Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When Does Art Become Product?

Here's an early peek at the card for the Pick Up the Pieces/Red Dot event that Conrad Wilde Gallery is hosting beginning May 1st. In case you can't read the names of the artists whose work is shown, they are, beginning at the top left and continuing in a clockwise rotation: Emilia Arana, Mo Godbeer, Nancy Natale and Eileen P. Goldenberg. I was pleased and surprised to be included on the card, and I like the blue/orange combo that is one of my favorites.

I hope that Conrad Wilde Gallery is able to make enough from this special sale to reimburse the artists whose work was stolen. The donated works will also be available for purchase online from the gallery. (Click here for a link to Conrad Wilde Gallery with more info on the show.)

How Does It Feel?
Last night I spoke to reporter Yael Schusterman who is doing a story on the Gallery and the show for the Arizona Daily Star. She asked me what I felt when I found out that my work was stolen. I told her that I didn't have much of an emotional reaction about the theft of my own work; I felt much worse for the gallery and for the other artists. I don't know why that is exactly except that I think once my work leaves the studio, I really disconnect from it. It's different when the work is still in the studio.  I remember when I first began making art and the strong connection that I felt to my work. When I first sold a piece, it felt like parting with my firstborn, but that's no longer the case.

I was in the home of my "biggest collectors" last week.  They are friends who have been very supportive of my work and have purchased a large number of pieces over the years. Looking at my work on their walls was a little surprising to me because I had forgotten some of it, and I was pleased that I thought most of the work was successful. There were a couple of pieces that I would rework a bit, but all in all, it was OK. Did I feel a big connection? Not really, although I could envision myself putting down the strokes and making the works. However, I no longer felt that the work was a part of me.

Dumpster Diving
After I got off the phone with Yael, I was (as usual after I talk to a reporter) filled with regret about my runaway mouth. I have yet to learn the lesson that many times less is more and the less you say, the less can be taken the wrong way and come around to bite you in the ass and/or make you look like the fool you (sometimes) are. I guess what got me going was the reporter's revelation that the three recovered works (my two plus one by Deanna Wood) were found not just in an alley, but in a dumpster!

I had visualized them lying picturesquely against a mossy wall somewhere, but the reality of their being tossed in a dumpster along with the tailends of someone's supper, painted a different picture for me.

Marketing Art
Well, discovering that the dumpster was the place where my work wound up, of course made me say that I wouldn't be surprised if all the work ended up in a dumpster somewhere. What I meant by this is that the paintings could not be readily exchanged for the fast buck the way that electronic equipment could be, that they would have to be marketed. How would crooks market art? Especially art by artists whose names are not among those totally recognizable by any household? (The question of which names those would be will be put aside for the moment.) For the most part, this art requires an intermediary to attest to its value. This is the important role that the gallery plays in marketing art. If you are a crook and are trying to sell art on a street corner (or out of a dumpster), chances are you will not hold the same position of critical authority in the art market.

When I first heard about the theft and saw all the stolen pieces together on the reward poster, I thought that someone had stolen a nice collection for their walls. All that work would look great hanging in someone's house! But that's a delusional view based on the belief that someone who makes their living (apparently) by breaking and entering will want to surround themselves with original art. I think that unless the stolen pieces can be exchanged for cash, drugs or some other "valuable" commodity, they are worthless and will end up in a dumpster or out in the desert where they will melt. (That sounds even worse than going to the dumpster.)

Note to Tucson police and/or other interested Tucson resident: map out all the dumpster locations in town and make regularly-scheduled investigatory visits. 

What's It All About, Alfie?
(Unless you are Of A Certain Age, that heading, the movie and the song of the same name will mean little or nothing to you.) So there I was after the conversation with the reporter, thinking how little connection I felt to the art I made and how the art on its own became just so much dumpster filler. Is there a spark that originates in the artist and infuses art with meaning like the finger of God bringing Adam to life on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

So here I am again, brought back to my funk and pondering Life's Deeper Meaning with no result in sight. It's a good thing that I am picking up a doggie house guest this afternoon to cheer me up. But more about that later.


Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I admire your work a great deal and it pisses me off that it was stolen and then trashed. Happy you got it aback. I feel confident they had no idea what they were stealing. That being said I just wonder "why". Perhaps they could tell us why but I don't really want to hear from the thugs, I just want them to stop! Creative people put so much of themselves into what they do and this attack was one of disrespect and indifference to the artist and the items they stole.

Pamela Farrell said...

So much food for thought here NN!
A few things that come to mind:
I too seem to feel differently about my work once it leaves the studio, though I don't feel detached so much as I see it with different eyes. The critic in me relaxes a bit once I have determined that the piece is "done" which is one of the most difficult parts of the process.

Since I am an open-ended sort of person who courts ambiguity and has learned to somewhat tolerate uncertainty (!!!) this final stage of making--determining that my role in its creation is completed--allows me to step away from it, and, if I'm showing the piece, the process continues on with the viewer. The process then becomes visual/cognitive/perceptual rather than material/building/physical, etc. At this point, the painting seems to no longer "belong" to me. Of course, until/unless it is sold, it will "belong" to me, but I no longer feel I have control of its creative process except for how and where it is shown. I might feel differently though, if my paintings were stolen.

Great post. So sorry for the loss to the artists and the Gallery. Bona fortuna to all.....