Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prepare for style!

Look! It’s a demo….no ….it’s performance art….no…’s a….it’s an….it’s an Art Battle! Yes, there is such a thing and darn it if that wasn’t a whole lot of fun in a short span of time. Round One is complete and next month for Round Two, “Snarky Stiletto” herself (it was that nick name or “the Menopausal Momma”…what would you have picked?) will enter the um…..”ring” area and take on two new competitors. Posters should be out soon.

For those uninitiated like me, allow me to explain what I do believe is a type of franchise in theory. Google “art battle” and all types of things show up so the premise is already out there.  Drawing upon memory here (and do keep in mind that I will be playing for the Senior Division Title as I am old enough to be the mother of most of these “kids”), this event was created by the Massillon Mastermind himself, Bili Kribbs (gotta watch the i’s because I know how important that letter is to one’s name) and his partner in creative crime, Billy Ludwig of the 13th Floor. If I am wrong, well so what, you just got some PR.  Anyway….the idea seems to be to bring art to the people since often times people don’t go to the art, and also to provide an opportunity for underexposed, new, younger whatever artists so strut their stuff for the public in an easily accessible environment. Drink’n and draw’n, does it get any better?

Again, based on available brain cells, I believe 4 rounds occurred in 2011 with a final master battle blast for bragging rights after which all the works were auctioned off for charity. Of course I could probably look all this up to be sure I am correct, but  yeah……well……it is sort of like politics, say whatever you want and worry about the truth later. If someone is really interested, they will check it out themselves. 

Back to the battle,….now that I am in training for the next round, my coach (aka the husband) and I decided to check out the playing field since no game films were available. I was familiar with the outside of the venue as my son took music lessons next door, but I had not ventured inside before.  Tell anyone the name of the place (Benders’s) and they jump to conclusions about the “other” more refined location to the East. This kid brother bar of the same name is a kick butt little corner tavern in the heart of football land so much so that it even has a giant football player painted on the wall outside. Kitty corner to the MassMu and next to a music store….I guess it could not escape the creative vibrations and became ground 0.

We tucked away our AARP cards and tried to blend in below the radar (wear black and don’t make eye contact) so as to be “hip with the kids” as the saying goes.  No such luck….first thing I get is asked for advice on how to avoid wrinkles as one gets older…..okay, so much for sneaking in to observe. The answer is Oil of Old Lady and avoid the sun, in case you were wondering. I should have asked how they get that cool black eyeliner thing happening….if I tried that I’d look like I’d sneezed on my sharpie. 

The coach and I got a drink and staked out a couple of bar stools to watch the event. Not too close and not too far away…good edge of the radar distance and not in any direct lighting to avoid looking too wrinkly. One competitor did not show (used to be two, now it is three) and a call went out to see if anyone would step up and substitute. The coach did not allow me to play because I can’t be on injured reserve for the big game next month….cocktail napkins had to suffice. The announcer explained the rubric (a new word in educational settings which means “rules or expectations” to the rest of us) and out came the competitors…hmmmm…seems we get points for style so…….. this could  be interesting!

A topic is drawn from the box of audience suggestions (mind you, they have been indulging in adult beverages for a while) and then one hour (sort of) is put on the clock to do your best interpretation of that idea. There seems to be no limit on what one can use or do to the primed white board provided.  In one corner was the traditional painter and in the other was the artist with an arsenal of an experienced competitor. If there had been three people in that space, one of them could have ended up on the wrong end of a saw blade. Good call on the coach’s part as I may have been missing a pigtail this morning.

An hour or so later, the judges for the night and the audience’s applause crowned a winner for the theme of “Funny Doomsday”.  There appeared to be some awards although I don’t know who ended up with the Ultimate Grand Supreme trophy for the night when all was said and done, nor does it matter. The bar was full, the place was engaged in the activity as well as with each other, and nobody got hauled out on a stretcher and the cops did not show up. A good evening all around if you ask me. 

So now I am in training for my turn on the stage under the clip on spot lights. I need to brush up on my categories just in case…..”the culture of those under 40 for a 100, Alex”….. and add some calcium to my diet. Don’t want to bust a hip or anything during the game. Better make sure I don’t do an illegal use of the brush and get penalized 5 minutes or fumble my pallet and get tagged for interference.  Like any good competitor, I googled my competition (google is now an accepted verb in the English language) and could not find much….which means either they are very savvy at how to stay off the grid, or are too young to have much of an online resume.  Either way, I am probably screwed. 

So all you followers and friends out there, put this date on your calendar, Wednesday February 29th (yep, leap day thank you very much) and come cheer on the efforts of the elder generation as I prepare to do battle against “Urban Youth” and “The Hoopy Frood”. The clock starts ticking at 8pm. We should all be home in time to watch the 10’oclock news as always.

As I said, this type of thing is one of those hidden gems of an arts community which is thinking beyond the walls of a gallery, beyond the us versus them mentality of those who don’t quite “get it” sometimes, and making art what is should be, fun and accessible. There is a time and a place for the serious study of technique and the exhibition of hours upon hours upon hours of work, and then there is  the “bring it on brush to board” test of creativity. So, thanks for asking me to participate…it’s like getting to sit at the table of the cool kids in the lunchroom. However, if you tray check me, I can still kick your ass….I may be older, but I got me a menopausal posse and some Stiletto Sisters waiting to back me up…once they get their makeup on and stretch out a bit, can’t risk pulling a muscle ya know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Condensed Art

I have found that it is really hard to write snarky essays when one is writing a term paper. No, it is not for school or a research situation, but hopefully will eventually be read and used by thousands of youth across America. No, I am not at liberty to fully explain who or what the project is for as right now the initial rough draft phase is drawing to a close and the resources and illustration/imagery process will begin. Some of you artist types may be getting a request from me asking for your participation by allowing your work to be published with “courtesy of” credit in the rear. But that is another day. 

The hard part has been to take complicated concepts and processes and reduce them to as little as three lines or one paragraph.  Something which we consider so simple, such as “shape” is really rather complex to explain. Trying to provide a tutorial for watercolor painting in 100 words or less really challenges the brain cells to edit. I don’t like to edit down to the core as you well know by now. 

In having to relearn the basic elemental building blocks of art and then prioritize some principles of design, this process has not only been a trip down memory lane, but also a good lesson on just what is art?  That question is one of the last sections I have to write, and answer, in about half a page of standard text.  Naturally I put it off until last and I am glad I did because recent FB postings have provided some fodder for the trough.

Stephen M. had a challenging interaction with a college professor, Erin M. was questioning the need for and role of statements in the art process, and so too have other artists posted questions about what and why and how as well as how dare they.  In reading the exchanges, the viewpoints, the opinions, the emotions….it dawned on me that I have to condense the whole of “art” into a few paragraphs, maybe a page or two, and that includes art history, philosophy and social purpose so a 12 year old can grasp it. Why me? Well….rule number one, don’t criticize something unless you want to be the one to change it and number two, always re-read number one. 

Of course there are good things which have come from such a process. All my old books have been dusted off and the dried up slips of paper which marked different pages are all over the floor, some with notes from long ago. A world of imagery long since forgotten now fills my mind. Alas, the references and resources stage lies ahead as well and I think newer versions of my favorite art books are surely out there. A copyright of 1974 might be just a wee bit “old”. Internet sources have to be included too which means checking each one out for appropriate content (no nudity, these are adolescent boys….). Yep, I am going to surf the net for nudes…just like the rest of the American public evidently. 

So on that note…..Snarky is a bit silenced for now. Deadlines are looming and my mental midterm is only a week away. For being a three letter word, “art” sure covers a lot of ground. The guys who are rewriting the reference books for sailing or shooting have it a whole lot easier that’s for sure.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pandora’s Can of Bait

Sometimes one has to bite the bullet, climb on a soapbox and toss worms to the wind.  Maybe it is just me, but does anyone else feel like what started as an art event (as in visual and creatively related/inspired) has been hijacked so to speak? Granted my on site presence as a vendor/destination numbers only 18 months, my awareness and participation however date back to the first conversation ever held as far as the vision for what was to be. Yes, things change, grow, morph and develop….and such is why I feel that what was the original vision is no longer what is on the menu as a main course. Somewhere along the way, visual arts have become a side dish and often not even part of the meal, but to be consumed ala carte.

My inspiration for this posting is the street festival feeling of last night’s monthly gathering. Not that there was anything wrong with the event itself or anything wrong  street festivals per say, but those of us who occupy art, (wait, I shall only speak for myself….) art is not the root word anymore for why people are flocking to the district. Flocking is a good thing….but with flocking come some concerns which need to be addressed.

First and foremost is the issue of restrooms.  Consuming massive amounts of beer requires the eventual giving back of such liquids…. Unless one is a patron of a local restaurant, the potties are usually off limits. Unless one is friends with some of the owners, the behind the counter potties are generally not available, and it goes without saying that planters and doorways should be off limits. So why should the only available restrooms be ones inside a business that seems to attract everybody in town at one point or another? That’s a lot of you know what! Why are there no port-o-potties on the streets for our monthly relief? (Besides the one on the green that is there all the time as far as I know.)  Does the health department know that when beverages are being sold outdoors by a vehicle which does not have a potty on it, that providing some for general public use might be a good idea?  Just wondering….because we may have to take up a collection or (file for a grant!!) to pay for the paper, soap and towels used by the patrons who literally pass through only as a shortcut, not to mention the repairs the often result from negligence by those a bit too tipsy to follow directions.  Don’t even get me started with what happens to aim when a man is inebriated.  I think the local overseers ‘of our ever growing event need to provide public restrooms so that those inside businesses can remain for the use of paying patrons only.

While on the subject of vending….food that is offered for sale or for a donation in a location that does not have a permit for such offerings…is that subject to review by the health department?  Should a business which sells food under a license, have the right to not allow food to be brought in from other sources? …just like movie theaters, stadiums, restaurants and for that matter, a museum? Our local museum does not allow food or drink into the space which houses the artwork. Why should places that have artwork, allow food and drink to be transported back and forth, in and out and eventually deposited on the floors and occasionally on the art? I did not know that my role was also in sanitation as I pick up cups and garbage left lying around my place of business. I can do that at home, thank you very much.

Let’s see….how about the idea of ownership? If one is participating in the event, should the owner have a right to decide who will be providing some entertainment for the guests?  I just feel that whoever brought the ball to the game and laid out the field of play in the first place should have some say in how the game is to be played. Even if the other team is bigger and has more named players on the roster, home field is home field as far as backyard rules are concerned.  Our parents always taught us to play nice and to play fair, and to include everybody whether they were any good or not so everybody gets a chance, but that did not mean we had to make special allowances, the game was the game and it had rules.  Whoever owned the back yard got final say because it was their yard.

As the mood, atmosphere, intent or whatever one wants to call it has changed over the years, so has the profile or demographic of the attendees. That’s okay because that means the morphing is working, that the goal of people participating is proving to be a successful one in that regard. The original vision vendors however, have not seen any great leap of learned viewers.  Leaning against a canvas on the wall like it does not even exist shows a blatant disrespect for the product presented.  Knocking over merchandise and breaking it  because there is some need to get from one door to the other in a hurry and then not even bothering to notify the owners….that is not very encouraging for building arts supporters or patrons.  Buyers are down (witness the number of artists who have left the local sales scene over the last 18 months) but the crowds are up. How do we make this work for the visual artists?

When the warmer months arrive, there is another big old juicy worm to add to the can….I’ll save that one for now.  Don’t get me wrong, I personally love talking to the people, seeing friends and supporters, and listing to the music. I like to see empty hooks on the walls and hear the ringing of the register. It is the aftermath of the party which is discouraging. Step one should be lovely blue porto-pots in every major parking lot and a no food from outside to be brought inside policy across the board and down the streets. Just to verify, but are there permits on file someplace that have been cleared by the City Health Department? Before I write a check this year, maybe I will go check that out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Studio time vs life

I just read on FB this morning that two of my fellow artists are leaving our work/exhibition space. Both for the same essential reason, children, one will continue to paint and one has chosen to set aside “the making of art” for the time being….perhaps until the nest empties. Because FB has a different format for writing, what I want to say does not fit, therefore, this one’s for you my friends!

Good for you! It is a rough and tough choice to tame the inner creature of creation for the sake of others. As I sit up here smugly on my empty nest (one migrating bird still asleep upstairs), I sometimes wish to be out there flying after the former tenants once again. But that time has passed ALL too quickly and never to return in the way it once was. Those years live on however in all the creations made by them, for them and with them, that one would never call “art” but are worth more than any mega-million dollar Monet.

For those with daughters….you can look forward to picking out dresses, shoes, jewelry and the battle between popular and appropriate.  There are cakes and cookies to bake, fancy dinner tables to set, patterns to pick out, and maybe scrapbooks to make.  You will use your color sense, your knowledge of design and proportion, and be able to sympathize will the drama because you have lived it yourself.

For those with sons…there are toys that rival the construction of the space shuttle, structures built in the woods from found objects, cool car accessories to track down and wardrobes to assemble that feature the colors black and beige.

Maybe you have already painted a mural on their bedroom walls, some long since painted over except or one pterodactyl lurking over the doorframe. Your kids will get awards and earn certificates that cry out for creative matting and framing!  You are the “cool mom” who always has a 5mm google eye in a bin someplace or can help whip out a book cover poster the night before it is due. You are the one on call when the teacher needs a bit of help with some art project or the school has an event which could use some creativity.  

Your talents to think beyond the usual or to focus in on the most minute of details will serve your children well.  Creative people see many sides to one issue and can pick and choose the pieces needed to solve a 6am crisis or know when to shut up at 6pm and just listen while the story that flows out.  You will doodle on napkins or music programs to pass the time waiting. You  will pick up the messes and rearrange the throw pillows, hang stuff up and fold things into baskets (socks and towels can become little sculptures ), develop complex imagery around yet another unidentified stain and track down solvents to remove then….or not.  And if not, well those jeans will be a craft project someday, trust me. 

As much as it sounds cliche, I have been in your shoes and walked the same pathway ahead of you.  From the head of the trail, it seems like a long road of sacrifice and frustration (as artistic juices build up in your system often to the boiling point which is when the laundry room gets painted hot pink…..), along the way you start to notice the shape of the trees and point out linear patterns, light and shadows, and some scientific facts about perspective. As the forest around you begins to thin out, a sense of desperation will set in, did I do all I could? Did I give them the skills needed? Did I spend enough time? Why did I not play more board games or make more cakes shaped like panda bears?

Suddenly the boys will be in front of you opening a door. Papers will arrive by email that need proofread in an hour or two (so just  correct the commas and balance the verbs). Girls will be along for the shopping trips telling YOU what looks appropriate when all you want are the zebra print heels and a shorter skirt, saggy knees be damned!

So yes my friends, your art and creativity will never cease, it is not on a shelf or put on hold. You will only be using it in a different way to build, create, shape and decorate living sculptures. Think of the time as one long piece of performance art.  When all gets quiet down the road, look around your studios or in the bins and boxes long since packed on the shelf and think HOT DAMN!!! I got time to play and make and build and create and draw and… and…and …and……darn it, I wish I had somebody here to watch me, interrupt me, tell me it looks good or ask what I am making.  But since nobody is here to do that….guess what they get for Christmas next year!

Enjoy your time away from the studio/gallery.  There will always be a place to create and show your work , but your most important projects right now are only around for a very short time all things considered.  I applaud you!