Choices have been made and the event has been announced. I’m down to the last minute tasks for the show that goes up on Wednesday. Twenty paintings are now ready to grace the walls of the lovely gallery space in our City Hall. How they’ll be received is yet to be seen, and it’s not up to me.
I’m doing the finishing touches on paintings that have been moved twice in the last year. In a perfect world, paintings are happier when they’re settled on walls and left alone. But life is not so perfect and, in some cases (this one for example), the paintings have had to travel.
The cave painters had no such concern. Lucky them! On the other hand, living and working in a cave do not appeal to every artist.
The details of an art show depend on where you’re showing, who is sponsoring, how many willing hands you have available, and other large or small considerations.
Although I had shown my collages in a couple of small shows at the Red Cliffs Gallery in Utah, my first show as a painter was in San Diego. Artists were invited to rent spaces in a small adjunct gallery (next to the “real” gallery). We artists were juried into the show and then left on our own to hang the work in the 10′ of wall space which we had rented for a reasonable sum.
For those of us without gallery credentials, we were happy to have the shared space, and to be shown under the credential of the main gallery. I was happy enough to extend my first month’s agreement for a second month. Participating artists staffed the small gallery in shifts, and that went pretty smoothly, all things considered.
From there, I was invited to mount a larger solo show at Liberty Station in the heart of the Liberty Station arts district in San Diego. The solo show was my “coming of age,” although the gallery in which it was hung was only open part of the time and not really a “browsing” gallery.
A guest at the opening for this show, however, prompted me to make contact with a full-scale gallery in La Jolla and suggested I use the guest’s name. I happily did and was invited to be part of a group show at the La Jolla gallery a few months later. The gallery has a good reputation in southern California and I was grateful for the opportunity.
This is how it works. One thing leads to another.
But you have to keep the momentum going. After the La Jolla show, I decided to head to Mexico where I painted for a year but made no meaningful contacts and had no shows at all. Baja galleries are more interested in Don Quixote, half-dressed women, and Frida Kahlo knock-offs than in abstract art about jazz. As the I Ching says, “No blame.” Just a different world.
Which is to say I’ve been starting again from scratch since returning to the Pacific Northwest. I had big plans on my return, and thought I knew my way around gallery contacts up here, but lest any of us forget the brilliant words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
In my case, “Life” included not only a lot of changes in the art/gallery scene since I’d last lived in Oregon, but also a pandemic and lockdowns. My big plans went right out the window, and I have been left since then trying to get the momentum back, to paint, to show the work.
As both a writer and an artist, I have never embraced the idea that creative people work “for ourselves.” Neither boxes and drawers or computer files filled with writing nor back rooms and garages filled with never seen paintings were for me. I know all about Emily Dickinson and her secret stash of poems, but for me, getting the work out there was part of my training and is a key part of my process.
It’s always nice to sell something, but the selling is a different part of this. For me, the paintings – mine or anyone else’s – deserve/need an audience. For better or worse.
Art schools do not have student critiques just to fill the time. The critiques – sharing one’s work – are the way we learn and, as I found in my Manhattan acting classes, serious artists no matter what the subject – music, art, dance, acting – never stop learning. Never stop “taking class.”
In December, we moved to a tiny place, a more or less abandoned old mill town, and I asked myself what my chances of being a viable artist might be here. I am not inclined to sell my art online as a main way to find homes for it. I like being able to meet and get to know buyers. It’s a choice.
So, in the “you never know until you try” spirit of risktaking, I’ve put myself out there, made some contacts and missed others, said yes to opportunities that might otherwise have sailed right past me. On July 20, the show goes up and I have so far felt a lot of encouragement for it. And the local arts organization – yes, we have one – has offered support as have the folks at City Hall.
The 20 paintings are ready, and so am I. We are who we are.
My fine friends, David Bayles & Ted Orland, in Art & Fear, write about author Lawrence Durrell and his description of the writing process as “driving construction stakes in the ground: you plant a stake, run fifty yards ahead and plant another, and pretty soon you know which way the road will run.”
Bayles & Orland say, too, that
“Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending…This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it’s an excellent idea in making art.”
The paintings and I will know more about the ending (or new beginning) in a matter of days!
4 thoughts on “The Paintings Are Ready and So Am I”
Think of you often as I cruise through Lebanon…Will send more info later…Hope Seattle is treating you right!
We are still up here in Seattle, so please post some photos of your show and let us know how the opening goes.
Official announcement coming soon…with all details…Yes, it is exciting. Stay tuned for more on it all.
Congratulations, the day has finally arrived! What are the details? What time does City Hall open for business? What are the “gallery” hours? Where’s City Hall located? How long will the show be up? What time is the reception on August 5? This is exciting!
I’m looking forward to seeing your debut exhibition in Sweet Home!