Friday, August 28, 2009

More on Entry Fees

I recently posted a response to a local listserv regarding entry fees, which I am copying to my blog here. For those of you following this, I won't deny that my sentiments on the subject have changed some over time. I do still get irritated over entry fees. But I also see how they've come to be an integral part of the submission process for all that I don't necessarily like it. And I see how so many organizations come to rely on them to stay afloat, especially in tough economic times when other funding is harder to obtain. Essentially, the more I think about it, the more I realize that artists must be willing to invest in their careers and that different artists have different criteria for this. Entry fees can help open up opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist - chances to show work that isn't as commercially-viable, work by less established artists and those just starting out, work that confronts the status quo, work that otherwise simply would not be funded...

Entry fees do seem to be on the increase, I think in part because so many grants and patronage have been lost or cut back, thus forcing many organizations to struggle to survive by relying more and more on the artists that they serve to stay afloat. But we as artists can't legitimately sit back and complain without recognizing our active role in this. We feed into the cycle by entering shows and paying the fees charged. Unless we collectively decide that we've had enough and en masse choose not to enter shows that charge exorbitant entry fees then there is less incentive for organizations to change, even if those organizations legitimately want to do so as a benefit to the artists but haven't found other ways to make ends meet. (Recently it seems that a lot of opportunities are being extended due to too few submissions; perhaps this does mean that artists are reassessing whether or not they want to pay those fees to participate and are being more selective about what shows they do enter.)

From an organizational standpoint, entry fees are good. They help to fund exhibitions and opportunities. And charging a fee to enter can ensure that artists will be more likely to follow the submission guidelines and to enter their best works to avoid declination. So it can benefit the show organizers in many ways. So I don't take up issue with the practice (although I will admit that some fees seem high to me too, but I just don't respond to those calls). What irks me is when exceptions are made for some and not for others. Inviting guest/celebrity artists is different because that establishes a difference up front, but waiving fees for friends and making exceptions regarding drop off times, presentation, and other logistics is both unprofessional and unfair to those who abide by the rules. It can reflect poorly on the show organizers, especially when they have put out a public call. As other artists learn of differences in treatment, it can dissuade them from abiding by the rules and encourage them to seek exceptions for themselves. And it can cause an uproar on behalf of those artists who felt like they got a bad deal because no one bent the rules for them. It also behooves show organizers to be courteous and communicative to those who entered, especially if there was an entry fee charged. Those artists who entered put both time and money into the submission process and deserve to be treated respectfully and professionally. Let them know of scheduling changes promptly and acceptances & declinations on schedule - they'll be more likely to want to work with you again in the future if you do. I appreciate all of the galleries and organizations that I've worked with and I understand that putting on an event is a lot of work and that things come up, but please be aware if you are organizing a show that you will be remembered by all of those artists who submitted and participated, for better or for worse.

I personally feel that it is up to each artist as an individual to determine whether or not he/she thinks something is a benefit and to weigh it against his/her career and what he/she wants to gain from the experience. It is important to examine the pros and cons. Sometimes the entry fees are worth it and sometimes they're not. Acceptance fees are somewhat better because they are only charged to those who are showing their art and thus gaining the benefit of exposure, but those can be high too and so those opportunities should be weighed according to the pros and cons as well. This also holds true in regards to donating artworks to fundraisers and volunteering time in organizations. We are all at different stages of our careers and all have different needs, so we need to determine this individually. Essentially, ask yourself - what am I willing to put towards this (time, money, materials...)? How does it benefit me? How does it benefit the art community as a whole?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Claude show ending

Claude wanted me to post a reminder that his show at Cranky Yellow ends this Saturday, so hurry down and see it if you haven't yet and want to. Only three days left!

Claude: The Monster, The Myth, The Legend
reception: Friday, August 7, 2009 7 - 11 p.m.
Show runs through Saturday, Aug. 29.
Free and open to the public.

Cranky Yellow
2847 Cherokee Street
St. Louis, MO 63118

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Claude Videos - Monsters of ROCK

Here's another of the Claude videos. This one features us playing Rock Band with Feral Pig and Garden Gnome. And yes, that's me singing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rough times...

I know that I've ranted before about artists having to donate time, artwork and money to keep arts organizations afloat. This post isn't really a rant so much as some thoughts on the topic, though, in response to the fact that a well-established arts organization and anchor in the arts community that I am involved with is struggling to make ends meet after grant funding has been cut and their main fundraiser didn't go as well as in past years, and so after deliberation sent out a letter to the membership asking for money to keep the doors open. It saddened me greatly to learn of this, and it really hit home as to how badly the economy is affecting all of us. (I knew this already, but every time it manifests itself the effects become yet more apparent and widespread.)

Art is considered a luxury. There's no getting around that. We don't culturally value free expression and even if we did, we don't need it for our physical survival like we need water, food, medical attention and shelter. In rough times, such luxuries often fall by the wayside with more people focusing solely on the bare necessities, those things that they need to get by. So sales go down and funding drops away from things that aren't seen as absolute necessities. This takes the form of fundraisers that don't raise much money towards the causes they support, grants that are cut, people who may otherwise make a purchase looking instead of buying...

I was really bummed out about this last week. It is frustrating knowing that my career path is considered an indulgence or extravagance, deemed unnecessary by so many people outside of the arts who don't understand why modern art should be supported at all. I wondered, how am I going to make it when even one of the leading art community resources is struggling so? And a depressing conversation about the leveling of the playing field wherein only those organizations that the city will support would survive (even if that should amount to only one or nothing) only made the outlook seem bleaker.

But there are multiple ways to look at things, and though it is easy to be depressed these situations also offer the opportunity to reassess, to look at things differently and to really come together in solidarity and support across disciplines. In our own art careers, we can adapt to what we are successfully selling, perhaps offering more smaller, lower ticket items in place of larger, more expensive ones, or we can look at the decline in sales as an opportunity to explore new means of expression. We can support other artists by buying their art and attending their shows with genuine enthusiasm about what they are doing and not just to network and hobnob with whoever is there.

In regards to those art organizations we support, we can help out by volunteering our time and money and by bringing new people into the organizations. (I know that giving more freely of time and money isn't something I'd normally condone, but right now many organizations are struggling just to scrape by after funding cuts and so there are fewer opportunities for them to become self-sufficient. If we want to continue to be able to be a part of these organizations and to see them into the future, we may have to be more involved in keeping them afloat, at least for awhile.)

Above all else, we should keep our minds open to new ways of doing things and new approaches that could develop into better business practices in the long run.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Through the Eyes of a Child

Janiece Muntadar Senn's featured artist show, Through the Eyes of a Child, opened at Avante Art Gallery in Maplewood this evening. It is always a pleasure to see Senn's work, and a surprise each and every time as well since she works in so many different media and techniques.

Through the Eyes of a Child featured several new collage pieces and wall-hung works in addition to a few sculptural pieces. The collages were intriguing and I especially liked the format of the large series because they had the same basic framework, found trays hung vertically that are much taller than they are wide. In addition to providing a lot of compositional interest and cohesion, this format related to the theme of the show by bespeaking a sense of time. And Senn worked within the challenging vertical format wonderfully, exploring all sorts of objects, colors and found images.

I was especially drawn to a large scale painting entitled Winter. This piece featured many layers of white on white and minimal color. The subtle beauty was entrancing and reflected upon the subject well. It was also a joy talking to Senn about the painting: how she enjoyed working on it and would like to see more explorations in white. This piece is extrememly difficult to photograph and digital images don't do it justice, though, so you should see it in person if at all possible. (That really holds true for any art that wasn't conceptually meant to be viewed online; everything is so much better seen in person in the context in which it was conceived. But in the case of something like this, it is absolutely necessary to see it in person.) I cannot wait to see the rest of the series, Spring, Summer and Fall, later on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Claude Videos

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be uploading the new Claude videos to YouTube. (Claude debuted five new music videos at his show.) Please feel free to check out my channel as well if you like. As I post videos to YouTube, I will embed them here as well so you can see them from here on the blog. This first video is of Claude and I playing Dance Dance Revolution.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Myths About Art

A friend recently forwarded this in an email to me. I found it interesting, so I'm posting it here. I have responded to some of the ideas with some of my own thoughts.

'Anyone could paint that' and 7 other myths about art
by Paddy Johnson

Art enriches our lives when we allow it to do so. But reflection, judgment, and participating in the struggle to articulate what art actually communicates isn't easy for anyone, and sometimes we let that thwart our experience. That contemporary art seems to be anything an artist wants it to be can lead to a lot of confusion, most notably, the willy-nilly application of the term to anything with a creative impulse. It also tends to inspire inaccurate comments such as "art is subjective," a frequent euphemism for "don't ask me to explain it." This reticence to discuss art maintains the popular misconceptions that keep us from effectively engaging it. But it doesn't have to be this way. Here are eight common contemporary art myths that disrupt the viewing experience

1. Viewing work online or in reproduction gives an accurate account of the artwork. At some point, many of us have made the mistake of thinking that replicas capture enough information to understand art we haven't seen in person. In truth, no amount of detail replaces the gallery experience. Space, texture, and light affect how we perceive the work. Viewing the work in person is essential. It weighs the aesthetic value of the object equally with the artist's intent. Conceptual art still typically requires a nod to the visual. There might not be a lot to see in Robert Rauchenberg's Erased De Kooning Drawing, for example (a piece in which the title describes the work), but only the act of looking at it in person illuminates it. De Kooning was the most prominent painter at the time that piece was executed, so much so that his legacy intimidated other artists. The actual erasure of one of his works was meant to break that down, thereby freeing artists to pursue other paths. Seeing the remnants of the drawing in person speaks both to the foundation upon which De Kooning's legacy was built and its mutability.
Some artwork is designed to be viewed online, but most simply isn't. Thus it isn't fair to the work to look at it out of context and pass judgment on it, though all of us inevitably do so. Viewing art in person is a participatory act. This is especially true for installation art which creates an all-encompassing experience when you are immersed in viewing it.

2. This work generated so much discussion, it must be good! A lot of people talk about Lindsay Lohan, but this doesn't lead people to conclude that she is an excellent actress. The same rationale needs to be applied to art. Media starlets Damien Hirst, Banksy, and Vanessa Beecroft generate media spectacle around their personality and art designed to elicit a response. But the power of a media story is not the same as great art and shouldn't be mistaken as such.
It is always interesting what garners the most attention. Sometimes attention is drawn because people can't stop talking about something. That, in and of itself, can be the biggest strength (or the biggest weakness) of an artwork overall.

3. Anything can be art! French artist Marcel Duchamp didn't make every shovel art, just the one he labeled. In other words, while context and intentionality can earn a work the title of "art," an object that randomly evokes an artistic reference does not. If it's in a gallery, or if an artist says it's art, it is (even if you don't like it).
I love how people can become both more and less open-minded at the same time. It is good to have reputable venues in which to explore and deviate from what is and isn't accepted. But it is also good to push the envelope in regards to who is making these determinations and value judgments. So it is even better when alternative venues outside of the established institutions are springing up and other voices are being heard. Don't just rely on the historians, curators and critics to determine what is and isn't valid or worthwhile. Look around and see what people outside of the establishment are doing as well. The Internet is an amazing resource for connecting people and ideas in ways once thought unimaginable, for all that it isn't typically the best way in which to view artwork.

4. Value is completely subjective. No, it's not. There are methods of evaluating art, and just because gallerygoers respond differently doesn't mean these methods don't exist. Assessing value, however, isn't always easy.
More than anything else, frequent viewing and discussion develop a skilled eye. Experience tells a viewer what to look for. Avid gallerygoers are far more likely to distinguish a knowing nod to a cliché painting from a poorly executed work because they've seen enough of both to know the difference. Similarly difficult, distinguishing an attractive Flickr photograph from a fine-art print is likely to make the head spin for anyone who is an expert on one but not both of those. Only knowing the conventions of both gives a viewer enough knowledge to make those distinctions.
We all have our own opinions, likes and dislikes - it's part of what makes life interesting. Some people would rather see a unique approach even if it is poorly executed over a "cliche painting." I think that for an artist, it is far better to concern yourself with your own integrity and to measure your work by your own standards than to try to determine whether it is good or bad by someone else's criteria. What is the value of your art to you? Are you proud of our accomplishment? Do you think it represents you well or as you want to be seen?
As an artist, an increased exposure to art (both good and bad) is a huge boon beyond just networking. It lets you learn from others' successes and mistakes as well as your own and it offers opportunities to see and relate to art in new ways. A lot of artists make art because they can't imagine not doing so, and that passion drives them. We can all share in that together, and further foster camaraderie and understanding by seeing and absorbing as much art as we can.

5. I don't know enough about art to talk about it. Anyone can discuss art well; few of us, however, look at it long enough to be able to do so. Trust your instincts, talk about what you see – don't be afraid to be wrong. The beauty of an opinion is that you can change it as your response evolves.
A lot of people don't take the time to really study an artwork. Even some who do really look at artwork are afraid to express their opinions about it. Overcoming this takes time and exposure and the courage to start to speak your mind. But don't invalidate your own opinions before you've even voiced them - so many of us can offer so many different insights into this discourse.

6. Anyone could do that. This sentiment is typically refuted with the argument, "But you didn't." A more common version of the myth circulating art circles, "It's too easy," completes itself with "to take a compelling photograph," or "to make a good collage." In each case, the viewer is actually complaining that it's too hard to separate the good from the bad. There's no easy answer to this dilemma, except to look at enough art to develop a mature eye.
I agree that it is important to increase exposure, though that doesn't necessarily lead to better appreciation or understanding. Some people who question the integrity of an artwork because it seems too easy may just need a better sense of the context in which it was made, but others may not appreciate it because they feel insulted by what is presented as art and really want to see something totally outside of the scope of their own abilities. Essentially some viewers may never come to appreciate what they see as laziness on behalf of the artist, and they simply cannot understand why something that took so little effort is so highly valued. Just remember that more exposure can reinforce and feed into negative and biased opinions too.

7. Elitism rules the art world. Actually, this one is true, but the unspoken fallacy here is that it doesn't also rule every other field. If it's not a barrier to your participation in other pastimes, don't let it affect you here.
I think that it is part of human nature to want to set ourselves apart in order to both reinforce & perpetuate status within the heirarchy of any given system and to evoke feelings of accomplishment or purpose within that discipline. Unfortunately art is seen as less necessary than some other disciplines accused of fostering elitism (like medicine and law), so a lot of non-artists just ignore what is going on in the art world because they feel alienated by it and don't have any desire to participate. But there are lots of opportunities and people out there that work to combat elitism. As an artist, if you don't like what you perceive to be an overarching elitist attitude, then examine how your own actions play into that and work to change it.

8. Most artists are "ahead of their time." The idea that the art world understands something regular folk do not is false. Artists don't have any special vision into the future and there is no such thing as an art visionary. It does no one any good to mythologize artists. They are just human. Even Leonardo da Vinci made the basic mistake of mixing oil and water. As a result, his 15th-century mural of the Last Supper is now peeling off the back wall of the dining hall at Santa Maria delle Grazie.
I actually do believe that some people may be "ahead of their time" but not just in art. And not in the sense that they are visionaries or prophets that should be placed on pedestals, but more in the sense that they are willing to take chances that many of their peers wouldn't dare take. However, as I've mentioned before, I don't think it is fair to those people or to ourselves to hold them in such high esteem. We don't do ourselves any favors when we idolize others, instead we set ourselves up for disappointment when our idols fall short.

Paddy Johnson is the founder of Art Fag City, a blog providing New York art reviews, news, and event coverage. She is also an art critic for The L magazine, where an earlier version of this essay appeared.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Claude's show

Claude had a blast at the opening reception last night. He was happy to see so many friends and to make some new ones. He wants to thank Cranky Yellow for having him and everyone for being so supportive.

By the way, Claude now has his own page on my website, so feel free to check it out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Claude Interview

In anticipation of the opening tonight at Cranky Yellow, Claude & I were interviewed by Courtney Chelsey of Girl's Guide to the Galaxy. Thank you very much for the interview; Claude was excited to share some more about his travels and to talk a little bit about his big show. I'm hoping that all of this attention doesn't go to his head, though.

You can check out the interview here:
Girl's Guide to the Galaxy: Meet Claude, The Loveable Bigfoot

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Claude show is almost here!

I just wanted to post a reminder that the Claude show is almost here! Claude is hoping that a bunch of his friends will come out and see his big show this Friday. There will be music videos, t-shirts, plush Claudes, photos, drawings, "Monsterpieces" collages and more and even a guest appearance by Claude Jr. aka. Reggie! Claude is really psyched up about the event and will be at the reception for photo opportunities so don't forget to bring your camera. And the concurrent exhibition Meth & Hotdogs, organized by Kill Taupe and featuring 30-40 artists, will be opening this Friday as well, so feel free to check it out too.

Bigfoot is back in town. That is right, Claude, St. Louis’ very own hairy bi-ped is having a show!

Conceptual artist Jennifer Weigel and plush artist Laurene Franco will be with Claude for an evening of handmade art and multi-media entertainment. Claude will be debuting his Music Video Series and there will be photo opportunities for everyone to be with the 7ft. plush monster (so bring your camera). Weigel will have her original “Monsterpieces” (one of a kind collages) and drawings in different mediums. In addition, buttons, pins, tees and plush Claudes will be available for purchase. The setting is within Cranky Yellow, walls covered with original artwork, racks of vintage and unique clothing and display cases filled with quirky antiques and crafts.

Claude: The Monster, The Myth, The Legend
Friday, August 7, 2009 7 - 11 p.m.
Free and open to the public

Cranky Yellow
2847 Cherokee Street
St. Louis, MO 63118

Presented by Cranky Yellow Publishing, Jennifer Weigel, Laurene Franco and the St. Louis Craft Mafia.

Cranky Yellow Publishing:
Jennifer Weigel:
Laurene Franco:
St. Louis Craft Mafia:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Claude Sees the Gateway Arch & Old Courthouse

Claude wanted to be sure to get a photo with the Gateway Arch before his big show, and so he went to the Historic Old Courthouse where he could get a good view of it.

Claude Sees the Mississippi River

Claude wanted to be sure to see a couple more things before his show at Cranky Yellow, and so he went downtown this morning. While he was there, he enjoyed watching the Mississippi River for awhile.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Claude Sees Beach Guy

Claude was also impressed with the sheer size of Beach Guy who made him feel positively small.

Claude Sees Twistee Treat

While at the Pink Elephant Antique Mall, Claude was quite taken with the monster-sized Twistee Treat and enjoyed an Elephant Boat, a soft-serve ice cream indulgence.

Claude Goes to the Pink Elephant Antique Mall

Today Claude went to see the pink elephant at the antique mall in the old schoolhouse off Highway 55 in Livingston, IL. (Actually, he went because he heard talk of ice cream but he was excited about the elephants and other statues as well.)