Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More questions on the true nature of Duchamp

Duchamp - Fountain Of Grace
The fuss over a bad performance artist who damaged Marcel Duchamp's iconic "Fountain" last month may have for some obscured Duchamp's importance. "Duchamp is invariably referred to as an "anti-artist" and an "iconoclast." This is entirely false. Duchamp was a great art adviser to collectors. He wasn't against art at all; he was against the hypocritical aura surrounding it."
Village Voice 02/28/06

I love that 'the hypocritical aura surrounding art'. The hypocracy of collectors and galleries that buy art purely for resale investment - where is the love for the work; the infatuation with the manner in which it affects one's soul. I have one collector in particular that started buying my work for those reasons - but after living with it for a while, she has found herself passsing on opportunities to resell at a profit. Instead she would rather buy more. Speaking from personal experience, I would say artists are not the best judge of fiscal value when it comes to artwork. I am even notorious for not insuring my own work in transit (unless requested by the collector or museum); because who gets paid to make another (replacement) if the painting is damaged - me! Money I wasted on insurance is money that could be spent on paint or slides.

I definately don't create artwork for the windfall profit margins... I create for the passion of the process. I expect my collectors to purchase for that same passion. - DN


Monday, February 27, 2006

Kincade proven to be the sideshow huckster the rest of us knew he was...

Gallery Owners Win Dispute Against Thomas Kinkade

An arbitration panel ruled against the so-called "Painter of Light." "The dealers and other ex-dealers allege that Kinkade used his religious beliefs — and manipulated theirs — to induce them to invest in Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries, independently owned stores licensed to deal exclusively in his work. They also allege that they were stuck with unsalable inventory, forced to open additional stores in markets that could not sustain them and undercut by discounters that sold Kinkade prints at prices they were forbidden to match. And they accuse the artist of scheming to devalue Media Arts Group before he took the company private for $32.7 million in early 2004, renaming it Thomas Kinkade Co."
Los Angeles Times 02/24/06

I've been telling people for years that the crap this guy paints and sells in insanely huge print runs - ISN'T WORTH THE PAPER IT'S PRINTED ON.

Kincade is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with buying 'prints' over original artwork; that combined with the fact that his paintings are ridiculously contrived and serve the lowest commmon denominator is too much to bear sometimes...

Looks like the 'fake' galleries that carry his crap are having to admit it as well.

But how does this bode for other painters that dip into the print market? I do not deal in prints for two reasons:
1. They are literally not worth anything more than the value of the paper they are printed on - if not personally pulled by the artist.
2. I produce over 200 paintings/year; if I took the time to deal with printers and color correction - I'd have little time left to paint.
- DN

Friday, February 24, 2006

Nothing like Thoreau

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Let the artist go where he may, the audience will follow. - DN

Arts Effect

Can Movies Be Agents Of Social Change?

"Movies can envision the need for social change, but it is unclear that they can help bring it about. They are better at pointing the way to a different, happier, more fulfilling life. Not the least interesting thing about the hopeless love dramatized in 'Brokeback Mountain,' which garnered eight Oscar nominations last week, is how many social hopes it has inspired." Still, those hopes might not translate. "Movies can take on the great social problems of their time, but they may be the least effective — or appropriate — medium for solving them."
Los Angeles Times 02/23/06

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Making Aesthetic Judgment

Jack Vettriano

Jack Vettriano may be the most unpopular painter of the last 50 years - unless, that is, you measure popularity by what the general public thinks. "Vettriano is far and away Scotland's most successful contemporary painter... But critics tend either to ignore Mr. Vettriano or to swat him lazily away with the backs of their cultured hands." Is it pure elitism on the part of the critics, or is the public simply blind to such niceties as painting skill? The New York Times 02/23/06

Vettriano is one of those artists everyone has seen at the local "mall gallery". I even have had a few friends over the years that have purchased his prints. But do his paintings qualify as high-minded art? The question reminds me of a story I heard once about Willem de Kooning - he invited an art critic over to his home and on the coffee table was a book featuring a collection of "Saturday Evening Post" covers by Norman Rockwell. Willem immediately picked-up the book and started showing paintings to the critic, rejoicing in the technical prowess of Rockwell.

It is also said that Matisse religiously attended a weekly life drawing class, throughout his entire life.

So who are the critics versus the artists? Artists seem more adept at making aesthetic judgment, considering the fact that they are creating the work. If I make an unflattering remark about another artist's work - I feel that at least I am making it with a bit of first-hand understanding. Remember the term "Impressionism" was a derogatory description placed on artists by an unimpressed critic. - DN

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Imitation - Flattery or Thievery

South African Writer Accused Of Plagiarism

Stephen Watson, a poet and the head of the University of Cape Town's English department has accused Antjie Krog, the Afrikaner author of Country of My Skull, of "lifting material from a range of writers, including the late British poet laureate Ted Hughes and two 19th-century European linguists. He said Country of My Skull, an award-winning account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was recently turned into a Hollywood film, used words and phrases from Hughes's 1976 essay Myth and Education."
The Guardian (UK) 02/21/06

The recent run of plagarism is getting ridiculous. Has it always been this bad, and we're just getting better at catching examples due to our advances in technology and the availability of infomation?

Picasso said, "Bad artists copy, great artists steal". But which is this? It seems more like the copying of a few lines, rather than stealing of concepts, themes and ideas. While I agree with Picasso, I cannot condone this rash of plagarism - it's not the same. - DN

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Back to the question of style or signature

My own work has evolved from simply a cohesive series of landscape images displaying movement to paintings that reference a deeper presence through the use symbolism; to the now current stage that adds movement, symbols and the presentation via hand-made scrolls.

Which mark best artistically defines my work - the style or signature? Is it the combination of the above mentioned three stages my work has evolved through my definative style or is simply the manner in which I present the work via the hanging scroll - my mark? I'm now to the point, with my work, that I am only painting scrolls. Part of that is due to the continued challenge of painting compositions in a vertical format, part is due to the fact that museums and galleries seem to only want the scrolls. I must admit it helps that I have literally no framing costs by painting in this format. But is the format what will define my style? Or is it simply the final signature that allows my audience to walk-up and immediately know I painted that work? - DN

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Forever Kerouac

  • "I want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down."
— Jack Kerouac
Once Kerouac looked out the window and said, 'Walking on water wasn't built in a day.'

— Allen Ginsberg

Friday, February 17, 2006

Off the Map

Since the 2006 Winter Olympics have officially become the most boring thing on television, I rewatched the independent film, "Off the Map", last night.

The following is my favorite quote from the movie:
You know, I really admire you, Mr. Grodin. More than any man I've ever met. You don't have a penny in the bank, no life insurance, no credit. But your house is all paid for, you got four years worth of food stored away, three years worth of firewood, stockpiles of clothes, beautiful wife, great kid. Your life is yours. I think you're a genius.

That line pretty much sums up the mood of the film. Everyone should see this film, at least twice. -DN

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Earth Ship Architecture

A huge fad (movement) in northern New Mexico is "self-sustainable communities". Taos, naturally is slightly ahead of everyone else in the know. I got off on this idea (notice the earlier post about John Twelve Hawks - the author that claims to live off-the-grid) of further investigating unique living after watching a great film the other night called "Off the Map" - it's about a 1970's family living "off-the-grid" in Taos.

Now I have always been fascinated by the Self-sufficiency concepts... but the film (combined with living in a region where it is not uncommon to see homes built entirely of tires), really peaked my interest.

Click here:
Earthship Community

and here:
Earthship Homes for sale in Taos


The above sites give an interesting feel for how an architectural fad (or obsession) seems to have broken-out into a full-fledged movement. Is this how it works? An artistic concept has to break out of its mold of most basic concepts and take on full-fledged popular materialism to survive? (Don't get me wrong, a couple of these homes look pretty nice considering they are about one-third the price of typical Santa Fe/Taos property values!)- DN

Good Art is Resilient

One of my favorites from the old Taoist poet, Po Chu-i (772 - 846 C.E.). -DN

ON MY DAUGHTER'S FIRST BIRTHDAY

Finally, after almost forty years of life,
I have a girl. We named her Golden-Bells,

and its been a year since she was born.
Saying nothing, she studies sitting now,

but it seems I'm no sage-master at heart.
I can't get free of this trifling affection:

I know it's only a tangle of appearance,
but however empty, it's bliss to see her.

I'll worry about her dying. Spared that,
I'll worry about finding a good husband.

All those plans to find a mountain home:
I guess they'll wait another fifteen years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Author reflects...

I'm always a sucker for "process"! The following is an excerpt from an interview with a new first-time-author.

Q: How long was the novel gestating before you submitted it for publication?

John Twelve Hawks: I started writing The Traveler during a very dark period of my life. In my personal life, I felt like a complete failure. And in the larger world, it seemed more and more obvious that the American people were being manipulated by a variety of negative forces.

If anyone reading this is going through a similar period of despair, I extend my hand to you. This one moment does not define who you are. Try to be with people who will encourage you and not destroy your dreams.

After The Traveler was published, it surprised me when various critics said that I sat down to consciously write a best seller. If such a thing was possible, more people would do it. I wrote the book alone in a small, cluttered room, staring at a computer screen and trying to make sense of my past and our current world.

About six months after the third draft, I got an agent. A year later, I was published. During this time, I was continually rewriting the book with my editor, Jason Kaufman. The entire experience felt like a very odd dream.

I was impressed when I read the thoughts of the above author. I'm still not sure if I buy into the themes of his novel... but I'm definately more intrigued after reading his process. - DN

Monday, February 13, 2006

I think I might have used the "word" art in this post...

I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m disgusted with Bush and his Holy War. I know the guy was mad Iraq tried to kill his dad and sure there are plenty of people and places I could do without. But I would still PREFER NOT to attack Iran or Syria or Hamas… no matter how much they annoy me.

But you know who I would blow the crap out of if I was running the show?

NIGERIA

I am so sick of SPAM originating from that country. A couple times a day my mailbox gets hit with promises of unclaimed UK Lotto winnings, phony estates valued in the tens of millions up for grabs; and my personal favorite - false collectors wanting to buy everything if I’ll just help them cash a Money Order for twice the amount and forward them the extra money.

I don’t want to physically harm anyone in NIGERIA. We wouldn’t even have to send in the troops. I just want to drop one of those “Goldeneye” bombs (you know the from the first, really bad Pierce Brosnan 007 film). An electro-magnetic explosion that will knock-out all their computers and internet service providers.

So which war sounds better – mine or GW’s?

-DN

National Dumbing-down of My Future Audience of Art Patrons

Missouri School Bans "Crucible" After "Grease" Fire

A high school in Missouri stages the musical "Grease." But the high school gets complaints, writers "complaining that scenes of drinking, smoking and a couple kissing went too far, and glorified conduct that the community tries to discourage. One letter, from someone who had not seen the show but only heard about it, criticized "immoral behavior veiled behind the excuse of acting out a play." The school superintendent "watched a video of the play, ultimately agreeing that 'Grease' was unsuitable for the high school, despite his having approved it beforehand, without looking at the script. Hoping to avoid similar complaints in the future, he decided to ban the scheduled spring play, 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller." NY Times, 2/12/06

Originating from a small Missouri town, I am not surprised by acts of intermittent midwest censorship. However that does not mean I understand their continued ridiculousness. Throughout my childhood, “Grease” was a favorite. Something we watched every time it was on television, not unlike “The Wizard of Oz” (remember before VHS, when the Wizard was on once a year and it was a family event?). I find it hard to believe that the actual film was more tame than the high school play. Let’s get over our-prudish-selves... And the Crucible is too much for students, as well? Speaking for myself, I know that if it weren't for Miller's play, I wouldn't even have known about the Salem Witch Trials. Why? - because I didn't grow-up anywhere near Salem and that's how the world works. If you don't live there, it really doesn't affect you. I taught public school for a few years and I know for a fact that the youth of our nation are fully (scarily) aware of smoking, drugs, sex and vulgarity. Unfortunately, most are unaware of history and constitutional freedoms.

This study came out of the University of Indiana:

Survey of 112,003 high school students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing .... Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount.

So what legacy are we leaving America’s youth when newspapers refuse to print cartoons, schools ban books, censor plays, and run education through a series of “political correctness” and “conservative Christian” filters? It’s like the bumper sticker says:

If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention

-DN

Sunday, February 12, 2006

What does the MFA really offer?

I recently read an article that inferred the cycle of MFA programs begetting MFA holders that begat more MFA holders, was in fact an art movement. The author didn’t consider it a very good movement but a movement just the same, because it led to a standard that treated non-MFA holders with less than credible academic standing and importance.

I have a lot of respect for those that hold the MFA degree. But I believe I have just as much respect for those that don't have one and still succeed at their craft.

Recently, a large number of MFA programs have increased from 2 to 3 years, while retaining their 60-credit policy. Let me also say that this extension now pushes the AVERAGE completed program to over $60k. Besides the pleasure and reward of learning for learning's sake; what does the graduate get? A starting professor salary of $35k/year (if they are able to land a non-adjunct position) and the joy of paying back $60k in student loans?

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the film "Good Will Hunting":

See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you're gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certaintees in life. One, don't do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.

I'm not too sure this isn't just as true to artists. Earlier today, my good friend Gaelon mentioned that an MFA allows one to explore new ideas and techniques, while instilling a strong work ethic. But at the same time, an MFA is a really expensive way to go about achieving those goals.

- DN

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Dharma Bums in the Land of the Bomb

I live in the midst of an impressive triangle. Albuquerque is highly militaristic (very pro-Bush). While Santa Fe embraces the teachings of Alan Watts and Jack Kerouac (conflicting students of Eastern Philosophy, but most don't notice). Finally, Los Alamos is essentially the "Land of the Bomb".

So how does a dharma bum find balance? Or is it the confliction that allows balance? Do we need the battle to deny the fight? Do artists in this unique high desert region have a duty to be documentarians of the battle between good, evil and the means to power. The means of power is apparent - "Land of the Bomb". Whether the protester or the government control the "concept of the bomb" is up for contention at ground zero - New Mexico. But that leaves the convictions of the other two groups. Which is good, which is evil and how do we decide? Now I said all that to say this.....

My thing (as I have said over and over again) is that I move to a new place and paint the social repercussions through symbols of the landscape. So what stories are up for grabs? Most recently, my own work has begun to blend the chaos of a nuclear desert with the history of multiple cultures struggling to reside despite political turmoil. What struggles are you working out? What are your tools? What documentary are you making?-DN

Friday, February 10, 2006

Method Acting for Visual Artists

I've repeatedly highlighted the importance I place on travel and "living amongst" the subjects of my paintings. Now I want to take it to the next level. I love good travel-writing in the vein of "Blue Highways" because of the manner in which the author becomes an active participant in his subject. This active participation in the art of life reminds me of the system of parodoxes that had to be avoided in the storylines of the "Back to the Future" films. In the films, the Michael J. Fox character had to avoid interacting with the characters of the time in which he had travelled, or the consequences of those actions would affect him personally. What a basic, yet beautiful concept. We are self-manipulated by our social and environmental interactions.

That is how my own work has grown, over the years:

1. College brought experimentation that was actually just an impersonation of my professors' work.

2. The birth of my daughter (first child) brought about a long series of garden-like impasto oil works that emphasized light and growth.

3. My time teaching in inner-city St. Louis was my darkest of periods, while I tried to use my painting to understand the violence and self-hate of the population of which I was in daily contact.

4. I relocated into the harsh beauty of Montana and the Rocky Mountains. These paintings developed my style into an interpretation of the ironically beautifully violent natural landscape and its inhabitants - best reflected in the perceived constant movement of the landscape.

5. New Mexico has turned yet another corner in the journey of my work. Emphasizing the history and irony of a religious people as reflected in their accomplishments against the backdrop of a land most easily described as an unconscious replacement for Canaan.

All of this further advances my theory that living the place is a relentless muse. Art that comes from within is without a “block” or “dry-period” - when the unconscious is so heavily influenced by the environment. In other words what is within can only work without ceasing, when manipulated in a heavy-handed fashion from without. -DN

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tearing Apart the Studio

I shipped out three crates of scroll paintings last weekend for shows in North Dakota and Boston. Come Monday, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to tear apart the studio, build shelves, worktops and storage. I'm currently into day three of "the cleaning/sorting process" with hopes of building the units tomorrow. My goal is to be done by Friday, so I can start painting scrolls again by Saturday night. I was going to throw a fresh coat of paint on the walls as well, but it looks like my studio may get some major architectural improvements in the next few months (more windows and a direct entrance connecting to the house), so I'll wait on painting the walls.

I have to get this done, or a week without painting might just do me in.- DN

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rewards for Doing What Comes Natural

Prize Portents "In the fields of literature, movies and music, prize scandals prompt people to pay attention to awards, if only to see what gauche lapse in taste happens next. And debates about the credibility of a prize, by their very existence, benefit the concept of art and artistic value by implying that they exist in a realm separate from politics and compromise. Clearly, questions about prizes' credibility haven't hampered their proliferation: ours is a culture beset by and obsessed with prizes, even if we disagree about their meaning. So what do they mean?" Toronto Star 02/07/06

I hit on this very subject in a previous post. Are we working towards the reward - what is the reward? Money. Recognition. Another notch in the old belt.

Is the reward worth the meaning? Does meaning need a reward? - DN

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lotto of Life

Thanks to Gregory Humes for his great suggestions to update my portfolio website, I think it is a huge improvement. For those of you that haven't seen the changes, yet - click here: www.danielnorth.com

On another note, when I was a teacher (in one of my many former career lives) I aggravated more than my share of parents and fellow educators because of my philosophies towards life. A few things I used to drill into my students included:

"Time is worth more than money."

"Once you leave home, don't waste all your time worrying about money, this is America and the money always comes one way or another."

"Go to your DREAM college and worry about paying for it later (student loans - everyone's got them, might as well have the debt for something you enjoyed)."

"Treat life like a permanent vacation by moving around alot, this will teach you to better understand how people live in their own little worlds."

Now for my final suggestion. "If you won the lottery today, what would you do to change your life tomorrow? Whatever it is (besides buying crap you don't need) - that's what you should do tomorrow, lottery or not." - DN

P.S. This applies to art, whether it reinforces the basic "making of art" or the type of work one makes without the influence of only creating "art that will easily sell".

Thursday, February 02, 2006

View from the Gallery

In one of my former lives (careers) I was in the gallery racket for four years. It was this background that made me believe I had enough edge or inside track on how galleries worked to break-out as a career artist. It was during this time that I learned that quite a few fly-by-night galleries are run by bored wives. In a given year a non-profit gallery can recieve upwards of a 6-7 hundred applicants for roughly a dozen available annual openings. While commercial spaces receive portfolios literally in the thousands. But I also came to understand that UPS is the absolute worst service by which to ship artwork (all wooden crates are thrown in the bottom of the truck with the tires and paint cans and oil drums). And never count on a shipper to cover the "appraised value" of artwork without legal action (even then your typically out of luck). Most non-profit arts organizations are run by non-artists and quite a few directors that I dealt with were actually antagonistic towards artists (we're flighty, pains in their asses). That said, I found a great list of joys/worries from the point-of-view of a successful gallerist in Washington DC. I'm reprinting it here for you to read. - DN


"Trials, Tribulations and Successes of a Gallerist


John Pancake, who is the Arts Editor at the Washington Post, once told me that he felt that running an art gallery was a heroic act.

I don't know about that, but running an independent, commercial fine arts gallery certainly takes a lot of commitment, truckloads of patience, an understanding of what running a business really means (while hopefully contributing to many different understandings of what a cultural discourse truly represents), an ability to share both in the triumph and failure of artists, an immense poker face when telling an artist who has just been destroyed in a review: "Don't worry, a bad review is better than no review at all," endless gritting of teeth from refraining in choking to death the next person (who's never run a gallery) who insists on giving you nonsensical advice on how to run a gallery, and the great sense of relief that floods in when one of your artists does well and succeeds.

A few days ago, as I was driving home after meeting with our accountant and reviewing the year and preparing for 2006, a few things popped into my head about some of the trials and tribulations and successes since we opened the first Fraser Gallery in 1996 in Georgetown.

First, this popped into my head:
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums chang'd to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now,--instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,--
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
So I shook my head to clear Will out of it and then recalled...

- The know-it-all art hanger-on who walked into our first gallery in 1996, looked around and said: "I give you six months."

- Our second show ever, by a brilliantly talented printmaker named Grant Silverstein. We sold dozens and dozens of etchings and thought to ourselves: "WOW, this gallery business is going to be a piece of cake!"

- A huge article in the Washington Post announcing the opening of our Georgetown Gallery. We then thought to ourselves: "WOW, it's great getting all this newspaper coverage!"

- How we managed to survive one long summer in 1997 without a single sale! Thank God for our financial backers: Mrs. Visa and Mr. Mastercard!

- How, every year since we opened in 1996, has seen a rise in sales and 2005 was our best year ever.

- The time that a couple came into the Bethesda gallery, he complaining of the price of an omelette at the Original Pancake House, and then he buying out the entire exhibition!

- The artist who complained because we were selling too much of the artist's work.

- The photographer who didn't want to exhibit his work because his photograph didn't sell immediately in a previous group show.

- The young man, who while looking at black and white infrared photographs of Scotland actually asked if everything in Scotland was really black and white.

- The hundreds of people through the years who stand at the front of the door and ask how much does it cost to come in.

- The photographer who shipped a massive photograph, framed under glass in a flimsy cardboard box without any protection and then almost had convulsions when informed that his work had arrived nearly demolished.

- The painter who shipped his small painting is a massive wooden crate meriting inclusion in the Fort Knox Hall of Fame, and paid more for shipping than the painting's price.

- The joy and pride caused by the first time that a museum acquired one of our artists' works.

- The guy who knocked a framed piece down, broke the glass in the fall, and then said: "It was broken before it fell."

- The afternoon before that night's opening when the entire ceiling in the gallery space collapsed because the air conditioning unit's drain pan had been installed backwards. Somehow the entire ceiling was rebuilt in a couple of hours and the opening took place without any problems.

- The time that it rained so hard in Georgetown that the Canal Square flooded and there was a foot of water in each gallery and we ran in and out to rescue the artwork; all the while electric wiring was underwater and hot.

- The time that we arrived at the new gallery in Bethesda to find the new $15,000 wooden floor completely flooded by rainwater.

- The time, after the foundation leaks had been fixed, and a new wooden floor installed to replace the damaged one, when we arrived at the same gallery to find the new floor flooded again from a new hole in the foundation.

- The time that the gallery flooded a third and fourth time from (a) the wrong filter for the A/C unit or (b) leak in the roof.

- The many times that we thanked God because in all these floods not a single piece of artwork was damaged.

- The famous multimillionare who (after attempting to haggle for a photograph selling for $300), said: "If I have this delivered to Great Falls, can I save on the sales tax?"

- The California collector who bought an $11,000 painting on the Internet, sight unseen.

- The three different curators from a museum out West, who flew on three different occasions to see an artist's show, and were gagga over a particular sculpture (priced at $2500) and then, after spending God knows how much money on flights and per diem, asked that it be donated to the museum, as they were short on acquisition funds.

- The art critic who made 61 cell phone calls over a 24 hour period to ask (and re-ask) some very basic questions which could have been answered by reading the press release, and killed my cell phone minutes allowance for that month in one day.

- The many people and writers and critics who made appointments on Sundays and Mondays or during odd hours and then never show up.

- The lawyer from New York who keeps calling trying to find certain gallerists no longer in business who have ripped off his clients years and years ago.

- The poor artist(s) who always show up at a crowded opening and want you to look at his or her portfolio.

- The super rich artist-wanna-be who always shows up at a crowded opening, wants you to look at his or her photographs of an African safari and asks: "What does one have to do to sell stuff in this store?"

- The delight in the face and eyes of an art student making his or her first gallery sale ever.

- The first time that we got a review in a national art magazine.

- The artist who planned her American debut for an entire year and then wasn't allowed to travel to the US for her opening, which sold out before the show opened.

- The time that the man hole cover blew up in Georgetown in front of the gallery, starting an underground fire, closing the neighborhood down and ruining the opening.

- The second time that another man hole cover blew up in Georgetown in front of the gallery, starting an underground fire, closing the neighborhood down and ruining another opening.

- The time that an electrical power outage shot down all of Georgetown and ruined our Frida Kahlo exhibition's opening.

- The first time that a show sold out before it actually opened up to the public.

- The people who ask every once in a while: "Does anyone actually, ever buy art?" And the many times that we actually ponder the same question.

- The time that the really expensive magazine ad had the wrong opening date.

- The local museum curator who never comes down to DC galleries, but who acquired one of our artist's works while it was on loan to another gallery in another city.

- The first time that a museum asked to borrow work for an exhibition.

- The collector who said on the phone: "Just pick one of her paintings that you'd think I would like and put a dot on it."

- The first time that one of our artists received a review in the New York Times.

- The time that the city fathers of Washington, DC wanted to prohibit galleries from serving wine at the openings.

- The many times that someone offers us money to host their exhibition. And the many times that we then see that "artist" exhibiting that vanity exhibition in another gallery in town.

- The first time that a museum in another country acquired work by one of our artists.

- The first time that a museum asked for one of our exhibitions to travel to the museum.

- The rich "artist" who wanted us to exhibit her really ugly paintings; each one boasted to have over $60,000 of precious stones embedded into the thick, impasto paint.

- The grubs who come to the opening, look around the space (not at the art) and then ask: "Where's the food?"

- The time that Sotheby's asked us to become an Associate Dealer, and how we managed to create over 800 secondary art market sales for emerging DC area artists.

- The time that a collector wanted to buy a nude painting of a man, but wanted the artist to paint over the genitalia.

- The amazing number of times that it either snows or rains on opening night.

- The time that a furor was created in Bethesda over our exhibition of huge paintings of very large, nude women.

- The first time that one of our exhibitions was featured on television.

- The first time that we got a review in an international art magazine.

- The time that I handed back a photograph to the photographer who wanted me to look at it. He/she dropped it a few minutes later, broke the glass and scratched the photo and then wanted to have our insurance pay for it.

- The dozens and dozens of "collectors" from Nigeria who email us everyday and who want to buy everything in our "art store" if only we send them our banking details so that they can wire the payments to it.

- How, after nearly ten years as a gallerist, there are still art critics or writers, who apparently write about DC art, DC artists and DC galleries, and yet I've never met and as far as I know have never set foot in our galleries.

- The many times that someone walks either into our Bethesda gallery or our Georgetown gallery and says: "I didn't know there were any galleries around here."

- The invited curator who "curated" a show of mostly his friends and colleagues.

- The other invited curator who put together one of the most amazing juried shows ever staged in our gallery.

- The still incredible fact that our website gets over a million hits a month, and every month it kills my bandwidth allotment."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Career Artist

I recently commented on another artist's blog regarding the importance of PR in "the career-mode" of being an artist. It brings up a lot of personal questions in regards to how I prefer to present myself and how much painting time I am comfortable trading in order to do what needs to be done to promote sales of my work.

For me making art is purely about the process. I use the painting process to explore concepts in philosophy, psychology, literature and history as they relate to the common person in an extraordinary environment. So when does the attitude of sales impede upon that process and how often? Obviously, selling work does not constitute a “sell-out” of the artist. I’d say a good 50% of my time is spent on PR. By “PR” I mean - letters and portfolios to galleries/museums; scanning the periodicals and websites for exhibition opportunities; working on the website; shooting and editing images of my paintings; and designing and printing brochures, etc.

On the other hand, I have always believed that manipulating the work towards a known market is a betrayal of oneself. My career and life would be a lot easier if I just painted clich├ęd scenes, but after a period of time – I don’t think I would paint at all. I need the sales to survive, but I also need the originality and layered-themes to urge me on to produce more work. I’m the both the best and worst kind of artist – because I have an ego that’s only interested in making history. - DN