Sunday, February 26, 2012

Georgia ( or What it Takes to Show Work in Another State)

Back in the rosier days pre-economic meltdown, Montgomery County used to give money to artists in the form of an Individual Artist Fellowship, a grant distributed to artists who demonstrated a strong, innovative  body of work.  The last year I applied for this fellowship, in fact, the last year they were awarded, I was one spot shy of receiving funding.  I received a copy of the breakdown of the judging in the mail after the process was done.  The nine top artists were deemed the strongest and were awarded five thousand dollars - I was number ten.  I guess everything has to have a cutoff point, but it's painful to be right on the brink. In the comments section of the results, the jury panel suggested that I needed to expand to show my work more nationally.

It was a critique that resonated, and it's been a goal of mine ever since. 

Most of my exhibition experience has been here in Ohio both in the Columbus and Dayton area.
I love to show regionally for a number of reasons:
  1. It's easy to deliver and install work, I often want to be hands on with installation and like to be able to change my mind about things at the last minute.
  2. I know the venues, and how they fit or don't fit with the style of my work.
  3. I can go to the opening and invite friends, the social act of being an artist is important to me and I enjoy the buzz of preparing for an event (and I can take cupcakes).
But ever since the grant that slipped right out of my fingertips, I've been working to expand my resume to include shows on a national level.  It's been a bumpy ride.  I started my plan of national domination in the same way probably a lot of artists go about it.  Looking up calls for entry on the College Art Association website, in the back of Art Professional magazine, pretty much where ever calls for entry were to be found. Many of these applications resulted in polite and succinct rejection letters one or two months later.

And now to the point of this monologue...

Finally, I have started seeing some success from my national push.  A call for entry from the CAA website resulted in my inclusion in a juried exhibition in Georgia; the 25th Annual National Juried Exhibition at the Cultural Arts Center in Douglasville, Georgia to be exact.  The acceptance letter was an exciting one to get in the mail and it wasn't until a week or two later that I began to consider the practical implications of shipping a 40" x 40" painting across the bottom half of the country.

Thank goodness for help!

 My first resource that I consulted was the excellent Art/Work by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber.  This book is a handy and current volume that gives professional practice suggestions for artists.  The information found there was invaluable.  My painting has an impasto surface, so just boxing it up could be potentially damaging.

Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering with special shipping frame

So, I bought some relatively thin and light strips of wood and begged? pleaded? with my husband Francis to use his wood working skills to help build a frame for the piece. After the frame was completed I attached some slightly sturdier pieces of wood to the back of the frame to act as a brace.  I drilled a few short screws through the brace and into the stretcher bars of the painting from the back.  The screws helped to stabilize the painting so that it wouldn't fall forward out of its frame.

You can see the backboards attached to the special shipping frame

Close-up of where I attached the back board to the stretcher.

After all this constructing, I channeled Dexter the serial killer and wrapped the whole thing in plastic, stapling along the wooden frame as I went.  This was my favorite part of the entire enterprise.


After the piece was all plasticed up (Laura Palmer!!) I loaded it in the back of the Subaru and took it to UPS.  They were able to pack it and construct a box without too much expense.  The box is sturdy enough that I can reuse it again.  I paid for shipping both to and back from Georgia.  Ouch!  There has to be a better way.

Paperwork and plastic.

Of course at the end of the show, the piece was shipped back to me, to once again inhabit my studio. 

I wonder if there is some key to this puzzle that I'm missing.  It seems inefficient to go through all that trouble and expense to get a line on my resume.  I didn't even get to see the show! I'm curious about other artists' experiences with showing nationally and internationally.

Do you only do far away shows that have a stipend for shipping?  Do you go to the venues where you will be showing?  Do you avoid juried shows altogether (it seems really rare for me to sell a piece from a juried show). 

I think that folks sometimes forget that artists are constantly constructing their own careers.  I get a lot of "that must be fun" when I mention that I'm a painter.  I would certainly say that I enjoy painting to a great degree (and sometimes I hate it) but overall it is just one component of "being a painter."  Building frames and carting around giant paintings is a part of it too, as is searching out opportunities. The most difficult thing for me is trying to navigate the murky waters of my own ambition. Do I fight or succumb to the desire for validation outside of my own personal barometer for success in the studio?  Then again, if I wanted a job with an obvious and straightforward path, I probably shouldn't have chosen this one.

Thankfully, the upside to being an artist is - sometimes you get to wrap giant things in plastic.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Violent Peach

Francis took this photograph while documenting some of the room arrangements for Pot Luck.

This was by far the most eerie image of the bunch!

I love this violently peach room at the High Street Gallery.  The color is strangely acidic for what is considered a traditionally sweet hue.  The room is also fairly small, so it feels enveloping when you walk into that much vibrating peach.

There is something William Eggelston-esque about the color interplay and the areas where you can see the paint has been patched.  In this photograph, the room itself has an down-beat institutional feel with the linoleum floors and the small details of grate, wall socket, smoke detector and can light.

The fact that the floor is tilted to a slight degree adds to the vertigo (although that could have something to do with the glowing crazy painting on the wall too).

All in all, I love this photograph. Thank you Francis for the strange and perfect documentation.