Saturday, January 20, 2007

The reception

School kids all enjoyed a two hour delay in the start of their day last Thursday. Otherwise, the weather was only a bit colder than normal. I was easily able to deliver fourteen pieces to Corley Elementary School. The art teacher, Ms. Maybin, seemed thrilled to have the work. She promised to hang the little show and take photos for the local free publications that are circulated at the grocery stores. This all seemed so odd. I was delivering a "show" to someone who was willing to hang the work, make the labels, take photos and create the publicity. Sure, this isn't an opportunity that will ever find a place on my resume; but, the care and attention was professional--more professional than the arrangements with I. Pinckney Simons Gallery.
That night, last Thursday, was the reception. It went well. People showed up, though not as many as would have come had the weather been better. Still, I was UNDER-whelmed. This wasn't the sort of exhibit with which I want to be associated in the future. These are not the gallery owners with whom I ever want to be represented. All the "problems" were really "problems". There are no real solutions....except not to do this again!
I shouldn't sound quite so dismal. In truth, I was a "hit". Everyone complimented me, liked the Archeology Project and other pieces, enjoyed the brief gallery talk, and more than a few small items sold. Rick and Irene were quite pleased. In a sense, it was all "perfect"; only it wasn't. This is just not where I want to BE artistically.
Before I try to explain, I ought to highlight the positive things....and there were some outstanding moments! First, Lee Malerich agreed to come to the show early enough to meet me for a drink at Motor Supply (a restaurant) before the show. Lee is one of the most outstanding embroiderers ever. Her work has graced the pages of international fiber and craft publications. She's won the state's craft fellowship three time (after the last win, the award was limited to only two wins per individual!). She teaches now at Coker College in Hartsville. I have admired her ability to document emotions through thread and to pour out her heart and soul on fiber. Any time with Lee Malerich is a highlight!
Another big plus in the evening came from watching people sort through the Archeology Project just as I had intended them to do. People were genuinely thrilled to find one "treasure" after another. Many begged for my comments on various individual pieces. I knew it was a success by watching the enjoyment and sense of exploration.
The other highlight of the evening came in the form of future ideas. One man suggested making a mobile with my metallic fragments. Someone else suggested using mirror shards and even creating a hand mirror. Many wanted personal items. All these suggestions are now floating around in my head with one from my sister Sonya. Earlier, she wrote an email to me to suggest "make-up". While I might not create cosmetic items, this sparked an earlier memory. I had intended to have filled vials--foreign articles suspended in corn syrup. I wanted "imaginary text" labels on spice jars. I forgot about the "chemistry" of archeology. Sonya reminded me! (Thanks!)
While talking to the dozens of people who came, I couldn't help but to see past the immediate scene. I overheard comments too. These were the visions and sounds that "underwhelmed" me. It really is a problem that the gallery doesn't have a dedicated space in which to showcase work. Too many people entered the building and remarked, "Where's the show?" It isn't obvious. It doesn't look like a proper art exhibit. The place emulates a home setting. It suggests to potential clients what it might be like to live with original art. It is not a good gallery, however, to focus on a body of work.
The owners really didn't hang the show, label the pieces, read the exhibition list, and know the artwork well enough to function as knowledgeable agents for the artists. They're nice people, but they are clueless. They relied on me to sell my work. This isn't how it is suppose to be.
I saw my first poster for Radenko Pavlovich's LifeChance Ballet right before the reception. It includes a photo of Aleksander Buber with a the words "Gold Medalist" and an IBC Jackson logo. Aleksander Buber merited something in that competition, but he didn't get anything. He certainly didn't win gold. Yet, this is Columbia. My community allows such errors--even expects them, shrugs them off, and thinks that it doesn't matter. I hear it all the time---this isn't New York, as if that is a valid excuse for piling on mountains of compliments on a mediocre performance.
I couldn't help but feel like I was part of this hypocrisy. I was part of a staged art exhibit that was a major "success" because.....this isn't New York...we don't have to present the best or even feel the need to try. I looked around the gallery and found it too pathetic. I want more.
Part of the problem is the provincial attitude. Part of the problem is the gallery. Yet, part of the problem is me and my artwork. I know that the work is good. I also know that it is not good enough. If I am ever to escape the problems that I cannot change. I have to change the ones that are within my control. I really need to be more selective with the venues; but I also must concentrate on improving my work--going for more, aiming higher, and producing a quality that could have a place in a sophisticated, suburban setting. Otherwise, I'll end up all the "professional" ballet companies here in town--only good enough for Columbia.

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