Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 17 in the Box - Last Day

Thank you Dolores McKenzie-Bush for photographing my piece one last time. So today was my last day in the box. It's weird getting done with this because I feel like I should be going again tomorrow. I have grown so used to it that tomorrow already seems like a mishap with me not going in. If I hadn't had prior plans and had actually been able to perform my piece for the duration of the show, I likely may have even gone in Friday forgetting that the show ends Thursday. I guess I've just accepted the performance as a part of my routine to more of a degree than I'd realized.

Several people stopped in today, mostly students but also a couple of artists, so foot traffic was pretty steady. A few people who had seen me before stopped in to see me again, including the student who visited me on Day 13 and another whom had been wanting a photo. I wonder if some of the others, including the student who has checked in on me frequently, will return tomorrow or Thursday for the last two days of the show to be surprised to find that I'm no longer there.

I intend to write one last post as an overview of the experience tomorrow evening, once I have had some more time to process it all. All in all, these 17 days have really made me aware of my own habits and freedoms and a little of what dogs who are confined for extended periods endure.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 16 in the Box

Thank you Vincent Stemmler for photographing my piece. I finished reading Institutional Critique and After today. I especially enjoyed the Guerrilla Girls' museum activities for children pamphlet. Even after a day off, I am not near so stiff and am still pretty adept at shifting around, although not wearing a skirt helps in this immensely because I have more freedom of movement.

I can definitely tell that the experience of being in the crate is becoming second nature to me. In fact, I imagine that if I had spent a much longer time in the crate (not just gallery hours) that not only would I be even more used to it, I would have a hard time adjusting when I reemerged. It amazes me that the dogs could actually get used to this, which is truly unfortunate. Now I am beginning to understand why those dogs that have been rescued seek the comfort of their crates; that is all that they have known and is therefore "safe".

Just so you know, tomorrow is the last day of my performance, so if you wanted to stop in and see it in person that will be your last chance. The gallery is open from 11 AM - 4 PM.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 15 in the Box

Thank you Aquesha Reels for photographing my piece. Today was much quieter than yesterday, although a fellow artist did stop in to visit for awhile which was nice. (She was the only visitor to the gallery, though.) While at the gallery, I began reading Institutional Critique and After, which has provided some interesting insights into how people perceive of institutional critique work and how many regard it to have become institutionalized itself, in part through the generation of the term "institutional critique" and its consequent abbreviation "IC." It has also been interesting to learn more about some of the artists and ideas involved.

In regards to being in the box today, I think that perhaps my body has become more accustomed to it. (Or perhaps the headiness of the book I brought with me is serving to distract.) I still find myself shifting around a lot on the hard floor, but I have gotten used to the challenge of doing so and the act of moving in the confined space is becoming second nature. My back, shoulders and neck are stiff but are not drawing as much attention to themselves as they have in the past. This phenomenon must be somewhat akin to what I've heard about people who are forced to endure living with a chronic condition, in that those individuals eventually become so used to it as to be more oblivious to the pain and even less aware of its effects on their movements and activities. However, this is my first real experience with such a loss of sensation and/or awareness and it is both odd and somewhat frightening to think that I could get used to my circumstances after awhile.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 14 in the Box

Thank you Ciera Stewart for photographing my piece today. I cannot say that today was uneventful. The gallery was bustling with activity while the new fire smoke alarm system was installed. It was loud with all of the drilling, and there were ladders, materials and tools everywhere. It was a great distraction throughout the early part of the day, which went by very quickly as a result. Also, I had a couple of visitors, including Brooke from yesterday and my mother. Thank you both for dropping by.

In the meantime, I read He's a Stud, She's a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti. I thoroughly enjoyed the humorous and sarcastic tone and would highly recommend it. For all that the book doesn't get into all the nitty gritty of a lot of the double standards that it touches on, it really does draw attention to a lot of disparities and offers some suggestions about what you as a reader can do about them. I think I am especially drawn to this aspect of it, since even here in my blog I prefer to try to offer solutions to perceived problems and rants rather than just complaining.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 13 in the Box

Thank you Brooke Roth for photographing my piece today. Today was fairly uneventful. I slept better last night and so am not as stressed or as physically drained as I have been. Several people stopped in to see me again who had seen me before, which was nice.

While I was at the gallery today, I read Letters to a Young Artist, which offered some interesting insights but I think the book could have greatly benefited from including the initial letter to which the responses were generated to give a better sense of the discourse that took place.

I am beginning to wonder: just what is it about a woman in a vulnerable situation that some men find so interesting, appealing and/or potentially attractive anyway? I got into a discussion about dating and attractiveness with a student who stopped in the gallery today, and it reminded me again of how I am a captive audience. This wasn't as confrontational as my previous experience, and I hope that maybe some of my insights made an impression since too few people of either gender seek advice from those to whom they are attracted. It was still kind of odd, though, if for no other reason than an unfortunately small number of people discuss these issues, especially with people they don't know well. Understanding one another, attractiveness and relationships shouldn't be near so scary a topic as they frequently are.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 12 in the Box

Thank you Ciera Stewart for photographing my piece today. I am still tired from not sleeping well but have been unable to sleep much during the performance. Instead, I finished Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. I was visited by several people whom had seen me before and were surprised that I was still doing my performance after the break, including the student who has stopped in frequently in the past to check up on me. It is nice to see people coming back to see if I'm alright or am still there, whether out of curiosity (is that girl still in the box?) or out of genuine concern.

In regards to my physical shape, I still am not feeling great for all that I'm not sick. I think mostly it's due to allergies from the season change and me not sleeping well due to a combination of factors: allergies (again), stress, my neck and back aching from the performance, watching things I need to contend with pile up waiting for me to deal with them later on, wondering when I'll get a break after this in the midst of all of the backlog... Meanwhile, I am running into greater frustrations in regards to some things I have had to put on hold for the piece (financial matters and such), which is making it harder not to get depressed, especially with some of these things becoming needlessly overcomplicated and further draining my time and mood beyond the cage.

I am also becoming more and more aware of the toll that this is taking on my life as a whole with as many people as have been emailing me lately wondering why I've dropped off the face of the earth and why I am not responding to them. (During the week off, I really did begin to understand just how trapped I have let myself become by my computer habits, though, so they'll have to deal with waiting or get over it while I take more time for myself, even after this performance is ended.) I am having to postpone more and more things until after the performance. I am uncertain that I will be able to get to all of them in a timely manner, although I also question just how important many of them really are. So if you're waiting on me for anything be patient and try to remember what I've been doing lately, why I haven't had the time to get to it and may not do so for awhile still.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 11 in the Box

Not much to report today. I was made well aware of the disconnect from the outside world yet again. When I went in to the gallery, it was sunny but windy. When I left, it was pouring down rain. I was very surprised when Chuck arrived to pick me up, umbrella in tow. I slept horribly last night. My back and neck were so sore from yesterday I just couldn't get comfortable. Oddly enough, I don't feel near so bad off today - maybe my body just needed to remember better how to handle the situation, especially since yesterday was a long day at six hours and when I first began the performance with the reception I was only there for two.

While in the box, I read Alice Walker's Horses Make a Landscape More Beautiful, a wonderful collection of poetry dealing with humanitarian, introspective and environmentalist themes that was first published in 1971 and still rings quite true today. I also began reading Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin but I must admit that I think Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Dr. Mary Pipher was a much stronger book and I would personally recommend that one over this. It's been awhile since I read Pipher's accounts, though, and the performance may be affecting my opinion of Martin's book which has also offered some interesting insights and perspectives from varied sources that reinforce the struggles faced by so many young women coming into adulthood.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 10 - Back in the Box

Thank you Vincent Stemmler for photographing my piece today. Thank you also for generously bringing me something to read - I thoroughly enjoyed perusing The Artist's Body. There was much more activity on campus after the break as compared to the few days prior. I felt refreshed from my week off but was still confronted by a sense of dread at returning to this situation, which this morning was only strengthened by the fact that I hadn't slept well due to not feeling great.

It didn't take long for my back and neck to remember the past days in the box, though, and I quickly became stiff from being all hunched up again. Already, I am very sore and found myself moving around a lot to try to keep from huddling over with my neck craned forward or laying with the small of my back pressed against the hard floor. With reading material, this experience becomes much more bearable, although the eyestrain becomes even more evident after reading when going outdoors into the bright sunlight.

Despite the reading material, I must say that it was rather depressing to be caught indoors all day during such nice weather and I was reminded of time I've spent in the past working strict schedules that didn't allow me to be outdoors or dictated my actions while I was so. (In the winter, these jobs were particularly harsh since days could go by where I went to work before the sun came out to return home after it had set.)

From that standpoint, I think many of us can relate to the trapped environment in being unable to do what we want or to engage in the outdoors while sitting at a desk staring at a computer (or a cash register or whatnot). This made me really aware of how trapped all of us can be and of how much these dogs suffer just in being denied the opportunity to actually be dogs and to engage in the environment around them. It is as if they are never afforded the ability to leave their workstations or office cubicles, except that the boxes in which they are trapped are smaller and even less stimulating.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Week of Respite

The week off has been a mixed blessing. I am grateful to have had some time to catch up on things that I've had to put on the back burner in order to do my performance. I have done some housework and yardwork, worked on some new pieces in my studio, seen other shows around town, and more. However, the week simply hasn't been long enough and I am sort of dreading returning to the performance next week.

Regaining my freedom and autonomy has made me much more aware of what it has been like to be without while trapped in the cage last week. I think this is the main reason I am beginning to dread returning to the performance. It has also made me even more aware of how I become trapped in my own cycles at home, spending so much time on the computer managing myself as an artist, submitting my work to shows, checking up on email and blogging. I now realize that I need to let some of this go and spend more time on other endeavors, especially taking advantage of the comfortable weather while we have it.

All in all, I think that my understanding of this experience has actually been enhanced by the break in the middle. It can be harder to return to something than to engage in it the first time because we better know what we're getting ourselves into and the costs involved. But this means that we can better prepare ourselves for what's coming and better respond to the situation as well. I guess it's a part of the learning process. If nothing else, this experience is encouraging me to really appreciate what I have, to rethink some aspects of my life, and to reevaluate what is important and/or necessary. I imagine that returning to the performance next week will further clarify these reassessments.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 9 in the Box

Thank you Tiffanee Arthur for photographing my piece today. The gallery was painfully slow due to the break. A good friend of mine stopped by later on and we talked, which made the experience much more bearable for the last hour, but she was the only visitor that we had all day long. I found myself shifting my weight around more than previously - I think that I am sore from being on a hard surface for so long and that my muscles really don't want to lay on the floor anymore.

Next week is spring break. I am going to take the week off from blogging as well, so that the continuity remains throughout these posts. I may blog a little more about the experience or related themes, but otherwise I will focus on catching up on everything I have put off in order to make this performance happen. I can't wait to get outside and work in the yard, having been cooped up indoors for the past week and then some. This past week, especially today with the warmer weather, has made me even more aware of how much these dogs suffer, since they are not allowed to run around outdoors, playing, learning, romping, socializing and just being dogs.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 8 in the Box

Thank you Ciera Stewart for photographing my piece again today, especially given that the camera batteries were almost entirely dead. Today was excruciatingly slow. The campus will be closed next week for spring break and a lot of people seem to already be on vacation. Only a handful of people stopped in, including another artist in the show whom I had met previously and a couple of people who were so weirded out by my performance that they wouldn't even set foot in the same space in the gallery. They took off pretty much as soon as they saw me, so they unfortunately didn't see the rest of the show or get a better understanding of why I am there.

Again depriving myself of reading material, I found myself napping on and off. I definitely think that a lack of much external stimulation is causing me to become more tired, because I have otherwise been sleeping okay after the first night. (The night after the reception I had some truly bizarre dreams.) Unfortunately the environment doesn't lend itself well to napping and I have never been good at sleeping in public places, so I often wake up after what feels like an hour or two to discover that only three minutes have passed. In regards to other things, I am noticing that I am becoming more acutely aware of subtle noises around me, like the sound of the heater kicking on or of people walking by outside of the gallery or even the wind blowing past the outer door, which is really not all that close.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 7 in the Box

Thank you Delores McKenzie-Bush for photographing my piece today. This marks a week since I began my performance. Today, I intentionally deprived myself of reading material in order to better understand and appreciate the experience. I am starting to become aware of some psychological effects that this is having. By spending so much time in the crate I am beginning to feel disconnected, as if everything else is peripheral or secondary. As a result, I am becoming self-absorbed, or at least absorbed in the situation. I feel generally drained and lethargic and actually don't desire to be all that social both in and out of the crate.

It is genuinely a privilege to be able to do this in the first place. I have thought about this on numerous occasions while at the gallery. Most people would not be able to put off their lives for the duration of a show to do an extensive endurance performance. I do think that the time I am spending is worthwhile because I am coming to a better understanding of the situation and am engaging others in it. But I will admit that I can have a hard time justifying my art as a whole at times normally, knowing that so many people are struggling so hard just to make ends meet. I think the situation is starting to get to my head and that is what is causing my doubt and uncertainty. Next week will be a welcome break.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 6 in the Box

Thank you Ciera Stewart for photographing my piece. My chiropractor appointment this morning confirmed that my muscles are tense, but otherwise I was not as bad off as I feared I would be. Then again, it's only been 6 days. And my neck is already sore again from bending over to scrunch into the small space - it didn't take long at all. I am really starting to think that the act of being in the crate encourages me to be tired and lethargic, perhaps because I have so little freedom of movement. This holds even more true now, with me having finished reading all of the magazines in their entirety this morning, so intellectual stimulation is also a factor.

The same student who visited me yesterday checked up on me again today, as did a couple of others. The gallery was actually pretty busy on and off today, and I talked to several more students of varying disciplines who stopped in, accidentally scaring a couple of people who hadn't noticed me before I spoke to them. People are intrigued by why I am there and are motivated to read my statement, which I have posted by my piece along with information on puppy mills and MAAL bumper stickers. Many have taken information on puppy mills and/or bumper stickers with them, and several have returned later on to check in on me, so I seem to be making an impression. I can't say for certain whether or not anyone will actively advocate on animals' behalf, but I do feel that many will have more consideration for the treatment of animals when acquiring a pet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 5 in the Box

Thank you Delores McKenzie-Bush for photographing my piece. I was revisited today by a student who had seen me previously and who was kind enough to stop in to make sure I was doing okay and to see if I wanted anything. It was nice knowing that I had made such an impression that he came back to make sure that I am okay. It is also nice to see that kind of genuine concern for another, for a stranger even, given the self-absorbed lifestyle that is typically encouraged and accepted as the norm.

My back and neck are very stiff tonight. I will be going to the chiropractor tomorrow morning for a scheduled appointment, and I am interested to see what he has to say about what I am doing. Also, I am noticing more and more that peering at people through the bars is straining on my eyes, especially when the fluorescents have been left off in favor of the gallery track lighting. I can't even begin to imagine how some of these dogs can see at all after living out their lives with such small traces of light for so long.

In order to be more true to the experience that the puppy mill dogs must endure, I have decided not to take in any new reading material this week and to try to spend one day without anything to read. This will likely occur on Saturday. I will post my feelings about that later on this week after I do it.

I realized today that I should impart some resources so that those of you keeping up with the blog can learn more about what I have been reading, look up information on puppy mills and look for a dog. (I hadn't thought about this earlier because I have provided hard copy information that people can take with them at the gallery; it just occurred to me that some online viewers may want to know too.)

Bitch magazine

To learn more about puppy mills and what you can do to help:

Local Organizations:
Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (MAAL)
St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START)

National Organizations:
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Humane Society of the United States
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

If you are looking for a dog, please check out reputable dog rescue sites and shelters.
Animal Protective Association of Missouri
Humane Society of the United States

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 4 in the Box

Thank you Vincent Stemmler for photographing my piece today. Today was fairly uneventful. Having had a day off yesterday, I did not feel near so stiff. I noticed I was still somewhat tired and even wound up napping a little, and I am beginning to think that the environment encourages that. A few people stopped through the gallery, including some security guards as well as students.

I am becoming even more aware that this piece is really only able to highlight on a speck of what the puppy mill dogs go through. I felt refreshed having not been in the crate yesterday, and said dogs would never have had such an opportunity. My current experience much better mimics that of dogs who are crated while their owners go to work, minus the toys and blankets. Nonetheless, when all is said and done, we figured out that I'll have spent about 74 hours total in the crate during the course of the performance given the current schedule, and there is something to be said for that.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 3 in the Box

Today I am beginning to feel the effects of lying on a hard surface for extended periods of time. I found myself shifting around considerably more in order to raise my lower back off of the floor. I am grateful that tomorrow will mark a day off. Next week will be much more trying since I will be there for six days in a row, but I visit the chiropractor in the middle of the week so hopefully that will help.

I also became even more aware of just how cramped the space really is while trying to nap a little this morning. Curling up to sleep was difficult and lying motionless for long periods caused various limbs (whichever ones were wedged between me and the floor) to fall asleep very rapidly and efficiently. This made it difficult to sleep for any significant amount of time and I found myself startling awake every few minutes to shift around and then drift off again. I wonder if this is something that the dogs must contend with throughout their lives, most without the luxury of a pan between their bodies and the wire cage bottom. Many of the puppy mill dogs sport horrible wounds from the wire cutting into their paws and other parts of their bodies and I wonder if they are prone to bedsores as well.

It has recently come to my attention that some of you are having difficulties leaving comments. My blog account is set up to take comments from registered users including open ID people because I don't want to enable anonymous comments. (I really want for people posting comments to have some sort of identity attached to them, even if it is just a contrived Internet avatar.) I know that sometimes it can take a little while after you have registered to be recognized, and Chuck informed that Blogger was having some trouble with comments a couple of weeks ago. So I am uncertain if either is affecting your ability to post your thoughts and responses. I wanted to say that I deeply appreciate the response that I have gotten to this piece and just how supportive everyone has been, though.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 2 in the Box

First off, thank you Ciera Stewart for photographing my piece today. I have a couple of updates regarding the performance schedule. I recently found out that there is not currently a gallery guard in the mornings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so my performance will begin later on those days as follows. (The college is seeking a gallery person to fill in those times, so I will let you know of any changes should they find one.)
Monday, 10 - 4
Tuesday, 11 - 4
Wednesday, noon - 4
Thursday, 11 - 4
Friday, 10 - 4
Saturday, 10 - 3

Overall today was relatively uneventful. In regards to physical effects, I am stiff but don't sense any more averse reactions having worn a less revealing outfit today that better protected me from the cage bars. A few people dropped by who had seen me yesterday night during the opening, and I had some lovely conversations with a few of them. And several other individuals stopped in, taking up an interest in the piece and admitting their shock at finding a living person in the cage (and not a mannequin). Curiously, a lot of people asked if I was a student doing this to earn extra credit, but I guess that comes from performing the piece in the context of a college gallery.

I was reminded at the end of the day of just how vulnerable I am in this situation, when an individual raised some questions about a totally different subject in a confrontational manner as a result of the fact that I am literally a captive audience. This individual left after awhile because he believed that I was becoming agitated. In actuality I had gotten the impression that he himself was growing more and more agitated due to his body language and demeanor and this was making me nervous, which is likely why I appeared agitated myself. It was a reminder of just how vulnerable I really am, though.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 1 in the Box

I have decided to blog about my experiences in the Women & Environment show. This evening was the inception of my performance. Now that it has begun, I will talk a little more about the piece itself. For the remainder of the month of March, I intend to spend open gallery hours shut within a dog crate. Thus, I will be at Florissant-Valley Community College Monday - Friday from 10 - 4 and Saturday from 10 - 3 except over spring break (March 15 - 22) barring anything urgent that would prohibit me from performing. Please feel free to stop in and show your support and to bear witness to the piece if you like.

This performance responds to the plight of puppy mill dogs who are forced to live out their lives in cramped wire cages. It is also a commentary on how we can become limited by derogatory language by either not exhibiting traits that would be associated with the language or by reinforcing the shame and social stigma associated with it. More information regarding the piece will be posted to my website when I can get to it, probably over spring break.

I felt that tonight was very successful, moved a lot of people and spawned a lot of conversation. Some responded by desperately yearning to free me, others couldn't bear to act as witnesses and still others wanted to learn more about what they could do to help the plight of those dogs suffering in puppy mills who are never afforded the chance to leave their cages.

In regards to the piece itself, I can tell that this month is going to be trying. The quarters are very cramped and do not allow for much freedom of movement at all. Leaning against the bars, they make their presence known. But overall this doesn't yet seem near so excruciating as I initially feared. I will be at the gallery for a longer period of time tomorrow, so I will see if that proves otherwise.

Keep in mind that I can only touch on the experiences of the puppy mill victims for the brief period of time while I am engaged in this performance, so I cannot even begin to fathom what the dogs endure. I can relate my personal experiences, though, and will be doing so through my blog over the next couple weeks. I hope that this helps others to better understand what these dogs go through.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Performance Art Update

As I'd mentioned before, I will be performing Bitch at the Thursday evening reception for the upcoming Women & Environment show and am planning to continue the performance through the month of March. But I wanted to post a reminder and to let everyone know that the campus will be closed over spring break, so don't try to see the show then.

My performance is intended to raise awareness of the plight of puppy mill dogs while also commenting on the limitations imposed upon us through the implications of derogatory language. Information about the show is as follows. If you have any questions regarding my piece or when I will be there, please don't hesitate to ask.

Women & Environment
St. Louis Community College - Florissant-Valley
3400 Pershall Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63135-1408
Gallery, Instructional Resources building Room 111
March 2 - April 2, 2009
Closed during spring break: March 15 - 22, 2009
Reception: March 5, 6 - 8 PM
Note: My Window Into Eden piece will also be displayed in the show.

In addition to the performance art piece, I will be participating in a panel discussion, also on March 5.
Voices: Contemporary Women Artists
St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley
3400 Pershall Rd.
St. Louis, MO 63135-1408
Humanities building, Room 112
Panel Discussion: March 5, begins at noon
Moderated by WCA-STL President Lisa Becker
Featuring artists:
Dail Chambers
Pat Owoc
Roxanne Phillips
Jennifer Weigel

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Arms Are Tied Behind My Other Arms

On Sunday, I finally had the opportunity to view the Gedi Sibony exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. I am glad that I was able to witness these pieces at a time when the museum was not teeming with people because there is a beautiful intimacy to these works that I feel would be lost in a crowd, for all that I am certain the other experience has its merits as well.

The Contemporary describes the work thusly:
More than an inventor of new worlds, Sibony is a witness to what already exists, and he chooses materials that have also witnessed the world... he weaves together stories about the nature of art, space, magic, and experience, but also metaphysical and political stories about efficiency, transparency, re-use, and the power and beauty of bare essentials.

One of the strongest aspects of Sibony's work is how he responds to the existing space. His artworks draw even more attention to what is and isn't there. For example, the placement of XXXX, a floor piece involving two carpets touching, draws attention to a structural crack that is part of the museum architecture and has likely been there for awhile for all that many people (myself included) probably never really saw it before this show.

I am especially drawn to the institutional critique aspect of Sibony's work. He has a wonderful ability to draw attention to the spaces in which art is shown and to the artworks themselves. Everything is strategically placed so to encourage the viewer to truly experience the space and the objects within it. In this manner, I was reminded of the Dan Flavin exhibition at the Pulitzer, but the method and means are different and there is an inherent playfulness in Sibony's work that relates well to Bruce Nauman's Dead Shot Dan exhibition in the other main gallery space.

So if you haven't yet made it out to the Contemporary to see My Arms Are Tied Behind My Other Arms, please try to do so. Make sure that you take the opportunity to view Duck Dive from both within and outside of the museum. While you're there, check out Sean Snyder's Exhibition video as part of the Front Room gallery; the re-edited 1965 film is also an interesting institutional critique piece that examines different aspects of the art world and art institutions.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interesting Trends

I've hit on this topic some previously, but current economic trends continue to be hard on everyone and are especially hard on the arts. A lot of funding has been cut and a lot of artists simply aren't selling near enough to get by. As a result, artists and art venues are being forced to find creative solutions to economic pressures and hardships.

But something is occurring that I'd never expected - I am beginning to notice what seems to be a growing trend towards even more conceptual art. I am uncertain if the trend is necessarily all that strong or if I just happen to be more acutely aware of it from being involved in as much as I am, but it seems that a lot of venues that had focused on more commercial and traditional arts are taking a lot more chances in what they are exhibiting. Some commercial establishments are setting aside space for artists to explore ideas that are not as salable while other venues are seeking to bring in a new and diverse range of expression that hadn't previously been seen there.

I guess this sort of makes sense because so many people with property and land are having a hard time renting or leasing it out with so many businesses having to cut back. Many of those propertyowners are trying to help support the art and artists in the interim (while their abilities to lease their properties are down) as a means of promoting culture in the areas in which they have assets and in order to allow more people in to see their properties since art viewers could be interested in leasing later on or may be looking for office space. So more inexpensive venues in which artists can display their work or house their studios, both on a short term and long term basis, are becoming available.

However, I had thought that with so many artists and existing art establishments facing such difficulties selling that many commercial galleries would become even more money-driven in order to focus even more on selling to make up for tightening budgets. I had feared with so many budget cuts and government funding gone that even more conceptual institutions would be hard-pressed to show as conceptual, edgy and provocative of works in order to try to encourage more patronage to help offset the loss of grant monies. However, it seems that many are going the opposite route, trying to stick it out while bulding up a larger and broader base of people who are interested in attending their shows.

I am pleasantly surprised, in the face of hard times, that many artists and arts institutions are seeking creative alternatives and are promoting an even more diverse range of artworks. It just goes to show that many people are trying to make the best of the situation by trying new and diffeent things, broadening their horizons, encouraging thought and taking creative approaches. I am intrigued to see where this will lead us in the long run.

From Doors... To Dreams

Yesterday, I worked on a door to donate to Habitat for Humanity as part of their From Doors... To Dreams fundraiser in which local artists can paint and decorate doors to be auctioned off at the Home Builders Association St. Charles Home Show in April. Several artists and art groups have become involved in this project, and I participated on behalf of the St. Louis chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art with several other members. A painting day at ReStore was arranged for those who cannot transport doors themselves, but many artists took doors with them to work on in their studios at their leisure.

It was interesting to see the different themes and doors that were created. I worked on a contemporary jungle themed door using black acrylic and faux foliage. Other doors created included a splatter technique door vaguely reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's work in purple, red and salmon with black edging stripes. There were also doors bearing different animals, including a giraffe and several koi. Another door bore a fashion theme with a model leaning against the door frame. And that is only representative of those pieces that artists worked on at ReStore, many more artists picked up doors to work on at home.

For all that I frequently lament how often we are hit up for donations, I think that it is important for artists and art groups to be involved in and to give back to the community, and I am glad that the Women's Caucus was a part of From Doors... To Dreams. I hope that the fundraiser is successful, in regards to bringing in some money and in regards to raising awareness (on behalf of both Habitat for Humanity and the artists involved).