Friday, January 28, 2011

It’s Showtime!

Diane Belfiglio, Fredlee Votaw and many others can relate to what it takes to mount a major solo show. Both of my fellow artists have solo shows either on view now (Dr. V at the Crandall Gallery), or opening soon (Feb 13, DB at the Butler Institute) and I will be delivering the work for my second 2011 solo show next week. This one entitled “Grins and Giggles are Good for the Soul” goes on view Feb 6th with an artist’s mid-exhibit reception March 11. Located on Public Square in downtown Cleveland, the Old Stone Gallery is getting quite the reputation for being the place to be. But this blog is not about that, it is about what goes into preparing for a major solo show.

Beginning in art school or just in the beginning of our careers, the first few solo shows tend to be small. A small show is about 8 to 15 pieces depending upon size and content. The venues are also smaller, perhaps in a gallery adjacent to a main exhibition area or in the main room of smaller gallery itself. Often the pieces can be shipped, but smaller shows tend to be by locals (within 150 miles) so the work can be transported by vehicle by the artist himself.  Sometimes the artist even hangs their own work.

Mid-sized solo shows may share some of the same conditions of location and number of works, but the venues have staff which assumes responsibility for hanging, printing labels, brochures and other such details.  These are often good exhibitions as far as crowds, sales and publicity. Most of us like these types because the work load for us is just a bit less than that for what is considered a major show but we still get to enjoy the company of our local friends and patrons.

Mounting a major show can be both time consuming and expensive. Venues expect 20 or more pieces of consistent work. 20 is the magic number for any portfolio submission to a major venue for exhibition consideration. A large scale show can consist of 25 to 45 works depending upon size and content.  In the case of 2-D pieces which is all I can speak of since I rarely do any 3-D work, they are expected to be similar in presentation.  Diane and I both do pastels and paintings so the overly lay mat and frame are expected to be consistent (read identical). Some venues even require the wires to be located at the same height down from the top on each piece.

Many hours (days, weeks, months, sometimes years….) go into creating work for a large show. Each must be catalogued into a database online portfolio (which all artists should maintain for record keeping reasons) and which I also back up on index cards. Believe it or not, but each piece I make  has an index card with the title, size, year and order in that year as well as each show or venue to which it was submitted or exhibited, the judge, location of show and the jury results. Any awards and sales are also recorded. That record for each work is invaluable. It is backed up on a computer, but I can lay out the cards easier when it comes to putting together a show.
The venue will require paperwork for insurance so hence prices need to be cared for, information for the labels, and arrangements made for delivery and installation. Storage of packing materials must be discussed as well as who pays for what in regard to the opening food, wine and entertainment. For the most part, major venues pick up that tab while shipping or transportation of the work to and from the venue falls upon the artist. The price of transportation to and from Texas was worth it for the 15 piece mariachi band, local TV interview and the gaggle of drag queens that came to my 2nd opening in Laredo. 

So let’s review….we make work, then have to document it all, produce paperwork, mat and frame each piece, package for shipment, transport, unload, sometimes assist with set up (but usually not), attend an opening event, then repack and transport the unsold pieces back to storage….and it is worth every second and every penny.  The occasional downside to a major solo show is that when one is held far from home, it is always a gamble whether anyone will show up to the opening. Personally I have been blessed with good PR people and meeting locals from other cities is a hoot. Fortunately my current show is local in Massillon and the upcoming one is relatively close so I won’t feel alone with just my paintings and a glass of wine. Two weeks of down time and we start all over again, painting, drawing, recording, planning and promoting for wherever the next location will be. I guess begin an artist is sometimes like being part of a traveling circus. We pack up the show and move from town to town, entertaining those who come to see it.  If you have ever seen an artist unload a van full of work, it does somewhat resemble a clown car (without the clowns of course…..).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

National Brotherhood Week…....

No it is not really NBW. I don’t know if there is even such a thing. The title comes from a song made popular by satirist Tom Lehrer in the 1950’s and ’60. His work would be banned from any public school today because it is so non-politically correct.  Such songs as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, “The Vatican Rag”, and “Who’s Next” were used to bring attention to hot potato issues through humor.
I bring this up because not much has changed in 50 years, at least as far as vitriolic language which is the new buzz word for groups not being nice to each other. Yet again the powers that be want everyone to sit around and hold hands, sing Kum Ba Ya and be oh so tolerant of what others think and believe (as long as you agree with those who made the suggestion in the first place.) However, I am not writing about politics or beliefs or any of that…..I want to make a point that such behaviors begin as early as Kindergarten, get really bad in Junior High School, can become violent in High School, and then get reclassified and categorized as we become adults. The names and locations get changed to protect the innocent (if you don’t know where that reference comes from you probably don’t remember when all TV as in black and white). I want to apply this circumstance to our own local community. And by that, I don’t even mean our county or even our city. I am referring to our own arts community and probably by association, any art community in any town, city or even just college visual arts departments.

We all want to be thought of as one big “group”.  To those outside of the visual arts (and I stick to visuals because I can’t sing, dance or play an instrument so my experiences are limited), we are all those ‘artsy fartsy creative types” who dress weird, can’t hold a “real” job, are drunk or on drugs and make stuff nobody understands but get their money to do it. Those of us on the inside of our little bubble will use terms like “left-brainer” and other such associative terms just as much. Is that likely to change with a little tolerance and hand holding? I doubt it.

Take it a step deeper however. In our own little bubble world, we have a great divide as well.  Different organizations, groups, or places are established to nurture those with similar interests and tastes.  As I continue to carve out my own little black and white world in what is basically my dorm room downtown, the differences become all that more obvious and interesting to observe.  Studying social behavior and the structure of “communities” (not as in physical places but as social groupings), how anyone would expect us to form cohesive bonds with no judgments or divides has to be a bit removed from reality themselves. It does not work in the animal kingdom or the insect world or even at the level of bacteria. Things are always attacking and eating other things, making judgments and acting accordingly – though I don’t think gazelles are really analyzing the merits of running or not running when a lion is close by-but my point is that if we were to all “get along” then where is all the fun?, all the news stories?, all the cool photos and gossip and TV shows and inspiration to make our lives interesting while we travel from cells to dust?

Our art world bubble bath has those who like the whole zombie and creature feature genre as well as those who like flowers and landscapes. We have the found object junkyard junkies and the nothing but the best paper pushers. There are photographers and Photographers, there are realists and those who need to “get real”. There are do-ers and dabblers who disdain the deconstructionists, as well as trained and the un-trainable who are all past potty training part one, but not as far as their mouths are concerned. Textile technicians with exquisite taste who take offense at the work of crochet queens as well as talented wood carvers that can’t convince others of the merit behind their meticulousness.  Most of all however, we all notice those who “talk the talk” so to speak versus those who truly “walk the walk” in support of the arts and artists. We may all join hands and sing every now and then, but some will always be hopelessly off-key.  We will all never “get along” like one big happy family regardless of whether it is a local thing, a state thing, a national thing, a political thing or whatever kind of thing can be listed because in truth, we don’t really want to.

So let me make this blog the official National Brotherhood posting….go ahead and hate each other, love each other, pretend to like each other or just ignore each other…it does not really matter as long as you don’t hurt each other physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially etc etc etc…..God gave you a brain so use it wisely and use it often. 

And case you have never seen the lyrics to National Brotherhood Week... (not sung to the tune of Kum By Ya BTW)

ARTIST: Tom Lehrer
TITLE: National Brotherhood Week
Lyrics and Chords
Oh, the white folks hate the black folks
And the black folks hate the white folks
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule
/ E B7 / - E / E7 A / B7 EE7 / 
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark
Are dancing cheek to cheek
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise
As long as you don't let 'em in your school
/ A - / E - / B7 - / E E7 / A - / E - / B7 - EA EB7 EA EB7  /
Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks
And the rich folks hate the poor folks
All of my folks hate all of your folks
It's American as apple pie
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans
'Cause it's very chic
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand
You can tolerate him if you try
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Muslems
And everybody hates the Jews
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
It's National Everyone-Smile-At-
One-Another-hood Week
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you
It's only for a week, so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!
/ A - / E - / B7 - / E E7 / A - / E - / B7 - E Abdim7 /
    / F#7 B7 E - /

Thursday, January 20, 2011

McFadden and the Fountain

I stopped in at Malone College today to view the two exhibits on display at the Fountain Gallery and the McFadden Gallery respectively. If this venue is not part of your monthly gallery hopping then you need to reprogram the in-car navigator (called “Naggie” in our cars, because it is pretty cool to be chastised in an Australian accent). The Johnson Center on Cleveland Ave. at 25th street is the location of both and has easy access visitor parking.

The Fountain Gallery is currently showing R.S.V.P. through February 28th, subtitled (by me) as Blind Date Lite. If you are familiar with the Blind Date show staged by Anderson Creative in 2009 and which will be revised in May of 2011, you will understand the premise of this exhibit. 5 art students and one faculty member were matched with 5 (+1) students from the Language and Literature Department. Each student made a work of art based on a piece of writing, and each writer created a piece based on a work of art. Full disclosure…… I did not read all of the writings because of that damn fountain in the lobby. It is so annoying and being middle aged, the sound of the crashing water was tolerable for only a short period of time. I reviewed the art with great care and chose two pieces whose work merited my time reading the affiliated writings. Full disclosure number two....though I applaud the collaboration of writers and artists as something that can lead to great creative pieces from both parties, most people are not going to spend the time to read any lengthy text with devout attention. Even I, an A+ honors English graduate, gets bored after a paragraph or two. I read by speed reading which is the first and last sentence of each paragraph, picking out key words, getting the innuendo and major points then moving on. I would guess that English majors would read the text with care, glancing at the artwork only for content, color and connection. 

Two pieces of art caught my attention outright and merit further review in this blog. “I Know You” by Deanna D’Amico and “Entwined Elements” by Angela Impagliozza are First Place and Best in Show winners respectively. D’Amico’s piece is paired with a piece of writing by Kyle Higgins entitled “I Believe in Giving Away my Shoes”. The work of art is displayed on a pedestal so as to be viewed from two sides.  The influences of Clare Murray Adams cannot be missed. She is included in this show as well and I will assume is a professor of Ms. D’Amico. Waxed shoe laces with remnants of writing are tangled and twisted upon wires strung from tacks set around a wooden frame.  I was reminded of fettuccine noodles by both their color and size as I visually followed their pathways and became entranced by their twisted dance. On the “back side’ were 1.5 inch pins that had pierced the front fabric though unnoticed at first.  These sharp points were aligned in a grid pattern. I did read the text and completely y connected these works as one illustrating the other. 

My Best in Show goes to Angela Impagliozza for her piece in collaboration with the writing of Sarah Dodd entitled “Little Pieces”. Yes, I suffered through the fountain and read her work too. Ms. I’s piece (my spell check hates her name) is just stunning.  I wrote “gorgeous” and underlined it. A wall hanging fiber work of silks and threads and twines is both inviting to touch as well as repulsive by its shredded and dirty appearance. A solid base of silk fabric strips sewn together is mostly hidden behind silk “ribbons” of material that have been dyed, shredded, stained and abused. The translucency of the overlaying layers almost obliterates the underlying base fabrics, but a deceptive sense of space is created by her sophisticated use of knots, weaves and colors. Frankly, I probably would have bought it had there been a price tag.
Which brings me to…….

…the other show in this building. Okay, full disclosure again….I vowed to make Snarky Art a positive and humorous blog. I also want to help educate the community (both art and non art) about the ethics and expectations of being a professional artist. So…..I will not mention a name or a title of the show because A. that is all I got to give and B. this is an excellent learning opportunity.  I found 13 pieces on the wall, all identical in size, identical framing, identical mats and nearly identical imagery. No statement, identification tags, titles, prices, signatures or anything else posted, displayed or on view. I got a name, a title for the show and dates for exhibition. What do we learn from this? Either there are art thieves at Malone who are stealing info off the walls or an artist feels that work can stand on its own. Well, okay…sometimes work can do that, but if I cannot tell the difference between original images and something that could be Xeroxed out of a textbook or old National Geographic’s, then what is your point and purpose for his body of work? Who are you? (statement). Why this series?(statement) Are their more? When did you create them and why? Are they real or imaginary? Are they manipulated or copied? How much are they? What if I like one, how am I to identify it? I did like the 5th and 7th from the left very much but how can I explain that to readers? Where is your signature? Except for some very clever mat cuts to give us a telescopic feel, (black frames would be better), this series, which could be very intriguing, unfortunately fell short of professional expectations. Okay, I will get a nasty comment about this, but so be it. A level of professionalism needs to be established and risen to.  Be proud of what you made, what you did, when you did it, how you did it and why you did it!! If this is an arrogant show of superiority in that the images should override any need for explanation then get with the 21st century dude. We have warning labels on irons to not iron your clothes while wearing them and that coffee is hot so don’t spill it in your lap. The General Public is ignorant for the most part, give us something to devour so we can process your thought process. I liked the work to an extent, and would probably like it more in context. However, being a child of the 1960’s and watching the moon landing live on TV, this display falls short of reality. Uneven lighting in the gallery space did not help. Some pieces had bright spotlights on the spotless mats which drew me to them. For the most part, the other pieces had dull white lights which made the mats warm and uninviting. I suspect that those hideous global warming bulbs are to blame which seem appropriate for this installation in an odd way.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Boxers or Briefs?

HA! I knew that title would make you keep reading. Ever since that question was asked of President Clinton, it has become a lexicon of our English language.  Besides a reference to underwear however, the additional dictionary definitions of these words can be applied to several different aspects of how we lead our lives. The past three days have highlighted a few of these instances so indulge my momentary dissection.

Instance number one was my Friday stop at Anderson Creative Gallery to see the two current shows, Kevin Anderson’s personal work “Personal Affects”  and the portraits of Heather Bullach, “Lineage: Women of Culture”. The connection to my introductory question did not happen until after my own opening show event later that night. In observing the behavior of others, I then noticed it in myself. Some people are brief and others box.  A “briefer” if you will, is one who comes into a show, glances around, makes a circular pass stopping only on occasion if something perhaps catches their eye, and then moves to the center of the room or venue to talk. Their visit may be long in duration, but their attention to the work is brief. Such was my behavior in the main room of Anderson’s show. I had limited time, wanted to see the new (and fabulous) floor as well as the shirts and catch an overview of what was on display knowing I would return when more time was on my side. With my own show hours away, I had yet to decide between pants and tights so we all have priorities.

A “boxer” is one who almost does the box step in front of each piece as they work their way around the room…line dancing if you will. The box step begins with the initial position in front of a piece. Then a step back occurs to get more of an overview or the “bigger picture”, then two steps forward to peer at details. A return to the initial position occurs before one leans to the side and perhaps steps forward again (age related) to read the tag. Once again, one returns to the initial position before taking a side step or a turn and step to position them in front of the next piece. This routine is repeated sometimes alone and sometimes as a pair or in a group until an initial pass has been made around the room. Subsequently, the boxer will then decide which dance partners rate a second round and will criss-cross the room to make a re-acquaintance. Such was my routine at the Bullach show. With a limited number of works to view, I could devote a bit more time. Quickie review note here….her sepia toned oils are stunning.

A second way of looking at the boxer versus briefs concept is in how we live our lives. Our time on earth is all too brief, so how much can we cram into that short span and what type of boxes are we using? Because I process much of my emotions through paintings, while listening to the stories about my friend Gary at his funeral yesterday, paintings were forming in my mind, paintings based on boxes. Do you tend to hold on to a lot of “stuff” and keep it near even though it is unnecessary? Then perhaps your life is filled with big brown cardboard storage boxes. Do you tend to keep things inside and hidden away from others? Then you storage unit could hold lots of black boxes, ones like on airplanes (which are not really black), that keep all your information private only to be discovered and needed in the event of an emergency. Do you like things orderly and neat, moving along from project to job to duty so things stay balanced? Then your rooms may hold neatly marked storage bins, the clear kind so you know what to expect and where things are but they don’t clutter up your life. Or maybe you are like Gary and many of the people who I like to surround myself with, those who like to have fun, follow their dreams, know the power of a good prank, test limits and never back down from a challenge, give everything a try at least once, but respect the rules and those who make them. Their boxes are like presents, each one wrapped up in a different way with colorful bows and lots of inner tissue to protect what could lie underneath.  Never stacked neatly and often intermingled with file boxes that are missing lids, crates and empties ready for any occasion, our storage units can take on your boxes if needs be just as much as we are likely (and willing) to hand you a wrapped package holding some undiscovered gift.

I promise not to ask any of you that personal question if I happen to see you at a show. I don’t really want to get smacked in the face. As you go through your days and weeks and years however, just think about how many times you interact with boxes. Yeah, the wheel was a great invention, but how much has the box really changed over time either? All of life’s brief moments are contained within them somehow or another before we ourselves commit our body to one after our soul has relocated to a better storage unit. So friends, grab big handfuls of life and cram them into whatever places you can find, sorting through it all later won’t be your problem. Oh…and use lots and lots of wrapping paper and bows!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Art from the Salon….the sequel

Now on view at Gallery 6000 located within the Kent State Stark Conference Center, one can view the works of 12 local artists who meet on a regular basis to explore and expand their creative energies. Nancy Matin is the proverbial “Leader of the Pack” who guides, inspires and perhaps indulges their potential.

Tremendous credit goes to Tom Wachunas who curates this space. To take such a diverse body of work and make it feel like a cohesive exhibition is not easy. With little in common as far as mounting and presentation, the elements of each piece in regard to color and composition as well as other bones lying within the imagery itself must be utilized to unify the display for maximum viewing.

I call this show the sequel because this group had a showing at the North Canton Little Art Gallery in June of 2010. As far as I can tell, all of the pieces in this show are new with the exception of a few that have been on display in other venues since that exhibition. For those who follow the local art scene, many of your favorites have signature style works in this show and at least one red dot was added during the opening event. A comprehensive brochure is available to help one identify each artist and their work.   

Referring back to how the show is hung, a few things will capture your attention if a table is open and you can see the “big picture”.  Ted Lawson’s saturated red “Showtime II” is next to Gail Wetherell-Sack’s “A Green Scene: Techno/Lime”. My words should make it obvious, but the juxtaposition of red and green (begin complimentary colors) works to the advantage of both pieces.  A luminous rectangle of purple in Ted’s painting becomes all that more apparent. Gail’s mixed media work is pure Tom Wesselmann during his 1960’s and 70’s interiors genre.  Another piece by Gail, “Resolution: Remembering a Beautiful Friend” with its swirl of red is the negative (in the artistic use of the word) to Pam LaRocco’s positive “White Flowers” which hangs next to it. The affect is not really noticeable unless at a distance which was the same with the pink mat of Nancy Michel’s “Sole Sisters #2”. Hanging next to Judi Longacre’s “Which Way to the Beach” with its vibrant pink flamingos scattered across the paper just as the shoes are equally dispersed. I am partial to both flamingos and stilettos so that corner of the room was a double winner for me.

A triptych of pieces anchors the center of this wall, each piece working in harmony with the other as well as elevated by its neighbor. In the center is Russ Hench’s “Untitled” piece (grrrrr……..untitled? with all those elements, nothing inspired?) with his layers upon layers of textures and objects.  I want to mention Sharon Dulabaum’s “Max” which I am guessing is in tribute to Peter Max with the psychedelic style shapes and smoking ummmm…cigarette.  Obviously there are two sides to her creative brain as “Beth” is the ying to Max’s yang. Next to “Max” is a real gem by Pam LaRocco entitled “Downcast”. This textural acrylic piece is a landscape best viewed from a few steps back as one will really see the reflections in the deep and soulful pool of water that comprises the lower half of the work. I did not notice it up close because I was focusing on the textures of the ground upon which it was painted, but from a distance away, the piece is more than just its luscious surface. Other rich surfaces abound in Sharon Noble’s “Endangered Reef” and the out of focus background of Cynthia Capestrain’s “Lemons of Corsica”.  In the works of Kristine Wyler and Lynn Weinstein I find the most direct influence of Nancy Matin as they explore the affects of light and shadow, contact printing and layer upon layer of translucent surfaces.

I look forward to the next time this group of talented individuals mount a group show because it is fascinating to watch how their work changes. In June, it was all about color with a concentration on imagery. In this show, I see a devotion to using a format from edge to edge with an emphasis on filling the available space with visual activity. Each contains a resting spot for the eye, necessary for the success of any piece, but nothing is left “empty”. 

The Kent State Conference Center is a busy place and often the gallery space is occupied, but if you go during the late afternoon, chances are you can see the show uninterrupted.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do Something

Simple words but they require commitment and guts. Do something about what you ask? Well…just about anything and maybe this world would be a sane and safer place. I supposed a caveat needs to go along with these words, the addition of “with common sense and the greater good in mind”.  Sometimes I think we are so focused on what “we” personally are doing, what “we” will gain or lose, or how “we” will be affected by action, that “we” just don’t do anything in order to play it safe.  You can probably guess what has motivated this blog, the events of Tucson, Arizona this past weekend. As more information comes out about the man involved and the specifics of the shooting, for me the question keeps coming up….”why didn’t somebody do something?”

So far we know he was disruptive in his community college classes and banned from the school pending a mental exam. Difficult to enforce when someone is over 18 and a legal adult. Seems his fellow students sent quite a few messages to friends about scary and erratic behavior.  Texting a friend your fears is one thing, taking those concerns to someone who may have some authority is quite another.

A shrine in the backyard with a human skull sitting in a planter….not ordinary fare for garden d├ęcor so one would think that mom or dad with whom he lives, might suspect something is amiss?

I don’t know the gun laws in the state of Arizona, but to be able to walk in and walk out with a new Glock seems a bit too easy. We have paperwork up the wazoo for any number of purchasing privileges and even to just drive a car (proof of insurance), to pass through and airport and to enter a federal building, but “here, let me wrap that gun for ya buddy…have an nice day!”  Personally, I think a salesperson should be able to delay a sale based on “gut instincts” and common sense.  Hmmm…dropped out of high school, failed the army entrance exam and kicked out of college…sure, give that boy a weapon.[Google their gun laws and one will find they are the loosest in the US and also recently passed a conceal/carry with no permit law.]

Blaming inflamed rhetoric seems like an easy way out especially when my husband points out that the assassins of Wm McKinley and Abe Lincoln were not listening to the radio or watching TV. Some people are just mentally unstable. If one has ever seen the political cartoons of the early 1900’s, pictures can be inflammatory too, so are we going to try and curtail artistic expression next?  How about actions? Didn’t some Chicago mayoral candidate send a dead fish to somebody else, just to send a message?  Okay, maybe FTD was out of flowers that day. [Google this incident and you will find some other interesting and inflammatory rhetoric so we should not point fingers at either side of the aisle.]

So my point is this, be aware of those around you, not only their words, but their actions. Something not “feel” right, then speak up not just to friends, but to someone with a bit of authority who can make an official report. That paper trail could prove useful someday. Several witnesses to the event this past weekend made mention of this person’s odd behavior as he worked his way towards the front of the crowd. I can’t say I would have had the guts to point it out to anyone besides a companion however. I am just as brainwashed into the “don’t get involved”, “be careful who you confront”, “someone else will notice and speak up”, “it is not your concern” mentality.

On a similar note, the young man who shot his school administrators and then himself last week left a trail of suspicious behavior and warning signs, but no one spoke up as in speaking up the chain of command with their concerns. Raising teens is hard work no doubt, but so far, no reports of a skull shrine in the backyard.

On a related note, sometimes people do attempt to do the right thing and get no support. For example the couple who own the property where a car overturned in their pond and one boy died. They had tried to get a guardrail installed numerous times and kept getting rejected. However, a few well positioned trees could have helped too but that is just speculation on my part.

Of all the victims, my heart goes out to the 9 year old girl. Today I learned she was born on Sept. 11, 2001. Was she sent to this earth on that day in the midst of tragedy to be the catalyst for change? As I have stated before, nothing happens out of pure circumstance as far as I am concerned. We may not want to see the chain of events or have any faith in the order of the message being delivered, but we have to be open to the possibilities. As citizens, we need to open our eyes, open our ears, listen to our inner voices and then not be afraid to speak up. That little girl ran for her Student Council in order to be a part of something….hell, if she can do it, so can I.