Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dear Art Museum or Gallery,

This is Blue.  

Don't let the mean face fool you, he's harmless.  He's 6, smart, creative and he's a lot of fun.  And, it would appear, he is enemy number one according to art museums and galleries.

Poor Blue did not choose to have an artist for a dad.  In his 6 years he's already been on more sculpture installations and art deliveries that most of you ever will.  As I said earlier, he has an official sketchbook now and readily admits to strangers that he is already an artist.  Currently he plans to be an "art teacher", to create his own putt putt course that charges $13 per person, and to become a "mad scientist" (followed by the "muh-ha-ha-ha" cartoon laugh).

I've taken Blue with me into museums and galleries through the years and he understands the rules.  It's like church except there's art.  You have to whisper, you touch nothing and you listen to instructions.  Like most kids his age, he's energetic.  Some days it's nuclear energy.  But he understands the rules on art trips and at this point I've touched way more off limits artwork than he has.  

This summer we've taken several art trips and hit up several museums and galleries in North and South Carolina.  I figure a little exposure to great art will do him good and it's probably not so bad for me either.  When we've walked through the quiet spaces though, I've noticed that we've been getting a little heat from the employees.  Not just the evil eye or the person following you around like you're going to stuff a Monet in your cargo shorts.  I'm talking about over zealous docents or "security" people feeling the need to give verbal warnings or scoldings to my son.  

Now, let me say that I understand that kids who do not belong to you are little terrors.  If I had a glass shop and a 6 year old boy came in alone, I'd probably get the tranquilizer gun.  I also know that these art staffers do not know that Blue has to recite the rules to me before we enter the building and that he's got way more art experience than they do.  What I do know is that he is a well behaved kid who is genuinely interested in art and who never leaves my side.  

So on two separate occasions, he has been "spoken to" in that frustrated, authoritative voice by representatives of the art facilities we were supporting.  The first one irritated me much more than it irritated him, but the second one almost made him cry.  

In the first incident he was doing absolutely nothing wrong.  He was looking at some famous stuff and after getting followed for two rooms the visibly nervous staffer felt the need to let us know that things should not be touched.  Duh.  Please refer to rule #2 above.  Blue looked at me and I responded, "Yes, we are aware."  For the rest of our visit we basically played "avoid the mean person".  

In the second incident Blue's crime was taking photos.  I've mentioned he loves taking photos and you saw some of those earlier.  In my opinion this is a great activity for him on the art trips.  He chooses what to photograph and when we look at the images later I get a sense of what his interests are.  He quietly (and without touching any art) took 3 photos in one section of the space and was promptly accosted by the less than polite employee who had been following him around.  Blue was scolded by the employee and it was demanded that he delete the photos on the spot.  Blue was speechless.  I was dumbfounded.  This was not a big name place, the work was nothing anyone has ever heard of before and there were no visible signs indicating that photographs were not permitted.  In fact, this person saw my kid taking photos in one section and literally followed him into the next section and waited for him to take more photos before having his little meltdown.  Did I mention that we saw no signs indicating that photos were not allowed?  G took the phone, deleted the images while the staffer acted completely exasperated by the whole thing.  We were gone in minutes.

How do you think Blue feels about art places now?  

How angry do you think I'm going to be when I ask him if he wants to go on the next art trip and he seems less excited?

Of course, these employees probably thought they were acting on the best interests of their employers.  And they probably were not following the correct procedures, probably jumped the gun a bit and may have just been having bad days.  But if they've done this to Blue, how many other times has it happened?  What about all the kids who do not have to recite the rules before they enter?  And what sort of mixed up message are kids getting from all this?  "Think differently, be creative, express yourself, support the arts....but sit down, shut up and for heaven's sake don't touch anything!"

In a time when funding for the arts is scarce, wouldn't you think it would be wise to try to make yourself more appealing to younger generations?  Wouldn't it be a good idea to create an environment where children would feel welcomed?  See, the other thing is, both of these art places have begged me for donations multiple times during the last year.  So one way of looking at this is that I payed for these people to push my child away from art.  That's annoying.

I'm not going to stop the art trips just yet.  But art places, you're on notice now.  Be nice to my kid.  You're going to beg him for money someday.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

some unpretty honesty

Several years back my work was featured in a super-cool gallery.  The gallery owner created lots of buzz about the work and the opening reception was a big hit.  There were tons of people, loads of compliments and several pieces sold.  It was a huge success.  But somehow the huge smile on my face faded into this weird sense of sadness before we made it home.  It was the strangest, most confusing thing.

There have been many receptions over the years and to varying degrees, there's inevitably this mysterious gloom that creeps in after an exhibit reception.  At the point when you should feel very accomplished, some depressing feeling punches you in the gut.

Last week I received several pieces of good news.  I got a couple of acceptance letters into upcoming shows and I learned that one of my sculptures won some type of award.  Even though I knew there would be socializing, I headed to the reception in good humor.  The event was nice, Blue got the thrill of us getting a "ribbon" and we had good pizza and ice cream afterwards.  And then, on the drive home, it happened.  The gloom.

I thought about it while it was happening.  I wasn't sad.  Was I disappointed?  That seemed to be the closest I could come to describing the feeling.  But what could I be disappointed about?  This was a juried exhibit which means lots of artists submitted work to be considered for the show.  The juror (in this case a really good, well respected juror) chose only the best work to be a part of the exhibit.  So getting a piece accepted is reason enough to be happy.  I had two pieces accepted so I was thrilled.  Then from all the accepted pieces there were a handful of awards...and by getting one of those I should have been even more thrilled.  And I was.  I was excited and very happy with the results.  So it wasn't any of that.

What I started to think about was the work I saw in the exhibit that was really great.  There were some really beautiful pieces in the show.  Some of the work, including the Best in Show winner, made me say, "Dang, that's so much better than mine."  That has to be it.  Or it at least has to be part of it.  I'm competitive and I still want to be the best.  And awards aside, sometimes you just look at a work of art and you know that it's miles ahead of you.

So here's where you disagree with me and argue that we are talking about creative expression and that it's not a contest to find the best work.  You tell me that there's no way to compare drawings and sculptures, ceramics and fiber art and that you can't really judge one work of art to be "better" than another.  Right.  Tell that to the juror.  And whether it's a juried show or an invitational show or just an exhibit in a gallery or museum, the process is the same.  Someone other than you or your mom looks at your work and decides it is worthy of a show.  They decide that it's better than something else or that it will sell better than something else and you get in the exhibit.  By it's very nature, it is a competition.  You don't have to like it for it to be true.  Heck, you don't even have to agree with it for it to be true.

Yet, having said that, I will also agree with you that it is nearly impossible to judge a wide variety of works of art against one another.  I know people who refuse to be jurors for exhibits because they say this is impossible.  And still each time, I walk into an exhibit and see something truly great and I think, "Dang, that's so much better than mine."  I value and appreciate it's beauty but there's also this deep sensation of wishing I had made something that great.  

I understand both sides of the argument and both sides mingle with an uneasy truce in my head.  I want to create something beautiful, something from the most honest part of me.  I want it to be pure and I want it to express my view of the world around me.  But I also want it to kick your butt in the exhibit.  

I'm starting to believe that this mixture of motivations is the reason for the post-reception gloom.  I also believe that it is the reason I work harder and try to be better with each new body of work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

blue's point of view

A couple of years ago Blue got a kid camera for Christmas.  He loved the indestructible thing and took tons of photos and videos.  He still has it and at the beach this year he started complaining about the poor quality of the photos on his camera.  Yeah, he's 6 years old.  

So this week I found the old iPhone 3g and charged the battery.  It's not a phone but it still works as a tiny computer and I thought I'd let him take some photos with it to see how he did.  When we go on our summer adventures it allows him to play games in the car and to take photos while we are there.  

This week we took our first field trips and here's how Blue saw them:

 So excited to have the camera he started taking pictures before we left the house.

 Our trip to the Columbia Museum of Art.  I thought this was a rather nice photo of the Henry Moore sculpture.

 And the photo that everyone takes of the Chihuly.

 He was excited to find all the hidden stars in this painting.

 He made me stand still for this one.

 He was especially fond of the older art upstairs.  After seeing him take a photo of this one, I also took one for myself.  

 He got an art explorer pack and got to draw in the community sketchbook.  He was inspired by the squares downstairs and drew this.  I love the skull and crossbones he put on top of it.

 That afternoon he took this one of Zeke.

 Next field trip, to Musgrove State Historical site.  A photo of a soldier.

 He took this one while we were all collecting ticks.

 Horseshoe Falls from his picnic site.

 He was thrilled to find this mushroom.  I was thrilled by the way he took the photo from directly overhead making an abstract composition.

And his view of dinner at Blue Ocean.

Monday, June 17, 2013

summer things

First of all, thank you to everyone who came to the open studio sale and to those who made long distance purchases.  The sale was a success and if you didn't get to come to this one, there's a good chance I'll have another one early next summer.  Some suggested having one right before Christmas....but I'm not sure if I'll have time to do that.  I'll keep you posted.

If you didn't make it in person, there were free buttons.  If you're nice, I'll save you one.

While we were at the beach we made our annual visit with Logan.  Logan is a former student from Winthrop and I got to know him well during his four years in undergrad.  He lives in Conway so we get to check in on him from time to time while we are at the beach.  This was the first time we'd been able to visit his home studio.  That's his anvil in his outdoor workspace.

He's got a great spot of land and a great place to work.  I'm not sure if this thing works, but even if it doesn't, just think of all the cool things you could make out of the parts.  

This large building reminds me of my dad's workshops when I was a kid.  We had a few of these same types of buildings with stuff piled all around the walls.  The smells were so familiar.  

Not only was I a bit envious of the large building, I was also envious of Logan's collection of hammers.  

His website is  Go there and commission him to make you something cool.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the beach

My ancestors were coastal dwellers.  One side of the family even had a fish on their coat of arms.  My parents understood the call to the ocean.  The old family photo albums I used to flip through as a child showed teen versions of my mom and dad hanging out at Myrtle Beach back in the black and white film days.  They smiled in each image and to a child that means that the beach is a happy place.  

This proved true as they carted their kids down to the beach every summer and we had wonderful adventures with pools and sand castles and miniature golf.  As they got older, they seemed to go more often.  My dad said he liked to sit and watch tv and explained that watching tv was more fun at the beach.  The beach makes everything better.

Last week was our early summer trip to the beach.  We packed up the kids and tons of stuff and headed down to a condo we stayed in for several years before we had kids.  

 This was the late afternoon view that greeted us from the balcony.  

 See?  Just a day turning into night but notice how much better it looks at the beach.

 And my morning coffee is a heavenly experience during the summer but morning coffee oceanfront is even better.

 We have many favorite restaurants.  If you're going, I can hook you up with some excellent options.  This is one of them, just a short walk from the condo.  We like to eat out on the oceanfront deck at the Conch Cafe.  The beach even makes bacon wrapped, deep fried shrimp taste better.

 Ice cream is also better at the beach.  One of Blue's talents is being able to get as much ice cream on the outside of his mouth as he does on the inside.

 Each trip to the beach requires G and I to talk about when we will eventually be able to move there.  I've picked out this space cadet house for us in Garden City.  

 Ok, my sculptures may not be better at the beach, but they're more fun to make.  It's funny and sad that I have to make the kids go play somewhere else while I make sand creatures for them to ultimately destroy.  I did let them collect the seashells for the teeth and they got to place them where they wanted.

 Jumping is always a good time but who knew that jumping over waves could occupy a 6 year old boy for 8 days?

 This trip was dominated by wildlife.  We had a couple of wild pet rabbits at the condo.  We saw lots of sea hawks grabbing fish out of the waves and carrying them over our heads.  And we found a few welk shells with the critters still living inside.  This was a small one and he didn't spit at me.  The big one we found later did.

 Violet learned to be a good treasure hunter.  She found her first shark's tooth.  And she's adorable.

 For her birthday, she had some Build A Bear gift cards.  This means I endured a trip to the Build A Bear Workshop at Broadway.  We stood in line and fought against the pushy bear upcharge militia.  And I did it with a pleasant attitude, thank you very much.

 We saw a rainbow at Bi-Lo.  Blue wanted to see what was at the end of it.  

 Just an adorable couple of kids on one of our treasure hunt walks.

 We spent a day at Huntington Beach State Park.  We hoped it would be less populated and we'd get a shot at better seashell finds.  Lots of other people apparently had the same idea.  The shells were not easy to find, but there were lots of critters.  The image above is "sea pork". I have no idea what that is, but one of the park rangers told us that and all I could think of was bacon.

 A flounder flopping in the surf.  He looked delicious.  We also saw lots of crabs, alligators, fish, birds and a nice little 5 foot shark visited us while we were jumping in the shallow water.  The kids loved seeing them all...except for the shark.  

 The jetty is one of the coolest things about Huntington Beach.  It's a long walk to get to it and I wasn't smart enough to bring my sandals.  Violet and I made it 3/4 of the way out the jetty before  I had to turn back.  The asphalt is like a thousand tiny daggers stabbing into your feet with each step and she was adding a few pounds of pressure to each step.  

 G took this with her fancier-than-mine camera.  Murrells Inlet on the left, Huntington Beach on the right.

 Sky, jetty, sand.

 We left our mark on the place before we headed out.

 Violet loves to eat breakfast at the beach because they give her a coffee cup to drink her chocolate milk.  She likes to pretend she's drinking my coffee.

 A sand head.

 One big event last week was the purchase of Blue's first ever sketchbook.  He's seen mine for years and he always asks when he can have his own.  Now he does.  I can't tell you how proud  this photo makes me.

 This was another big event of last week.  Apparently hurricane season began and the first named storm of the season wanted to see us on vacation.  We had a lot of wind but not much rain.  When I got up to run on Friday this was on my phone.  I looked out the window and saw it wasn't raining hard so I went for a run in a tropical storm.

 The wind was hard enough to almost trip me a couple of times but it didn't rain a drop until I got back.  This was what it looked like when the center of the storm was closest to us.  Still beautiful.

 And this....the blurry part at the bottom was the sand being blown up the beach.

 And a couple of hours later....a perfect day again.

 I'm not teaching my son to be a vandal.  This was done on an official table cloth for drawing with official crayons provided by the restaurant.  But I was proud to look up and see Blue spreading the Mighty S.  Even if it was a little backward.

 Adorable kids on Surfside pier.  

G won the shark's tooth contest.  The largest one was hers.  I did find the smallest one, though.  

And....the open studio sale is this Saturday.  I feel like I have to say that.  Info is in the previous posts if you need it.