I’ve “got to get a better story….”

love the art-snobs, just love 'emI’ve spent the last few nights rearranging my artwork on the floor of my bedroom, which is attached to my studio, which is technically the laundry room. I’ve been preparing for an open show I’m contributing to and unfortunately I’m not blessed like Maude from TBL with an entire hangar for my work…but my “ADD” likes the white noise of the dryer.

What I’ve just told you is a great example of the lame way I talk about my work. Ask me to talk to you about a five year old’s painted pasta necklace or a friend’s photography and I’ll make them sound like the next Warhol.  But put me on the spot and I tend to stare off, squint a little and become a little bit of a cottonhead.  I guess that is why I’m finally participating in this show, I’ve got to get off the bench sometime…

I suppose that is why people take classes, not only to “brush up” on technique but to learn the art of storytelling. You would think that me, being me, I would already know my story, but now I’m actually faced with an event where I will be asked about why I sling paint a certain way, and I’ve got nothing.

As you can see on the tabs above, I am submitting work to Touchstone Gallery’s “MySpace on 7th” unjudged open show. What this means is that any monkey with a paintbrush and a few dollars for wall space can hang their work. Since leaving LA I’ve missed the approachable community artist feel of Venice Beach, and I’m always jealous of New Orleans’ open street policy for performers, painters and palm readers.  I’d relish a warm afternoon in Jackson Square, amongst the banana trees, sipping on a julep and selling art.

We don’t really have anything like that in DC, so Touchstone’s open show is a great way to meet other area artists, not to mention, its a generous thing for the gallery to do (considering they don’t ask for a percentage of sales either). The Washington Wine Academy is sponsoring a tasting during the opening this Friday, which is also a great way for a variety of pallets to collide, and it helps to get folks in the mood to buy 🙂

So yeah, again, listen to me rattle of great details about the gallery, the event, the sponsors, but I’m numb when it comes to myself. “It makes me happy” is the only real answer I have for why I’ve ever painted. I’m not an angry or solemn painter by any stretch. I don’t sit and ponder the meaning of my work for hours or stroll through malls or museums for inspiration. I suppose I’m always taking mental snapshots and have a huge rolodex of feelings and images stored up. Its been rare when I have some exact painting in my head, as I’m usually inspired by the texture of the paper, or by the new paints or brushes I buy…or I’m riffing off of the music I’m listening to or the movie playing in the background. I’m jealous of those that really “see something” in their mind and then take days to get it on paper, maybe one day I’ll be like that, but for now I just grab colors and go.

The fun part is that with little to no direction or explanation from me, folks see the work and come up with their own interpretations or responses.  The work I’m showing isn’t “meant” to inspire anything specific, but I’ve been amazed at how similar the responses are to a given piece.  And I think thats neat.  The work will reveal and define itself, rather than having me name it and I like that.  It seems like a lazy excuse, but the viewers response is how these pieces are earning their names.

I was at the gallery this weekend measuring the space I bought when I ran into other artists hanging their work. Some were nice and friendly, others looked like they were bothered the rest of us were there. Maybe they’ve been at this longer than I have and are bitter that they have to hang in an unjudged show. Maybe they were as nervous as I am, I just tend to respond with bubbly enthusiasm rather than shrugged indifference when feeling anxious.

I had a vision for how I wanted to hang the work, but once I saw the huge wall I had to fill I also got nervous that maybe the artists on the walls next to me would find my work irritating and amateur. Patricia Correa is to the right of me, shes a boomer gen Economist with two degrees, one in art the other in Econ.  Karen Egbert is another boomer who worked at DOJ for 25 years but has also studied art and participated in all sorts of shows around the city.  I can’t find anything on Paul Vickers who has the wall to the left of me though, so he’ll be mystery man for the night.

I suppose being next to these two experienced women and this mystery man is good for me though.  It reminds me of why I like being an artist in DC, that we all have double lives and that the balance of right and left brained activities can work.  So often I feel the tug to better specify myself, to “pick a career” or “brand myself better”, but meeting people like this helps me remember I don’t have to.  I’m never comfortable around only artists, just as I am bored by a room full of bureaucrats.  I need the mix, otherwise we’re all just talking to ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not I should have gone to art school, or at least been an art major at Georgetown. But it’s actually Georgetown’s seal that reminds me why I have no regrets and so much to be thankful for when it comes to my education as an artist.  The eagle on our seal clutches a banner in his beak reading “UTRAQUE UNUM” or “OF MANY/BOTH ONE”.

Go Hoyas beat Notre Dame!

One reason this biblically inspired quote was used was to represent the unity, sameness/oneness of the arts and the sciences.  Arists are inspired by the natural world and in their own way are visual scientists.  Breaking down elements, looking closely, studying objects and their construction, I just wish I could figure out why so many of us are bad at math (aside from my economist painter neighbor of course).  I had to give love to my alma mater today too, because the Hoyas play their Catholic rivals Notre Dame today at 7pm.  Hopefully they can brush off the reboundless effort they had against Pitt…..

So yeah, I’m a little afraid of the art snobs, the Maude Lebowskis and Knox Harrington’s of the world, stuffying the world up with their inside jokes and pencil thin mustaches.  Recently I was approached by an art snob at a fashion show at Pangea down on Pennsylvania Ave.  Here we are, surrounded by third world craftiness and all its modest fair-trade glory and this guy asks me who I am and what I do.  The typical DC BS.

I offer my name and follow it with “I’m an artist I guess, but I earn my money from the Department of Defense right now (wink)”.   I think this is witty and cute but he doesn’t buy it.  “Oh, honey, you’ve got to get a better story than that”.   Then he offers me a laundry list of who he knows in the DC art scene and how important he and his wife are and how I should do what she does, blah blah.

Then I remember why I hate insiders.  Doesn’t matter if its politics or art, its apparently not what you do, its who you are…or at least who you think you are.

DC's favorite game, produced in LA

    • paul
    • January 12th, 2009

    I believe your work was to the right of mine. I liked it.
    Mystery Man

  1. May 28th, 2010

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