Who Knew Construction Workers Look Kinda Like Performance Artists?

I love my job. I am an artist (I hope up and coming) who works in a fine arts gallery where all kinds of interesting things happen. You never know what to expect from day to day. Artists come in toting their new work in the hopes of getting interest in a show. Patrons love to see the new art and discussions with them are always interesting. We talk about collecting and what motivates a particular purchase. Some people stick with paintings, others with works on paper. Still more three-dimensional objects. They show me photos of their homes and offices in the hope that I will comment positively. I would never be negative and deter a client from making a new acquisition. I don’t always love everything on display, but as far as sales go, everything is wonderful. There is an art to selling art to put it mildly. I am not trying to be funny. I want to get better at it so I can expand my current duties at the gallery which entail computer documentation, mounting shows, and processing mail.

One of the discussions that I have with clients from time to time is how you cannot collect or even capture performance art. This kind of art is ephemeral. Something occurs for one moment only. The artist conceives of the art work as more of a process than something tangible. Only photographs can document what happens. It is hard for some collectors to get into this experience but more and more people are coming to understand it. You can be very surprised what is appropriately called performance art. A famous artist long ago shot himself in the arm to make a political statement about weapons. Another wraps buildings and fences. The covering is only there for a short time and thus the work is a statement about time and change. I am fascinated by this kind of vision that is rather philosophical.

Feeling this way about performance art, you can imagine what I was thinking when I entered the gallery one day and found a few “artists” using an air compressor. What a great idea for performance art, I thought. This is really something different. Boy was I wrong. In front of me were two construction workers making some repairs to the space. I had mistaken them for performance artists. It just goes to show you that anything goes in the contemporary art world. My boss, the gallery director, had mentioned upgrades or that anyone would be coming. I had fooled myself which was rather embarrassing, but fortunately I hadn’t mentioned by misassumption to anyone else. They would have had a good laugh, unless they were caught in the same dilemma.

Let’s hear it for performance art as a viable modern form of expression. Let’s welcome new artists, but let’s also be sure of their status. I won’t be caught unaware the next time around.


Not My Job Description

I love working in an art gallery. It is a dream for an artist just starting out. You learn the ropes, get exposure, and feel a part of a special realm. I also love time in my studio when I am in the midst of creation. I feel blessed to have been born with aesthetic talent so that I have a ready road to personal fulfillment. I never thought about entering a different field such as business, medicine, education, or mechanics. My path was always laid out in one direction, or so my parents believed. I am earning my stripes in the art gallery and making art as I write. I feel compelled to share my experience to help others in the same boat—artists who want to make a living but with the kind of work they admire and believe in. I don’t want to have to compromise my values to please the public. Don’t get me wrong. I do want to please the public, but not at the expense of my pride.

Meanwhile I apply myself daily as needed in the gallery. This means sometimes doing things that I don’t feel are in my job description. I process the mail which includes a lot of images that would-be artists have submitted for consideration. We are very selective about what we show so I have to answer them back. I keep tabs of inventory and pull out work from storage to show clients. I clean up after an opening and help serve the snacks. I update the computer with new purchases and client information. All in all, I have a lot of variety going on. I love greeting people as they come through the door and most of all like discussing the current work on view. The gallery is in the business of selling art so I never deter people from making an acquisition, even if something is not my taste. But I never would push a painting on a novice art lover just for the sake of a sale.

Something was added to my job description the other day. The gallery director was concerned about the air quality in the ample space and wanted me to select and install a new air purifier. What could be harming the paintings? It didn’t matter that I know: I now had a task. I set out to research the subject and stumbled on a mid-size unit that would cover our square footage. It was the type that people use in hospitals or children’s rooms to help those with allergies breathe better.

There is nothing specifically made for an art gallery. There is an expensive model for museums to prevent chemicals from reacting with the artwork, but this is not what we needed for sure. I got a regular air purifier that per the product description would clearly do the job. The museum purifiers have fancy settings that can be changed according to the climate. I think what I found will do nicely. Cleaner air is around us.


No Way, A Tropical Getaway!

If you had the means, the time, and the choice, where would you go for a fabulous beach vacation. I assume that all of you readers love the shore as I do. There are so many great places from Hawaii to Tahiti, but for me I vote for the Caribbean. Think of all those tropical islands and how glorious the sand and water are. I would give anything for a week of fun in the sun. We all need to rejuvenate and relax no matter how much we like our work. Life gets dull and discolored if you don’t take a break and change your point of view. I mean that literally: it is important to have a change of scene and get a new lease on life. And because I am an artist, I invite the inspiration that the beach always brings.

So, my friend and I have set a date for a long weekend in the Caribbean on a picturesque isle. We picture ourselves side by side on lounge chairs with a large beach umbrella overhead. Its big stripes match our giant towels. You can’t miss us for miles away. So, we made this dream a reality and off we went. Not a minute off the plane, we headed for our resort and the sand. We jumped into our swimsuits, grabbed the towels and ran to the water. Just a few feet away we set up “camp.” We had a cooler by now with water and beverages not to mention a few tasty snacks. We rented the chairs and an umbrella so we would not burn. The sun in this region can be intense. We applied sunscreen, put on dark glasses, and we were ready to surf. Come late evening, we were loath to move a muscle.

What is it about the beach that is so magical? Sure, you can ski in fresh powder snow, go boating on a lake or a river, or hike in the mountains when the weather is fine. But when it comes to rest and relaxation, not to mention artistic inspiration, I vote for the beach every time. I mentioned that I am an artist so I bring along a pad of paper and some colored pencils and make sketches of the people and the scenery. I take the work home and make some of the better works into paintings. I also like the fresh spontaneity of watercolors. I wish I could take them with me, but once when I did, they got full of sand.

I don’t get a beach vacation more than once a year and then we vary the location. Sometime I will have paintings of so many destinations that required recreation in paint. Perhaps this is the perfect fodder for a one-man art show at the gallery. If I work hard and finish enough, there will be ample paintings to fill the gallery space. I will have large and small versions of my beach vacations. Hopefully, they will remind people of the joy of the ocean.


Inspiration is Everywhere

I work long hours at an easel as a practicing artist. Then there is my apprentice time in an art gallery where I am learning the ropes. I welcome the opportunity to get out now and then for some fresh air. Plus, I like to see what is going on in the neighborhood. From personal experience, I know that inspiration is everywhere. Recently, I found it at a street festival a few blocks a way that I visited with a friend. We both love a fun atmosphere and seeing the excitement on the smiling faces of the kids near the bouncy house. It makes us feel more alive. Kids will bring out the best in most people. We decided to spend considerable time and observe and take photos. My friend is a writer, a different kind of artist, and took ample notes.

The young ones didn’t take notice of our presence. No one else seemed to mind as we were bearing down on the revelers. We watched and waited as the line of children dwindled. Each one had his turn in the bouncy house. Inside were brightly colored balls and the little heads would pop out of the mass of roundness with glee. It was magical as the balls moved quickly around to form new configurations. Suddenly, I had an idea. I would create an artwork out of these colored balls. I could either paint them on a large canvas as an abstraction or I could literally use them in a “construction,” a type of sculpture.

When you use something that exists in reality already such as a ball, it is called a readymade. I had never done anything with such objects before. I thought back to the bottle rack of Marcel Duchamp from the early twentieth century. I would be in good company if I pursued my idea. I thought long and hard and abandoned the concept of a painting. That would be too simple and mundane. I started looking online and found that you could find a cheap bounce house for kids, and asked the supplier about acquiring just some balls. They do sell them for people who have purchased a bounce house and need some spares or just want to decorate their kid’s sandbox. I selected about a dozen of them in assorted colors.

I took them up to my studio and arranged them in an interesting group. I sat and contemplated their sizes, shapes, and hues. This is the essence of art. I then made a wooden fence to go around them to kept the design intact. It was starting to look interesting. I needed to keep the balls in place so I inserted a piece of plastic under the entire construction. Then I decided to change the placement of the balls. I hit the nail on the head this time. When the work of art was on view in a gallery (my dream and fantasy), the observer can change the composition at will. He or she could be imaginative and contribute to the artistic experience of my original object. The day at the street fair had been very profitable.