Sunday, August 31, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

See You Later

Speaking of showing out of town, I am off to Chicago, Illinois this weekend to pick up some work from the Annual Members' Show at Woman Made Gallery. So I may not be able to post much of anything while I am away.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Showing Elsewhere

It is good for artists to show their work outside of the city where they live. It increases their exposure to galleries, artists and trends. It also allows them to seek new and different patrons and representation beyond their hometowns. (Some artists actually find more support outside of their communities, depending on how well their work fits in where they live.) However there are different challenges to overcome when exhibiting elsewhere, and it isn't for everybody.

From an artist's standpoint, it can be harder to research venues to determine whether or not you'll be a good fit. It is also harder to determine how professionally the venue presents itself or the artists it exhibits when showing out of town (a lot of places work hard to make themselves look good whether or not that is an accurate representation). The further removed one is from those he/she is working with, the harder it is to judge character, honesty and integrity - this goes for both the artist and the gallery representatives. Likewise, there can also be a disconnect between the artist and the venue which can cause miscommunication on both sides. (Non-local artists and gallery reps do not always have opportunities to meet one another in person, and many conversations between them happen via computer or phone and are too easily misconstrued.) All of these factors can play off of one another and cause undue frustration.

It can also be difficult to network from afar, as the artist may or may not have the resources or money available to travel for the reception. Some artists do not show out of town solely because they know that they would be unable to attend their own exhibitions. I have written about the necessity (or lack therein) of attending receptions in an earlier post here. However, the difficulty in seeing out-of-town shows and attending such receptions can have a great impact on whether or not an artist wants to show elsewhere.

Above all, when showing out of town artworks will likely need to be shipped, increasing the risk of loss or breakage and adding to the costs associated with showing one's work. Some venues are very specific regarding how works are to be shipped, through what carriers and when they can arrive. Very few carriers are as accommodating as either the artist or the venue would want. Artists need to consider the return shipping of their work after the show as well. Many venues prefer that return shipping labels be included with the work when shipped, but some carriers will not honor those labels after one month or two (and some shows can go longer than that by the time you factor shipping to the show, unpacking, curating & hanging the exhibition, the duration of the show, repacking and return shipment.

Because I want to connect with as many people as possible, I prefer not to limit myself to showing solely where I live. I have found that I really enjoy the input and exposure gained from showing outside of my hometown. When I first began showing my work, I was almost as active outside of my local community as within it. I have yet to take on a solo show beyond the local art scene due to the amount of work, expense and preparation that can go into such an event, though.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Setting Up Shop

Some artists work from studios within their homes while others own or lease off-site studios. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, although some people may not have as many options depending on what they do and how they work. Many artists need specifically-designated spaces, equipment and tools that they cannot make room for in their home; some artists require a more communal means of working where several artists work together, share a space and support one another; and still other artists prefer to work large and need someplace to store all of their work where it will be safe. Those artists in particular benefit from having off-site spaces where they can work, foster camaraderie and/or store their pieces. But a lot of artists are uncertain whether they would be better off working from home or from an off-site studio space. This really depends on your needs as an artist, and I will examine this from my own personal experience. Please feel free to post comments regarding what works for you and what you have learned from your own art practice.

I work from home. Everything I need is conveniently located in one place and I can work on my art anytime of day when I am feeling productive, even at 2:00 AM when I have insomnia. However, I have to be really self-motivated because there are a lot of distractions here. For one, all of this technology and computer usage can consume a lot more time than I am aware of while I am logged on. And it is even easier to get distracted from the art management and networking that I need to do on the computer than it is for me to be distracted from making art because a lot of that process (submitting, organizing, putting together packets, tracking artworks and shows, updating my resume...) is really really dull. But sometimes life itself is distracting. For example, one day the cat fur tumbleweeds may get to me and I'll decide that I absolutely positively need to dust right then. Or another day I may decide that the garden needs to be weeded so that I can get the yard waste out before I leave town (at the expense of working on my art). And with my husband also working from home, we can distract one another all too easily.

There are bonuses and drawbacks to working at an off-site studio as well. The biggest drawback is cost - you are likely looking at rent or mortgage payments, electricity, heat, water and other costs (like deposits and the need for multiple purchases of things you otherwise may not need duplicates of such as paper towels or rags, cleaning supplies, storage units, some art supplies, power tools, etc.). All of those costs can really add up, causing a greater necessity to sell your work to help cover your expenses. One of the biggest bonuses to having an off-site space is that it is more professional to invite people over to look at your art so you can sell your artwork right from where you created it. Thus you are likely to sell more art to cover said costs, but you may find yourself catering to that to an extent. Much of my work is geared towards increasing exposure and awareness and not selling in and of itself, so this is not as great a loss as it otherwise may be for myself.

The biggest problem that I have found in working from home is that there is no easily defined period of time when I am "at work" versus "at play" and so my art tends to be more consuming that it probably should. It is much easier to designate a time to be in your studio working when you have to go there, and for all that you can still be unproductive or become distracted you are more likely to feel a need to accomplish something to make going worthwhile. But designating such a time to work in one's studio is both good and bad because you cannot completely control when inspiration will strike. Even in my own studio out of my home, I find myself doing an awful lot of cleaning and cataloging materials when I am uninspired, but I am also far more likely to be able to act when I am hyped up to work on something or when an idea strikes.

Above all, this depends on your needs as an artist. What do you want from a studio space? Are you too easily distracted when trying to work from home? Do you have any other time constraints or such that would prevent you from working in one context or the other? Can you afford an off-site space and do you know what you're looking for in one? Can you make or designate a studio space in your house and will others (family members, roommates, friends) respect that space? Figure out your needs first and foremost, and then work to accommodate yourself and to provide an ideal working environment for you to be as productive as possible.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Consumerism vs. Reducing, Reusing, Recycling

I simply do not understand the fervor to own everything new. Don't get me wrong, there are some things that should never be purchased used (like underwear, mattresses and shoes - yuk!). But there are a lot of really good, viable things that you can get used or lightly used, like many articles of clothing, furniture, cars and so on. And lots of artists reuse and recycle things in their work, from found objects to old frames and such.

Reusing things (or simply just using them up) is better on the environment because energy and resources are not spent on the production of new things. A lot of people get rid of a lot of things that are perfectly good and sound. Right now, everyone claims to be so concerned with environmental stability. But we are still driven by our love for consumerism that encourages us to Buy! Buy! Buy! To what end? What is the real cost? Why buy new jeans if your old ones aren't worn out yet? Why buy a new car if you've only put 50,000 miles on your current one and it runs fine?

Even if they are more eco-friendly, buying a bunch of new products in a frenzy of shopping for things we don't really need just uses resources. We wouldn't use said resources at anywhere near the same rate if people only bought what they need when they need it. (Nor would we have such issues with debt, I imagine.) And, as I pointed out before in relation to art cards, even recycling materials uses resources, so we are not helping as much as we might want to think by recycling perfectly good things and buying recycled products that we don't need.

I am not perfect myself and do love shopping, but I am trying to be more aware of my own habits and their impacts. If we truly care about lessening our impact on the environment, we will need to make some sacrifices for it. And it's not an all-or-nothing thing, we should all do what we will and change those habits that we are willing to change. Every little bit counts, so no one should ever think that they need to give up everything at once or not bother at all.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Keeping Yourself in Mind

Being an artist can be very hard and trying. You have to work diligently to get exposure for yourself and your art. You have to be able to deal with rejection. And you have to be self-motivated. While doing all of this you have to stay true to yourself and keep yourself in mind, though. You cannot measure success based on others' successes - to do so will limit your outlook in ways that you may be ill-suited for and thus bring you great unhappiness. You are the best judge of your own success or failure because you are the most aware of your goals and what measures you have taken in order to attain them.

It is absolutely necessary to keep your goals and ideals in mind as you work and approach venues. What are you trying to accomplish in your art? Where do you want it to lead you? What sort of exhibitions do you want to pursue and how do you want to get your art out there where it can be seen, or is this even in keeping with what you want from your art? Do you want to sell your work? Do you think it important to get your work seen by as many people as possible or can it be more exclusive?

It can be hard not to see yourself as a failure when you do not attain your goals, but you have to keep trying and set goals that you can do something towards. You should not say, "I will have a prestigious show in a nationally-renowned art museum within the next year" and not expect to be disappointed, but you can say, "I will research twenty nationally-renowned art museums and submit ten solo show proposals to those that my work is best-suited to within the next year" in the hopes of perhaps getting such an exhibition. And your goals should be realistic in keeping with where you are in your career. If you are just starting out, you are not as well-known and thus are less likely to get awarded such an exhibition. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try if that is something that you want, but you should not base your success as an artist on whether or not you get it.

Long-term goals are also good. Perhaps you want to set such a goal of having a solo show in a nationally-renowned museum without putting an unrealistic time restriction on yourself. I was guilty of this when I first started out after graduating with my BFA. I was trying very hard to get a solo show during that first year and was rejected from numerous venues. I applied to a vast number of galleries and alternative spaces to little avail despite my having researched most of them beforehand. It was very disconcerting and I felt as though I had failed, as if I would never be able to amount to anything as an artist. But I was doomed to fail because I set up a very rigid goal that I didn't have enough control over. Sure, I could try to meet that goal by submitting to as many venues as possible, but there was no guarantee that I would be offered such a show despite my having done so. It took a lot more time than anticipated, along with doing as much else as possible to build up my resume, before I secured that exhibition.

Sometimes it can take longer than you expect to attain your goals due to factors over which you have little control, so you should be flexible in working with what you can do and not see yourself as a failure for not accomplishing everything you had hoped to do in the time frame you allotted yourself. (Perhaps you had set an unrealistic deadline.) Just because you didn't make something happen in that time frame doesn't mean that you should give up and stop pursuing it. You need to be able to reassess and reevaluate yourself so that you can strive to be the best that you can be while not judging yourself harshly based upon what other artists are doing and your ability to meet your own inflexible goals.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Claude Goes to Carondelet Park 2

While we were there, we decided to get a closer look at the boathouse at Boathouse Lake.

Claude Goes to Carondelet Park

Claude went to Carondelet Park.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Digital Submissions

A lot of galleries are switching to taking digital submissions, which I think is great. I do feel bad for people who do not have the wherewithall to do this, but it is possible to get digital images made from slides (and vice versa) and the digitals are just so much easier to deal with. I do question the quality regarding digital submissions when taking them to print, but that depends on the resolution more than anything and it is possible to get very nice prints made from such formats.

I am especially excited about this because digital images are much friendlier, both on the environment and the checkbook. You can look at them pretty much immediately after shooting so that you can reshoot right then if you need to. And there isn't as much waste in developing film, mounting the slides and then figuring out what to do with old slides of outdated works that have been sold or are otherwise unshowable.

Now I just hope that even more places start accepting digital submissions via email, so that I don't have to send anything through the post office at all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Caught in the Rain

As many of you know, it has been raining on and off all day here. There hasn't been so much of an ongoing deluge but there have been some moments of pretty thick rain. Anyway, I got caught in the rain during said moments twice today and it really proves that attitude is everything.

The first time, I was trying to load a bunch of stuff in my car, including a lawn ornament I bought on clearance that is a very tight squeeze and required me to put all of the seats in the back down to make room. It started to drizzle when I walked out of the store. As I got to the car it was raining pretty hard. I was hurriedly rushing to try to get everything into the car as quickly as possible.

The second time, however, Chuck and I were walking home from having dinner out at Syberg's. We weren't on a strict schedule and when the sky opened up we took shelter in the lee of a tree (there wasn't any lightning worth noting, just rain). It continued to rain steadily for awhile, but during a slight break we managed to dart across the street to wait it out under an awning.

The first time, I was all annoyed, irritated and frustrated. I was not in a good mood about it and it made the experience highly unpleasant. However, the second time wasn't as bad for all that it rained harder longer and I got wetter. I actually kind of enjoyed the rain and felt more relaxed and closer to nature afterwards.

Attitude can make all the difference in the world. I know that I tend to worry and am a bit of a pessimist, but it really does help to just let things go. We need to enjoy the time that we have and take pleasure in the mundane - it can help us to better appreciate those things that we don't want to do (like washing dishes) and allow those activities to transcend themselves. We need to be aware of the moments we are in rather than worrying about the past, which we cannot change and can only learn from, or the future, which will come sooner than we think.

Allow yourself to be present in the present.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Attending Receptions

There are mixed feelings regarding whether or not artists are required to attend opening receptions for shows they are in. I think this greatly depends on the circumstances surrounding the show.

It is widely assumed that artists will do everything in their power to attend their own solo receptions, and rightfully so since they are the focus of the exhibition. Sometimes this can prove challenging because the artist is showing their work in a venue far from where he/she lives. But the artist should still make every effort to attend, especially if he/she is just starting out in art, because it demonstrates a commitment to his/her own work and career.

Group shows are different, though. It is highly beneficial to the artists represented to attend so that they can see the show hung and talk to others about their work. However, sometimes it is very impractical for an artist to do so, especially if he/she is showing outside of his/her hometown. Most galleries do not expect out-of-state artists to attend such group receptions, especially considering the rising costs to travel nowadays. However, when such an effort is made, it shows an impressive commitment on behalf of the artist to his/her own work and career that may lead to other shows in that venue or area, maybe even including solo opportunities.

It hurts the artists more than anyone else when they are not present at their own receptions because they do not benefit from networking opportunities and talking to people about their work. I try to attend as many of my own receptions as possible, but I do not make it to all of the group show receptions, sometimes due to scheduling conflicts and sometimes due to travel expenses. At the same time I will not limit myself solely to exhibiting my work in venues where I can attend receptions because I think it is better to get my work out there where it can be seen by as many different people as possible. Although I will not deny myself exposure because I cannot attend an opening, I will try to always include a cohesive, well-written artist's statement with any artworks I have in shows that I cannot attend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Does Size Really Matter?

There has been an inherent bias in many art institutions that bigger is better when it comes to art. Some galleries have focused on large pieces to the exclusion of smaller works such that poorly-executed large works will be shown while extremely well-crafted smaller works will not namely because of their size. This focus is shifting, though.

First and foremost, every artist should take measures to better understand his/her goals and thus to better achieve them. All artists need to consider what they are trying to say in their work. Are they seeking to create a whisper or an intimate vignette that invites the viewer in close or do they want to shout and make themselves heard? Smaller works naturally tend to be more intimate while larger works are more outgoing. This isn't always the case, for sometimes the juxtaposition of the two modes works amazingly well and results in even stronger work, but it is a good start. So size is something all artists should take into consideration - it shouldn't be an afterthought dictated by what sells, what will fit in one's car or what one is willing and able to ship.

Also, an artist needs to consider where he/she intends to show his/her work. Some galleries are better suited to larger pieces while others are better suited to smaller works. A detailed 4" x 6" etching will be lost in a vacuous space with 12' ceilings. Likewise, a 4' x 6' painting will be cramped in a smaller lobby or antechamber space or within the confines of many houses or offices. As with anything, it is always wise to research where you will be showing your art to make certain that it will be a good fit because, if your art is at odds with the space in which it is shown, then both your artwork and the space suffer for it.

I am personally drawn to making smaller and generally more intimate pieces that engage viewers by inviting them in rather than hitting them over the head with an idea. I prefer to work smaller in order to not be overly heavy-handed in my approach, since I sometimes confront societal norms in a rather direct manner while questioning the status quo. However, I am also interested in installation art which challenges the viewer to perceive of a space in a new way and can thusly be all-encompassing and monumental. But much of my installation work is comprised of multiple smaller pieces that, when installed, transform the space.

For me, the utmost consideration lies in determining where I will be showing my work. Much of this relies more on curating artworks so that they fit into the space in which they are displayed as opposed to imposing them upon a space. As a result, I prefer to research spaces where I would like to show my work first and then to approach those venues with works that are well-suited to both their spatial limitations and focuses (in regards to what sorts of art are typically exhibited and what sort of audience they draw).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Simultaneous Submissions

I've talked about the submission process before, but organization remains a must. It can be difficult keeping track of all of the works that you have submitted to and that are in various shows, especially the more shows you enter. I like to try to have several submissions out at once and often find myself waiting to hear back from as many as ten different opportunities at any given time.

As a result, many artists can run a risk of submitting the same work to multiple opportunities, even including potentially overlapping ones. For all that it is undesirable to tie up one's best work in waiting to hear back from something, simultaneous submissions can be very bad, especially if you do not work in multiples. The act of submitting an artwork to more than one opportunity at a time can result in a lack of professionalism on behalf of yourself as an artist. Many publishers will not even consider simultaneous submissions. If the same work is accepted into two shows at once, how is it supposed to be in both places at the same time? Even if there is a decent amount of time between the two shows, what if it sells at the first?

This comes into play with solo show proposals as well, but not to the same extent. In regards to solo shows, the works submitted may not actually be exhibited and are often meant to provide an example of what you do. However, I have found it unwise to spread yourself too thin so that you cannot keep up with all of your endeavors. If you get a solo show for which you would like to make new work, you need to provide yourself adequate time to do so. If you are showing previously produced work, you will want to consider whether or not that audience has already seen it.

For all that you are unlikely to get everything that you apply for, it is good to behave as though you will so that you have ample time and resources for the things that you do get. You need to consider travel arrangements if you want/need to be present. You need to consider shipping times if works need to be shipped. You need to consider how long it will be before you hear back regarding the status of your submission. Therefore, it is wise to research opportunities before submitting to them, to ensure that they are something that you want to do and are willing to tie your work up in waiting to hear back from.

I am very conscientious of what I have submitted where and keep a spreadsheet devoted to this topic detailing where I have submitted work, when the show is (if it's a scheduled event), and what works I have submitted. This allows me to keep track of where all of my work is and to beware of simultaneous submissions while making sure that my best work is either being shown or submitted to an opportunity somewhere.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Relinquishing DM Control

My husband and I have been discussing a multitude of ways to relinquish DM control in the game. He is seeking ways to increase player involvement on both sides of the screen. I am torn on this idea, though.

Giving players more input means that they will have a greater interest in the game and will be more genuinely involved in it. The DM and players can thusly work together to create something that everyone can and will enjoy and look forward to being involved in. It can forge a healthy relationship in which everyone participating can't wait until they meet again.

However, in allowing the PCs a greater influence, the DM runs the risk of creating either a very scatterbrained campaign (with no real focus or directive) or a very lopsided one (in favor of the PCs essentially either ruling the world or running amok within it). Also, it is good for a DM to have secrets that he/she can partition out to the players as plot hooks to keep them seeking out more. And giving up control can cause a lack of discipline in maintaining roles. For a group that has difficulties with immersion, getting in character or staying involved, relinquishing DM control will either really help or really hurt; some players will get more into it while others don't (and those that don't may cause hangups).

I think there are two key necessities for this to work well. Firstly, the DM has to be able to adapt and to be quick on the fly, and a lot of people just aren't like that for all that they may want to see themselves that way. Secondly, players must be willing to devote more time and thought to the game than is normally required on their part, and they may not want or be able to do so.

I personally find it extremely difficult to be on both sides of the table at once. I do enjoy co-DMing while running a party NPC, or even a savvy PC, but our current gaming group is too small and prohibits me from really doing so, especially now while I'm still learning 4th edition.

I definitely think that this idea has a lot of merit but that it is not something that all groups can undertake. It really depends on the people in the group, on both sides of the table. There are a multitude of creative ways to get players more involved while still maintaining predetermined roles, and I would like to see some of those means explored. The DM doesn't have to just hand over the reins and ask the players to tell him/her what is going on, and this is probably not the best way to go about this anyway.

Claude Goes to Balloon Fest

Claude returned to Centralia yet again for the balloon glow at Balloon Fest.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Interstitial Art -Mall Life

I am fascinated by art that occurs outside of our preconceived notions of what art is and have written about my desire to see more happenstance art before. Interstitial art, vaguely coined as a means of describing that which falls between genres, is of greater and greater interest to me because it provides all of us (artists, institutions, patrons, viewers...) with the opportunity to look at things in new and different ways. It encourages a questioning and reshaping of the status quo.

I recently read an article about a couple, Michael Townsend & Adriana Yoto, who lived in a hidden room in a mall on and off for four years before being discovered. They were the ringleaders of a group of artists living in the mall and had moved in to gain a better understanding of its impact on the community and as a means of social commentary. They were even featured on national news after their discovery.

At the time, the squatters hadn't considered their actions as art, but have since come to see them in that way. When they first moved in, they wanted to learn what the mall had to offer outside of just shopping and eating. They wanted to see what the mall offered beyond commerce and to gain a better understanding of the community that is fostered there.

I find this particularly interesting given the current state of all too many malls nowadays. With the economy down and people shopping less, mall traffic and sales have decreased. A lot of malls are losing retailers and seem to be slowly dying. Vacant spaces are curtained off, their windows used to display wares advertising remaining stores and restaurants.

Some art groups have examined and utilized these spaces (Art Dimensions had been located in a downtown mall, using vacant windows as small galleries in which to display artworks, until it was closed for renovation). I think it's good that artists can reassess and reshape our experiences around such spaces and hope that they will be allowed more freedom to do so in the future. It is truly unfortunate that so many projects are brought to such abrupt endings, sometimes even resulting in lawsuits, when no real harm, vandalism or damage has been done. We all need to have the opportunity to reassess and reshape the world around us.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Claude Goes to Alton

Today Claude went to the Second Reading Book Shop and met John Dunphy, an accomplished author who has penned many a great haiku and senryu along with some wonderful historical articles and books, including several detailing Alton and Illinois history.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Claude Goes to Fairview Park 5

And the merry-go-round made him dizzy. Thank you to my stepmom, Alexis Weigel, for shooting these pictures at the park.

Claude Goes to Fairview Park 4

The tire swing was his favorite!

Claude Goes to Fairview Park 3

While we were at Fairview Park, we played on the playground a bit as well. They have a nice big slide that's perfectly-sized for monsters!

Claude Goes to Fairview Park 2

We also saw the Centralia Railroad 2500 steam engine.

Claude Goes to Fairview Park

Claude returned to Centralia, Illinois today and did a little sightseeing around Fairview Park, where he saw the USAF T33 (T-Bird).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Work in Progress - Insomnia

I love the visual impact of bloodshot eyeballs to represent sleepless nights. I get insomnia when I leave what I am working on to go to bed. I may sleep for awhile but will wake up later, unable to sleep until I finish what I left undone.

Here I am revisiting another Insomnia piece. I had purchased a whole slew of foam eyeballs after Halloween on clearance, some assembly required, thinking that I would incorporate them into an installation at some point. Such an opportunity seems to be providing itself, so now I am starting to get everything ready. Here they are, peeking out of their plastic bag, waiting...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Entry & Exhibition Fees

There are a lot of galleries that charge entry or exhibition fees to artists. Many such venues offer group shows every month or so with fees ranging from $20 to $35, although some offer discounted entry fees to members at $5 to $25. (Membership typically ranges from $45 to $60.) This means that an artist just starting out, seeking to show a piece in a group show on a monthly basis, will spend upwards of $240 to $420 per year just to submit to one show a month (not counting membership costs or discounts or shipping expenses if works are submitted nationally). That doesn't count any of the other expenses associated with making said artwork: materials, possibly leasing studio space, transporting pieces to and from shows, publicity and so on - this is just entry fees. And that is just to try to show one or two pieces per month in a group show setting, it is highly unlikely that said artist will be accepted into every show entered. Many are doing good to get into about half of such opportunities.

I realize that, by offering shows on this basis, galleries can open themselves up to more ideas and artists because they don't have to rely on sales or limited funding and grant monies to keep their doors open. But the practice of charging such fees becomes a sort of double-edged sword. In fact, in the process of extorting money from those whom they purport to serve, these opportunities can actually limit creativity for all that not being limited strictly by saleability or other funding should enhance it.

Why does this limit creativity? In order to make paying the entry fees worthwhile, many artists will submit work that they think will be accepted and maybe even sell. This is not likely to be the work that really pushes the envelope, questions the status quo or approaches process in a new and different way because that is inherently more risky. Also, high entry fees discourage participation from a lot of artists who cannot afford to spend them with little or no return. With their finances tied up in student loans and other educational expenses, many students and recent graduates who are looking at things from fresh, new perspectives may not be as likely to participate for all that they are the ones who can benefit most from the more unbiased group show opportunities.

I find it unfortunate that there is not enough funding (or that some venues are unwilling or unable to seek it) to allow for more free or cheap opportunities to artists (under $10). Artists should not have to pay exorbitant fees in order to get their work out there where it can be seen or, worse yet, for the privilege of having a juror reject it. Nowadays, many venues are charging exhibition fees rather than entry fees so that artists are not disadvantaged when their work is not accepted for the show but for all that this is better, it is still not ideal. However, as long as artists continue to pay them without question, the fees will remain and, given the difficulty many places are having in seeking out other funding within the current economy, they are likely to increase.

As I've stated before, both artists and art venues need to realize just how much we need one another and to work together for mutual benefit rather than perpetuating and encouraging the same problems and concerns. If more artists were more involved with the groups and venues that represent them, then perhaps they could help find other solutions that don't involve them incurring as many expenses upon themselves.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Art Submissions

I never cease to be amazed at how disorganized the art submission process can be, on behalf of both the show organizers and artists.

From an organizational standpoint, it is all too easy to overlook things because of the large amount of information that needs to be imparted, including requirements concerning both the submitted artwork (size, media, age, presentation limitations...) and the submission process itself (drop off, accepted image types, image labeling...), insurance & liability information, commission amounts, the handling of sales, dates & deadlines, and so on. However it bothers me when galleries cannot abide by their own rules, dates and deadlines. Sometimes it can take months to hear back from someplace regarding a submission and juried shows can get in touch very close to the show dates, leaving little time to get your work to them. This can be very frustrating because it ties up artwork so that it cannot be submitted or sold elsewhere. And sometimes show organizers are not in good communication regarding changes made to the deadlines, especially regarding drop off and pick up times, which can make the process even more frustrating.

At the same time, artists do not always follow instructions and drop off work late or bother the show organizer, which only adds to any delays. Admittedly, sometimes the guidelines are not clearly spelled out or (worse yet) contradict themselves. But a lot of artists just don't read them in their entirety before putting together a submission packet and sending it off, especially if they waited until the last minute to submit work. Artists can also not include requested information, sometimes intentionally because they know that their work should be ineligible for some reason or another and they decide to submit anyway. Or they can try to bend the rules to suit their own needs, pestering the show organizers with unsolicited requests.

All in all, the experience can be very trying from both sides. Both show organizers and artists need one another so everyone should do their best to respect one another and abide by the requirements that are laid out beforehand. I try to do my best regarding this and to be as organized and thorough as possible, although I have been known to create or enlarge problems due to misunderstandings, questions and concerns that I have regarding submission procedures that I do not understand. We all make mistakes - that is inevitable. But we should all be as consistent and punctual as possible while doing our best to pay attention to the submission process to ease or lessen any issues that may arise.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

D&D art

I am not usually a big fan of fantasy and comic art because there is an inherent bias towards depicting sexy scantily-clad females while the males depicted can vary much more, even ranging to the grotesque. This is in part due to a backlash on behalf of fantasy artists against always depicting the stereotypical scantily-clad male Conan fighter-type, but it hasn't really caught on in depictions of female characters to the same extent. For all that a lot more variety is available and females of all sorts of beings and sizes are depicted, they are still typically shown in an overly sexualized manner, as is all-too-common in most mass-produced media that fits into cultural expectations and assumptions. Women should not always be judged first and foremost by sex appeal as too many depictions of them would have you believe.

Needless to say, I haven't devoted much of my time as an artist learning to follow those prescribed drawing styles and making fantasy art because the appeal just isn't there. So I am always rather frustrated when I become the token artist for the gaming group because I have developed my talents in other directions and am not really any better-suited to it than some of the other members, depending on who is involved at the time. However, I do enjoy doodling loose comic sketches for the group incorporating my sense of humor for all that my tastes may not entirely overlap with everyone else's. (That's just too bad for them, because I'm the one with the pen...)

Anyway, I have recently begun doing some such sketches for my husband's blog, The Art of the Near TPK, so feel free to check them out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bradley Bauer Photography Show

Bradley Bauer will be exhibiting some of his photography at Pick Flower Gallery in the Central West End from August 8 through 13 (the show was extended from August 11). If you are unfamiliar with Bauer's work, he uses multiple exposure photography to create strikingly vibrant color photographs. This exhibition focuses predominantly on landscapes, architecture and interior spaces. Bauer's photographs cast their subjects in a very different light, causing the viewer to see and experience them anew.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Self-Censorship and Art

Returning to my earlier question of Where do you draw the line? I am interested in how artists, institutions and groups of artists censor themselves.

We all censor ourselves to some extent or another. Most anyone who thinks that he/she does not is lying to him/herself. I believe it stems from the fact that we are naturally social creatures and want to be accepted and please others, or at least not to be ostracized. Perhaps it was once a self-preservation instinct because we needed to be able to work together and act as a team in order to ensure our own survival. (Even now we still need to work together but industry has allowed us to ignore this to a larger extent than we were previously able because we have come to rely on machines and other things to do work for and with us rather than just one another.)

Artists may censor themselves because they don't want to expose their ideas to so broad an audience or because they want to be able to sell their work or find gallery representation. Most commercial galleries naturally censor themselves by showing work that appeals to and will sell to their audience. And many non-profits and art institutions will censor themselves to some extent or another in order to apply for grants and funding. So we are far from exempt, even in the arts where we are said to be able to freely express ourselves.

I may not censor myself as much as some artists, but I do feel that I must pick and choose my battles wisely. For all that I am not afraid of controversy, I try to be aware of my audience and the venue in which I am proposing work when looking for places to exhibit. So in this regard, I do censor myself. I have found that it becomes easier to say what's really on your mind and speak out about issues the more that you do it, but that it is always wise to consider your audience. Not that people's boundaries shouldn't be pushed, but I have found that if you push them too far all at once you become easier to dismiss. I feel I am better off "infiltrating the ranks" so to speak and then making my opinions and ideas known if I truly want to be heard.

I recently reread Cultural Pressure and Self Censorship by Eric Maisel from the December 2006 issue of Art Calendar. This article goes into detail about how self-censorship can actually inhibit the artist's ability to create as it does with the writer's ability to write. Artists can and will opt not to do things out of fear of reprisal. Like everyone else, we don't always want to draw attention to ourselves and realize that such attention can be dangerous. But this can prevent us from expressing ourselves fully and from taking ourselves and our art seriously. Maisel ends his article stating that, although there are legitimate reasons for self-censorship, "what serves you less well is to censor yourself when you actually do want to express yourself." I personally find that to be very very true.

Claude Goes to The Acropolis

Claude went to The Acropolis yesterday and satiated his sweet tooth by splitting a piece of baklava with me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Week

I have a couple of shows opening this weekend, so I will give you all of the juicy details here.

This Saturday, Neck of the Woods opens at Riverside Gallery, 13 W. Moody Avenue in Webster Groves (next to Llywelyn's). The reception will be from 7 - 9 PM. I have a sculptural piece about environmental stability in the show, which also features work by Jennifer Hahn,, Dale Madigan & Bailiey Mohr. It runs from August 8 - September 7, please call the gallery for more information regarding their hours.

Also, Memories, a solo show featuring rust drawings and poetry, will start at Provisions Gourmet Market from Monday, August 11 - September 19. The regular market hours are Monday - Friday, 7 AM - 8 PM and Saturday, 8 AM - 7 PM. Please stop by and check it out when you get a chance!

Feel free to check out some of the other shows and events I have going on in my blog list to the left.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Painting of Claude

Here is an image of the painting that I made during Claude's video debut.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shock Art

I am going to revisit what got me into this whole blogging thing in the first place, and that was this response. I am also responding to my recent blog question because I have found that many people would draw the line somewhere in the realm of shock art because of its often confrontational nature.

Firstly, I am not generally averse to shock art or transgressive art that serves its purpose. Many pieces of such art are meant to get the viewer thinking about and responding to things that he/she may or may not be otherwise aware of. Sometimes a message has to be in-your-face before the viewer will allow him/herself to be confronted by it. There are some things that need to be conveyed boldly and loudly so that people cannot tune them out.

Admittedly some art is meant to just be shocking and to elicit some response from the viewer in a world in which we seem all too desensitized and apathetic to things. I do see merit in that as well, although I question whether or not an abundance of such things would actually contribute to overall desensitization as they become less shocking with more exposure. This idea of normalization seems to fuel a lot of arguments against all shock and transgressive art. Just because an act seems so heinous as to be "unthinkable" doesn't mean that someone hasn't already done it, though. But at the same time, it can said that raising cultural awareness can encourage people to act upon ideas which they otherwise may not.

In response, I find it fascinating how taboos can change over time and such topics can be more accepted subjects of conversation and even dinner table discussions because people become accustomed to them. Sometimes it just amazes me the things that cause controversy in the first place because I don't see all of them as being that controversial (some are in my opinion quite tame), but I guess we all have our own set of taboos and different moral standards that influence how we perceive of things. I guess we all inevitably "draw the line" in different places in response to our own experiences and ideas.

As for shock art and transgressive art, I try not to generalize it because the messages conveyed differ so much from piece to piece. I like some shocking artworks while I don't like others. I agree with some ideas conveyed in such art and disagree with others. I see some pieces as successful while I perceive others as failures. Overall, though, I do think it good when we leave the gallery thinking and, better yet, talking about things we may otherwise not address.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Claude Is Tired

After his video debut, Claude is exhausted and in need of a good massage.

Where do you draw the line?

I fear that I may be more of a risk-taker than is healthy, at least in regards to taking chances in my own art. I think sometimes I place too much emphasis on the idea I'm conveying and don't think enough about the means or that I don't censor myself as well as I probably ought to. It's just that some things need to be confronted and I tend to do this with my art, appropriate or not.

So I am asking you, dear blog reader, where do you draw the line? At what point does something stop having artistic merit? At what point has it gone too far? Feel free to cite specific examples if you want to. I know this varies a lot from place to place and person to person and that the Midwest generally tends towards being more conservative. Thus, I am also interested in hearing your responses in relation to where you live (you don't have to be specific - country, city, east coast, west coast, midwest, etc.).

Please let me know your opinion.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Claude is a Video Star!

Claude is a video star!!!
Here he is in a Marillion music video for their new song Whatever Is Wrong With You?. This is my submission to the aforementioned music video contest.

Music Video Contest

I just entered a music video contest sponsored by Marillion, but my video is still uploading so I will have to post it to the blog later.

In the meantime, please check out the current contest winner. The winner is to be determined by which video receives the most views and, not only is this video well done and well worth viewing, it supports a very good cause.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Claude Has a Tea Party

Claude had a tea party with some of his friends, including Feral Pig by Christina Ward and Traffic Cone Gnome by Campfire Crafts.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Great Expectations Interview with Jim Collins

My aunt recently sent me Great Expectations, an article from the July/August issue of Symphony Magazine. This article featured an interview with Jim Collins highlighting "how his ideas about excellence in business can extend to the... arts." Jim Collins is the author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. He has extended his focus in Good to Great and the Social Sectors by examining how non-profits can aspire to greatness using his ideas presented in Good to Great without purporting that "the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become 'more like a business.'" Two particularly interesting points were raised in this article.

1.) The social sectors are not built upon the same economic symmetry as businesses are because in business "money is both an input and an output. It's both a means of success and a definition of success." The nonprofits have a different spin on things because "money is only an input and not an output" and is thusly not the main factor for determining success. In the social sector, the measure of success varies from organization to organization but can be better understood in terms of the number of lives touched or improved upon and the ability to educate and push people's boundaries. Collins recognizes these differences, stating that "Business thinking is not the answer, and I want to give business people and social-sector people a common language around the principles of greatness... Whether we call them business or not is the wrong question."

2.) The interview went on to explore how success can be measured in goals attained, but raised an especially interesting point when examining leadership in non-profits. Two studies were cited, one of which "revealed that three out of four executive directors of nonprofits planned to leave their jobs" and the other examined people poised to become executive directors, finding that "the majority said they're not interested in number-one jobs." Various reasons were cited for this, including overwork, boards, fundraising difficulties and overall stress, but the fact remained that the result was a lack of strong leadership and that many leaders took those roles because of their passions for the causes undertaken.

Collins pointed out that, unlike in businesses where "great companies develop their leaders within and move them into positions of responsibility," many non-profits are not doing so and are thusly "not only facing a scarcity of leadership... also facing the search problem." He questions "Why do we not invest enough in thinking about who inside could grow into leadership?" He also questions why there isn't "a West Point for developing leaders for arts organizations?" Lack of leadership is a huge problem faced by many groups and, as those in leadership positions start to feel their passions wearing thin due to the above-cited reasons, there are simply not enough people to take their places.

Some organizations are founded on an idea of rotating leadership, such as the Women's Caucus for Art, and new leaders are trained by those who had served in such positions creating a rotating cycle of leadership. This requires that new leaders be willing to step up to the plate, but offers them some training before they are thrust into the leadership role. Other such opportunities are offered through various programs, such as the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute offered through Regional Arts Commission (RAC). So there are efforts being made to create and educate new and potential leaders.

All in all the article was a thought-provoking read and has gotten me interested in reading the books. How the social sectors operate and the problems faced by non-profits are large influences on the art world as a whole that affect all of us in the arts to a very large extent, especially those who see art as acting as a catalyst for social change.