March 2, 2014
A few months ago, I received an email for an individual in search of an artwork. The piece was created part of a fundraiser for a San Francisco foundation in 2004. Artists were paid a small stipend to paint on a large custom fabrication. The finished sculptures were displayed around San Francisco and auctioned off at a fancy event in which the creators were not allowed to attend.
But where are the pieces today?
The gentlemen who contacted me is looking for my sculpture. He wanted to take photos part of a family adventure. However, I had no idea of its location. One rumor indicated that it had ended up on the East Coast at an automotive paint store. But, that can’t be verified.
It’s not an uncommon practice for galleries, institutions, and philanthropic organizations to withhold client information when a piece sells. Luckily, I’ve worked with some galleries that share contact data. However, this isn’t the norm and this continued practice leaves artists in the dark.
Getting older, I want to know the locations of my art for inventory and record keeping. Unfortunately, venues fear that artists will spam “their client” with correspondence and try to make sales without their commission. According to Benjamin Franklin: “The rotten apple spoils his companions.” Well, one artist’s obnoxious behavior shouldn’t shut the doors of communication for everyone.
This thinking doesn’t mimic today’s shopping experience. For example, anything bought online results in retailers spying on consumer’s habits. If I purchase something at store X, that company’s advertisement will appear on a banner while on Facebook, Yahoo, and the list goes on. In addition, mailings will also appear in email and/or physical form. Privacy for consumers in every other market from purchasing a cup of coffee to a home is virtually nonexistent.
Bottom line: an artist is selling a product and like most companies nowadays has every right to client contact information.
When I emailed the foundation requesting information of the artwork’s location this was the response:
“Hi Jenny –
Unfortunately, your xxxx went to a private buyer in 2004.
We don’t track the locations of all the xxx once they are purchased.
The above answer is disingenuous and lazy. Every time a company sells a item, that client is informed of upcoming events ($$$) or put on a marketing list ($$$). Artists are expected to create pieces for organizations for little or no pay. In return, they’ll receive “exposure” that will lead to fame. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Not sharing information but expecting quality donations destroys a transparent partnership. This hurts artists and a public that wants to share an experience.
Tony Bennett might have left his heart in San Francisco but where is mine?
February 23, 2014
This is the lovely time of year for tabulating and organizing taxes. For artists, it’s an honest look into the “real” cost of their endeavors. For the outside world, the financial burden to produce “beauty” destroys the romance. However, smart creatives need to be keenly aware of the bottom line.
Let’s analyze the above painting. Costs include the wood panel, oil paints, mediums, studio space, labor, delivery, and student loans to mention a few. By the time a gallery “possibly” sells a piece of work, an artist normally receives 50% of the sale. BTW, the gallery earns its piece of pie because they have to recoup the price of rent, employees, electricity, and etc…
I’m shouting and screaming this: a successful artist is one that makes enough money to be able to continue making their art! There is nothing sexy or exciting about this revelation. Reality isn’t glamorous but hard work. Perhaps a reread of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is needed, it’s survival of the fittest stupid (eye roll).
Suze Orman would like this tip: artists need their own capital to stay afloat. Got bad credit? Time to fix that or you’ll run into some big problems. Because sales and rentals can’t be predicted, flexibility in credit and saving is essential. Without a financial plan, creatives won’t survive. Usually, any profit is put right back into the art for supplies. Thinking of going out to dinner and having that $12 dollar glass of wine in the latest San Francisco hipster pop-up restaurant? Think again! That money must go right back into the business.
But why do artists continue to be delusional?
Artists have a dream, inspired by a bad romance novel, that they will be swept away and saved by a rich individual who grooms them to be famous by paying for a studio and lavishing them with endless buckets of resources. Seriously, I’m not making this shit up (pardon my use of language and eye roll again). This isn’t a joke or fantasy. In fact, it seems to becoming more outrageous and elaborate as time passes.
As an educator, I sometimes feel like no matter how honest my pleas of reality are- denial, hysteria, or the student loan due date works best for some. The true cost doesn’t include the personal sacrifices. Being an artist is not a logical profession but a commitment one makes to their practice. Bottom line: sometimes natural selection prevails and sometimes the “best” will only survive.
Charles Darwin: “The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.”
February 16, 2014
If I don’t become a rockstar artist making big money, then I’ll teach. Artists and my students consistently voice this sentiment. However, what was once thought to be the “fallback plan” for creatives, reality is a different story. Evidence to back this claim is growing.
On February 6th, PBS NEWSHOUR aired the television story Is academia suffering from “adjunctivitis”? Low-paid adjunct professors struggle to make ends meets. Reporter Paul Solman interviewed educators Nicole Beth Wallenbrok, Arik Greenberg, Rob Balla, and Joe Fruscione who currently have no medical benefits/sick time/family leave, and some have required food assistance.
Student’s learning suffers from the mistreatment of educators. Mr. Solman: “And you have now met barely a handful few examples of what might be called the adjunctivitis epidemic, adding these part-timers, who are half of all faculty, to full-time professors without tenure and much lower pay. More than 70 percent of America’s college teachers are so-called contingent. Many are unavailable to their myriad students, given their necessarily shorter office hours, says longtime adjunct Joe Fruscione, less energy in the classroom, fewer comments when grading papers or tests.”
Unfortunately, this is the standard corporate model in this “new” economy. The epidemic has spread from Wall Street to public and private education. Part-time employment equals full-time work without benefits. Companies don’t want to pay for healthcare, sick time, mandatory meetings, or prep time. Athletics, car collections, and parties are sexier and more exciting. Just tell educators: “I know that you don’t get paid well but we (fill in corporate company name) need you (fill in your name) to do x, y, and z (additional work for no pay but more accountability) starting yesterday. Have a great semester!”
This isn’t “new” news. However, why do the people working closest to students get paid so little compared to the ones at the top of the ladder?
I tell my students to diversify and to not rely on art, teaching, and family. If you want to be an artist, learn how to hustle and survive. Define your “success” beyond the paycheck and learn to set healthy boundaries with time and energy. One of my favorite San Francisco bay area artists (name withheld to protect some dignity), whose work is in art museum collections, made less than $18,000 last year working full-time through teaching, art sales, and odd jobs. Is this “success”?
The current education system based on profits represents our future. This legacy doesn’t represent the dedicated professors teaching and mentoring students. However, not saying anything is being complacent. My conscious is calling…
February 9, 2014
After recently seeing an image of a young child laying on multimillion dollar sculpture by artist Donald Judd, it made my heart sink. I understand the abuse art endures when it leaves my protective sanctuary. Some actions can be prevented, while others are intentional. Unfortunately, the respect of environment, space, or objects seems to be a dying attitude.
For example, a visit to the Tate Modern in London shouldn’t become an Internet sensation. Not for parents who think museums are playgrounds for children! According to Amy Graff of the San Francisco Chronicle: “New York gallery owner Stephanie Theodore who was visiting the museum the same day snapped a photo of one of the girls sprawled across the bottom part of the sculpture and posted it on Twitter along with the message, ‘Holy crap. Horrible kids, horrible parents.’ The photo spread across social media sites like wildfire and art lovers and museum-goers across the world expressed ire.” When Ms. Theodore confronted the parents, they responded that she knew nothing about kids.
Here’s the image:
This incident brought to mind another outrageous act. The one where two scout leaders (David Hall and Glenn Taylor) pushed over an ancient boulder (only 170 million years old) in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park last October. The two “geniuses” posted the video on YouTube and it became viral. However, their tactics finally caught up with them. Dave Paresh of the Los Angeles Times: “Hall was charged with one count of felony aiding and assisting in criminal mischief and Taylor with one count of felony criminal mischief. They both face up to five years in prison, though the Emery County district attorney told reporters that he would seek a plea deal.” Hopefully, consequences will follow disrespectful actions.
Here’s the video:
Whether art is man-made or natural, it must be revered. This behavior needs to be taught by example and by setting boundaries. Ignoring only becomes an incubator for bad conduct. How we treat “things” reflects our compassion. From an expensive sculpture to a sacred rock formation, once destroyed- it can never be replaced. That loss of experience for future generations is the true tragedy.
February 2, 2014
Two exhibits got this lady out of the creative den last week. Two artists that have dedicated their lives to their practice but have contrasting stylistic pieces showcased in two very different locations. Christine Hanlon is displayed at the Richmond Art Center and Amy Trachtenberg at the former lobby of the Bank of America building in downtown San Francisco.
Christine Hanlon is part of a group exhibition titled The Language of Realism curated by John Wehrle. The show also included artists Michael Beck, Anthony Holdsworth, and John Rampley. Ms. Hanlon is a fellow instructor at the Academy of Art University and one of most thoughtful persons I know. Her resume is impressively long with quality exhibitions including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Berkeley Art Center, Coos Art Museum, and many more.
The above piece was one of my favorites because it juxtaposes the relationship between nature and man. According to Hanlon’s website: “In my recent work, the consequences of our economic/environmental policies has crept back into my work, as my focus has turned to oil tankers in distress (“Death of an Oil Tanker: Prestige 1976-2002″) and the imagery of big ships. The series entitled Import/Export included cargo ships, which became the focus of political dissent in the spring of 2003, when the ILWU strikes at the Oakland container shipyards attracted national attention over the issues of peaceful protest and domestic security.” Hanlon’s work pushes past the “pretty picture” to match that designer sofa and creates an extended dialogue beyond the viewer’s comfort level.
A few days later, From Here to Timbuktu: 25 Years of Painting was the destination at 555 California Street in San Francisco. The Amy Trachtenberg exhibition is worth the visit and challenge despite the understandable heightened safety measures. A personal viewing can be arranged in advance at email@example.com through email. However, I caught a decent interior glimpse of the art due to two friendly security guards on one side of the building. From the lobby’s exhibition description: “My work is made in a constant feedback loop that blurs boundaries between the studio, between painting and three-dimensional work and with the rest of the world. I am compelled by contradictions. Within a shifting grammar of abstraction, I am inside of conversations with the ancient, the political, with natural and man-made sites and with my artist peers and our antecedents…”
Trachtenberg’s resume showcases an amazing diversity from the San Jose Museum of Art to the Milpitas BART station. She was also part of the Factor XX exhibit I curated at the Art Museum of Los Gatos. If 25 years of paintings looks this good, I’m looking forward to seeing the next.
Both exhibits might be from here to Timbuktu but the quality was the same. Two women with diverse backgrounds who shared the same language. It proved that quality does take time. Opportunities to view exhibitions like this can’t be missed because they can’t be recreated. Hanlon and Trachtenberg’s body of work proves that point.
The Language of Realism, Richmond Art Center. January 11 to March 9, 2014.
From Here to Timbuktu: 25 Years of Painting, 555 California Street Plaza Gallery, on view through March 8, 2014.
January 26, 2014
Last Sunday was the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks NFC Championship football game. It was also the last day for the David Hockney exhibit at the de Young museum and thought it would be a perfect time to visit. With the “important” sporting event, it wouldn’t be that busy at the museum. Right? Well, I was completely wrong and obviously had no clue.
The museum was insanely busy from fighting for a parking spot in the underground garage to strategically peeping between people for San Francisco views in the museum’s observation deck. Forgot this wasn’t the Midwest where whole cities shut down for a football game. However, I admit it was nice visiting the museum solo with the crowds. Navigating undercover without the fear of “losing” family or friends was awesome.
The wait to see the Hockney show was hindered by lines and an “approved” viewing time with 3 hours to kill. It was the perfect moment for a detour to see the Bvlgari exhibit with my VIP pass. As the artist in residence in September, I was working late the night of the The Art of Bvlgari, La Dolce Vita & Beyond 1950-1990 opening. Meticulously manicured individuals in fancy designer duds walked in and out of the Kimball Education Gallery. Security sneaked me out the side door because of the lack of proper attire. However, I was able to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous while slipping through the coat rack. It took months to finally see the exhibit and the jewels were spectacular. This bracelet would be a nice belated 40th birthday gift:
Finally my “approved” time arrived for the David Hockney: a Bigger Exhibition. Did I mention it was crazy crowded? Overall, never was a Hockney fan due to his acid trip Candy Land game of color landscapes swirled with Alice Neel like portraits. Walking through the masses, his paintings grew on me. In fact, enjoyed them and am still tying to figure out why. Not many artists can get away with his swagger of color and confidence. But Hockney triumphed and I left regretting my failure not giving his work its deserved recognition. The exhibit showcased a lifetime of dedication with over 400 works.
What was I thinking? According to Hockney: “We grow small trying to be great.”
Yes, it was the last day of the exhibit and viewing would be easier without the masses on a “normal” weekday. However, timing was perfect for the experience. Hockney might be gone from San Francisco but his art left an impression. I must leave my snarky and pretentious attitude at the door. Experience first, analyze second, and finally create a memory photo to harvest later. That is la dolce vita and beyond.
The Art of Bvlgari, La Dolce Vita & Beyond 1950-1990 is on display till Feb 17, 2014.
David Hockney: a Bigger Exhibition is now a memory and available in a book.
January 19, 2014
On January 17th, I turned 40 and shared my birthday with Betty White, Michelle Obama, Mohammad Ali, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Anne Bronte, Kid Rock, Al Capone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Benjamin Franklin. That would have been an interesting dinner and conversation if possible. However, it made me wonder. Are numbers a “big” deal? Yes and no.
A few interesting facts about 40:
1. Fahrenheit and Celsius scales match at -40.
2. It is the atomic number of zirconium and according to WebElements: “Zirconium is found in S-type stars, and has been identified in the sun and meteorites.” Good to know just in case a visit to a star occurs (eye roll).
3. Forty Days and Forty Nights is one of my favorite blues songs by Muddy Waters.
4. The Rule of Three = 1+3+9+27
5. Baseball has a 40-man roster. Another reason it’s my favorite sport (Sorry 49ers and Packer fans).
Speaking of numbers, forty is a milestone. Of my time on this planet, I’ve spent 22.5 years in school from kindergarten to graduate. 56% of my life has participated in education not counting the time teaching (that’s 74%). I’ve sent out 1,350 art submissions and lost count of how many pieces have been created. Hope that softens the artist myth of boozing it up and irresponsibility. This lady has been busy.
Overall, I’m grateful to have another day on planet Earth to create. Don’t know the big plan or try to understand. What I know is today’s reality and battle. Benjamin Franklin: “At twenty years of age the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.” If forty means being the critic of one’s life, I’ll take it. Instead of standing on the sidelines, participation is the best bet.
January 12, 2014
Over time, words have become a close friend. I used to detest and loathe writing when younger. Now, it’s a comfort and guide moving forward. In fact, written expression has become part of my ritual and art practice. It creates meaning and adds depth to life. Without words, I would feel lost. Writing aides in the discovery of quality by being the first mark in my art.
However, are words just words?
Famous writers, actors, musicians, and artists such as Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, George Orwell, Charlize Theron, Adele, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Jackson Pollock were confronted with addictions in their families or individually. My childhood was plagued with alcoholism’s ugly face. By no means was it the worst but it was a challenge. I learned early that words could be manipulated by physical, mental, or environmental circumstances that are uncontrollable. However, language has a deep meaning to me. When that trust is broken, it can be forgiven but not forgotten.
A few years back went to a Squeak Carnwarth artist talk. She discussed how her alcoholic family structure framed her art practice. Laura Casey of the Contra Costa Times interviewed Carnwarth for her Oakland Museum exhibit in 2009: “Carnwath settled here in part because her husband was from the Bay Area, but she also because wanted to ‘get as far away from my family as possible,’ she says bluntly. Carnwath’s childhood was, in short, difficult and dysfunctional. The oldest of six children, she says the boys were always favored over the girls. Her father was an alcoholic and the family moved frequently for her father’s work, leaving her relatively rootless. Her mother was driven by fear and played a victim, Carnwath says. Family battles with mental illness are woven casually through the stories of her life, in conversation with the artist and through the show catalog. It’s important to know that she had such a difficult childhood because she thinks about and reflects upon themes in her childhood frequently in her work. She’s not brooding; rather, she’s studying herself as a subject.”
I relate to Squeak Carnwath and understand complicated family dynamics. Honesty, this history (good or bad) influences my art practice. How could it not? “Serious” and committed artists have an insane laser focus that drives them. I often wonder what motivates other creatives. Could it be money or fame? Whatever the inspiration, words decode, define, and help us cope. Filtering through the clutter is key to clear words. Buddha: “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”
January 5, 2014
Currently CSPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) has a fascinating series titled First Ladies: Influence and Image. Finding regular network television programming to be a void of intelligent writing and wasting of life’s precious time, its been a light in a dark wasteland. From their website: “C-SPAN is producing a two-season feature series on the First Ladies, examining their private lives and the public roles they played in the White House. Produced in cooperation with the White House Historical Association, each week ‘First Ladies: Influence and Image’ will feature the women who served in the role of First Lady over 44 administrations. This project is the first of its kind — a comprehensive biography series on all of the First Ladies produced for television.” I’ve watched the Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon, and Lou Hoover episodes by streaming the stories online.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an interesting and inspiring character. She was the First Lady from 1933 to 1945 during a turbulent time in American history that included the crash of the stock market, the Depression, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the beginning of World War II. Ms. Roosevelt was an activist for social issues including civil, labor, and women rights. Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Lady Bird Johnson: “Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” These words were truthful to her biography. She was First Lady from 1963 to 1969 and was thrown into the role after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and she endured the Vietnam War years. She was a master speaker and powerful political partner for her husband Lyndon B. Johnson. According to the LBJ Presidential Library website: “During her White House years, Mrs. Johnson served as honorary chairman of the National Head Start Program, a program for underprivileged pre-school children which prepares them to take their places in the classroom on a par with their peers.” Like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird’s amazing contributions to fight against poverty and women’s rights still exist today.
Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her elegant style and the tragic death of her husband John F. Kennedy. She was the First Lady from 1961-1963 and the image of her standing stoically with two young children grieving at her husband’s funeral is etched forever in time. Ms. Kennedy: “Once you can express yourself, you can tell the world what you want from it. . . All the changes in the world, for good or evil, were first brought about by words.”
Betty Ford was First Lady from 1974-1977 and similarly to Lady Bird Johnson was thrown into the role after the unexpected event of President Nixon’s resignation. Betty Ford battled breast cancer and alcohol addiction. She became a role model, an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, a supporter for abortion rights, and a champion for women. Ms. Ford: “The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.”
Pat Nixon grew up very poor and worked hard for her education. She was First Lady from 1969-1974 and the time was overshadowed by the resignation of her husband. Pandas reside in our zoos because of her comments to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during a visit in 1972. Unfortunately, Pat Nixon suffered: “I have sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious to advance the political career of my husband.”
Lou Hoover was First Lady from 1929-1933 during the Great Depression. She was considered to be a “tomboy” because of her love for the outdoors, sports, and being the National President of the Girl Scouts prior to entering the White House. This was my favorite CSPAN program because it showcased her groundbreaking spirit during a challenging time for women. Lou Hoover: “The independent girl is truly of quite modern origin, and usually is a most bewitching little piece of humanity.”
The “proper” Merriam-Webster definition of lady is: “a woman who behaves in a polite way, a woman of high social position, a man’s girlfriend.” My definition of “lady” is a woman with grace and dignity who challenges obstacles by inspiring others to become responsible global citizens. Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon, and Lou Hoover background’s were diverse and unique. However, they defined what a “lady” should be independently and for future generations. Now, I’m looking forward to CSPAN’s First Gentlemen series starting with the next presidential election…
December 29, 2013
If an informal survey asked people what were the top stories nationally or personally, the responses would be diverse and not always predictable. Every year has its ups and downs. With some periods of time ranging from challenging to exciting. With social media sites and technology tracking our trends, does a computer know us better than we know ourselves?
Facebook now has a “personal” Year in Review feature. Well, I don’t want my life tabulated and charted by a third party that decides what’s important. That’s weird, creepy, and strange. According to The Huffington Post: “Facebook released its annual Year in Review list highlighting the site’s biggest viral trends, check-ins, and things people couldn’t stop talking about in 2013. But to make things a little more personal, the social media network also rounded up 20 of your top moments of the year. New babies, new jobs or just your well-deserved vacation, the social media network has collected some of your top Facebook status updates (we assume depending on likes), best (and unfortunately sometimes worst) tagged photos and even some of the funny wall posts you may have forgotten about.”
Are Facebook posts a true reflection of a user’s life?
When I look back at 2013, it was an interesting year beyond personal events. Stories that summed up the last 365 days in no particular order include the Moore Oklahoma tornado, Paula Deen’s racist words, oldest primate discovered, Pope Francis, life could have existed on Mars, Syria Civil War, climate change acceleration, Washington Navy Yard shootings, George Zimmerman trial, James Gandolfini’s death, Boston marathon bombing, Obamacare, meteor over Russia, Supreme Court decision in support for gay marriage, expansion of the universe, Edward Snowden leaks, Nelson Mandela’s death, divided/dysfunctional government, Miley Cyrus twerking performance, Typhoon Haiyan’s destructive path over the Philippines, and many more. What was the top story according to an Associated Press poll? The Obama health care overhaul.
What was the top story of your life?
Overall, a social media site doesn’t need to be the primary reminder of our existence on planet Earth. I like to take “memory photos” to remember important events instead of hiding behind a computer screen or device. Tactile and tangible instead of technical sounds like a good plan. I want 2013 and beyond to be experienced independently without the aide of Facebook or a corporation. A year in review includes personal reflection and the power to control our top stories. That sounds like “real” news to me.