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
Another August is passing. This one has been very productive in that I’ve designed a two new series of boats, The Hanging Boats and The Flying Boats. I expect to have three Hanging Boats completed to show at The Philadelphia Museum Show in November. One of them is an ode to youth lost too soon. It will hang by silk threads and butterflies. An artist doesn’t escape from their life experience. Our lives get intertwined with our art making and so our art, our personal life and our business is forged together.
I’ve a penchant for symbolism and “The Crow’s Nest” is full of it. Aside from the boat being a symbol of the journey of the soul and the nest symbolizing the home and security, this sculpture has a more personal story. Robin is fond of telling the story of how I proposed to him on our first date when I found out he had a 17′ Old Town canoe. We’re also very aware of the significance in the adage “don’t miss the boat”. This sculpture is a marriage of our lives. The shape of this boat is entirely Robin’s design and I love the sleek lines. He carved it and gave it to me to texture and paint. Together we designed the pedestal upon which the boat rests. It’s structure is a pleasing arc but massive enough to create a stable foundation. On the boat rests a copper crow’s nest–a metaphor for not only a sailing ship’s lookout, but the home for Robin’s old crow, namely me. And when the nest came to rest there, is when the boat became a vessel.
If you’ve followed our pursuits in the past year, you know about the fast transition we made to the making of boats and books this year. We have a working process of experimenting with materials and techniques on our art for the wall, and then these new ideas are incorporated into the boats. With Robin taking time once again to experiment on hammering, embossing and patina work lately, I can see already such grand statement pieces utilizing the approach in this new 12″ square. These are hot!
Artists can’t afford to miss the boat. A lost opportunity means a harder journey. In order to grow, which is the ultimate aim of the artist, one has to take risks. You have to experiment and many of those turn out badly. You have to take chances to evolve. Not just any risk, but one that sets sail with good intention.
The boat is the symbol for the spiritual journey and as such it is the perfect icon for Robin and I to explore. The first date we had, he revealed to me that he owned a 17 foot red, yes I said red, Old Town canoe. Without missing a stroke, I asked him to marry me. I was kidding of course, or so I thought. One’s subconscious knows infinitely more than the conscious and so maybe she already knew his soul and knew he was who I was looking for. She probably already knew he had similar goals and philosophy. A year after that we began a 24/7 relationship that is going strong and can survive which ever boat life presents.
By the way, later that first evening, I told him that I was an artist and that as a matter of fact that very afternoon I had bought a new table saw. He said, “Oh, really! Will you marry me?”
We’ve spent the majority of our studio time the past few years in a disciplined discovery of incorporating textures and color on a variety of media working within a geometric format, namely the square and rectangle. It was a way of getting back to the basics and learning to recombine our skills to create relief sculpture that is dramatic, focused, and beautiful. Though we still find this challenging, we’re breaking loose now. Rather than concentrate only on formal issues of design it’s time to introduce iconic images.
Throughout our years together, Robin and I have often referred to the tale of missing the boat, the boat being a symbol of opportunity. In cultures throughout the world, the boat has represented the spiritual journey, exploration of the world, and a vehicle for acquiring food. As culture evolved and people gained more free time, the boat became a vehicle for recreation.
We’ve latched onto this powerful symbol at this time because we’re re-inventing ourselves once again. Our situation is ripe for it. The boat is carrying us forward in our quest.
Our latest boat is the largest so far, 5′ in length. It’s sleek lines are an elegant statement, but this boat has cargo. It carries another icon, a bird’s nest, symbol of protection, of security, of birth and home. Where will this take us?
“The Crow’s Nest” 59.5″W x 24″T x 11″D Polychromed wood, hickory deck with copper nails, pedestal of hammered copper with chemical patina, nest of brazed re-cycled copper $9800