January 28, 2013

Mission Statement

Writing the eulogy for my art gallery has become an everyday task. Why is it so hard to quit even when I know it's a losing battle??

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Deluge II

My daughter called me a one-hit-wonder the other day. That hurt. But maybe it's true. I open too many businesses that never make it past the two year mark. 
Catherine Street Gallery, Green Seed Art Company, and The Art House Gallery are my top three. I either run out of money or am in the wrong place at the wrong time while running out of money. My husband says if I did half the work I do for myself for other companies I'd be rich. 
It's easy to write a mission statement for a new business. Even coming up with brand names and logos is fun. But what about coming up with a mission statement for your life. I read somewhere recently that if you can't describe your business in one sentence you shouldn't  be in that business. Can you sum up a whole life in one sentence? 

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Ancient Wall

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Forms on Rock Ledge
This is why I love biographies and memoirs. I get so caught up in the romantic notion that a whole life can be neatly summed up in 200 pages or a half hour episode. A concise, well labeled, carefully organized file in the file cabinet. The writers and producers have found the exact font, color scheme and background music, and the subtitles and footnotes all fit so beautifully. You read and view it as if it's real, but it can't be. It's too neat and conformed. There's no sweat, no smell. It's not greasy or sticky, it doesn't get caught in your teeth or under your finger nail. It's not real, it's the art of something real. Maybe the art is the reality. Ah, but that's another issue...

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, The Pit
Whatever it is, real or imagined, I like it. No matter how painful or confusing the days, hours and minutes may be, there is no physical unraveling in the book version. If it gets too tough to read you just put the book down. Memories work this way, they blend together in neater and less confrontational ways, and that's the part I like. Momentarily it gives me a plentitude of excuses. If the day is lousy I probably won't remember it anyway, it'll just get jumbled in with the month of January. Or the cold winter of 2013. My brain organizes life this way. I make neat piles of horrible messes. I know where everything is even if no one else does, and temporarily out of sight and mind, I don't need to think about it until I absolutely have to. I take my emotions out on a need to need basis. At least this is how my documentary would go. And maybe this is why I keep opening and closing businesses. I forget how hard it is, how much time it takes and how much money I don't have. That file conveniently gets left unopened. My biographer, I imagine, would leave these failures out and embellish my entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, on paper my resume looks pretty good. Maybe if I can work on that mission statement a little better I would be headed for more success. But I really don't think it works that way. 

Philip Guston balked at the suggestion that artists have any control over the types of paintings they inevitably make. I imagine life like this too. If we do what we are innately inclined to do, things that come naturally, that are free of expectation and categorization, we unintentionally follow our own mission statement. Aspiring to follow the natural yearning within ourselves is quite the artistic struggle. That struggle, however, isn't so bad if you can somehow find a way to enjoy it...all the sweaty, smelly, confusing moments of it.

January 25, 2013

No Man is an Island, Part I

I'm so excited about the new exhibition I am curating. It feels really right, and right on time. The ideas behind No man is an island have been roaming around my head for years. So I may be talking about this for a while...
I like stories of individuals who have made an impact on some thing greater than themselves. I learned from my father that people have power. That one person can affect many, and that wasted talent is one of the worst things in the world. It took me almost 40 years to discover that not everyone thinks this way. A big problem I see right now is that so few believe this at all. It's a lot easier to not do your job and blame other people if you don't think anything you do affects anyone else. It's a lot easier to be vicious, lying and cruel. Or at the least a jerk neighbor or a rude cashier, or, say, a bank, a post office or a dentist that doesn't mind losing your business. An employer that fires all his employees but takes million dollar vacations. You get the idea. Human beings cannot exist without consequences. Try this out with a four year old and get back to me:  
"Eat your food."   
"Go to bed."   
"Brush your teeth."   
I chalk some of this up to being an artist. Artists in general are risk takers and truth seekers, at least the ones that I consider Artists. Henri Matisse said, 'It takes courage to create'. It also takes courage to be a decent human being. You don't even have to be that smart, good, truthful or enlightened to realize that No man is an island. But maybe you do!

January 14, 2013

The week in review, the hi & lo of it

Each week the Art House is filled with a myriad of ups and downs. There is absolutely no consistency except for the fact that there is no consistency. I am constantly delighted, surprised and disgusted all at once. Yes, that is possible. This week's surprise was a thin layer of dirt that made its way from the recently cleaned out basement onto the entire surface of the first floor. Two full days of cleaning later, I was able to get back to business with only the faint smell of dust in the air. Thanks to devoted family members who bore my complaints and Martha Kremer, our new gallery assistant, I was able to, for the most part, keep it together.
Onto more important things like trying to fill our first week of winter semester art classes, which is like trying to figure out what an entire town wants in life and how to give it to them! We now have a kid's class for 5-7 year olds on Saturdays, a class for 8-12 year olds on Thursdays and a combined class for teens and adults on Saturday mornings.

I also worked a bit on the budget. A word that currently exists on paper only. After searching obsessively on etsy.com and the Supermarket for new works to sell at the gallery, my favorites list accumulated to a staggering amount of money. Although my imaginary budget is large and vast, the reality is that after paying most of the bills, there is $96 left in the account. That does not a wholesale order make...This doesn't even include payment to The Sandpaper newspaper for advertising that was barely seen, and events and fundraisers that weren't even covered. It also doesn't include the monstrous, uncalled for bill from Verizon. Hopefully repeated emails to artists came across sincerely.

That covers surprised and disgusted... Delighted came by the end of the week. The new photography exhibit looks fine (as in excellent, masterly and accomplished, according to thesaurus.com); the gift shop is back in action; and the classes I taught were all enjoyable. I had a fresh audience to share my knowledge with, and the classes are so small that I was able to do the work with them. That doesn't make up for the watercolors that I didn't get to work on, but it is something.

You're probably starting to see why art wrestler is an appropriate name! 
Here we are in small suburban family town, strange economy, recent devastation all around...How to make it work???


The sunrise over Manahawkin this morning was especially lovely. It welcomed my day with pinks, purples, oranges and blues. I sat down to enjoy it in my favorite seat where I read and write and ponder the world. This is what happens on days I wake up this early, or on days I have off from work. Someone mentioned recently they thought my newest paintings were both beautiful and complex. I had a moment of clarity this morning. This is what it feels like to look outside of oneself and inside of oneself at the same time: both the vast beautiful sky and the complex web of thoughts in my head simultaneously. And me, trying to make sense of it before the sky clears and I go about my day. 

January 5, 2013

Back to work

First few days back to work for the new year. The Art House Gallery, 2013.
After being sick in bed for an entire week, an entire vacation week,
I do not feel refreshed or organized at all the way I was supposed to.
My first day at the gallery was spent looking for clean tissues, vacuuming fake snow and glitter, paying the bills, and meeting artists. Second day de-Christmas-ing, moving the gift shop all around, clearing out Gallery III, and bed by 9:30. Third and final day rushing like mad and calling in the family reinforcements to put Christmas back in the attic, hang the new photography exhibit, fail to hang falling bookshelves in the studio, and prepare the classroom for Open House at 2pm. Why can't I just ease into things??
This is what happens on a weekly basis around here. Rushing like crazy to stand around and wait...
Today it took 2 adults and one child to do what I usually do by myself. One of these days I will awaken to that fresh feeling of organization and order.
On a good note, some money made it into the cash register today. The three people who signed up for classes were all new faces so the work was worth the effort. My family also got to sit down together and make clay necklaces that we baked when we got home. We were so famished all day that the pizza and sausage rolls we ordered were particularly tasty, and lastly when one is this tired and happy to be home, an electric fireplace and a cozy bed never felt so good...

January 1, 2013

I've decided to name my blog...

seems appropriate....