I am a firm believer that everything is connected and that you have to be open to everything (everything!) in order to solve the inevitable and unknown problems that will arise in the future.
This is especially important for someone who is a slave to their creative impulses, like myself.
I’m putting together my second art show- which opens on March 24th at Darring Studios in Eagle Rock and closes the next night March 25th (here’s to back to back festivities and keeping it short and sweet!)- entitled It’s Already Been Done. While the idea for the show has been knocking around in my skull for a few years now, the solutions to the many problems of curating the show have not been resolved.
Case in point: the invites.
Do I remake an invite from a notable show in the past? Do I leave it as generic as possible because there are so many unknown factors (how many artists, what they’re replicating, what their final work is going to look like, etc)? A solid color block with pertinent information, perhaps? Do I make it myself in photoshop or farm it out to a friend like last time? I like invites that have some thought put into them- I know that much.
At the LA Art Show back in January I struck up a conversation with Dirk Hagner about QR codes (same idea as a bar code only they are square and can take you to websites). In my show, on each artists label, there will be a QR code that will take the viewer to a site that has the original work of art that the artist is referencing as well as the artists statement. This is so the viewer will not be overwhelmed with old art as well as new art and it solves the problem of printing and presenting Vermeer or Warhol or whomever else- I just wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Back to the Art Show; Dirk and I were discussing the possible uses of QR codes in art (we both geeked out a bit) at the booth for the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. I snapped his QR code, it took me to his site and I followed up with an email the next day. Later on he sent me a little booklet he made of QR codes promoting his new work Textd Haiku and I loved it.
As I’m trying to solve the problem of invites- I have photoshop open and am toying around with ideas but nothing is doing it for me- I think to myself, what about printmaking? A handmade quality was appealing to me and I’d never done printmaking before (always wanted to but couldn’t squeeze it in to my class schedule). I went to the LA Printmaking Society’s website and found Josephine Press. They had an option of working with a printmaker one on one in the studio. So I thought, this might work out ok and if not, then maybe I can do a workshop later on.
I sent them an email and they called me back then I went in and met with them- which was good because I think they thought I was a bit crazy- you want to do what? in how much time? do you know what you’re getting yourself into? It turned out that I’d be working with Camilla Taylor (whom I’d also met at the LA Art Show at the same booth as Dirk Hagner- everything is connected!) and Master Printmaker John Greco.
So now, I’m making invites to the show and learning a new process (monotype with a lino cut for the text.) I’m meeting new people AND making something that truly hasn’t already been done.
“i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh… And eyes big love-crumbs,
There was a moment the other day when my current reading material and an actual, real-life situation pertaining to it collided head on. When this happens I tend to lose all self censorship ability and blurt out exactly what I’m thinking. It’s completely involuntary, I swear to Tim Tebow’s god.
The other day it came out something like:
"We’re such women! Always trying to collaborate with everyone in order to come up with the best solution possible."
This was true, very true, but what’s maybe more important about this statement was the fact that I was reacting to an authority figure of some sort. Where as, I seek to solve a problem with input and cooperation from educated individuals, the authority solves it in solitude and then issues a decree. There are many articles on gender differences and problem solving in the workplace (check out @harvardbiz for starters), however, I’ve just read about sadomasochism and art in Dave Hickey’s essay “After the Great Tsunami: On Beauty and the Therapeutic Institution.” So now, of course, I relate everything in life to it.
I’ll boil it down to this: Sado is the authority, the master, the one who decides what is best and safe for the public; it is the government, the MPAA, the institutions, the galleries etc. The masochist is the submissive, the one who sets the conditions for their domination and writes up the contract that shall be followed by the master. They derive pleasure from the circumstances that occur within their set of self made parameters. Ultimately it is the masochist who in charge of the situation, not the authority, and it is they who deem what is beautiful and what is not out of their own volition, not because someone tells them it is so. They, ultimately, have the power of affinity.
I consider myself a masochist through and through. I see it when I willingly work out in a 105’ room for 90 minutes, continually pushing myself harder and harder, week after week. I was in marching band, in martial arts, in gymnastics etc. All of these things have an unquestionable authority figure in them- which I hated, but I loved the activity. I could (and did) walk away from these things at any point if I didn’t agree with the one in charge. This side of me is most apparent in my reaction to any person or institution that wants to decide what is best for me, just because they say so. I’m cool with an authority figure if I feel that they are qualified for their position and if their actions fit in my set of parameters. Ultimately, they’re only in the position of authority because I have deemed them suitable- otherwise, it’s over.
With the institutions and art, it gets a little more problematic, and this is what I’ve been grappling with ever since I read Dave’s essay. I hate the idea that one needs a museum or gallery to tell them what is beautiful, which artists are hot, and ultimately what’s worth paying attention to for whatever reason. So fine… I stop going to museums and galleries. But that’s just not going to work! LACMA has a great show up right now, In Wonderland, which focuses on female artists from Mexico and the US working in the surrealist camp. Any movement at all comes from an authority figures decree- it’s not a naturally occurring phenomenon- but at least this is a new conglomeration of art work. I haven’t seen anything like it. They put it up, but I still get to decide weather or not Frieda Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird fits into my new set of stipulations on beauty (it most definitely does.) The authority (in this case LACMA) is telling me that I should look at this art because they say so, because it’s good for me and in this instance, they’re right.
I guess, as a masochist, I must, at the very least, flirt with the authority in order to solidify what my parameters for seduction are. But I know, deep down, that I am in charge and only I know what is beautiful and what is not.
While I was rummaging through old journals I came across a letter to me from the Yale University Masters in Fine Arts program, from 2005. Its says that I was selected to be wait-listed (i.e. choice 11 or 12 out of 10 slots). What a game changer that would have been! Ultimately, I couldn’t be more grateful. The letter told me that I’m almost good enough but not quite. It was like a carrot dangling in font of me that was laced with cyanide.
I got to go for an interview, which was fairly terrifying- imagine defending your undergrad work to a room full of grad students with one year under their belt and faculty that consists of artists you admire. It was cool. I nailed it. I think I may have shot myself in the foot when I asked them what the point of spending $70k on an MFA was with no guarantee that I would be any better off than going to work for a restaurant chain. I asked what the heck they were going to do for me. They laughed and said I was the only person to ask that question. Then they tore my work to shreds (in a good way, the way that you should get used to if you plan on going to grad school.) They asked why I had to have a concept behind every artistic choice I made. Why couldn’t I do it simply for aesthetics? I said that’s not the way my program worked. They asked why I followed the rules, they said I was a people-pleaser. I said I just wanted to graduate with a body of work that I was proud of.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago when I put together my first art show. I made a 9ft great white shark out of Styrofoam and projected a video onto it. There were almost 30 artists that participated in the show and made everything from clothing to paintings to stuffed animal sculptures and photography. The theme was pretty loose; Love/Hate Los Angeles, it gave the artists a reason to create without impeding their work. Now, I’m doing my second show: It’s already been done. So, I think I’ve found my place. I’m making art, giving others the opportunity to make art and doing it all away from an institutional setting. Home is where the heart is, a gallery is where the art is…
No one who submits work to me is overly concerned about selling their work, it’s not about that. (Although we definitely sold a few last time!) I don’t care who participates and who does not. I do not say no to anyone that brings in art, yet, I push the artists to push themselves to put up work that they will be most proud of. Its quite amazing to me how many repressed artists exist in my world. And I work with creative types almost exclusively!
To me there is an obvious void. We have these perceived notions of who should create art and where it should be viewed. There is also this need for the artist to have a cohesive body of work (which seems to me, at this point, unbelievably oppressing.) I like to make large works that no one will EVER purchase that may not have anything to do with my previous works, therefore, I should definitely not quit my day job if I want to keep up my Trader Joe’s habit. However, this does not mean I need to stop creating art. It does not mean that I need to go start my own gallery. It doesn’t even mean that I should make smaller art with an eye towards commodity. It means that I need to get creative. There is always a solution to a problem, always. So thank you Yale University MFA program for rejecting me. I’m much better off and I can not wait to see what people make for the next show. (Also, I secretly think that artist produced shows are going to become more predominant in the next few years- as they should be!)
I went to the LA Art Show this weekend, while checking out Carnival and Lent by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, I eavesdropped on the gallery director (I think?) boasting to a friend/customer about the Norman Rockwell painting they had acquired 2 days earlier. He said it was the most rare piece at the show. I think the price tag was 3.something million…
Over in the contemporary art world I was drawn like a magnet to my favorite gallery- and consequently away from yet another Damien Hirst piece. I noticed their sign from two isles away and dashed right over. Last year, Cumberland Gallery, had a sculpture that ended up being my favorite piece in the whole show. If I’d had a couple thousand dollars to drop on art, I would have done it in a heartbeat. This year they had something just for me. (I’m pretty sure by David French as well- I should keep better track of this)
So, I am officially a purchaser of fine art, and, even better than that- I have a new piece of art to look at every day… that’s not my own.
While I was filling out paper work I had a nice discussion with the director, Carol Stein, about Dave Hickey. It turns out she had an eventful dinner with him a few years ago (unfortunately, she was busy writing up forms for another sale so we did not get to finish the conversation…) and not only that, they represent one of Dave’s favorite artists Barry Buxkamper- who after having his art career fast tracked by Dave, ended up abandoning the paint brush for over 10 years after getting disillusioned with the institutions. He’s making art again though and it’s (to me) spectacular. Maybe I’ll be able to add him to my infinitesimal collection next year.
I had my Dave Hickey glasses on all day long (I’m reading The Invisible Dragon). First at MOCA at the WeeGee exhibit then at the art fair. I was in search of beauty and the perfect menage a trois between art, artist and viewer. I agree with him that its gotten lopsided to the point where there doesn’t even need to be a dialog with art and viewer, it’s all about art and artist, or art and institution (museum, gallery, trust etc). I knew it wasn’t going to happen at MOCA- I’m not even sure if that show was art- WeeGee didn’t really consider himself an artist (this is obviously a debatable subject). At the art show, I was hoping, there was at least a fighting chance of parity between the three. I realize that the institution is still involved- yet, there is an element of chaos. LA Art Show selects the galleries but doesn’t dictate what they should bring. There’s no single voice that says “this is the art that you should look at and enjoy because it’s good for you.” Its a bunch of voices saying “check out my shit!” There were a few pieces at the art show that seemed to fit my new set of parameters and that was unbelievably exciting.
The LA Art Show was great, I had some amazing conversations, met maybe a new friend or two, and ran into some old friends as well. Also, I walked out with a magical slip in my hand that said: a) it’s ok for you to leave the premises with that piece of art and b) welcome to the art world; where putting your money where your mouth is, is just as important as making the art itself.
I wonder if since we as artists are godlike, then when we work in factory-type settings, do we lose some of our godlike status?
In the current issue of The Believer, Amanda Stern interviews Laurie Anderson, who says that (this among many other interesting subjects): “The main thing that attracts me to Buddhism is probably what attracts every artist to being an artist—that it’s a godlike thing. You are the ultimate authority. There is no other ultimate authority.”
Creating art is the greatest and oldest expression of individuality. Nobody else can create what you’ve created and likewise only you can create it. Even if you get someone else to do it for you, you remain the authority. So, my conclusion is (for now and apparently sans further research), that a factory setting would only enhance the creators godlike status. However, everyone is capable of being godlike, everyone is capable of creating art factory setting or not.
In 1947, after escaping from a mental institution, he invented the formula for “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap,” a peppermint-infused, all-natural, multi-purpose liquid that can be found today in every American health food store. On each bottle of his soap, he printed an ever-evolving set of teachings he called “The Moral ABC,” designed, in his words, “TO UNITE ALL MANKIND FREE!”
After watching this film I think I’m really only a few steps away from crazy town. (Thankfully those steps are rather large)