Saturday, December 10, 2011

Artful ponderings & Our Lady of Guadalupe

The long view up Canyon Road --Friday 12.9.11

The twilight twinkles with starlight and moonrise and candles fuse with adobe while paper bags placed on the ground light the way, but it is quiet in the gallery.  Only Max and I make the effort on behalf of the Zaguanistas.  Still there are always gifts to be found in the few who wander through the gate and up the path.  A young woman takes off her coat, sips an eggnog and we chat about Plaza Blanca and how to spend a day in Abiquiu, another artist has work in Hahn Ross Gallery where there is an opening this afternoon from 4-8pm.  A fundraiser to benefit "Imagine Forward" a non-profit created by Tom Ross to inspire and further creative expression while addressing crucial needs in our community --in schools.  How do I miss these artful opportunities?  Is there a special mailing list? --this has bothered me since my arrival in Santa Fe.  I seem to be so after-the-fact. The one avenue I have found, with the Santa Fe Community Gallery, has been good to me and I appreciate the themes and the creative challenge.  A few people return who walk Canyon every Friday night.  We appreciate them too for their support and curiosity.  Still after we blow out the candles, close the gates, turn out the lights and I am back in my live/work studio (that I love) --I am overcome with emotion.  At how to be proactive in artful abundance.  The kind that will help pay off the Visa bill that is waning dangerous to out of control as each month I hope for a little extra.  Maybe a painting will sell or a set of three painterly photos.  That $500 would make a difference.  I choose images I think speak to the Holiday Season.  A cross from the side of a church in Merida, a snowfence that borders the El Zaguan garden, Tapa's for the foodie crowd and a personal favorite: Our Lady of Guadalupe, cards ($5/ea) or the kitsch vintage cake assemblage "Eat Cake & Pray" featuring three images of this miraculous female icon.  Though I am not anywhere close to being Catholic I love some of the iconography and adopt it for my own purposes.  And I am fascinated by Mexico. . .

Eat Cake & Pray --assemblage $95
Guadalupe day, December 12, is Mexico’s most important religious holiday. On this day people from all over Mexico travel to the chapel Tepayac Hill in Mexico City, where the mother of Jesus is said to have appeared before an Indian peasant named Juan Diego back in 1531. Mary told Juan to go to the bishop and ask that a church be built on the hill so she could be close to her people. The bishop, needing proof of this vision, asked Juan to have a miracle performed by Mary. Juan returned to Tepayac Hill and found Castillian roses growing where there had only been cacti.  It was winter and very late in the season for any flowers to bloom. He wrapped the roses in his tilma (peasant cloak) and returned to the bishop.  When he opened his cloak before the bishop on December 12 the flowers fell to the floor and in their place was the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously imprinted on the fabric --the legend was born and the chapel was built.

And so believe --in yourself, in miracles, in peace on earth, in understanding-- when that seems a most formidable task.  All our fears getting in the way of truth and trust and the ability to love and communicate. I have company coming today.  We will feast on food and friendship and artful conversation. I will struggle with intimacy issues pretending to sleep while the ghosts of the past and present walk naked through the night to use the bathroom, and in the morning when I wake in good cheer (because I always wake in good cheer) we will drink strong coffee and I may call my mother or a sister and life will begin again.  As it does.  Everyday a choice.  An opportunity.  A happening.  Go well into this holiday season and let the light shine on.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck the Walls, Celebrate Art with the Zaguanistas

Temporary Roomates and Temporary Insanity

An old friend calls, he's in Scottsdale, "I'm having a solo show here, would you mind if I visited for a couple of days?" This guy and I have known each other through a mutual friend in NYC for about fifteen years now, we partied together and worked on several pubic art installations as part of a team. Even though we knew each other for a long time, I was never particularly drawn to him, except in the beginning, and then I got to know him very well.

It turned out that he is the type of artist that intends to break the system, you know go straight to the top, while burning bridges all along the way. As a performance piece it might work, maybe not. In the art world, definitely not, we've got to pay our dues and it can be years before any kind of recognition is bestowed upon us and our work. While this man, my age, has been prolific and is genuinely talented, there is always something that derails his ambition.

He was out of the city for a while when I was still living there, off to finally get a solo show somewhere in the Middle East, a grand exhibition that would incorporate a huge installation along with his paintings, a really terrific idea and it was executed with finesse, never any doubt about that, but something went wrong. There was conflict and lots of it, his expectations being gargantuan I sincerely doubt that they could have been met unless somehow he magically appeared on the cover of artforum.

Well that is about the time that we started corresponding via email and facebook, with that distance between us I could drop in and out of conversation, offer some level headed advice, I was a gallery director in the city and had a way with calming artists during their solo shows. While the opportunity is fantastic I think that for the most part nearly every artist that I dealt with lost their minds just a little during the process, that's cool, understandable. We are putting ourselves out there, butt naked and maybe just looking for some respect, sales and credibility.

For one's first solo, or even second or third, things may not always go as planned. A gallery represents a roster of artists, certainly they will focus on the exhibiting artist, but there is still the others to deal with, along with maintaining the gallery's reputation, the amount of work the dealer must undertake, the cost to them, and various outside factors, the economy, the competition, and again honing the relationship with the artist on hand. There is no clear single force at work, all the cards played add up to what one has been dealt.

So this fellow has a couple of other shows, and somehow they all end up being disasters, what is the missing part of this equation? Still we stay in touch and when I leave New York we continue our electronic exchange. I have always been the type of guy who would never turn anyone away, so I say sure come stay in Santa Fe for a few days. Turns out we have a wonderful visit and soon my friend is back on his way to Arizona to wrap up his show then return to the East Coast afterwards.

I went to Las Vegas to visit with family, while there I get a call from my artist friend in Scottsdale, everything has blown up, the gallery owner spits in his face, bad bad bad. Sure you can return to Santa Fe and stay at my place till you get your bearings, I'll be back in a week.  I return and he is settled in, certainly not uncharacteristic, he's done it before, and well being so broke I almost looked at it like a status symbol in a weird way, that being that most of my friends can take someone in and would gladly.

This artist friend becomes enchanted by Santa Fe, happens all the time, but he doesn't like the way things are run and he is going to change everything and rise quickly. I am a professional schmoozer and believe me it doesn't happen like that here and it doesn't happen anywhere especially if one is flat broke and does not have any social connections. He grows frustrated and manic, I begin to lose my patience, one week turns to two.

In his effort to conquer Santa Fe he ventures out with a bag of paintings in tow to show the neighboring galleries. At first he sweet talks them, then when they say they don't have time to view work he storms out shouting. There are guidelines and protocol in place, sweet talking a gallery is fine, but they are busy folks and even though their job is always to be on the lookout for a new artist, just dropping in and demanding that they see your work is most likely a sure fire way of never being shown in that gallery, ever.

We as artists surely can sell out of our studios, we don't necessarily need the gallery system to be productive or find buyers, but if one wants to work in the business there are just some things that always need to be kept in mind. The gallery is a business, a contemporary re-working of a very old system, one that has evolved with the times and there is a way of obtaining representation, but one must certainly be aware and not ruin the opportunity. Have a good website, share the link, if the gallery is interested be prepared for a studio visit.

So my friend finally left, not before making me feel like an insane landlord and causing quite a ruckus that left a pall on my place. I have no regrets and I surely will take someone in again, but not this guy, not right now or in the near future.

Zaguanistas, December 2011