you like being the center of attention, make some good art and you will be singled out for performance, but the center stage shenanigans of your behavior is just juvenile at the college level.

4. Use your time wisely. A short break to allow the model to stretch does not mean a 15 minute smoke break, a dash to the local fast food place, or an extended chat on the phone in the hallway. A break means to stand up, look at your work, stretch your own muscles then sit back down and focus. Also, don’t wait 20 minutes for the instructor to get to your side of the room for a review of your work. Keep drawing or painting or making art until it is your turn. Just sitting there doing nothing is a waste of your own time. Don’t know what to do to fix your drawing? Start a new one and then when it is your turn, either the problem is better or you can go back and look at the first piece, but no time was lost staring at your phone or spinning around on your stool or just staring off into space, lost in the music from the headphones. Somebody may have been closed out of this class because of you and just warming a seat is not fair.

5. Don’t text behind the instructor’s back or hunched behind your easel so nobody can see. I can see it. I would ask you to leave the room and come back when ready to use the time wisely. Take care of whatever personal business has to be done, but not in my classroom. Cameras are on those things and the models deserve the right to privacy. That incessant clicking noise of the keys is also distracting and rude.

6. Stand up. I know that is rather a silly thing to point out, but sitting down to draw while at an easel is not the best way to learn. It stops your shoulders and elbows from becoming part of the process. Plus your posture is horrible and your back will hurt when you are my age.

7. Don’t leave early unless absolutely necessary. If a class runs until 3:30, stay until 3:30. Don’t pack up slowly beginning at 3:10 and start edging towards the door at 3:22. These are the same kids who whine that they can’t draw. Well no shinola sister, you aren’t there long enough to learn how and practice.

If you want to succeed in the art world, as an artist, you need dedication, self motivation, perseverance and a good old fashioned work ethic because once you leave the sheltered environment of studio classes, nobody is going to force you to work on your own work. You have to want to do it for yourself and that quality is lacking in many of you. College instructors can’t make you be there, attendance is optional, but there can be consequences for absences. Problem is, many kids just don’t care.

Because I lack an MFA ( I only have an MA in art education therefore according to the university, once kids hit 18, I don’t know how to teach them anymore…weird, but whatever) I will not get to have my own college classroom. That is probably a good thing. I have some very high expectations for those who wish to enter my profession which I take very seriously. After 2 weeks, probably only a handful of students would be left in the room, but at least they would learn some valuable lessons.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Straight Talk

I just returned from a week of gallery and museum hopping (plus a great sale at Macy’s) in downtown Chicago. Before going further, I must report that I found the “red dress” that was reputed to not exist at the store Mentioned earlier and in an earlier post. Imagine that! Okay, back to the issue at hand….artists statements. It is no wonder people are sometimes intimidated by art especially when a show starts off with an artist statement about his or her work posted right on the wall so as to be sure the viewer understands the person’s intent. That is all well and good when the statement is not a bunch of BS clouded up with words, phrases and even sentences that make no sense. The opposite of this, and subject of an upcoming post, is the “untitled” piece which is clearly a complete joke but hanging there in reverent glory like some kind of earth shattering statement of intellectual superiority.

My current peeve is with the artists who feel it necessary to let you know just how much you don’t know by writing a paragraph or two about how what they do is just so stupendous and essential to life’s basic elements that you the viewer can’t possibly understand just how fabulous and important the work is to your very existence and how lucky you are to be graced by its presence in this location. Like I said, BS by the bucket load! Newsflash there young fella, it is still a string of extensions cords with light bulbs on it. Ace Hardware has one too for a gazillion dollars less.

Allow me to share a few of my favorite snippets from actual artist statements. All the grammar and such is exactly as it appears so don’t blame me or the computer for the errors. Snarky comments are mine of course. “…I consciously accede to individual interpretation beyond strict artistic intentions, so as to grant the viewer a more personal access to the work.” (Well gosh golly thanks for the access. Quote is from the statement of Karen Ceolla Tylec.) “It is with this transcendent sense of an energized, unified complexity of an all encompassing reality that she thus approaches her art, and the result is an intricate, organic exploration of the mysteries of life’s energetic cycles.” (Translation, she makes drawings of plants. Quote is from the statement of Nancy Bellard.) And finally, “Let’s talk about something easier shall we? The colors are intense and vibrant, except when they aren’t. The techniques are recognizable, except when they aren’t. Any attempt to pigeonhole the Translucid misses the point. And that’s the point. We’re going to miss Translucid; we’re not going to get it. For a few, short decades we’re going to witness an emotional sharing that the art world hasn’t seen in centuries. I wish I could reach you, guide you, take you to the place called Translucid. Just look; see what you see; feel what you feel; allow yourself to slip out of that comfortable shell for a minute and wallow in emotional rhythms of it. This takes no talent, no special skill; it does take courage.” (Somebody has been sniffing the glue pot just a bit too often. Quote from an article by Rade-Patron in Artisspectrum volume 11/7, 2000. It has been a decade and I guess I missed the emotional sharing thing.) I have pages of these types of statements.

All too often, artists get a bit enamored with themselves and their work. Ego is a necessary component of success in this world since we put ourselves out there to be judged on a daily basis but my point is, don’t hide behind a lot of icing to make the cake taste better. All that fancy writing does not make the work any better or more likeable, or even more understandable. If the emperor is naked, everybody is going to see that whether they are willing to admit it out loud or not.

What is a good artist’s statement? Tell us what media you use, how the process is done if not easily recognizable and why the subject was chosen. It is okay to let us know your intent for the work or the series but leave the thesaurus at home. Tell us how long you have been doing this type of work, how it affected you as an artist and what you hope we the viewer may get out of it. Simple and to the point is best.