Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is It Possible to Over-Inform?

I am not as good about letting people know what I am up to as I should be. I do try to get the word out when I am participating in shows and when I have something going on. But at the same time, I am not one to post about every little thing that I am doing and email everyone I know and every list I am on every time I make a new piece.

There are artists who do so and it can be rather accosting, especially if they are prolific. I'm glad that they are so busy, but at the same time I would rather find out about their accomplishments when they have more to say and show overall and not on a case by case basis. Emailing everyone every time you have made a new artwork and posted it to your blog just seems like a lot of ego-stroking to me, especially when you are regularly doing so multiple times per day.

Perhaps I am just jealous of those artists' abilities to think of themselves first and assume that everyone cares so much about what they are doing as to keep up with it so regularly. I know from experience that I don't have that kind of an audience. There are many people who keep up with my work and what I am doing, but they aren't sitting at the edge of their seats in eager anticipation. I would actually prefer that my audience don't do so - that's a lot of pressure, especially since I am so experimental and may not have anything new worth posting since so many things just don't work out like I'd planned.

I tend to be busy and get to things on my own time, and I have found that a majority of my readers/viewers will often do the same. So I prefer not to bombard them with little snippets of information here and there, instead sending them an overall invitation or larger announcement. However, there are people out there who are excited to be included by finding out about things while they are happening, and they are more likely happier finding out about every little thing as it happens.

So I guess as an artist you need to consider your audience first and foremost. Are they happy to be so included, or are they put off by it? It really depends on what sort of person you are and how your audience responds. But do consider that before you start emailing everyone you know about everything you're doing - otherwise you may be disappointed to learn that some of them not only don't care but consider it an affront.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Kemper Museum's Permanent Collection

While we were in Kansas City, we stopped and saw the current exhibitions at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Typically the Kemper Museum offers rotating exhibitions of national and international artists, much like the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Changing exhibitions allows them to stay at the forefront of what is happening in the arts and to focus on the cutting edge. But right now the Kemper Museum is featuring several themed exhibits of works from their permanent collections, thus reflecting on the past ten years.

Now some people may think that showing such works is sort of a cop out or an unnecessary focus because a changing exhibition would bring a totally new discourse to the venue, exposing the community to something different while staying as current as possible. But I think that it is good for all institutions to focus on works that they have collected every so often because doing so examines what the institution itself offers and how that organization has grown and evolved over time.

By showing works from their permanent collections, institutions can get a better feel for their own visions and come to a greater understanding of exactly what it is that they do, what they have to give to the community and where they have come from. Likewise, viewers can come to appreciate just where the institution's interests lie and what sorts of work and ideas they have supported over the course of time. I found it a very interesting glimpse into the curatorial and collection interests of the Kemper Museum and am glad that I was able to see the shows.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Away for the Weekend

I will be away for the weekend. I am visiting some friends west of me in Missouri, in Kansas City and Independence, after dropping off some work in Columbia for the Boone County Art Show. So I will be unable to blog until I return, but hopefully will have some new pictures of Claude to post.

Can art become outdated?

Can art become outdated? Some works have historical significance and are tied to certain time frames, becoming indicative of a style or change in thinking. Some artists become well-known for being at the forefront of these movements. However, many artists are not so lucky and are virtually unknown in their own rights. Their works may be equally as good, but perhaps were not shown in the right places at the right times to be marketed as well or to be seen as being at the forefront of the movement. Are these works then outdated?

With all of the cultural conditioning emphasizing the new over the old, many tend to see the term "outdated"as negative. The term "outdated" merely refers to that which is "no longer current". We have begun to strictly interpret this concept as we do the term "outmoded", but there are subtle differences between the two and the latter can have far more negative implications because it is assumed that what is outmoded is no longer of use. I believe that art can easily become outdated, regarding the true definition of the word without the negative connotations.

People's views change over time. Technology changes. Artworks that were once cutting edge will not necessarily stay there as people respond to them and move on. A lot of artists have a passion for what they do, and nowadays I think that those works may have more longevity and become outdated less quickly (in part because they may not have been as celebrated or well-received and so didn't become as dated in the first place). But some artists are in it to sell and are making works solely based on their marketability. Those works can become quickly outdated because they can foster derivation and because a lot of such works are generated all at once with a lot of hype surrounding them.

Just because something is outdated doesn't necessarily make it unimportant or outmoded. Current movements were greatly influenced by the past and a lot of artworks and movements have historical significance. Just because a specific piece of art isn't touted as a huge influence doesn't mean that it has no significance or bearing. It can still be indicative of a past movement or of the progression of art. And it can still appeal to people hearkening back to the past or studying the course of time.

With much of my work serving as a means of social commentary, I actually hope that my art becomes outdated because that would imply that humankind will have progressed beyond the need for that social commentary. My hope is that in the future a lot of the issues and causes that I have taken up in my work have become themselves outdated (and maybe even outmoded).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Online Galleries

I talked a little about gallery shows that are documented online before, but that was in reference to shows that had physically existed in the gallery setting, photographs and video of which were then posted online. In this post, I will talk about specifically online galleries posting exhibitions of works that were never physically brought together in one place.

I have mixed feelings about the growth and spread of online galleries. In some ways, they are great because they provide artists with even more opportunities to get their work out there where it can be seen. There are less overhead costs for the gallery and insurance doesn't need to be factored in for the protection of artworks and liability issues. Also online galleries can allow artists to extend their influence even further beyond where they normally could do so while not having to think about travel or shipping. And buyers, patrons and viewers can check out these galleries from pretty much anywhere, so long as they know to do so.

Some online galleries charge the same entry fees for the opportunity to show one's artwork as a physical gallery would. This seems very selfish to me - the overhead costs are much lower so the costs incurred by the artists should be negligible. But, as I've said before, these fees will continue to increase and will continue to be charged so long as artists continue to pay them without question. Essentially, if we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, we will be.

I am glad that there are so many online opportunities for artists cropping up because they allow for more artworks to be shown all over. And so long as they are well-publicized and get good traffic, they can greatly benefit the artists participating. I must admit, though, that I really like the physical presence of seeing an art show in person. It is far easier to immerse yourself in a piece of artwork, to study it in detail and to be emotionally impacted by it, when you are in the same space as it is. This is especially true of large pieces and installation works which can have a greater impact due to their sheer overwhelmingness, a quality that doesn't always come across in photographs or documentation.

However, I do appreciate that the online exhibitions and galleries offer opportunities to see work that I would never otherwise be able to experience in person due to its location. I just hope that both experiences can continue to exist in tandem and that the online galleries don't start to crowd out the physical ones, especially with money being so tight nowadays and so many physical galleries struggling to stay afloat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Light Project

If you haven't yet seen the Dan Flavin show at the Pulitzer Foundation and the Light Project works (Chapel is pictured to the left), I would highly recommend that you do so before they end. I was unable to attend the opening event, but am glad that I have since taken the time to check out these exhibitions between last night and today. I am hoping to see the Flavin exhibition, Constructed Light, again after dark, perhaps tomorrow evening or sometime during its last week.

Constructed Light is very intimate and the works so well integrated into Tadao Ando's architecture that the end result is rather spiritual with the influence of Flavin's work causing subtle changes in light and shadow that seem to transcend the space. I have never been a huge fan of Flavin's work, but this exhibition showed that my lack of appreciation was more a matter of context than anything. These pieces really need their own space and should not just be come upon between one museum display and another, even if that museum has tried to set them apart in their own spaces. The Pulitzer Foundation keeps short hours so there were a lot of people present to view the show when I went, which is both good and bad because there are a lot of people who are then exposed to the work but the crowds can interfere with its intimacy.

Some of the Light Project pieces also reflect upon this same sense of spirituality and space, most notably Chorus by Rainer Kehres & Sebastian Hungerer which even utilizes a church, transforming the husk of the charred and neglected building. This piece is wonderful because it has created a new seemingly religious experience within the abandoned place of worship using everyday objects (lamps and light fixtures) that are often taken for granted and ignored. The other Light Project works were intriguing and thought-provoking in their own ways. Like Chapel, Jason Peters' Untitled artwork encourages the viewer to look at everyday objects anew, this time focusing on the plastic bucket. For all that I don't know just how accurately and exactly the colors of ice cream match the St. Louis sunset, Spencer Finch's Sunset ice cream stand offers a different interpretation of light, encouraging the viewer/participant to think about its life-giving and environmental effects since the ice cream stand is run by solar panels. And Ann Lislegaard's Crystal World is very subtle and beautifully rendered.

So definitely try to check out these artworks before they come down. The Light Project is doing a lot to enliven the Grand Center area and to incorporate art into the streets where everybody, artist and non-artist, patron and passerby, can enjoy it. Constructed Light runs through Oct. 4 and the Light Project runs through Oct. 17.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Claude Gets a Buddy

Just yesterday, a cardboard box arrived on my doorstep bearing a gift for Claude. It was Domo, and the two have become buddies. Hopefully Domo can join us on some of our adventures...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saying No

No. It's a simple little word, but it's one that I have a lot of issues with. Instead, I tend to take on more than I ought to, forcing myself into the position of constantly having to compromise what I am doing. I find that this is a common problem for a lot of people, especially women who are all too often taught to take care of everyone but themselves.

It's not that I don't want to be involved or that I don't genuinely care about any one group or cause. But I can spread myself too thin at times and find myself doing things that are not truly in my best interests or have come into conflict with one another as schedules and deadlines change. As a result, I often wind up playing catch up while never really getting ahead of the game.

Last week was sort of like this for me, and a lot of things fell by the wayside or were completely forgotten in my fervor to try to keep up with the multitude of other obligations that I had. I had simply gotten myself involved in too many things at once and some of them wound up inadvertently being neglected when a couple of crises came up that I couldn't do anything about at the time. So now this week, I am trying to pick up the pieces.

I know I can't do much about all of the things I already have going on, but I am going to try not to take on anything else that will conflict until things calm down enough for me to catch up. So I may not be as thorough about blogging this week as I have been.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Art Auction Fundraisers

I have mixed feelings about art auctions as fundraisers. A lot of organizations rely on money coming in from these events, but many such events do not benefit the artists as they could and instead can fit into that category of art opportunities that extort money/patronage from those they are designed to support.

Artists must give works for the art auction event to even work in the first place because what kind of art auction would have no art? Most of these artworks are given by donation only, and most organizations do not compensate the artists for their artworks but offer them a letter to use for tax deduction purposes and possibly a ticket to the event (if they donated an item valued high enough). Many artists have no qualms about donating a piece of artwork to an organization that they support because they are more likely able to do so than to give money, but artists can be hit up for A LOT of such donations. This is something too many of these organizations seem to forget.

Art auctions can also devalue the work of those artists who donated by allowing collectors to get works cheap. Artworks are very rarely bid up to what they are worth, especially when many artworks are offered at auction at once because there may actually be more pieces than interested buyers and collectors. Some collectors will wait for an opportunity to bid on a piece at auction rather than purchasing one at full price from the artist even if they genuinely want a piece by that artist. Those collectors feel that they are doing good by supporting the organization that the event benefits while publicly demonstrating their patronage and possibly even getting a work for less than they would otherwise have to spend. So it's a win-win situation for the buyer, but not necessarily for the artist whose work sold for half of what it is worth and who didn't see a penny of that.

The art auction can offer good publicity and exposure, but often so many artworks are donated that any one work may be overlooked or lost in the crowd. As a result, "safe" and somewhat generic works that match people's sofas and artworks by already established artists will gain more notice. (Jeane Vogel posted some interesting thoughts on "safe" art here.) Thus those that would benefit from the exposure are likely to find that they may not get as much exposure from the event as they had hoped to.

Some organizations have sought alternatives to better benefit the artists, either offering the artists some portion of the sales price of their work or by offering artworks through some other creative means. The St. Louis Artists' Guild does this in their annual Collectors' Choice event. The event is planned out such that ticket purchasers are each guaranteed an artwork valued at $250 or more. (Donated artworks are not typically auctioned off unless they are valued at less than $250 by the donor.) Instead of an auction, ticketholders are chosen by potluck and then allowed to select which piece they want in the order that their names are drawn. As a result, the collectors actually study more of the works more closely so that they can pick their first, second, third... choices, and the artworks are not devalued because they are not actually sold for less than they are worth. Yes, the artist is still expected to donate 100% of the proceeds from their work to the organization and ticketholders come out well ahead by purchasing tickets for less than the artworks are worth, but the artworks are not themselves devalued because they weren't bid up in the auction process.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Speaking of failures, you should check out Cake Wrecks if you haven't yet. It is hysterical and amazing to see what professional bakers are doing.

Sometimes You Have to Fail

The piece that you've been working on just didn't turn out quite right and, no matter how hard you try to fix it, it only seems to be getting worse and muddying up. You didn't think something through enough and made a grossly insulting statement or gesture in your work that was wholly unintentional and that you had never even noticed. Your work was interpreted as something other than what you meant it to be. You weren't accepted into a show you really wanted to get into or, worse yet, you did get in and then found that your piece was poorly received because no one understood it. You were reviewed by a well-known art critic who completely reamed your work...

As visual artists, we can and do make a lot of mistakes and can encounter a lot of setbacks. We also learn from those mistakes. I hate to use a cliche, but there is an old saying that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Essentially, by taking risks and challenging ourselves, we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow and be creative. Not everything we do will be a success, but that's okay. We aren't perfect and our imperfections are part of what makes us interesting because they help to make us different, diverse and multi-faceted. So, just because something didn't turn out like you wanted doesn't mean that the experience and effort was a complete loss. We can all stand to learn and grow from these experiences, emerging and established, young and old.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gallery Shows Online

A few of the galleries I have worked with, most notably including Altered Esthetics in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have taken to posting pictures of their exhibitions online so that anyone can see them. Cranky Yellow did this for the Crammed Organisms show as well. I think this is great, especially within those groups that show national and international artworks in group show settings as opposed to just local ones.

The biggest benefit is that those artists who cannot attend the reception or see the show otherwise can still experience it in some way from afar. Many artists do not have enough of a travel budget to attend all of the non-local group shows that they participate in, and that's okay. By offering an online photo album, galleries invite those artists, their families and friends and everyone else who may be interested to see the show.

This is also an excellent means of documenting past events, since after the show the gallery will become a clean slate for the next exhibition. Typically, little evidence of the show that was there will remain after it has come down. (Some of my institutional critique works deal with this often abrupt changeover.) However, by keeping an album of past shows, the gallery can use this information as a means of enhancing, promoting and even funding future programming while maintaining a record of past events.

So I think that posting exhibitions online is a great direction for art organizations and institutions to move in. It increases exposure and involvement and allows the group to keep a thorough record of what has happened. Hopefully we will see more of this as more organizations have web savvy members who are willing to get involved to make these albums happen and as more simple and straightforward hosting sites are created online for people to post albums to.

The Highest Compliment an Artist Can Receive

One of the highest compliments that anyone can give your work is a desire to own it. Most often, this takes the form of a buyer who has seen your work and would like to display it in his/her home. It is especially complimentary if that buyer is not swimming in money and isn't just buying your work to keep up with the Joneses (that can have the opposite effect of being somewhat insulting because you know that the buyer doesn't really appreciate your work beyond it being a status symbol).

It is an even greater compliment if the person who wishes to own your work is a friend because he/she has seen your work develop over time and has experienced a lot of it. Especially since your friend probably already owns some of your work that you have bestowed upon him/her (as many artists will gift their work to people they are close to). It can be an even stronger compliment if that friend has some knowledge of art or is an artist him/herself or is among those family members who all too often don't understand what exactly you do despite their having been exposed to it on repeated occasions.

At any rate, a close friend whom I have known since I was a child has felt an immediate connection to one of my pieces and I am highly honored. Unfortunately it is already tied up in a show at the moment, but it will likely return. If not, perhaps I will make something somewhat similar as a birthday gift or something.

Getting Involved

I am a member of several different art organizations, including the St. Louis Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art, Art Saint Louis, the Columbia Art League and Woman Made Gallery. When I become a member of an art group, I like to try to get as involved as I can in what they are doing. This is very challenging with those groups that I belong to outside of my hometown, but I still try to do my best to keep up with what they are doing.

There is a lot to learn from being involved with the groups that you belong to. And many of those organizations need volunteer support and member involvement to continue their programming. So it is a huge benefit to both parties when the members take a vested interest in the groups to which they belong.

Unfortunately, many artists are so busy that they cannot afford to be more involved. As a result, they may have no idea of what is going on within the group. They also lose out on having any input towards future programs and opportunities. As I've pointed out before, a lot of artists can be quick to complain about the opportunities offered, but if they are unwilling to get involved in trying to change them then their complaints, both legitimate and not, amount to little more than whining.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mississippi Earthtones Festival

I have been painting en plein air in Alton, Illinois every chance I've gotten for the past couple of weeks and have come up with ten pieces that I am pleased with. Tomorrow, I intend to frame these pieces and get them ready for display, along with packing up some of my jewelry and other stuff for the festival this Saturday.

Please feel free to drop by the Mississippi Earthtones Festival on Saturday, September 20 at Riverfront Park to check out my work between 10 AM and 4 PM. I intend to set up a small activity center for the kids to make their own necklaces with real bug pendants for only $5 as well! And later in the day, I will be attending the Jacoby Arts Center's Arts & Champagne event. Hope to see you!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Claude Goes to Meramec Vineyards

Claude went to Meramec Vineyards in St. James, Missouri today, one of my favorite wineries for their wonderful catawba grape wines. Thank you to the girl working the counter for taking our picture - I'm sorry that I don't know your name.

My Thoughts on Jurying

Today was quite challenging. As I'd mentioned yesterday, today I served as a solo juror for the first time today for the Pure Enjoyment exhibit in Springfield, Missouri sponsored by Brewer Science. A diverse selection of work was submitted and I feel very honored at having the opportunity to view so many great works of art. There were a lot of landscapes and still lifes, but there were some abstract works, portraiture and other pieces as well. I think that the resulting show will be quite nice and highlight several different techniques, media, styles and subjects.

I hated having to reject work, but not everything will fit in the space, both in regards to forming a cohesive show and in regards to the quantity of work submitted. To those who didn't get in, I would say to submit again in the future and try not to take it too personally. I have written about dealing with rejection before, and unfortunately this is something that all artists must contend with at some point or another if they are really pushing themselves.

One thing did stick out in my mind while jurying, and that was presentation. I know that I am guilty of not spending enough time on this myself sometimes, but I cannot begin to emphasize how important this is. You are doing yourself and your work a disservice when you frame it poorly bcause it really can lessen the work and decrease its impact immensely. Sometimes you will see beautiful artworks presented badly (either due to the choice of frame overwhelming or clashing with the artwork within it or because the means of presentation is cheap and poorly executed). This is such a pity - our artworks truly deserve better and ought to be showcased in ways that strengthen them.

I know that framing costs can be high, but not everything need be framed. It is acceptable to paint the edges of the canvas for example, but treat the entire canvas respectfully and paint the edges well - don't just slap some paint on them. If you are planning to paint the edges of your canvases as opposed to framing your paintings, please make certain to use wraparound canvases so there aren't any staples or frayed canvas peeking around the edges. And staples or other construction elements can be distracting to your work if you allow them to show without making them somehow integral to your design. So please take these elements into consideration when you construct or display your work so that it can really shine. You and your art deserve it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Big Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow I am serving as a juror for the first time. I have served on a jury panel and helped curate exhibitions before, but haven't acted as a solo juror yet. So it will be a big day for me.

I am excited about it because it will be a learning experience and will give me an even better feel for what goes on behind the scenes in regards to how art is shown. I am especially honored because this will allow me to experience a totally different aspect of the group exhibition. It's a lot of power determining what is in and what isn't, but I think that I can handle it and will try to judge submitted works fairly and by their merit.

I cannot wait to see what has been submitted and how artists approached the theme, which is "Pure Enjoyment." I hope that there is a diverse range of styles and media but that the pieces submitted still play off of one another well. I also hope that a good number of pieces were submitted for the show, since entries are down everywhere right now due to the economy.

I will surely write about the experience tomorrow in regards to the decision-making process and how I personally approached the task.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Eyeball Installation 3

Here's what the installation looks like during the day, from outside of the gallery looking in.

Eyeball Installation 2

The show opened Thursday & Friday and I attended in my pajamas on Thursday to heighten the surreality of my piece. If I get a chance before the show comes down, perhaps I will don my pajamas again for a photo op. Here's a detail from inside.

Eyeball Installation

This is the final product of my Insomnia installation in Soulard Art Market's Lunatic Fringe show, which I documented a bit of the progress on here. I will post a few pictures over a couple of posts so you can get a feel for what the piece looked like. Here is an interior view.

Miniatures Painting

Fantasy Shop had an open miniatures painting day today so I finally got around to painting the character mini for my female minotaur Revis Hatha (as documented on Chuck's blog). I haven't painted minis in well over five years but decided to do so for this character because there aren't any pre-painted female minotaurs out there and I really like the character. This mini isn't bad either, for all that I would prefer Hatha to be wearing a lot more and carrying a big hammer... Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with the result and thought I would post a picture here. (Keep in mind, the base is one-inch square to give a sense of scale.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Economic Pressures

There are many unfortunate side-effects of the economy being down. Money is tight for a lot of people and organizations throughout the country, and the effects of this are hitting hard. I am becoming aware of more and more art groups, galleries and organizations struggling to make ends meet, even here in St. Louis where we have seen a lot of new places cropping up in recent years.

Entries seem to be down everywhere, perhaps in part because artists do not want to pay fees, deal with shipping/travel expenses, and/or do not have the time or financial resources to make new work. As a result, a lot of show deadlines are being extended and, even afterward, many shows are still not seeing the quantity of submissions that they would like to.

A lot of funding is being lost. Patrons are unable to give as much as before, causing grants to become even more competitive. As a result, more organizations can need to tap into fewer opportunities in order to survive. This can really hurt non-profits who are competing for a slice of what seems to be a shrinking pie.

Some sales are down because buyers and potential buyers seem to be watching their pocketbooks more. A lot of people are still buying art, don't get me wrong, but many of them are forced to be more selective about it than before, having to pick and choose between the pieces that they want rather than purchasing several at once.

However, good can come of all of this too. With finances being tight, a lot of organizations are forced to reevaluate their goals, ambitions and needs. Many institutions are doing even more outreach to broaden their horizons and reach out to a larger audience. And a lot of artists are coming up with creative solutions, including non-gallery events, increased online presences and exposure, interactive low-budget projects and alternative exhibitions. All of this encourages people to think about how art is shown in new and different ways. So, in the long run, a lot of good changes may come about.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Losing My Temper

I wish I didn't have such a short fuse sometimes. When I am really stressed out and/or lose my temper, I tend to say things that I don't really mean. I will lash out in frustration, especially when I feel I am in a situation over which I have little control or influence. I can then be hostile to those that I am close to, myself included. I realize that this can be very hurtful and that it is not a good way to vent because it tends to make the situation worse, and I have been trying not to let things get under my skin but sometimes they do anyway. It's not that I can't say that I'm sorry, but I'd really rather not act so rashly as to need to.

I know I am not the only person with a hot temper. It seems that more of us are getting more stressed and more aggressive all of the time. What do others do to combat this? How do you keep your cool so you don't blow up at everyone around you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Plein Air Painting

I am really excited about the resurgence of plein air painting events. Plein air painting can do a lot towards bringing the public into art by providing viewers and passerbys with opportunities to see artists at work. Plein air events also encourage both artists and viewers to spend more time outdoors and be more involved in the environment, which can persuade people to think about their impact on the world in which we live and to further appreciate nature.

I have participated in several events this year already, including those in Augusta, Webster Groves and Lafayette Square's house tour event. I am currently participating in Alton's Mississippi Earthtones event and have registered for the St. Charles as well. I am even planning a solo show of my plein air works. Please feel free to check out some of my paintings on my website here.

Painting en plein air originally didn't seem like something that I would get into because I'm not much of a painter, but I have found that I enjoy it immensely and that I don't have to work in a traditional manner to be involved. I guess it only goes to show that you shouldn't pass judgment on things that you haven't tried or experienced yourself because you may surprised to find out that they aren't at all what you expected them to be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Keeping Your Health in Mind

Today I'm kind of revisiting some of my earlier posts about keeping yourself in mind and setting up shop. It is all too easy to take our health for granted until we become sick. Many artists don't consider their health as much as they probably should. Some even consider health insurance to be a luxury or something that you work another job to get. (Artists can get on a group health insurance plan through many organizations, such as Fractured Atlas.) And some artists also regard retirement as unnecessary because we all hope to be able to work on our art forever and cannot imagine ever giving it up. But what if our health forces us to do so, disabling us from doing what we love?

Mostly, I wanted to use this blog post to remind other artists to take their materials into consideration. A lot of artists work with a lot of known carcinogenic materials and media that can be damaging with prolonged exposure. And some materials which are thought to be safe are actually later determined to be hazardous; artists who are at the forefront, working with new media and technology, can inadvertently expose themselves to harmful substances without even knowing what effect those substances will have because the research isn't complete yet. Many artists have died from working with the materials that they love, notably including Eva Hesse and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Always always always make certain that you're working with adequate ventilation. Just because something does not smell or have a chemical odor doesn't mean that it's safe! Don't forget that with increased exposure to such smells, we can get used to them and become unaware of them. This is true of animal hoarders living with dozens upon dozens of cats - after a time they cannot smell the urine and feces that accumulates. It is also true of artists who spend a lot of time in poorly ventilated studios - they may not even be able to smell their media anymore! Fans are good, open windows are good, face masks and breathing apparatus are good (especially with anything that generates a fine mist or dust, like charcoal, graphite, airbrushing, woodworking...). We breathe enough pollutants just from living where we live, especially if we live around cities or agricultural and/or industrial centers, so we should do everything we can to reduce our exposure to other airborne contaminants.

Also, make sure to avoid skin contact with substances that can be easily absorbed. If you do come in contact with such a substance, try to clean it up immediately. Don't wait until you're done with what you're doing - you could forget about it over the next three or four hours spent working away. Try to keep your studio space relatively clean to avoid coming into contact with such things near so often. A well-used studio shouldn't be immaculate, but it shouldn't be a pigsty either. It is a good habit to spend some time daily cleaning up and putting things away, perhaps when wrapping things up in the studio for the day. (This is something that I need to take to heart myself, as I have a tendency to leave things out and about until I am done with them entirely and sometimes even beyond that.)

Many artists just don't respect their materials as much as they should, taking both their media and their health for granted. We soon forget just how much exposure we are having to said substances because we can all too easily lose track of time while working on our art. It is easy to think, "Oh, I only need to glue this one little thing - what harm can that do?" But before we know it, we've spent four hours in the studio working on an uncooperative piece, trying to simply glue that "one little thing". So try to have some consideration for whatever you are working with, because you may be exposed to it a lot more than you are even aware of.

Monday, September 8, 2008

This Week

I am participating in two group shows coming up later this week here in St. Louis. Please feel free to join me at any/all of the receptions and see some of my new work.

Ladies' Night, Art Show at the YMCA, sponsored by the Academy of Contemporary Arts
Edward Jones Family YMCA
12521 Marine Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63146
Show: Wednesday, September 10 - Thursday, September 25
Reception: Wednesday, September 10, 6 - 9 PM
I will have several necklaces on display at this exhibition.

Lunatic Fringe
Soulard Art Market
2028 S. 12th St.
Soulard, MO 63104
Show: Thursday, September 11 - Saturday, October 5
Informal Reception: Thursday, September 11, 7 - 10 PM
Formal Reception: Friday, September 12, 7 - 10 PM
This is where my Insomnia window installation that I was working on previously can be viewed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Claude Goes to Spanky's

Claude indulged his sweet tooth yet again, this time at Spanky's Frozen Custard in Sappington, Missouri.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Art Overload

It has been an incredibly artful weekend here in St. Louis with numerous shows opening Friday and Saturday evening and two large art fairs: the Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton and Art Outside at Schlafly Bottleworks. Both fairs were very well-attended and the weather couldn't have been better.

First I went to Art Outside at Schlafly and caught up with fellow artists Bradley Bauer, Sean Frye and Mary Beth Shaw. I always enjoy Art Outside because it offers many local artists an opportunity to show their work, some of whom are participating in such an event for the very first time. A lot of St. Louis artists got their start in the art fair circuit at Art Outside. Several are hooked after the event, attending multiple art fairs and honing their presentations in the following years. Despite the newcomers, which do not comprise the entirety of those showing their work, Art Outside is always very professional and offers a wide variety of wonderful artworks in different media and styles to peruse and purchase, ranging in price from $1 up. I even purchased a couple of photographs from Sarah Cross for all that I wasn't there to shop.

After attending the Art Outside event, I went to the big Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton, which is on its 15th year and was juried by Paula Owen, Denise Ward-Brown and Tom Huck this year. This fair is a nationally-recognized event that features artists of numerous disciplines, including ceramics, digital art, drawing & pastels, fiber, glass, jewelry, metalwork, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and wood. Over 150 artists from across the country participated in the St. Louis Art Fair over the weekend, including several local artists. My friend Sarah Giannobile participated for the first time this year, and her work was chosen to represent the 2008 event on the poster and program guide! (Congratulations Sarah!)

The Saint Louis Art Fair was immense, stretching up and down several city blocks. I am not even certain that I managed to see everything there was to see after looping around the city streets, but I'm pretty certain I saw all of the artists' booths at least. (I skipped the food vendors since I wasn't hungry and had eaten before I went, but many enticing smells were coming from that direction and a lot of the area restaurants were also serving food outside so fairgoers could enjoy the atmosphere while indulging in a sit-down lunch.) The crowds were very thick, which is a testament to the success of the event and is great for the participating artists for all that it can be frustrating when you have to elbow your way in to see everything.

I'll admit that I prefer the Art Outside event for its laid-back atmosphere and because the crowds weren't so incredibly thick at Schlafly for all that both shows were well-attended. Both fairs are definitely well worth seeing, though. Many artists were working in similar veins at both events and a huge and diverse range of styles and media were exhibited, offering different things to appeal to different people. And both offer different yet similar experiences. The Saint Louis Art Fair features artists from all over the country while Art Outside showcases works by local artists, including those who are lesser known and who haven't participated in such events before. As a result, both events provide fairgoers with opportunities to familiarize themselves with artists that they may or may not have been previously exposed to.

I must admit that, after soaking in everything today, I feel I need to take a break to process it all a little. I do intend to head out to a couple of openings that I have been eagerly anticipating later on in the evening, though, including Nervous Laughter at phd Gallery and Depleted Uranium Extravaganza at Cranky Yellow. But I seriously think I may take tomorrow off...

Friday, September 5, 2008

What do I do with all of these slides?

I have a confession to make. I haven't shot slides of my work in over a year. Many of the shows and galleries I am submitting to are taking digital submissions, as I've discussed before here. This lowers the costs of submitting work in all facets. Financial expenses in shooting, developing and copying images are lessened if not made virtually obsolete. The environmental impact decreases (especially when you can submit works via email or through an online system as opposed to mailing in a packet). And the amount of time spent shooting images of one's work, waiting for those images to be developed to see if any need to be reshot, and then reshooting them if necessary (staging everything anew) is drastically lower.

But now I have a dilemma. I have a bunch of old outdated slides of works that are no longer relevant (because they are too old or I don't own them anymore). A lot of these slides are the only images that I own of certain past pieces. But I have a lot of duplicates and copies of slides that I really only need to keep one of for my own records. What shall I do with all of these extras? Are they recyclable (beyond making art out of them)? What do other artists do with old slides? I hate throwing anything away, but I see little need to keep them and am simply not inspired to make art out of them. Please let me know what you are doing with your old slides by responding to this blog post - I'd love to learn of others' solutions to this problem that is faced by all artists nowadays.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

About Inclusion

As you've probably discerned from past posts, especially those regarding taste, competition, juried shows, viewers, and art school, I am a big supporter of inclusion and of celebrating diversity in the arts. I want for everybody to be able to express themselves, to have someplace where they can make their voices heard and their opinions known.

However, this does not mean that I think everything should be all-inclusive. Many art institutions and groups have a central focus that determines who they represent and what sort of art they show. It doesn't behoove these institutions and groups to open their doors to everyone. Opening one's doors to everybody can undermine the goals of the group if the group has specific ideals in mind. The goals of the group and ideals that it holds should come first to help determine that group's course of action and to give them focus. Not everyone will fit in everywhere, and not everyone should.

What I want is for as many different opportunities to exist as possible. Not all of these opportunities can and will be offered through any one specific group or institution. A lot of different groups need to be allowed to play different roles and to provide different services, preferably while not undermining one another or stabbing each other in the back. It's a big world out there - all of us should be able to find someplace where we fit into it. This doesn't mean we cannot specialize or differ philosophically, just that there should be multiple venues to cater to those different specializations and ideals.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Last-Minute Notifications

There seems to be a growing trend among art galleries, museums and organizations towards waiting until the last minute to inform artists whether or not their work has been accepted for a show. This is not a good practice to engage in, especially when said artworks will need to be shipped or when delivery times were not clearly stated in the prospectus. I have encountered this more in the past couple of months than ever before. I submit to a lot of shows throughout the country and recently it seems that many institutions are getting back to the artists either much sooner or much later than ever before and a lot more deadlines are being extended which tends to cause last minute notifications.

I warned against this kind of behavior in my Art Submissions post. It bespeaks a lack of foresight on behalf of the institutions to allow artists only a few days to get their work to the venue in time for the show. The likelihood that not all of the artworks accepted will arrive in time is greatly increased when artists do not have enough time in which to ship their works or when drop off dates and times are changed at the last minute. This thus compromises the integrity of the show because works that were intended to play off of one another and form a cohesive experience may or may not be able to be included.

I can understand not wanting works to arrive far in advance if the gallery has no space in which to store them, but it is better to notify the artists and give them a window of a week or two in which works are due to arrive. Granted, some disorganized artists may forget to ship their accepted work when warned in advance, or they may disregard or not read the instructions and ship their work early. But not letting anyone know until the last minute ensures that all artists, including the responsible ones, will have difficulties getting their work there in time. It also increases the likelihood that artists will contact the venue about the status of their submissions.

I think technology may be influencing the growing trend towards late notifications. Email is a convenient and seemingly speedy way of connecting with people. But one cannot take it for granted that his/her emails will be received in a timely manner. Emails can be easily lost or delayed. Some artists do not check their email every day - even now, many do not own personal computers at home and check their email less often through other sources or at work. And a lot of artists have multiple email accounts and may or may not check all of them frequently. So for all that curators and coordinators can email artists about the status of their submissions pretty much down to the wire in the hopes that those accepted will know instantaneously of decisions made, they cannot be certain that all emails will be received.

There has also been a growing trend towards extending deadlines, which feeds into notifying artists at the last minute when the jurying process is pushed back while the scheduled show is not. I think that submissions may be down overall, and that by not getting enough people to participate, many institutions are forced to extend deadlines. However, this is a precarious position for a curator to put him/herself in because it means that he/she is not upholding the prospectus as written and because there is no guarantee that more artists will submit work even if the deadline is extended. Extending submission deadlines can irritate those who submitted on time, abiding by the rules and deadlines as laid out in the original prospectus, as much as they can encourage more artists to submit. Habitually extending deadlines can cause artists not to take them seriously, encouraging procrastination and presenting the institution in a less professional light.

Most importantly, institutions cannot afford to forget that accepted works may need to be shipped in time for the show, which can still be a slow process. Sometimes it can take more than one attempt for a shipment to be received due to carriers trying to deliver packages at off hours, and multiple attempts at delivery will delay packages for as many days as attempts made. Artists should not be forced to front the cost of express air delivery to galleries that do not contact them enough in advance to allow for ground delivery. Institutions really need to give the artists at least a full week (5 business days) to get their artworks there - a couple of days over a holiday weekend just doesn't cut it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tom Pfannerstill at Perlow-Stevens Gallery

I recently discovered Tom Pfannerstill's work at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, Missouri. Many of Pfannerstill's recent artworks depict our detritus and mass-marketed consumables. Here are some more images of Pfannerstill's work as seen at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee and at Trifecta Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pfannerstill's trompe l'oeil renderings of once clean cut advertisements and mass-produced packaging are very precise in every detail, virtually indiscernible from the real things portrayed. He depicts paper cups, boxes, cans and other packaging in imperfect states, having captured the likenesses of such items after finding them as trash on the street. (Each artwork features a note on the back chronicling where and when the object depicted was found.)

By depicting our detritus, Pfannerstill shows how even these mass-marketed objects are themselves fallible, imperfect and transitory, subject to time, nature and the elements as everything else. While encouraging the viewer to look at mass-produced consumables and their packaging anew, Pfannerstill also provides commentary on littering and on what we perceive as trash or treasure.

If you are in Columbia between now and September 28, I would recommend stopping by the Perlow-Stevens Gallery to catch the Summer 2008 Exhibit before it ends. The level of detail and craftsmanship of these pieces cannot be fully appreciated unless seen in person.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Matter of Taste

A lot of trends come and go in the art world. As a result, many people find themselves confronted by art that they do not understand or appreciate at some point or another. Some people then bite their tongues, assuming that they do not know enough to discern good from bad, while others lament the fact that they don't "get it" and that money and resources were spent in the creation of art they consider to be in poor taste. But what is in good taste and what is in poor taste? Where do the lines between them blur? Where does taste come into play?

People in different cultures develop different tastes and aesthetics. Some groups are drawn to certain colors and sounds over others. Different groups prefer certain compositions, layouts and thought patterns used to rationalize ideas to others as well, and these are also influenced by and reflected in the cultures in which we live. There are all kinds of inherent biases that greatly affect the arts as a whole. I have discussed this somewhat in regards to beauty before.

Some artists and institutions strongly encourage art as a means of pursuing high culture in order to seek the epitome of art and the perfection of form and technique. But what is typically considered high culture often shows an inherent bias towards those in power, if for no other reason than because those with status and money are afforded more opportunities to pursue the perfection of man. As a result, high culture can be seen as elitist and is thought by some to be outdated in that it imposes such a bias.

In contrast, popular culture (sometimes specifically referred to as low culture) is more mainstream and appeals to the masses. Some artists work within popular culture, often while being self-referential or commenting on society. As more and more artists have embraced popular culture, the distinctions between high and low culture have become more and more blurred. Several artists have even used popular culture as a means of questioning the idea of high art, for all that some scholars believe these sort of educated references are lost on the masses. This then brings up the question of marketing. To whom are these works really being marketed?

I don't really know where exactly I am going with this, except that I don't think everything should be limited to solely one sensibility. How bland would the world then be, to only have one flavor? There are many things which I consider to be in poor taste because they go against my own sense of morality and so I question their relevance and necessity. But I do not believe that it is my place to judge these sorts of things on behalf of everyone here. For one thing, I have already determined in the course of my lifetime that I respond to different things than many of those around me. Between my offbeat sense of humor and overeager enthusiasm for approaching things differently, for all that this is rarely my intent, I am fully aware that my sense of taste is not at all indicative of what others would even want.

So for all that I do have a sense of what I like and respond to, as all of us do, I am glad that mine is not the only sensibility out there because I think that the world is far more interesting and diverse the more people are allowed to express themselves. I may not like everything that's out there, but that doesn't mean that I cannot appreciate it in some way. We foster, encourage and promote creativity as a whole by allowing people the freedom to voice themselves. If we start to limit what is and isn't art based upon what is in good taste, especially those things that cause no harm onto others at all, then we only serve to limit ourselves as well. As artists, that can be a very dangerous road to tread because we can inadvertently stifle our own creativity in the process.