Friday, February 26, 2010

Art of the Week: Surprise

I know this is an awfully long post, but this piece, called Surprise or SURPRISE! Re-Connect, requires a lot of explanation. (For that reason, it's probably lousy for Art of the Week, but I don't care because it's funny.) So, I made these Post-It notes for Cranky Yellow's first It's Too Late for Fun Time Event (noted below). I am smuggling them into various CD stores and hiding them in random CD cover booklets where unsuspecting browsers/buyers can find them. (If you scroll all the way down this post to read the theme for the event this will make more sense.) Happy searching...

Dear Sir/Mrs./gentlepeople, We are writing you to cordially invite you to participate in the VERY first ALL-NEW, never-before-seen, too-ahead-of-its-time CRANKY YELLOW VARIETY SHOW! But this'll be no ordinary variety show... The show, called TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME, is like one of those collaborative artistic projects that tend to be popular among the hippies, Communists, and some types of fresh-water dolphins and orcas (just the males). Here's the low-down: we provide this really super cool theme (detailed at the bottom of this email) and you run with it. All we ask is that you use the theme for some degree of inspiration to create your original act-of-a-lifetime for TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME, and you're set! TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME will be a showcase of the wide-ranging interpretations/spins/manIpUlashunons that creative people in St. Louis come up with based on the chosen theme. At the very least, TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME intends to be an outstanding testament to the creative juices of you, and you! And you...And you. If you have a loss for ideas re: an act, please consider one or many of the following options: -musical acts (cabaret singin', solo musicians, bands, electronikkkkka, acapella, the spoons) -poetry (spoken word, reciting original work) -comedy (sketch comedy, stand-up, improvisation) -any kind dance/movement/interpretive dance/step -exercise/yoga instruction -burlesque -pole dancing -magic -any circus acts (NO LIONS) -illegitimate medical/legal advice -storytelling -video shorts -dream interpretation -narrated slideshows of photography from really good and/or fancy vacations -drag -trivia -origami lessons -belly dancing -creative writing readings -soap box political speeches -rants/raves -etiquette lessons -special talents (hula-hoop, fire-eating, speed dating?) -anything else you can possibly think of..! Oh and wait, wait, before you go... THERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES. 1. Please refrain from acts containing Physical Violence and/or Hurting. 2. Participants are strongly encouraged to wear festive costumes. 3. Due to time restraints, each act must be no longer than five minutes. Going overtime may result in some confrontation with a vaudevillian-style hook. If you wish to participate, please let us know by SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27th AT THE LATEST with your name and a three-word description of your act. The first TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME will be performed at Cranky Yellow on Friday, March 19th, from 9pm - Late. To learn more about Cranky Yellow, please visit our website at Also, you can visit us at our store, located at: Cranky Yellow 2847 Cherokee Street St. Louis, MO, 63118. Hope to hear from you soon! And if you know of anyone that might be interested in participating, please send this along to them, too! Sincerely, Jo and the Cranky Yellow team! THE THEME: (drumroll plz!) The theme of this first TOO LATE FOR FUN TIME is based on what we believe to be one of the more beautiful Missed Connection Ads from the St. Louis Craigslist. Please interpret this passage as you see fit:
Post-it note inside of a Death Cab for Cutie album - m4w (a secondhand record (cd?) store) Date: 2010-01-13, 11:56PM CST Reply To This Post This CD was actually purchased as-used quite some time ago, but upon finding the CD case (I lost the post-it), my curiosity has been once again sparked. There was a cell phone number written on the post- it under the words "Risk it. You know you want to." and a picture of a hand holding up a peace sign. I must've been feeling particularly ballsy that day, because I called it, only to be greeted with complete confusion and me apologizing to the girl on the other end for such a bizarre phone call. I can only assume that one of three things happened- someone beat me to the punch and harassed the shit out of you, it was a prank on a friend/enemy, or you got a new phone. Either way, my curiosity stands. I don't know if I would want to meet you (probably not- I bet you are horribly disfigured in ways that only my darkest nightmares could possibly materialize), but I would definitely like to know what prompted such a feat. Tell me what you drew between the index and middle fingers on the peace sign, the title of the album, and where you may have sold this album to so I know it's you. Thanks! •Location: a secondhand record (cd?) store •it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests PostingID: 1551879822

Thursday, February 25, 2010

March Madness

I'll admit I haven't had a whole lot going on lately, at least not publicly. I desperately need to get in the studio and make some more work, and one of my main goals is to do a lot more looming this year. But, for all that things have slowed down some, I've been busy getting ready for shows and plein air season.

March is panning out to be a crazy month. Maybe not as much so as September, but pretty full nonetheless. And April is looking even busier, between the preview party for the show I curated (I will give this its own post as it is a big deal) & organized, the MOFA fiber arts conference in St. Charles and the Augusta plein air event. Here's a preview of some of the shows I have work in during March.

Contemporary Women Artists XV: Art as Activism
St. Louis Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art
Foundry Arts Centre
520 N. Main Center
St. Charles, MO
Feb. - March 2010
reception: Friday, March 5, 7 - 9 PM (juror's presentation, 6 - 7 PM)
My Coming of Age piece is included in this exhibition..

Altered Esthetics
1224 Quincy St. NE
Minneapolis, MN
March 2010
reception: Friday, March 5, 7 - 10 PM
I am looking forward to checking out this show online although I regret that I cannot attend the reception.

Women Artists: Diverse Views, invitational show
St. Charles County Arts Council
Lillian Yahn Gallery
7443 Village Center Dr., Winghaven
O' Fallon, MO
March 2010
reception: Sunday, March 14, 1 - 4 PM
I will be exhibiting a couple of my chair pieces based upon human relationships and interactions in this show, along with some small scale sculptures and jewelry.

Celebrate Again
13 Squared
Regional Arts Commission
6128 Delmar
St. Louis, MO
March 12, 2010
This is the show for which Mother Nature's Party was created. All works sell that night for $50 as part of the benefit for St. Louis Artworks.

En Plein Air, solo show of plein air landscapes
Provisions Gourmet Market
11615 Olive Blvd.
St. Louis, MO
March 26 - May 7, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Artists Statements

A lot of people are torn when it comes to artist's statements. Do they enhance the work or not? Should they be included or should the work speak for itself? Do people really read them? What are your feelings on artists' statements? Are they good or bad? Are they or should they be necessary?

In regards to writing statements, a lot of artists dread doing so. Some find it challenging to articulate their thoughts, ideas and inspiration into words. Others just don't see the necessity of it. And still others recognize that they are not very good at writing and don't want to be put on the spot. But, like many other things, the more statements any artist writes, the better he/she will get. And being able to articulate his/her vision is also a great benefit should the artist ever have to give a lecture, speech or formal presentation about his/her work or him/herself. So it is a good practice to write many statements and, better yet, to think about writing from multiple perspectives so that the writing is adaptable to different circumstances.

Are artist's statements truly necessary, though? Some of my really conceptual pieces require them. Does that make those pieces lousy art because they needed an explanation? I don't know, but I try not to judge the success of an artwork by measuring what art should and shouldn't be. (I don't like those kinds of limitations.) Many of said pieces are meant to inspire viewers to think about things differently or to look at them anew and that raises a different measure of success. But back to artist's statements... I rather enjoy reading others' statements, although I can find them distracting or overwhelming at times, especially in large format group shows where every artist has written a lot or had a lot to say.

Meanwhile, some of my other pieces don't really need statements, like my plein air paintings. They are meant to simply be enjoyed. And writing statements about these works can seem unnecessary, redundant and distracting from the works themselves. I think it best if viewers are more interested in the art than the statement - the statement should be there because the art is so interesting that the viewer wants to learn more about it. The statement is meant to enhance, not limit possibilities.

So essentially some works benefit from artist statements while others don't. So this is where the rant comes in. Some galleries require artists to include statements alongside their work, and some of these galleries even specify word count (both minimum and maximum). I can see the necessity for this in a really conceptually themed show that is meant to raise awareness or push the envelope, or when there will be an exhibition catalog, but I just don't understand the necessity of it as a blanket rule. That only increases the likelihood that there will be a bunch of poor statements included that are badly written, don't make sense or are just wholly unnecessary.

And what about hanging statements beside the artworks? Is this good or bad? It can be a boon to be able to read the statement while studying the artwork upon which it is based. But such placement can be distracting and can add another visual element. So do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? I think this depends on the show, gallery space and artworks themselves. Sometimes it's nice when statements are consolidated in a centralized location, like a three-ring binder that the viewer can take with them while looking at the works. (This may be part of why audio tours can do so much to enhance viewing experience and are so popular - they don't visually distract.)

I guess I personally rather like artist's statements but I feel that sometimes there are just too many of them. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, those words can say a lot, especially when they are carefully selected and articulate things that are otherwise difficult to convey. Said words can really enhance one's art and can paint a clearer picture. But sometimes the art is better when left to viewer interpretation and silence can be much stronger. So the key lies in knowing not just what to say but when to speak.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Issues and Advocates

It seems to me that some people are way too eager to take sides, pretty much regarding any issue and some of its strongest supporters and advocates. This can then seem to foster attitudes of, "If you're not with us, you're against us," pitting supporters against others assumed to be in conflict because they don't behave in certain ways or maintain certain habits. For example, some hunters work towards environmental and wildlife protection because they recognize that conservation is necessary to their ability to continue to hunt and because they have a great appreciation for the natural world. Many such hunters are responsible and take care not to hunt trophy animals, and they often hunt for food. Thus it would be unfair to assume that all hunters cannot be environmentalists simply because they hunt and kill wildlife.

One way in which I have encountered this is in the rigid assumption that animal rights advocates are or should always be vegan. I am for animal rights and have gotten a lot of flack from people for not being vegetarian or vegan. I will gladly admit that I think the conditions in which livestock and domesticated animals are kept and killed for food are abhorrent and that I would like to see more legislation and follow up to ensure that practices change to become more humane. But I don't think it behooves some strong advocates of the the animal rights movement to lose potential supporters who could help demand change and legal action on behalf of pets, wildlife and livestock by disassociating from those that don't uphold every single standard by which they themselves live.

I have also known of this waxing and waning within the feminist movement, with women who are pretty or who enjoy taking more traditional roles having been assumed to be opposed to women's rights. Women who stay home to care for their young children have also come under close scrutiny at times. But a mother may intentionally stay home to raise her children to have greater influence over what they are taught, how they are cared for and to take on a more active role in their lives, so that isn't always indicative of whether or not that mother supports women's rights so much as how she wants to live and project herself. Fostering such ideas and scrutiny in the past has also fueled the stereotype that feminists are male-bashers who are uninterested in raising families or in being attractive to men. That stereotype has turned a lot of younger women off of feminism who otherwise uphold its core values, causing them not to consider themselves to be feminists because of the connotations that the word feminist has taken on.

Simply put, it is not a benefit to assume that people won't support you because they are different or engage in practices you wouldn't yourself endorse. We are all multi-faceted and layered. Most of us don't see social issues as black and white but rather fall someplace in the multitude of shades between. So remember, just because someone engages in something you don't stand for doesn't mean that they cannot or will not stand beside you on any particular issue. And, by welcoming them to do so, it doesn't mean that you're strictly endorsing everything they do and engage in, just that you recognize that we can support one another on specific issues despite our differences.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Art of the Week: Coming of Age

I have been swamped this week gearing up for the Women's Caucus for Art national conference in Chicago. So for Art of the Week I'm posting Coming of Age, created for Art Dimensions' Square Foot Show 2009 and currently on display in the St. Louis Women's Caucus for Art Contemporary Women Artists XV exhibition at the Foundry Art Centre.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

More on Cover Charges

I briefly talked about cover charges in a previous post, but more has been circulating through the listserv it was originally posted to and several people have raised interesting points and considerations. I am not really going to debate the issue as I personally don't like the practice but can see where it could be tempting as a means of offsetting expenses. However, I wanted to offer some considerations to keep in mind if you're considering charging a cover for your event. Think about your responses to these questions to see if it would fit your needs and goals. Also, please feel free to post your own questions if you like or are aware of something I neglected to mention.

Why does the art show/event/reception exist?
To raise awareness?
To foster sales?
To throw a party?
To get your name (artist and/or institution) out there?
To connect with as many people as possible?
To encourage new people to view and possibly buy art?
To offer an exclusive benefit to loyal patrons, members and supporters?

Would charging to get in enhance why you're doing the event (example: an exclusive art auction fundraiser)?
Or would charging a cover go against the purpose of the event (example: if you want to reach out to as many people as possible)?
If the cover doesn't enhance the primary reason for doing the event, can the practice be adapted to suit the show's purpose or are you certain there isn't something else you can do?
What costs can you cut to avoid charging a cover?

Would you yourself pay for what is being offered?
If so, how much?
What would you expect to get from your money?

Is the event unique and unusual enough to draw paying viewers?
How familiar with the exhibiting artists is the viewing public?
Are they local, national or international celebrities?
Is their work known to draw viewers?

In what other ways can you raise money?
Cash bar?
Exhibition/entry fees?
Auction items?
Can these means offset expenses by themselves?
Will seeking funds in another way lessen the impact or value of the show?
Would charging a cover lessen the impact or value of the show?

What perks can you offer for your cover charge if there is one?
Drinks or drink tickets?
Live music?
Raffle prizes?
Silent auction?

What if there was a suggested donation instead?
Would you be willing to admit people who didn't or couldn't contribute the suggested donation? (If not, stop fooling yourself - it is a cover charge, even if it's going to a worthy cause.)

If you do decide to charge a cover to get in, it needs to be very very well- publicized. It needs to be mentioned in the prospectus so artists can factor that into whether or not they want to participate. Viewers need to know to bring cash with them to get in or they're likely to get angry when they're turned away and you'll risk losing potential long-term support. And everyone ought to be treated equally - no picking favorites and letting some people in free while charging others unless there are specific exceptions, like individuals who have donated a lot of money & patronage, members, volunteers, staff, artists, event entertainers... Those individuals shouldn't have to pay but it should be known as to why and they should be given tickets for admission in advance so that it doesn't look to others at the door like it's just blatant favoritism.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fuzzy Logic

I am not going to write a true review as I really don't feel I have anything to add to the discourse that has already been generated, but I strongly encourage you to see the Fuzzy Logic show at the Des Lee Gallery. Included are some wonderful fiber-based artworks that really "navigate between the realms of 'art' and 'craft'... rare and common, public and private, masculine and feminine, hand-worked and machine-made." Artists include Gina T. Alvarez, Mike Andrews, Amanda Browder, Rob Conger, Shelby Donnelly, Carson Fox, Orly Genger, Laura Splan and Stacia Yeapanis.

Art of the Week: Horse Costume

This week, I made a horse costume to just chill out between working on other big projects, business and promotion. I have collected model horses with my best friend since I was eight years old and have made several different Arabian and Native American influenced costumes over the past few years. This is one of my simpler pieces using upholstery trim and is modeled on a Breyer mahogany bay Proud Arabian Stallion.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cover Charges

A fellow artist recently publicly lamented the growing trend among art galleries and institutions to charge a fee to gallerygoers for admittance into art receptions. I hadn't ranted about this before for all that I have thought a lot about it on and off, but now I think that I will do so here in response. I personally take up issue with this practice as well, especially when artists were charged fees to exhibit their works (either for entering, upon acceptance or both).

One point made was that artists are struggling enough as it is and turning away potential buyers is not a service. I agree but I don't know that the cover charges necessarily dissuade buyers from coming. I'm sure some potential buyers may be dissuaded, just as some potential non-buyer browsers are as well. But I don't know that a small cover charge is going to have a vastly greater impact over the host of other factors at play (how many other events happened simultaneously, when was the event, how well-publicized was it, what was the weather like...)

In fact, I think cover charges could even work to the artists' advantage if said monies were later reimbursed with notification of any purchase from the art event over a certain dollar amount because that practice would encourage sales. (This can take the form of coupons to be redeemed that artists can cash in later, or buyers can take receipts to a centralized location for reimbursement later.) This practice would benefit the institution as well because it works for the betterment of the artists that they serve and happy artists will return and participate in more things in the long run. The only people that don't benefit directly are those who are just looking, and they still benefit from it indirectly because the happier the artists are with the event, the more pleasurable the event is likely to be.

I'm not touting the benefits of cover charges - I still don't like them and find the trend to be unsettling. What I don't like is that they make events more exclusive and limited to those who are willing to pay to attend. Many such events charge some people admittance while not charging others (friends, populars and the like), which strikes me as blatantly unfair. And, as the other artist also pointed out, covers can be even more aggravating if not well publicized both to the participating artists in the prospectus and in any sort of publicity enticing people to attend the event.

Ideally, art galleries and institutions need to find other ways of coping with reception costs. Sponsorships and pairing with local businesses can be a boon and can spread the reception expenses out among more parties. Many places have cash bars with those monies going towards reception costs. This is better than cover charges because people aren't turned away explicitly from viewing the art and can choose whether or not to have a drink. (Granted, some may leave sooner if there's no free alcohol, but that would happen when the alcohol and food runs out anyway.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This Week

I have some works in a couple of events this weekend. I am looking forward to attending Art Feast and hope that the fundraiser does well. I am also looking forward to seeing the CWCA show when I go to Chicago for the WCA conference next weekend for all that I'll miss the opening reception this Friday.

Art Feast

Kemp Auto Museum
16955 Chesterfield Airport Road
Chesterfield, MO
Feb. 6, 2010
Tickets were sold in advance for this silent auction of artworks benefiting Chesterfield Arts. I donated my In Sheep's Clothing piece.

Off Center
Chicago Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art
ARC Gallery
832 W. Superior #204
Chicago, IL
Feb. - March 2010
Friday, Feb. 5, 6 - 9 PM

Though I am unable to attend the event, I also donated some artwork for the silent auction at the St. Louis Musicians for Haiti benefit concert at the Sheldon Concert Hall this coming Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 PM. Proceeds from the benefit will go to Doctors Without Borders for the Haitian Earthquake Relief Effort.