Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Active Week

It's been a busy week since my last post. On Tuesday, Janis left for two weeks in San Diego, visiting friends and family. I've been a single dad to our two dogs since then. They haven't died of neglect (so far, at least) so I think it's going okay. However, they do spend a good bit of time every evening lying down in the kitchen and watching the back door, waiting for their Mom to come home.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent in getting the studio ready for our Open House this weekend. I had to do some cleaning (see previous comments regarding bugs and dirt in an old industrial building) and re-arranging. I had advertised that I'd be pulling intaglio prints during the event, which meant that many of my paintings needed to be put away and some of my older prints needed to be brought out where they could be seen. Sounds like a 5-minute job, doesn't it? One thing leads to another: putting away a painting means finding a place for it, which means re-arranging the storage area, which has too much dirt and too many bugs that have to be cleaned out, which then expands to include cleaning the entire storage area. Getting old prints out means finding them first (where the hell did I put them last year?), then discovering that they're not priced right, probably because their database is incomplete and out of date, and so two hours needed to be spent in getting all my paperwork ducks in a row, then trying to find the price stickers and sales receipts and so on. So a 5-minute job takes two days. Ah, the joys of being a one-man business.

On Friday and Saturday morning, I attended a conference on public art. It was hosted by the City of Asheville, and was intended to get artists and public art administrators connected. I went because my interests and directions seem like they should include public art. (The term "public art" means art commissioned or bought by public organizations (governments or non-profits) for exhibition in public areas.) This goes back to something that an artist friend said to me once: "Most artists paint for one person. You paint for many." Meaning that most artists paint works that are intended to be bought by a collector and hung on a wall in a private home for the collector, his/her family, and friends. My works are intended to be displayed in a public area and viewed by many people. That comment has stuck with me ever since.

So I went to the conference, and it was very worthwhile. For one thing, it showed me that I can do more things than just paintings or murals. One presenter talked about a water treatment plant project that was exceptional. An artist had been hired as part of the "percent for art" program, and the municipality thought that she'd probably make some free-standing sculpture about water. Instead, she worked with the plant designers to completely revise the design. The normal rectangular settling ponds became free-form, naturalistic ponds that conformed to existing site topography. A heavy dose of natural plants provided some natural water purification. Walking paths and lighting wound between the different ponds. The end result: instead of an eyesore that people avoided, the plant became a destination. People even got married there. When was the last time you heard of somebody being married at a water treatment plant? As for myself, I kept thinking about the waste water treatment plant in Fallujah, Iraq, that has been such a problem since day one. An approach like this could very well have made a ton of difference in that war-torn city. And saved some lives to boot.

The other thing that I realized about public art is that I can do it. Public art projects require a lot of navigating a bureaucratic maze. Me, I'm a trained, professional bureaucrat. I know how government organizations run. Filling out reams of paperwork is not a problem. (It's a pain in the ass, yes, but not a problem). I already have the artistic skills, the project management skills, and the bureaucratic skills. Now all I need to do is start finding projects.

Which is easier said than done, of course. Remember the five-minute cleaning job that took two days? Yeah. This is bigger. But as the wise man once said, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So here we go.

But first, I had to get through the Open House this weekend. So yesterday and today I was in the studio, pulling drypoint prints from a new plate, and talking to visitors. Rainy weather seems to have kept people away, but we still had some hard-core art fans come around and I had some great conversations. For example, I had three people talk with me about their experiences in Bosnia. That's as many as I've spoken with in the five years since some of those paintings were done. Pretty cool.

So all in all, a busy and productive time. I'm going to spend the next couple of days giving the dogs some attention and workouts, and researching public art when they take their naps. Should be another busy and productive couple of days.

1 comment:

  1. I know artists who've made a living doing things like planning the installation of art projects that decorate the metro rail stations. Or working with developers on some kind of centerpiece at the newly built community center. The bidding process can take up to a year, but if you can get through all the layers, it's good work.
    Yes, you have the skills!
    I love the description of the dogs, and the rest of the week too.