Like my artist and non-artist peers that do art shows and whatever else it takes to earn a decent living lately, I have been busy with several different projects large and small.
And I read.
I read lots of things.
I haven’t been sharing the writing lately because quite frankly most artists are artists because their teachers in school were so tired of their pollyanna whining, they stuck them in a corner with some fingerpaint and called them either “special” or “creative” or both, just to get them to shut the hell up so the other kids could learn something.
I think so because I was often in the corner with the fingerpaint. (I think there is a nun being punished somewhere for teaching me how to write as well.)
The artists who are not artists are either the artisans (what an overused word – just like “craft” and “creative”) or the enterprising bullshitters that have figured out a way to call themselves artists and attach themselves to shows like barnacles on a whale’s scrotum. Lots of people, myself at one time included, have figured it may be best to find those “buy/sell” vendors and those studio outfits that pose as real artists and expose them as charlatans in cahoots with evil and/or stupid show directors.
But wait a minute, these evil-doers are juried in, are they not? Today I just read some moron jumping for joy because the Plaza Art Fair just validated his reason for existance as an artist. I have seen horrible, if not just headscratchingly incompetent artwork get into some of the “best” art shows in the country. This includes the studio artists, the buy/sell vendors, the posers, some really over-rated artists, you – if you are a show artist, and finally, me.
Believe me, there is some bad art out there in some supposedly good shows and some really good art in some amateur rinky-dinks – but that’s not exactly what I am writing about.
Some of these posers, buy/sellers, and studio outfits are really nice people with really nice work. Some of the things I am hearing from supposedly or presumably educated artists is far worse than what needs to be said. It is you, the “artists” that are stooping lower than low. Pontificating as to what art is acceptable or not at a show you do not manage is not conveying any sort of class whatsoever. Allowing via silence, an environment where self-proclaimed artist unions and websites may censor and belittle artists that speak up – that is far, far worse than what these merchants are doing. Calling out real or imagined frauds while allowing the most blatent fraudulent practices so you can get a piece of the pie? Really?
What’s worse – allowing some juried work to be included to a show even though it’s made by a studio or turning a blind eye to the sorry-assed, time honored practices of allowing friends and associates into shows year after year after year? I know good intentions by good people prefaced the idea discovering charlatans and pointing at them while exclaiming that our children are starving because of them. The intentions were noble, but the studio/production houses and the buy/sell vendors are not our enemies.
We need to keep our eyes on the prize.
On the prize.
What’s the answer? I suspect we need to stop pointing at all these insignificant pawns and start looking at the sociopathic, opportunistic pieces of garbage that are blacklisting and blocking and censoring and screwing those of us who are artists with messages to convey through our art rather than picking on some poor bastard who had enough sense to stay away from the fingerpaint and understands how to turn a dollar without running around screaming that life isn’t fair.
Perhaps we just need to make better work, charge a fairer price, ignore the hype from the shows, quit relying on shows to determine worth of artists (hint: we determine the worth of the show – always.), become better at business, quit perpetuating the caste system at shows, and quit patronizing shows that do not include the caliber of artists we want to be associated with on any given weekend.
In schoolyard vernacular, we need to quit picking on the smaller kids and we need to figure out who the bullies really are. There are some of these studio outfits and buy/sell guys that I would much rather be next to at a show than some of the arrogant, conniving, censoring, manipulative and deceptive little monsters I have met at some shows and dealt with on the union site, on that laughable review site, and over at Ma’s.
We need to quit picking on the easily picked on and look at where the real problems lie.
But I fear we will not, because we will not ever control our own destiny, I doubt we will keep our eye on the prize. We’ll just let a show director do it for us, because we need to get our share of the pie while we point fingers everywhere else.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” – Burke
“It’s duck season.” – Bugs Bunny
Let me gift an observation to you, please.
The conventional wisdom appears to be that a good picture of art is better than a poor picture of art when it comes to submitting an application to be accepted into an art fair. Based on what I have seen, what my peers have seen, what my customers and patrons have seen, and what sales numbers are screaming to artists – this model isn’t what is best for the artists or the patrons walking and working at street art fairs whether the show is small or gargantuan.
Buy/sell vendors are spreading in the shows like a cancer in a smoker’s lung. Some artists bitch. Some ignore. The shows keep a low profile and hide behind ignorance, jurors, lawyers, apathy, and even deflection (“There is just not an issue here.”). Buy/sell vendors simply go to another show or call their brother-in-law lawyer who lives in his mother’s basement to borrow her laptop so he can write a “cease and desist”.
The problem is vendors who are not artists infecting art shows to sell their wares at the expense of authentic artists who are attempting to sell their work to art patrons who are attending fewer and fewer shows less often because there are too many non-artists selling stuff that looked like photographed art during the show’s jury process 6 months earlier.
But there’s more.
Now we have people advocating that applicants do “whatever it takes” to make sure their work comes across in the photograph as the best work available for the show to consider during the jury process.
Has this “whatever it takes” mentality worked? Are the shows rid of “buy/sell”? Are the shows providing our patrons with the best work possible? Do sales reflect this model as a shining example of how to stack an art show? Are patrons coming to the shows and spending money for first class art work? Are their jaws dropping at the displays of outstanding, thought-provoking, soul-stirring paintings, drawings, sculptures, works in clay, glass, metal, paint and ink?
The current system is not working.
I will be in Louisville in October. I am not giving Zapp one red cent to attend their conference. I doubt very much they will invite me to speak. Nonetheless, here is my contribution to help clean up this mess we call art fairs and it does not have the backing of anyone other than me as of this writing. I have not heard this idea coming from that joke of an artists’ union, not from that group that gives awards to fairs and festivals, not from anyone. Not from any other application sites like Zapp, JAS, or Entrythingy. It certainly won’t be supported by photographers or Photoshop’ers that take pride in making photographs of stuff more beautiful than they actually may be. It won’t be accepted by shows that want to improve, it won’t be accepted by some artists.
Here it is: Drop the 100 or 200 or 500 word limits on the applications.
Shows should expect if not demand a full written description of what they do and why. I am not talking about a flowery, bullshit artist statement or survey questions where the applicant toggles some ambiguous series of quiz questions. I am talking about the artists writing about their thought process, their materials, their studio, their ideas, their techniques, their revision process, their growth and development, their plans, their customers, their future ideas. They should include statements about the images submitted. Most importantly they should communicate to the show why they are applying to the show. Websites and names should be prominent on the applications. They should be proud to apply to the show and state why they are doing so and what they have to contribute.
Buy/sell vendors will be more easily removed because they will have to blatently lie to pass muster on the application as a genuine artist rather than a buy/sell or production house vendor. Actual artists will have an additional avenue to communicate their authenticity as artists. Shows will have to work a bit harder and spend more time organizing data provided by applicants.
I know most shows will dismiss the idea because of the added work. Some artists will complain about having to do more on the applications. I know the posers and fake artists will complain because they feel they are being picked on or singled out. My response is: “Tough”. If the goal is to make the shows more authentic and more in line with being art shows for our patrons, then this is a viable option for the shows to weed out the problems.
Is this an easy solution? No. Do I expect shows to adopt this idea? Not hardly.
But I do think having artists write more on the applications about their work is the best way to verify if an artist is an artist or an importer. The problem is, in the end only a minority of true artists will advocate a stronger application process than a questionairre and a few pictures throught a website.
Do you as an artist want the shows to continue as they have been going for the last few years?
The shows are not going to get better until artists make them better.
Let’s face it.
Unions were and at times are still important. They are a counterweight to a management that runs unhindered while taking advantage of employees for the benefit of the capitalist and to the disadvantage of the workforce. Fair enough. But in our times, many laws are already in place where they were not during the more turbulent days gone by for labor unions and workers. All well and good. But artists are not workers being oppressed by the evil capitalists and they are not forced to do anything. Art fair artists already know the rules and can choose to play by them or not. The don’t work for the shows and the shows do not hire artists.
Does this mean things are all “just rosey”for artists? Absolutely not. The key is to take control of the market and work with shows and directors that understand the importance of artists at art shows. That’s my advocacy – throw out the bad apples. Let the buy/sell vendors do those shows and the artists should be doing the “good” ones. Becoming allies with shows that get this concept is key. In the meantime there are a lot of problems.
After my experience with this group I mentioned last week, I have some questions. Does this trade group or union or whatever it may be:
Address the issue of returning art shows to artists?
Have the confidence of artists on the circuit?
Identify with the rank and file artists as multi-layered, professional, educated and diverse people who are creative and do not sell “products”?
Seek to find a way to weed out posers and charlatans in the business without subjecting artists to unrealistic expectations?
Understand and embrace and protect artists with different methods, perspectives and opinions?
Demonstrate an understanding regarding the use of pen names, business names, and nicknames as part of an artist’s experience throughout history as well as presently?
Handle and accept criticism from members, associates, and ancillary populations as well as compliments and adulation with some level of professional humility?
Control on some level the renegade attacks on the credibility of an artist’s personal experience by members with agendi that may differ from the organization’s goals not by admonishing or ignoring the behavior, but by making it clear the behavior of a member or members is not the sanctioned view of the organization, it’s board, or it’s members?
Willing to work with a diverse group of professional artists committed to improving the art fair universe on several levels without muzzling creativity or creating narrow, unmeasurable standards?
Understand as an organization representing members that debate, arguing, compromising, reversing, etc. are all components that need to go into the crucible in order to forge a decent end result?
Able to articulate when they feel insulted or criticized and develop a way to respond, counter, and develop ideas during a process rather than running to “mother”, questioning the integrity of a member as opposed to their intelligence or lack thereof, or denying members that do not fit an equal voice without hanging the death knell of being censored or banned if the power base within the organization determines someone or some people as too disruptive or radical or controversial?
Recognize that all members and non-members are different in their experiences and expressions?
Understand that the proper spelling is “Ignoramuses” rather than “Ignorami”, that the comment was a lowball, and it went over the heads of everyone on the thread?
Have an effective policy regarding gossip and rumors?
Hold members accountable to fair questions such as “What specifically did I do or say to offend you?” as opposed to allowing attacks to continue?
Remove members with an an explanation regarding why?
No to all these questions.
Not at this group.
Nope, not in my mind when I signed up to participate in the group and certainly not now. These questions do not need to be answered at the Corner Booth forum or on the Corner Booth Facebook Page. Why? Because people are not censored there. People can choose to participate or not participate as they see fit. They can bring their game or they can stay home. Art shows are a tough business. We need to be tougher, faster, smarter, better, and make more beautiful paintings, pottery, photos, intaglios, sculptures, jewelry, etc. or we will be eaten alive by unions, unscrupulous shows, buy/sell vendors, and every other player that thinks he can browbeat the artists simply because we do not stand up to the bad guys.
The behavior I experienced last week happened for one very simple reason. I was not looking to get banned. I brought a knife to a gunfight and had to back out of the room. I wanted to see if the group was legitimate with regard to outsiders and I got a mouthful of knuckles – deservedly too.
They had a chance to sway me, to get me to think about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. Instead they focused on my pen name and called me a “dick” (which may or may not be true, by the way) among other labels and tried to get me to be a better politician, a better talker, a better mediocre bullshitter.
I am not a politician.
I am not a leader.
I am not a patsy as was hinted by the Jack Ruby comment after I was booted.
They have made a lifelong opponent to their organization in terms of relevancy to me as an artist.
They are not getting my dues or my support.
Are they getting yours?
All my love,
PS: Below is a jpg of a recent drypoint (artist’s proof) I entitled “Winter” – it is part of a new series I have started – I call the series “Ruby of Oregon”. Note the signature! You may copy and share this at your leisure as long as it is not sold, Munks is given credit for it’s creation, and Ruby of Oregon must be noted as the series. Share them with your friends and enjoy! I sure did. I had great inspiration!! Print one out – send it to Oregon, post one in the back of your booth and I’ll sign it at a show for you, send it to me and I’ll sign it and send it back. Wallpaper your studio. Whatever. But always watch out for the Ruby of Oregon and people like her.
Think for yourselves.
Now let’s get back to work and quit giving these people the attention they do not deserve?
No one speaks for you better than your closed checkbooks.
Recently I joined a group. A discussion group on Facebook. The plan was to watch and read and possibly comment on what was being said. The group itself was suspect in my mind. A group initially put together for and by artists. Some call it a union. Some call it a trade group. Some call it worthless. Some call it home. I call it not worth one red cent in my opinion from any self-respecting genuine artist that participates in art fairs.
I have been banned from 2 other discussion groups on the internet in the last couple of years. My plan was not to get banned from a third group. I am not embarrassed that I was banned from the two groups, in fact I am not surprised at all and I wear the banned label with pride as an artist and a writer. I know in my heart of hearts I was banned from one group for not being nice. The other was because I did not possess the smug quotient necessary to fit in with the active members and administrators. Fair enough on both counts – they are private discussion groups/forums with their own agendi. My plan for participation in this particular group was to hold back and see what would happen if I merely showed up and made relatively benign comments toward whatever I may see that might possibly raise an alarm in my own mind regarding the implementation of some kind of standard-bearing for all artists that participate in art fairs.
Based on being banned from two groups and the material I have read and discussed over the last 5-10 years, I was not convinced that an artist who does not run with the lemmings and speaks up when something doesn’t seem “right” would not be welcome in an “inclusive” environment such as an alleged trade group where some members allegedly could have a track record of being not nearly as inclusive as they claim. I believe that if a narrow-minded group became the stamp of approval for all artists – the results could be chilling if not a disaster for artists as well as lovers of art.
Additionally, some people in this particular discussion group were also members in another forum I helped start with an ex-foe on yet another discussion board. We were noticing that people were joining our discussion group, The Corner Booth, and making outrageous comments and claims. One of the cornerstones of our group was and is that we would not censor anyone for what they posted on the site frankly because censorship – not vigorous debate – but 1984-style censorship is the antithesis to freethinking and the beginning of the end to any artistic endeavor in our minds and in the minds of major members of the group. This quickly degenerated and spiraled downward into really odd posts being made that seem to focus on attempting to get deleted from our site. We stuck to our original plan and did not censor or ban anyone. The response to our above board answer to their behavior was a cacaphony of wails from these same people as they insisted censorship was indeed occurring in sheep’s clothing – because people such as myself and various other members took the taunting posts to task and met them with intelligence, logic, humor, and wit.
At no time was any post deleted or banned.
As of this writing, to the best of my knowledge – no one has been deleted, censored, or banned from thecornerbooth.proboards.com or from The Corner Booth’s Facebook group page. I am proud of this accomplishment. I am not implying in any way that any ridiculous or misguided or taunting post was not met with a robust if not overwhelming response, but it was never said or implied that a post could be made without consequences. Nonetheless, all taunting posts, all accusatory statements, all misguided submissions – remain on our threads and hang on the walls of the site like dirty laundry for all to see, even you Gentle Reader – simply go to the site and ask to join the group.
In light of our experience in The Corner Booth, my plan remained fairly neutral: experience what they talk about, assess what was being said, respond with the least amount of intervention possible, and see what happens.
I am disgusted as an artist with what I witnessed.
. . . continued
‘What’s my name, fool? What’s my name?’ (Ali to Ernie Terrell who refused to call him Muhammad Ali)
I was pretty fired up to send off an essay to win an opportunity to attend the 2013 Zapp Conference – until I saw bullet #4 @ the link above. #%&29@7*-+2!!!!!!!
Shush, shush, shush.
No one was telling me to shut up. “Shush” was what I heard repeatedly at the Des Moines Arts Festival.
Shush, shush, shush. No quotation marks.
It was the noise I heard when my gorgeous companion and I were walking away from either the Habitat for Humanity display or the outdoor concert Saturday night at the DMAF.
It was the sound of people’s feet. “Shushing” across the asphalt.
I heard it when we tried to walk on the right-hand side of the street. People kept “shushing” by on the left as we walked by the booths that were worth walking past. Most people were in the middle of the street socializing and drinking. Lots of “how are you’s” and “I haven’t seen you’s”. The population density dropped significantly when I scanned from the middle of the street to the artists’ booths. The shushing sound was most prevalent about two feet outside the booths as people shushed down the street, drink in hand and looking for someone to talk to, with, or about.
I don’t ever apply to the DMAF and I have stopped participating in the Artfest Midwest show across town. I will not do so in the foreseable future. Here’s why:
We arrived at 7:30ish on Saturday evening. We parked on the street about a half block from the 12th and Walnut entrance. No problems finding parking. Lots of people were leaving. We saw no one carrying anything out of the show. We turned left and shushed with everyone else westward and shushed the perimeter of the show with a couple of excursions into the interior walkways.
The food booths were numerous and busy. The beer/wine/soda booths were usually about 8-9 deep with people blocking the shush-path. They were by far – far and away the busiest booths at the show during the time we were there.
To me, it felt like the artists’ booths were an afterthought. Something where some one smarter than me said: “Oh yeah, let’s get some artists in here.”. My beautiful and much more objective-minded companion reminded me that the show is a “festival” – a place for people to gather and drink and talk and enjoy the surroundings. I reminded her that people paid to be there to sell their work. “Yeah, I know,” she said, “but if I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t have thought of that – and these people”, ” she motioned to the crowd, “have no idea.”
“Maybe the buyers come on Sunday.” she added, trying to make it better.
We saw one wrapped painting being carried (presumably) to it’s new owner’s car. It was a good sized one and he looked proud of his purchase. I could not make out who may have painted it, and he was shushing along at pretty good clip, so I left him alone.
The artists, for the most part looked tired. This is toward the end of the second day and I do not blame them. I’ve been there before. Even a couple of artists I have absolutely no respect for in any sense of the word looked worn out and it’s understandable. Anyone that wants to bitch that the artists were not engaging enough – send me a note please. They were all doing a fine job. The newspaper here ran a blurb from, I don’t know what she is or was – but she advocated customers asking for 5-10% discount on purchases. I hope they didn’t have to deal with that nonsense. My feeling is they probably didn’t because no one reads much of what’s left of the newspaper around here in the first place.
The music was rocking. Many more people were seated and standing enjoying the free concert. Between the music, food, booze, and sideshow stuff – it felt to me like the show juried the artists in fairly or unfairly – I did not and do not feel the artists in the show were better or worse than any other show I have ever attended or participated in – and then put every obstacle possible to draw attention away from the artists.
We walked back the car, past several open parking spots within a half block of 12th and Walnut – shushing and shaking. Shushing along with everyone else on the pavement and shaking our heads at the lack of focus.
Sunday – we went to the Artfest Midwest show. Sue and Ron have put this show together for years. This show is indoors and the room echoes, so no shushing here. The quality of work ranges from “Incredible” to “How did you get in?”. We bought a few things and said “hi” to several of the artists. It was comfortable and the focus was on the art, good and bad.
The crowd on Sunday while we were there was not nearly as large as downtown, but it is important to note: people at Artfest Midwest were looking at the art. We heard mixed reports on sales, but there were no distractions and the focus was on the artists.
The Artfest Midwest show was a better experience at a patron, but I cannot recommend either show as an artist and I will not participate in either show as an artist, because what I saw this year at both shows confirms what I have seen in these shows in years past. My observation is it’s not the shows, it’s the market. People that live here apparently do not appreciate and quite possibly do not understand what is brought before them every June. The corporate buyers are not as prevalent and the general population is not interested in the art on a per capita basis. This may be because of the schools, the economy, or whatever – but the challenge is for both shows to teach importance of art in our lives and how important it is to buy art when the artists come to town – without asking for a discount. When that happens, I’ll apply. Otherwise, I’ll rest up for my next show in Illinois next weekend.
Do people running or contributing to the running of any given “art show”, ( I.e. directors, jurors, sponsors, judges, show staff, administrative assistants, volunteers, charities, booth-sitters, security, and countless others.), understand or even care as to what it means to their show, to the genuine artists, and to the patrons of art and all things artistic when they reject even one authenitic artist in favor of any buy/sell vendor?
Can one, just one person involved in any art show or any one buy/sell vendor who sneaks past some jury explain how allowing such a practice benefits the show specifically and art in general?
I am not talking about craft shows or something-for-everyone-schlock-orgies. I am talking about the shows touted as real art fairs – how can a real artist or artists be given the dismissive “better luck next year” letter and then walk past a brothel of import or production studio kitsch without so much as an inkling of an explanation from those people responsible for the mess we call art fairs.
I would like to see one person from the show side, not an artist trying to suck up to a show, just someone from the show side of things that can explain this excrement and why it continues to feed a situation that leaves artists, real artists duct-taped in a van by any river.
Explain why buy/sell is OK.
I met this photographer about 10 years ago and a particularly horrid show in a Chicago. I shouldn’t say which one because it’s only my opinion and that would be indiscreet and unprofessional. Even though the booths were seemed overpriced and the buyers appear to leave town during the show.
(St. Charles, IL)
Anyway Oscar is a great photographer, thinks for himself, has a great sense of humor, and has a distinct style when he writes in English which is not his native language.
There is a quality in his style that many people who are native English speakers cannot ever rival.
A really good piece.