Sunday, June 28, 2009

Claude Goes to the Urban Art Retreat 2

Claude even made new friends during the summer workshop kickoff. I have worked with Urban Art Retreat in the past and love what they are doing for the community, so it was a real treat to take Claude.

Claude Goes to the Urban Art Retreat

Yesterday, Claude went with me to the Urban Art Retreat in Chicago, IL for my painting demo in conjunction with the closing of the Spring Show.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This Week

I don't have any openings this week, but I will be doing an informal plein air painting session at the close of the Urban Art Retreat's Spring Show on Saturday in Chicago. There will be light refreshments and people are welcome to paint with me if they so choose.

Spring Show
Urban Art Retreat
1957 S. Spaulding
Chicago, IL
May - June 2009
June 27, 1 - 4 PM: plein air painting session

Lack of Communication

Communication is key, as I've pointed out before. Somewhat recently I applied for a show of digital images that was canceled due to a lack of submissions. Unfortunately, no one from the organization hosting the show bothered to contact many of those artists who did submit work.

Now I have dealt with this before when submitting work to various large institutions, especially if I am doing so cold. Some are notoriously bad about not saying anything or getting back to people. The lines of communication simply aren't open. And I've gotten used to being treated like I'm not worth the time to respond to in those circuits (even after I put hours and thought into my submission for a call for art and they couldn't email me even a single line to say that it wasn't what they wanted or it was postponed/canceled).

But I paid a submission fee towards the recent canceled show. Granted, it was very small, but there was money involved beyond just my time. So not only do I feel disrespected, I feel used. I did get in contact with the organization putting on the show, but only after trying to attend the supposed reception and not hearing back from two previous emails.

I understand the frustration generated by the lack of submissions that made it seemingly impossible to put together a cohesive show. But the organization genuinely owed it to the artists who did apply to at least say something about the cancellation. It wasn't the fault of those who did apply that there weren't more submissions - we did our part.

And it amazes me that when I did get in touch with them, the submissions were berated as a whole for being unprofessional and low-caliber work. (Way to go - add insult to injury! Better yet, insult those who want to be involved so that you eliminate whatever support or interest you do have.) But what did they expect? There were no specifications at all in regards to what kind of artwork was sought. Without guidelines, submissions will run the gamut.

This really isn't about the money - it was a trivial amount and they haven't done anything with it anyway (which in some ways is worse because now my checkbook won't balance). This is about having the decency to follow through on something, especially when there was a monetary commitment involved. If you expected such a strong commitment on behalf of those submitting that they needed to pay you, you should take it seriously yourself. Doing anything else is disrespectful to those who applied. And in order to be taken seriously in the professional circuit, you have to act professionally yourself.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Claude Sees the Floodwall

Today, Claude & I went to the Riverfront to see the Floodwall and to get ready for the show at Cranky Yellow. Unfortunately the street and graffiti artists have not garnered much local understanding or support (as the January State of Street Art article in the Riverfront Times can attest) and so the Floodwall hasn't been near so celebrated or maintained as it should be in recent years. Nonetheless there is still some amazing artwork there and the evolution and/or deevolution of the space is well-worth seeing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

On Seeking Advice

I have written a lot of advice on my blog about various topics, including dealing with rejection, taking care of yourself, self-motivation, professionalism and more. Today, I am going to touch on the subject of seeking advice once more, after reading Aunia Kahn's recent post I Love Your Work, I Have a Question. (Jeane Vogel had touched on this topic earlier as well.)

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain when you are just starting out. Often, it's hard to discern where to go and what to do. So a lot of emerging artists turn to those whom they see as professional, successful and/or approachable for answers. However, it can be difficult to ask for advice. I am not overly forward and thus have never really known how to go about this myself, but here are some things worth keeping in mind.

- Be courteous but be honest. It doesn't behoove you to compliment another artist's work solely to connect with that artist, so any compliments you offer should be genuine. Don't get me wrong, compliments are great, but they shouldn't be offered as a means of sugar coating your real intent because they will seem less genuine and thus lose much of their meaning.

- Be professional. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and explain what you are doing and where you want to go with your work. Do the leg work first, before asking, so you appear committed to yourself and don't seem to be just wasting someone's time.

- Remember, nobody has to respond to you and time is precious, so keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don't forget that whomever you are asking has likely heard it all before and that you're not the only one seeking their advice. If you want to build a rapport with an artist and are looking for a mentor figure then you need to be willing to invest the time to do so (and it will take up a lot more of your time than the person with whom you would like to connect). Don't expect a total stranger to feel obligated to help you out or offer you advice.

- Think about the context of what you are doing. I've found that unsolicited advice can often be misinterpreted (both in regards to seeking advice and giving it) so be aware that you may be stepping on someone's toes, especially if you seek answers from a complete stranger. Try to picture yourself on the other side of that question and think about whether or not you would be offended.

- Don't forget that many established artists have struggled to get where they are and respect that. No one is going to give you a free ride after they worked hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

- Attitude makes all the difference. Try to be positive and upbeat. Nobody wants unsolicited complaints thrown their way. Be aware that you may not like the answers and responses given and be courteous and thankful for whatever responses you do receive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We all have people we respect and admire for different reasons. It is far too easy to elevate those people we do admire and to place them upon pedestals of sorts. Unfortunately this can be very defeatist because it makes the fall from grace so much harder, and so we can become easily disillusioned with our idols and mentors. This holds even more true for those who are living because they still have opportunities to make mistakes whereas we can only learn more about those who are dead since their lives are no longer in the process of being written. We are all human; we are all imperfect.

More important than admiring others, I think we should each try to set an example and to be people that we admire. Truly respecting oneself can be challenging because we are each so acutely aware of our own flaws and know how to push our own buttons, but I think that it is important to live in a way that one can look up to oneself and be pleased with his/her accomplishments, no matter how great or small.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Mohandas Ghandi

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yard Work Nightmare

Well, I finally did it. Last Tuesday I tore out a bunch of the honeysuckle growing up over the back fence. Unfortunately this has since proved to be a huge nightmare, as it was shading a ton of poison ivy in the back. Having never had poison ivy before, for all that I'd been exposed to it on numerous occasions as a child, it didn't register what it was and I just started tearing it out too. I'm paying for this now, though, despite the fact that I always wash up immediately after working in the yard (the exposure was just too great). I started breaking out mildly last Thursday and it worsened come yesterday though I've been really careful. I've read it can take up to fourteen days for symptoms to show. Ugh. Fortunately there is a wonderful resource online:
Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Center -

I still have yet to eradicate the nuisance plant from the yard. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to do so or who to hire to deal with this? It didn't start in my yard but my neighbor's, so I am planning to first spray the crap out of it with that Roundup poison ivy killer to try to kill the plants on the other side of the fence too. But after that I know it'll need to be pulled down. Is it ever safe to do so after it's been dead or dried up for awhile or not? Does anyone have any suggestions of who to hire for fence removal? I'm thinking now that maybe I'd like to get on that sooner rather than later, given what I've found lurking there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Featured Artist

I am the current featured artist on the St. Louis Women's Caucus website. Please feel free to check it out here:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

later rather than sooner

Last night, I stopped by the reception for the new Khara Koffel show, later rather than sooner, at Good Citizen Gallery en route to Soulard Art Market for the Women Are Goddesses show. Koffel's works grant the viewer both an intimate view of her life and of those who have influenced it.

I was especially drawn to When All Else Fails in which Koffel's "ever-present to-do lists... have been reformed as a prescription drug used to combat anxiety" and In Case of the Eventual containing "letters to those with whom [Koffel has] something... to share... shredded and placed in trophy cases to be distributed after [her] death [wherein] the recipients may choose to reassemble the note or leave it as a trophy of what was." The subtlety of Koffel's works make them difficult to fully appreciate without knowing exactly what they are comprised of, and her descriptions of what is contained therein help to convey the sense of memory and mortality that comes across in much of her work.

Koffel's use of materials and attention to detail have an almost transcendent effect as she "pulls inspiration from personal stories, anecdotes, and memories creating installations using specific objects related to her past and present... these materials carry a specific relevance to her own stories but remain approachable to a wide range of viewers." Koffel's approach reminds me Candy Jernigan's cataloging and documenting the evidence and detritus of her own life, except Koffel's works so strongly reflect upon her life and those people she holds dear that her work has a much more spiritual feel. As such, Koffel's works become not just a means of cataloging her life but rather act as relics through which one can better appreciate both her life and those people who have influenced it.

The later rather than sooner show at Good Citizen runs through July 11.

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Week

Hi everyone,

I haven't been as actively showing lately due to the fact that I'm getting ready for all the solo and small format group shows coming up, but I am going to be participating in the Women Are Goddesses show at Soulard Art Market.

Women Are Goddesses
Soulard Art Market
2028 S. 12th St.
St. Louis, MO
June 2009
Reception: Friday, June 12 & Saturday, June 13, 7 - 10 PM

I am also going to be doing an informal wool carding workshop/session at the St. Louis Women's Caucus for Art Gathering event on Saturday.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Blogging

I am trying to get back into blogging, at least when I have something to say. I know I haven't blogged much lately. (I even addressed this in a past post, but little has changed since then.) In all honesty, I just haven't been on the computer much since the Bitch piece.

For one thing, I have found myself gearing up for the institutional critique show and so I have been manifesting many of my gripes in that work. For another, I haven't had much time to keep up with others' blogs and when I do I don't feel like I have much to add. There is a lot of great content out there and it is well worth reading, and so many others are so much better at articulating these things than I, or are at least more aware and more researched in doing so.

More than anything else, I much prefer action to complaint. For all that I'm not an activist, I like to try to present things to get people thinking about things, and if I take up issue with something I find it more productive to make art about it in order to to raise awareness than just to whine about it. This has been even more true since the Bitch piece, and so the blog has sort of fallen by the wayside.

For all you Claude fans, I am posting a lot of our furry friend lately in anticipation of his show. And I will continue to point out things as I become aware of them. I may even review a show or two if the mood strikes. (I have had the time to see a lot more exhibitions lately, which is nice.) And I'll try to be better about promoting myself and what I'm doing. So the blog isn't dead or dying, just changing focus and sleeping more.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Out of the Blue

I know this isn't a review so much as a teaser, but if you haven't seen Out of the Blue at Art Saint Louis you should definitely do so. I hadn't been all that excited about the theme and didn't have any appropriate work to submit myself, but I finally made it down to see the show on Friday and it is well worth the trip. The show is surprisingly diverse, save for the emphasis on the color blue. You will be surprised to see what the artists involved have created, especially since some of the pieces shown deviate greatly from what they have become known for. So leave your preconceptions at home and see the show if you haven't yet been.

Out of the Blue
May 18 - June 25, 2009
Art Saint Louis
555 Washington Ave. #150
St. Louis, MO 63101
Mon. - Fri. 10 - 5, Sat. 10 - 4

By the way, the concurrent exhibition by Nancy Newman Rice is also quite nice, and it is wonderful to see Art Saint Louis honor their founding members with the start of this series.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Revisiting the Last Minute

I have ranted on and on about waiting until the last minute to do things. Art organizations need to be aware of and follow directions in a timely manner just as artists do, and it never ceases to amaze me how many times this doesn't happen.

Yesterday afternoon I got an email from an art organization that I hold in very high esteem seeking a letter of recommendation for a grant proposal. But there was a catch. The proposal is due today at noon. Now I know that it's all too easy to forget things or to put things on the back burner. And sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of deadlines, especially when they are changed (don't get me started on that again). But there comes a point at which one should question whether or not something is worth it anymore, especially when it was a stretch in the first place or when you don't personally know any of the people with whom you'll be working.

Last minute submissions by nature can appear unprofessional. They can be rife with typos and grammatical errors. They can be filled out incorrectly. So where do these proposals often end up? Unfortunately, many find their way to the trash receptacle very quickly. Sometimes, the institution offering the grant will work with you and help you to get your proposal correct. But many times this is not the case and many places simply will not do so because that opens up a can of worms that is much better left closed. (Make an exception for one person/group and suddenly you'll find yourself making exceptions for many, and bigger and bigger exceptions too.)

And how does it reflect on yourself or your organization when a letter of reference has to be wired in? Priority Mail is good - it shows that there is a genuine interest and commitment on behalf of the sender that the letter made it there. Other services, like UPS and FedEx, can show a strong level of commitment as well. But there comes a point when this goes too far and it becomes apparent that it was done at the last minute by everyone involved. And that can reflect badly on your cause by making you appear scattered and unprofessional or by causing the application recipient to question just how important the cause is to you in the first place and how seriously you took the submission process.

A bad submission or application can reflect badly not only on you in the present but in the future as well. It's like dressing sloppy for a job interview and showing up late - you can easily be remembered for this, even later on the next time you apply for a job after you didn't get the one you applied for initially. First impressions are hard to overcome, especially when they are negative. If a submission was sent last minute one year, and then again the next, and then again the year after that, it becomes even harder to take the commitment on behalf of the applicant seriously and just reinforces the bad first impression. This can be overcome if the submission is punctual and correct the second year because those accepting the application may give the applicant the benefit of the doubt, but it is always harder to change history for the better than to have created a positive impact the first time around.

I did wind up emailing a letter of recommendation, but I doubt that in such a context it will be usable. And I did offer that if someone from the grant-giving organization wants to talk to me I'd be more than happy to do so. But I didn't wire anything in.