Monday, April 14, 2008

the Matriarchist

I have a theory: artists go crazy when they have a show. Sure, some of them – many of us, how about that – are already crazy. But we can become not ourselves at all during this crucial time.

I'm not sure why it is. Is it because we spend all of that time in the studio and the social skills are rusty? Or is this a frantic do-or-die mentality which takes over? We want control and say things which can eventually hurt us the most.

One day I had a near-paralyzing experience with an artist. I liked and trusted him from the moment I saw him and his work. It was an immediate, almost instinctual response. The show I was to hang (and promote, let us not forget) was his first real gallery show - no small thing really, especially considering that I showed a lot of artists on the other side of 40 and he was not. But he seemed to have a lot of grace in his character as well as his style.

On the day he delivered the work, we installed some of it together – maybe a mistake on my part, looking back. For then he had some time to talk price and how he wanted to up it all. We got into a discussion about it, because while I believe his work is worth more than the proposed price tag (as is the case with virtually every PDX artist), it's a market and I could probably sell some work that my audience, such as they were, could afford.

He said he did not care about the past, about other artists, about my own trials as an undervalued artist, or those of my peers: he lived in the present. He did not go to art school, he did not care if he sold at all. He knew what he wanted for them and if they didn't sell at all, so what.

I began to ask myself if he would have talked to the owner the way he talked to me. The owner was a man, tall and older, generous and quite kind to foot the bill on that operation…. tell him you don't care if you sell!

When I told him (stupid on my part, this I know now): "Hey, I'm turning 50 this year and have some experience," he said contritely: "Congratulations."

Here was the wild card about the whole thing - he had, before this all came up, in a previous enraptured discussion, explained how his art was all about the matriarchy!

When I talked about my own journey to commercial galleries in this town, he said: "Don't bring the personal and your own baggage into this." Hmm… I thought it must have been obvious that my personal baggage is what got him that show to begin with. It is everything, for better or worse, and it is not up to him to delete.

What the hell became of the free thinker, the graciousness and the fucking matriarchy, by the way? Is this the new Feminist Man? Ouch. Call me mean and crazy, but this repartee took all spark out of this show for me. He knew best. Then he could fucking sell it.

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