Archives for category: personal history

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been known to have my gripes about the institutional machinery churning out MFAs, and the economic chicanery of the commercial art world that promotes the idea that this degree denotes superior artistic talent, intellect or dedication.  As Jerry Saltz writes in NY Magazine, “These days, if a young artist starts out showing at Larry Gagosian it feels silly, misguided, out of scale, and odd — like the artist is in it for the wrong reasons.”

Yes, an MFA does denote a bigger debt load (or bigger trust fund), but we all know there are plenty of artists out there who have and continue to produce incredible work by following less traditional paths.  Let us not forget that the supposed indispensability of having an MFA is a fairly recent development for visual artists.  But that aside, while I may have reservations about certain institutions, my point here, and I promise to get to it, is to speak out loudly in favor of teachers, and the importance of all of us being very vocal and visible in supporting the role of arts in the public education programs for the nation’s youth.  (If you’re in NY, here’s a good place to start advocating for the arts.)

“A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image. “~ Unknown

Don’t you fondly think of those who have formally and/or informally offered insights, guidance, opinions and encouragement along the way?  I speak from experience to say that you might be surprised at how much showing your appreciation might mean to them.

Here are a few of the people I have to thank:

Incredibly perceptive, sharp and frank Regina Granne, who taught me that looking hard and drawing well are indispensable abilities, but aren’t enough if one isn’t honing one’s thinking skills all the while.

Knox Martin, at 87 and still painting away, eternally mischievous, irrepressibly lustful, playful, and passionate – an unaffected cad of sorts.  [His current solo show at Woodward Gallery runs through November 13, 2010.]

The late Richard Pousette-Dart, irascible by association, though not in manner, whom I have to thank for encouraging me to look deep within and pursue my creative vision, for caring not a whit when it diverged from his own, and for telling me to use a bigger sketchbook.

The late Robert Beauchamp, an uncompromising painter’s painter, who made it undeniably obvious how sexy paint can be.

Bruce Dorfman, who taught me the difficult lesson of mining successes from self-proclaimed so-called failures.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” (Albert Einstein, again.)

And I’ll leave you with some views from teachers’ perspectives:

A post by Julia Hensley on teaching and making art and a typographic video version of Taylor Mali‘s spoken poem “What Teachers Make.”

And if you want to be impressed more, check out Taylor Mali’s mission to inspire 1000 people to become teachers.  So far, he’s convinced 580, and counting!

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My previous post, “Not So Fan-tastic,” describes my receipt of a “fan” letter in the mail from teenager Suzanne Lopez, requesting  my autograph on a blank, white index card she had enclosed.  Before responding to what was a decidedly unusual request, I did some research and found out that the identical letter had been sent internationally to many artists of all disciplines.  Well, the almost identical letter.  Suzanne revised her age randomly between 17, 16 and 15, and her return address changed often.

Today I received an email from Suzanne, using a different name, who was upset to find that I had publicly aired my skepticism.  I will add my rough translation of her message and the original French at the bottom of this post.  The few points I’d note before asking for your comments are as follows:

First off, I have no desire to alienate or criticize anyone who genuinely appreciates my work, or to get into a virtual pissing match with any professed admirer.  People out there have hobbies that are a whole lot weirder than collecting autographs, and I’m not passing judgment.  However, I would find it more genuine to receive a compliment from an adult who doesn’t feel the need to masquerade as a teen, more meaningful to receive one from someone who can remark even in some small way about how the work speaks to them, and maybe even someone who expresses enough interest in my work to subscribe to my email list before asking me for something, even if it is just my signature.

Secondly, if Suzanne is an admirer of mine and familiar with my work as she says, I’m  puzzled why she remains unaware of my gender and addresses me as Monsieur.  It is clear on my website’s home page, my bio/cv and reviews that I am not male.  One thing about her original letter that struck me as odd was that it was entirely impersonal – worded identically to those others had received, except for artistic discipline.  In her recent communication with me, she still says nothing personal or specific about my work, other than quoting “Dear   O  Applause!  to you.  I was impressed.  You’ve done it again!” indicating only that she’d seen the faux postcard on my contact page.

Finally, regarding personal addresses, my studio address is on my website, which is how she was able to contact me by mail in the first place.  I like the USPS and encourage people to contact me, but maybe she’s right that such info shouldn’t be generally available.  As a courtesy, I have removed Suzanne’s return address from my earlier post.

Though this whole thing makes me kind of sad, I mean no disrespect to Suzanne, who may indeed have an “Imaginary Museum” of artists’ autographs, enjoying a vaguely quirky hobby for over 35 years.  I hope she will continue to love art and discover artists she admires, and that she eventually finds a truly personal way to connect with people where she feels comfortable just being herself.

P.S. There is no international inquest, call for witnesses, or FBI involvement.  Just me and you, the true friends and supporters who come visit this little blog of mine.

Dear Mr. Sky Pape

I am writing you this message in French. I don’t know whether you know this language, but I think that having reliable detective talents, you know how to translate it or have it translated. I read with great surprise and some amusement the article on your blog about “Suzanne Lopez” and the letter you received in June.  Surprise and amusement because I never thought such an innocent letter could provoke an international inquest, along with a call for witnesses!  For as you will agree, you only received a letter asking you for an autograph, and you had total freedom faced with this request to respond or not respond. The request is not specifically illegal, and the intervention of the FBI may perhaps be a bit of an exaggeration [overreaction], even if we do live in an increasingly policed society: I am surprised that an artist would completely agree.

First, I will reassure you that there is no underlying bank card fraud or similar project. I believe that you would have already heard about it.  So, I will reveal the scandalous secret: it is just…a collection of autographs!  Amazing, right?  The “Imaginary Museum” is a collection of autographs.

One confession, still…Indeed, it is the only “scam”, the age is not true.  And I will tell you why.  This collection started when Suzanne Lopez was 15 years old…16, 17…and the letter has remained much the same since.  I “fixed” on that age, which was a good time in life.  And this collection started in 1973.  Do the math.  (At that time there was no Internet, and fewer amateur detectives.)

There.  This “truth” will undoubtedly disappoint you.  Whatever.  Know in any case that I don’t find it appropriate to give the world a personal address. Would you want a stranger doing the same with yours?

My collection does not include the autograph of Sky Pape.  Too bad.  I like what you make a lot.

Dear   O  Applause!  to you   .  i was impressed.  You’ve done it again!

Sincerely,
Suzanne Lopez

Cher M. Sky Pape,
Je vous écris ce message en français. J’ignore si vous connaissez cette langue, mais je pense, qu’ayant des talents sûrs de détective, vous saurez la traduire ou la faire traduire. J’ai lu avec beaucoup d’étonnement et un peu d’amusement votre article sur votre blog au sujet de “Suzanne Lopez” et de la lettre que vous avez reçue en juin. Etonnement et amusement, car je ne pensais pas qu’une innocente lettre puisse provoquer une telle enquête internationale, assortie d’un appel à témoins! Car, vous en conviendrez, vous avez seulement reçu une lettre vous demandant un autographe, et vous aviez toute la latitude face à cette requête de répondre ou de ne pas répondre. La demande n’est pas spécialement illégale, et l’intervention du FBI serait peut-être un peu exagérée, même si nous vivons dans une société de plus en plus policière: je m’étonne qu’un artiste abonde dans ce sens.
Je vais d’abord vous rassurer: il n’y a là-dessous aucun projet d’escroquerie à la carte bancaire ou autre projet similaire. Je crois que vous en auriez entendu parler. Alors, je vais vous révéler le “pot-aux-roses”: il s’agit simplement d’une…. collection d’autographes. Incroyable, non? Et seulement cela. Le “Musée imaginaire”, c’est une collection d’autographes…
Un aveu, quand même… Effectivement, et c’est la seule “escroquerie”, l’âge n’est pas le bon. Et je vais vous dire pourquoi: cette collection a commencé quand Suzanne Lopez avait 15 ans… 16,17… et la lettre est restée un peu la même depuis. J’ai “bloqué” sur cet âge, qui était une bonne époque. Et cette collection a commencé en 1973. Faites vos calculs. (A l’époque, il n’y avait pas Internet, et moins d’apprentis détectives.)
Voilà. Cette “vérité” vous déçoit sans doute. Peu importe. Sachez en tout cas que je ne trouve pas très opportun de donner en pâture au monde une adresse personnelle. Voudriez-vous qu’un inconnu fasse de même avec la vôtre?
Ma collection ne comprendra donc pas l’autographe de Sky Pape. C’est dommage, j’aime bien ce que vous faites.
Dear   O  Applause!  to you   .  i was impressed.  You’ve done it again!
Bien à vous,
Suzanne Lopez

Things handmade and handwritten have a special appeal to me — perhaps it’s something about the humanness of their imperfection and scale. Who doesn’t like to find a real letter in the mailbox amidst the stack of bills and solicitations? Postmarked from France, I turned the envelope over in my hands and opened it with curiosity.

Written on stationery imprinted with two pretty leaves in the upper left and a return address from Suzanne Lopez in France, it was dated June 28, 2010, and read as follows:

Dear Ms. Sky Pape,

I am 16 years old and Art is my passion. I’m writing to you to express my admiration and my enthusiasm for your artistic way and for your works, your creations – I find them wonderful.

I would be very happy to have your autograph on the small card I’m sending you, for my ‘imaginary Museum’…

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Suzanne

Suzanne Lopez letter

Sweet, right? For about a second, I was flattered.  It was just that part about putting my “autograph” on the small card, a blank, white index card, that had all my alarms going off in a deafening cacophonous din.  I am not saying I don’t have fans — it is a source of  great pleasure that I happen to know personally or virtually almost every kind soul who has collected or ever admired my work.  Clearly, this was a case for some detective work (i.e., Google), if there ever was one.

In a matter of seconds, I found my answer in an article by Sarah Hall from the Salisbury Post, dated June 27, 2008.  Ms. Hall, a composer, had received the same letter, essentially verbatim, from Suzanne Lopez – with the notable exception that back in 2008, Suzy was claiming to be 17, and “music is my passion.”  According to Ms. Hall, she heard from people from across the US and Europe who had received the same letter.

Having been a victim of identity theft in the past (a nightmare to be sure!), I had no intention of sending my easily scannable signature to anyone.  Still, though this reeked of being a scam, it seemed like a very expensive one, having someone write letters by hand and pay for postage? For what ends? What does a signature even mean anymore? Maybe this “imaginary museum” was just the pet project of some oddball who thought they needed to pass themselves off as a teenage girl in order to get the desired response.

It’s hard for me to imagine what this person would want with my signature.  It’s not as if my work is anything that could be easily forged and then have my signature appended to it for authenticity. (Though BEWARE, some work is indeed much easier to rip off — case in point: Lori McNee and the copycat artist.)

I’m no a stranger to fan mail, having been on the sending end more than once.  As a kid, I sent George Harrison  a flawlessly rendered pencil portrait of him, capturing the soulful gaze of the ‘spiritual’ Beatle.  I requested no reply and even though I never heard back from him, surely he treasured it — as sensitive as he was.  As a tween, already interested in pursuing art and busy working on honing the skills required for realistic representation of the world, I wrote to one of Canada’s eminent artists at the time, Ken Danby, asking for any advice he might share.  He wrote back, offering some encouragement and aphorisms about being an artist.  In recent years, I’ve even written to a favorite teacher from junior high school, telling him how his teaching  made a lasting impression on my life, only to hear back that when he received my note, he happened to have been carrying a photo of me and a fellow student in his briefcase for weeks, intending to show his current students how kids dressed “back in the day” when he started teaching.  There have been other letters sent from time to time.  It feels good to let people know that they have meant something to me — that they and their work, ideas, and experience have value and meaning.

In their efforts to shepherd their work into the world, artists tend to be particularly vulnerable to people trying to take financial and personal advantage of them. Many people know I like to do my bit to keep the USPS alive, but like everyone else, my bullshit-detector must always be on.  If Suzanne Lopez is a real person, I don’t mean to poke fun at you or be cruel.  However, I think I’ll save the postage, and just post my reply online:

Dear Suzanne Lopez,

I’m writing to you to express my appreciation for your ‘admiration and enthusiasm of my artistic way.’  A sincere letter of thanks or admiration can be a wonderful thing, and it’s always meaningful to know when someone has felt a connection with the work.  I am sorry, but in this age of crime and identity theft, it seems unwise and against my better judgment to provide you with a copy of my signature.

If you really exist and don’t want people to think you are a con artist or criminal, I’d suggest writing something individualized and sincere to every artist and composer to whom you reach out, refraining from lying about your age or falsifying any other information about yourself, and not asking for anything in return.  I hope you develop a passion for truth that exceeds your passion for art and music.

Sincerely,

Sky

If anyone else has received similar “fan” letters, please feel free to comment below!

p.s. There is a follow-up to this post you may wish to read here: https://skypape.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/not-so-fan-tastic-part-ii/

The past few months have been pretty much non-stop with work and all sorts of excitement, but I’m happy to at long last have a moment to stop here and say hello, and happy spring!

The day after my solo show at June Kelly Gallery ended, I was on a plane to Italy for a month-long residency fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on Lago di Como in northern Italy (above).  It was an incredibly productive time for me, an honor, and an extraordinary experience in every way.

In addition to the site’s natural beauty and fascinating history, the Bellagio Center is exceptionally distinctive because of its vision and understanding of the ultimate progressive value of interdisciplinary and international discourse to all positive human endeavors:

“Through conferences and residencies, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center brings together people of diverse expertise and backgrounds in a thought-provoking and collaborative environment to promote innovation and impact on a wide range of global issues.

We have seen the powerful results of investing in and unleashing human capacity. The Bellagio experience fosters a robust exchange of ideas between scientists and artists, theorists and practitioners, those who make policy and those who are affected by it.

Located in northern Italy, the Center infuses unorthodox, radical thinking into searches for solutions to critical social, political, health, environmental and economic challenges.

It encourages all to debate on globally relevant issues and push the boundaries of collective knowledge to translate theory into action.”

It would take a lot more than a blog post for me to describe the profound impact of sustained interaction with an intimate, international coterie of scholars, scientists, and creative thinkers — all brilliant and genial.  Instead, I will just share a very simple story.

My Italian studio, I soon noticed, came with a personal rainbow.  Not that I’m all mystical, but as I held this rainbow in my hand, it seemed to impart not only the wonderful energy and beauty of that place, but also the creative good karma generated by all the artists who had previously inhabited that space.  It was much like the welcome I felt when I opened the supply cupboard to see their names written there, some extra supplies they’d left behind, and even a chocolate — all three practices that I was delighted to continue as tradition. [For the curious, here is a sampling of some of the drawings I did during my residency.]

Being able to work and participate in the community at the Bellagio Center was a long-held dream of mine, and one that I was not sure would ever be realized.  But one of the many things I took away from that transformational experience was the justification — even the imperative — of dreaming as big as possible, and not giving up on the pursuit of those dreams.

Upon arriving home, and I will admit that the reintroduction to reality has been a challenge (like a bad case of the bends!), I have had opportunities to attend inspiring celebrations honoring two women who have exemplified through their lives and actions exactly what I mean.

Over the weekend, Just Food held an event in honor of Joan Dye Gussow, the unstoppable — even subversive, if you will — matriarch, pioneer, teacher, leader, activist and icon of the organic food movement. [Also see: http://joansgarden.org/] And yesterday, I attended the memorial celebration for Jeanne-Claude, who passed away last November.  From each of these spectacularly intelligent, luminous and energetic women, I learned that in the pursuit of big dreams, passion, precision, and perseverance count.  Rules and “No”, not so much.

Many times an hour, both waking and sleeping, I keep returning to my time at Bellagio.  I often think about that rainbow in my hand; how happy and fortunate and connected it made me feel.  Jeanne-Claude was quoted about the temporality of life and art, and the fact that such temporality imparts a sense of urgency.  As she put it, “For instance, if someone were to say, ‘Oh, look on the right, there is a rainbow,’ one would never answer, ‘I will look at it tomorrow.'”

Whatever may or may not have been done before, a full life begins with dreams that will not be denied, disparaged or deferred.

Sky Pape - Cocktail

Well, tonight you will find me blinking in the light like a bear newly emerged from a season of hibernation.  I’ve been hunkered down preparing for my solo show, “Water Works: Surface Tension,” which opens at 6pm tonight (until 8pm), February 5th, a few short hours from now.  If you are awaiting a personal, virtually-engraved invitation to the show, this is it! Please stop by and see it if you can, between now and March 5th, at June Kelly Gallery, 166 Mercer Street, Floor 3, New York, NY.  As far as experiencing art, you know there ain’t nothing like the real thing!

The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11-6pm.  In addition to the opening, I’ll be stopping by the gallery now and again during the run of the exhibition.  I don’t know my precise schedule yet, but I will post times on the home page of my website, so please check there if you’d like to connect in person, or you can email your plans and I’ll see whether we can coordinate.

Thank you for looking and reading and cheering me up and onward with your comments, messages, kindness, humor, intelligence, and generosity of spirit. It’s with the utmost gratitude and appreciation that I find myself surrounded by such talented and wonderful people.  And you’re all really good looking and sexy too.

And now to go get gussied up myself.  It’s showtime!

[above image: Sky Pape, Cocktail, 2009, ink on paper, 37″h x 25-1/4″w, courtesy June Kelly Gallery, photo: Jean Vong, copyright Sky Pape, all rights reserved.]

P.S.  I am no fan of the persistent idea of the “starving artist” and think art is better viewed with a satisfied stomach! No sooner did I post this than I learned that the masterful gourmet chef Viviane Bauquet Farre of Food and Style has invented a special recipe and wine pairing in honor of this show (and my love of mushrooms).  I couldn’t be more flattered!

It was around this time of year,  and I was walking on a gentle mountain trail with my absolute favorite person.  Yes, I’ll admit I have favorites. Happily, it’s a long list, and if you’re here reading this, you’re on it.

It’s wonderful how walking activates the mind as if the legs were cog cranks specifically designed to directly engage those tired cranial gears.   Being fall, I was less intent on noticing the birds, and started talking about ideas that were surfacing, wondering what would take shape.   “So, what’s it going to be?” seemed to be the question confronting me.  The “what” referring to creative output.  Out of my ramblings on the mountain came a perception of what I want the core of my work to be at its very best — what I want it to do for me, and ideally, for you.

The challenge, it seemed, was, and is, to create something positive, regardless of the specifics of what it might actually look like or by what means it might ultimately be made.  If it could impart some joy, perfect, or a sense of possibility and wonder, even better. I’d settle for a twinge of some ineffable connection.

My inner cynic is always ready to make an uninvited appearance, but I don’t find the snark’s offerings compelling or absorbing.  Don’t bring me down. Do I want or need to see more interpretations and fantasies of violence, abuse, and humiliation visited by humans upon everyone and everything?  Is it shocking? No. Titillating? Eh. Obvious? Yes. On the other hand, the optimist and idealist risk seeming naive, their contributions cloying, sentimental, new agey, utopian, obscure, self-important, simplistic, and again, obvious.  Personally, I decided to see what I could do while keeping my drawings non-objective, staying away from being literally descriptive, keeping my personal baggage in storage.  By eschewing the obvious, maybe I’d find a way to get a little closer to the ideal of making something  instrinsically positive.

It’s tricky.  Positivity and optimism are not the same thing, nor are positivity and skepticism mutually exclusive.  There are so many varied paths, and as I’ve kept this challenge in the forefront of my mind, I’ve taken more notice when I’ve seen it faced successfully in the work of others.

I was recently (half) joking about the arts and artists deserving a stimulus package and government bailout, when I found myself involved in one of those 140-character-or-less virtual conversations with a complete stranger who questioned whether art deserved any public money at all.  “Should the working class fund entertainment for the middle class through taxes?” he justifiably wondered.  I succinctly replied, “Tax $ 4 art: Funding entertainment? Maybe not. But art that inspires innovation, creative thinking, learning, problem solving?”  His next response was to call me to task to provide examples, and guess what?  Well, I have a few things I want to share with you.  They may or may not have received funding, though in my opinion they deserve it, but I can promise, they won’t bring you down.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Art on Library Walls including work by Maira Kalman (below).  Just about anything by Maira Kalman.

Let’s not forget Liza Lou, beginning with her glittering masterpiece, “The Kitchen” (detail below).

And so much more.

With that in mind, I’m off to the studio.

That’s what my father said to me.  His interest in my work and praise were rare, so I wasn’t quite sure how to take his comment, “That’s the best piece you’ll ever make.”  He referred to a portrait I had painted of my mother, having come up with a technique that was very innovative back when I was in high school, which was when this took place.  I do believe he truly meant it as a compliment, yet after a while, the words started to sound dismissive. You’ll never do anything as good, so why waste your time?

I continued to paint and draw, pushing myself and my materials to the farthest reaches of my imagination.  Time and again I would hear, “Remember that portrait of your mother?  Well, I still say that’s the best piece you’ll ever make.”  Okay, so my Dad really loved my mother, and I’m sure that had something to do with it too.  Yet this comment touches upon something  important.

[Plato and Aristotle in a detail from Raphael’s The School of Athens. Plato is holding his Timaeus, a speculative scientific work and pointing upward, while Aristotle is holding one of his books on ethics. Click here to view images of the entire fresco and find out who’s who.]

The results of creative experimentation are rarely easily or immediately digestible, mainly because the true explorer is seeking to discover something, rather than just render what is already known.  That new thing demands of both artist and viewer an open mind, a fearless attitude, courage, patience, tolerance.  If it’s new, maybe you don’t know how to look at it yet.

Over the many years of my career, I’ve frequently encountered the phenomenon of having people scratch their heads over my current work, while exclaiming they love the body of work I had finished previously.  Yet that same work they now love had them mystified when it was brand new.  Why didn’t you just keep doing what you were doing before?  We loved those pieces!  Remember when you used to do x?  Why did you stop?  There tends to be a predictable time lag before people are ready to embrace the new work, and it’s usually about the length of time it takes for the new work to become old, supplanted by even newer work.

For some people, their practice is about doing what they did before: making a formula, and repeating earlier successes. That’s enough.

Not long ago, someone struck up a conversation with me about art, and asked me what I was up to.  “Experimenting away with a new body of work,” I explained.  “It’s the most exciting part, when an idea starts to take shape, and suddenly you can make the leap over the big crevasse, and you’re on the other side — a new landscape with new possibilities!”  The person’s eyes opened wide at my mention of such risk and experimentation.  “I knew an artist,” he recalled, and went on to tell me how he used to travel and repeatedly purchased prints from a particular artist.  But one time, he visited the artist’s studio, and saw instead sculptures and paintings.  They were totally different!  And terrible!  Being outside of what he had narrowly come to expect from this artist, he couldn’t accept the artist’s need to explore.  As far as he was concerned, the prints were the best work the artist would ever make.  Dumbfounded as to why the artist would change, the collector never returned.  If the artist’s work was good enough to attract the collector in the first place, it seemed unfortunate to me that the collector would not have enough faith in that artist’s talent to give the new work more than a cursory glance.

Therein lies a great challenge for the artist.  There’s a temptation to repeat what works, to please the audience, to make it easy for them, get work on their walls and put food on your table. Not every artist embraces risk and experimentation.  You risk making mistakes. You risk looking foolish. You risk your security.  You risk harsh criticism.  But then, to quote Aristotle, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.”  I’ll take my chances.

My father worked hard and had many things to occupy his mind.  I understand if my personal pursuits were not his priority, and sadly, he’s not alive to defend or explain his remarks.  Still, it would have been nice if he had said instead, “That’s the best piece you’ve made yet.” Naturally, some works will shine more than others, but on the creative journey, the goal is discovery and improvement, and the best always lies somewhere in the future.

The other night, a painter who has taken a long hiatus from the practice of art said to me something along the lines of, “Either you’re making $500,000 a year as an artist or you might as well be making nothing.”  That struck me as kind of outrageous.  I know successful artists, and I’m quite sure none of them make anything near $500,000 a year — not off their artwork, at least.  Not that many people doing anything pull in that kind of bread these days, unless you’re a banker receiving a bailout.

I countered my friend’s statement by suggesting that it was really a matter of perspective, and most importantly, of one’s own needs and vision of success.  He disagreed.  Basically, his view was that if you’re not making that kind of money, you and your work might not as well exist. (At all?  Or only as far as the art world is concerned?  I wasn’t sure.)

This brings up a couple of issues.  One is the value of art (and that’s a big one–a hot topic these days since the market tanked and Brandeis announced it’s intention to close the Rose Museum and sell its entire collection), another is the definition of success and who owns the right to it: society or the individual?  By my friend’s assessment, an artist like Thomas Kinkade is an important artist.  I’m not discounting the importance of making a living, but the power of money and its use as a ruler to measure success are sticky points.  I think of Tom Daschle, certainly a very wealthy, intelligent and successful man, but then his desire to hold onto all his dough by avoiding taxes ruins it all and leaves him looking like a chump.   The latest unhappily called-out chump on a mountain of greedy, corrupt, and very wealthy chumps.

I recently examined my own criteria for personal success.  Financial goals are part of the picture, but for me, there are several more critical pieces to the puzzle — especially artistic growth, and even including peer recognition — so I won’t be stressing too much if I don’t bank that $500G this year.  I wonder, are you climbing a ladder or following a path or just trying to focus on finding something out?

“O painter, take care lest the greed for gain prove stronger incentive than renown in art, for to gain in this renown is a far greater thing than the renown of riches” ~Leonardo da Vinci

“It is not uncommon to commiserate with a stranger’s misfortune, but it takes a really fine nature to appreciate a friend’s success.” ~Oscar Wilde

[image: Andy Warhol Dollar Sign 1981, Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 2290 x 1780 mm. Photo courtesy Anthony d’Offay Ltd., © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ARS, NY and DACS, London 2008. Via: Tate Collections.]

“Staring down the barrel of his gun from my station behind the pastry shop counter, I surmised without asking that his order was to go.”

This morning I was moved by a Twitter post about a contest for two-sentence stories to be even more succinct and submit the true tidbit above to a one-sentence story site.

Writing is hard for me.  I mean really, really hard.  However, I recognize that people aren’t content to just let art speak for itself, therefore the artist’s statement and bio are de rigeur and must be written.  And as life moves on and one makes new work, these documents must be revisited and revamped in order to remain current.  For me, like almost every other artist I know, that is a task ripe for major procrastination.  I’ve been tackling it in small doses, gathering ideas and then editing to determine what is ultimately worth articulating.  I despise art babble and those long treatises that blather on and on about epiphanies and Semiotics until the reader surrenders to utter confusion and/or disgust, eyes glazed over.  Today, the one sentence story concept is fresh motivation for my required writing tasks.

[Above “Cakes and Pies” 2007/2008, hand-worked aquatint with pastel, copyright Wayne Thiebauld. Photo courtesy of the Nelson Gallery at UC Davis and Karin Higgins/UC Davis Publications.]

Retroblogging 1984, when another very old man was running for office:

Ronnie Raygun tells us, “America is back and standing tall.”
How inspiring–at least for Pop Front. [<–This link works best with Safari or Internet Explorer]


Pop Front: America’s Back (mp3)

The streets are paved with gold
Opportunity knocks on every door
Rags to riches that’s the dream
The will to win, the means to score
But some ain’t white and some live in hell
We all get chances, but some get more

America’s back and standing tall
But I’m leaning against a falling wall

The world’s Great Democracy
Freedom of choice for everyone
We value freedom more than life
Lords and masters, we have none
But we don’t vote for lords of wealth
We choose and choose but nothing’s done

America’s back and standing tall
But I’m leaning against a falling wall

Another nation we invade
The US Army saves the day
All that’s right is restored
Justice, Truth, and the American Way
The war machine grows fat and strong
On what they’ve stolen from my pay

America’s back and standing tall
But I’m leaning against a falling wall

History and billboards
Things aren’t always as they seem
I was formed by a faded myth
Turn up the volume to drown the screams
We fall, wings burned by a neon light
The ashes of the American Dream

America’s back and standing tall
But I’m leaning against a falling wall

America… America…

[music and lyrics, copyright Pop Front, all rights reserved]

[Poster of Ronald Reagan by “art brat” guerrilla drawer and posterer Robbie Conal, copyright Robbie Conal]