Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Impressions

Last night, a salesman dropped by the house; I’ve previously mentioned the fact that we live on a couple acres outside of Santa Fe, so when the door bell rang last night… we were caught a bit off-guard. After calming down our Newfoundland pup, Goliath, I walked from the backyard to the front and confronted our unexpected guest. He was my age, maybe five years older, at the most. He had hopped out of his Ford F250 and was walking around my Land Rover, eying the Montana plates. I wasn’t quite expecting what happened next.

“Are your parents home, son?” he asked.

“No, but my wife and three kids are,” I replied.

He was selling asphalt for driveways… door to door. Unfortunately for him, he struck-out with his first question. First impressions are sometimes the substance of an entire interaction.

Not long after moving to New Mexico, I toured the galleries in Taos. Now I don’t just like Taos… I love Taos. With a landscape reminiscent of western Montana and northern Idaho, it is as close to heaven as one can get in the high desert. The town is estimated at about six thousand year-round residents, four thousand of which consider themselves artists. It was in one of its best galleries, though, that I became disenchanted with the commercial nature of some decision-makers in one of the more high-profile sections of the art world. I won’t name the artist or the gallery, but suffice to say it was one of the BIG ones. The artist was ripping-off early Gustave Klimt works and doing quite a nice job at it. By ripping-off, I mean literally copying majority portions of famous oil paintings, including the entire figures as well as the exact placement of the gold and silver leaf. No reference was given to any of the more celebrated works or even a nod to Klimt in the artist’s statement… it supposedly came from within the mind of this New Mexico “wonderboy”, no one else. I mentioned the glaring similarities to the gallery director and even listed the names of a few pieces that he obviously knocked-off: Water Serpents, Medicine, and most of the sections of the Beethoven Frieze.

The director had this blank expression and then she stated, “I guess I’m not familiar with Klimt.”

I left in disgust. Although it was a horrible first impression for a Taos gallery, I know that it is not the norm for the Taos art market. What qualifications did this person have for her part in setting the status quo for art in northern New Mexico? Was her aptitude for decision-making simply based on the prerequisite that she was wealthy?

I typically love galleries, even more so than museums; and I thankfully realize that the above situation is not the norm for commercial galleries. When you walk into a space that has made all the right decisions, a moment of magic occurs. The fresh approaches and the contemporary artists’ penchant for working-out these new avenues without a net; is invigorating. When I tour the galleries, I live for that moment in-between… when you first look at a new work and then visualize the artist’s philosophy and life-changing dreams. – DN

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