Our Road Trip to Nowhere

I spent a lot of time thinking up names for our business blog.  In the end I settled on A Paradox:  Art-Life-Business.  Perhaps poorly stated, it was meant to show that for an artist, there really is no separation of our art making, our personal life and the inevitable struggle to make a living from our art, so we can keep making more art.  It’s difficult to be creative when you’re bogged down in worries.  This past week is a perfect example of how wrapped up our personal lives are with our business.

Wednesday morning we left home for Reston, VA to participate in the Northern Virginia Art Fair, one of the A-list shows in America.  We’ve been juried into it a number of times, most recently the past two years.  Sales are usually solid at this high quality show, and last year was very good.  Just after passing Louisville, Kentucky our van broke down. As we approached a weigh station (we have a box van to transport our sculpture and therefore are regulated by the federal department of transportation) we suspected trouble—at first it was only a slight noise coming from under the hood.  Robin parked, went inside and the officer gave him a printout of local tow truck operators, and he recommended the nearest one.  It was a quick diagnosis,  the vacuum pump seized up, shredding the serpentine belt, causing the loss of our power brakes and power steering.  The driver recommended two shops in the area that could possibly work on it right away.  One declined but the other said they could get to it the following morning.  After a night in a hotel, the van wasn’t ready to go until 2PM on Thursday.  Had we not run into trouble, we would be nearly finished setting up our booth at the show.  What to do?

Had it been a dozen or so years earlier, we would have driven on east to arrive by 1 AM, get a few short hours of sleep, be on the street by 6 AM setting up in a rush before the show opened at 10 AM.  But we’ve learned that we don’t have that kind of stamina anymore.  Heck, anymore we can’t even entertain or go out two nights in a row!  I know I wouldn’t have had the energy or presence of mind to smile at potential buyers and carry on a sensible discussion about our work.  That’s difficult enough for me under the best of circumstances.  Having grown up nearly always alone, my verbal communication skills are extremely poor.

So we made the decision to cancel our participation in the show.  We sacrificed our $750 corner booth fee.  The Hyatt at the show charged us for the first night ($120) as their policy is a three-day cancellation period before this show.  The tow was $228  and the repair bill was $891.  Losing potential for sales, is a real hardship.  The only good that came of it is that we got home to spend a few more days with our beloved Bull Mastiff, Harley.  Read about that gut-wrencher on my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com

Art Fair Artists

The world of art is controlled by art critics and galleries and to some minor extent academia.  Galleries by and large choose their stable from those that have been in an arena where they have received recognition from academia.  The galleries then have control of who gets exposure, followed by publicity and therefore a chance of recognition and credibility, of legitimacy and perceived authenticity.   Art critics peruse the world of galleries  and literally make the names. Now this would be all well and good, providing the galleries and critics had a corner on judging the validity of art. I have a more than fair understanding of art history.  I understand the value of much of modern art that the uneducated eye tends to dismiss.  However I also understand that the art world is plagued by politics and greed and therefore can be blind, so to speak. Making names is important to the structure of their game, but the truth is a big sticker price doesn’t necessarily equate with quality.

The art world of galleries and critics and big-ticket collectors look down upon the art fair artist.  Their easy conclusion is that those art-makers aren’t important artists, rather some kind of second-rate wannabe’s.

We meet artists often on the street that are refreshing, creative and genuine.  Case in point:  This weekend we’re at the Carefree (AZ) Fine Art and Wine Festival and have had the pleasure of meeting numerous artists that are creating works of art that have depth and vision. Their work will enhance the patrons’ lives who purchase their art.  There’s the guy from LA, via Uganda, with incredible serigraphs made from his batiks.  They are expressive, imbued with narrative meaning.  Talk to him, ask him about his work and you will be carried away with the story he tells in his images. How wonderful they are to behold.

Then there’s the guy with the character driven, original paintings, which are incredibly imaginative and skillfully executed–two skeletons dancing together, smoke flowing from his pistol.

Or the glass-blowers trained in Italy, with the intricately patterned colors weaving through their vessels.

Not every booth is filled with wondrous art, to be sure.  The discriminating eye can weed out the more amateurish work, but don’t dismiss the lot or you will miss out. Art is for everyone.  There is spirit imbued in the hand-made.  Let it speak to you. Take it home and live with it.  You won’t be disappointed.