Friday, October 31, 2008

Artistic Hell

I had planned to write about how great the Art of Action Orientation day was but, sadly, that fabulous experience is now a memory - it was pretty great though: met amazing people; got to sit in the legislative chamber (how cool is that! Now I know why people go into politics - for the architecture). Quote of the Day from one of my fellow artists as we were ambling out and heading home "Their enthusiasm is contagious".

That was then, this is now: Artistic Hell is where I am. I can't believe I thought this would be easy. It is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Number one problem I am overwhelmed with material but none of it is visual. I read panel presentations from industries, foundations, politicians, and academics from all over the state; they are fascinating. I want to cover everything that has ever happened or could happen in the State of Vermont: this is completely insane. I move on to reading transcripts of forums conducted by the Council on the Future of Vermont on how Vermonters see the state and, of course, their lives - and I ache for pictures to put with the information: I need visuals, I need to be there, to feel the way people sit, the way they turn their heads, their presence; I need to see their stories in their faces. I look at the photos Sarah Waring has so thoughtfully posted on the Council on the Future of Vermont website; nothing jumps out. I go to the Pawlet library and come back with piles of books about Vermont and finally learn about the Green Mountain Boys, Governor Benning Wentworth's land grants (that's how Bennington got its name!!) and the dispute with New York. I am embarrassed that I have lived in this state for 14 years and know so little about its history. Now I want to paint that history but that idea doesn't really fit the project. Sigh.

I cover the walls of my studio with words, thoughts, ideas - but where are the pictures? I am having a hard time finding the visual metaphor that will summarize and express my thoughts. The good news is that I now have an answer to the third question they asked when we were being filmed for the AOA video, the one that goes "how does this kind of project change your creative approach?" Answer: it is completely different - backwards and upside down. Usually my inspiration comes from within and instantly and is pure joy - the painful fleshing out comes afterwards. The beginning is always pictures, always a vision; verbalization comes later. Now I am part of someone else's inspiration - I am the paint as much as I am the painter and it all starts with words.

Somehow, I need the words to become pictures. I have started off in many different directions; none of them seems completely right. The time is so short. I think with envy of my fellow artists - I am certain that ideas are falling into their hands like ripe fruit.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art of Action, continued

Where was I? Oh yes, the more I thought about the Art of Action the more I thought that perhaps I should would be a chance to try out some new artistic ideas: a separate and more experimental place, away from my usual market. And as the economic clouds continued to gather, the idea of locking in some income for next year looked more and more appealing. I still had reservations about some aspects of what was required but I pushed those thoughts into the "deal with it when the time comes" category and wafted my hat into the ring.

Once I was in I wanted to win. The idea that this was just the project for me, that it was the chance I'd been looking for to spread my wings grew day by day; when I was chosen to be one of the 20 finalists I was completely delighted.

All along I thought that carrying out the project, for an artist of my vast talent and experience, would be fun and exciting but, ultimately, a breeze. I figured I could bat something out while spending the greater part of the year working on my figure composition "The Feast of Venus"; I assumed I would get the commission and I certainly did not imagine that any of the other finalists could possibly give me a run for my money.

That was then, this is now. The first reality check came when I looked up the work of the other finalists. Yikes. These guys look good, really good. I was tremendously impressed with both their work and their accomplishments and a strange new feeling dawned...I was proud to be among them; pleased to think that this is a group in which I belong. On the down side, my estimation of my chances went swiftly from certain win to 50-50 chance (there are twenty of us and ten will receive commissions). But it's an odd thing, I think I am happier with my new view of the situation - I guess you could say that what I've lost in arrogance, I've gained in self-esteem. Good luck, guys.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Art of Action

In late August an email from the Vermont Arts council about something called the Art of Action passed through my mailbox; I gave it a cursory look and reflexively hit 'delete' . Alas, just as it slipped into cyber-oblivion I realized that something on it had glittered. Oops. I quickly fished the piece out of the digital wastebasket and saw there was indeed something sparkling there: 10 commissions ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 and averaging $25,000 were to be awarded. Yikes. For an artist this qualifies as serious money - very serious. I read through the prospectus carefully and...concluded that this project was not for me. Art about issues - no! I never do topical work. Involve the community in the creation or presentation of the work - groan. I like to do my own work and do it alone. Demonstrate that the work has had an impact - um, I'm an artist, not a sociologist. Back into the trash it went where it sat for three days while my thoughts went something like this... be continued

Catching Up

A whole lot has happened since last I posted on this blog. For starters, I painted an entire show and had an opening at Tilting at Windmills Gallery in Vermont. The stock market dropped 20% (or was it 40%) in the two weeks before the opening so the timing was really, really bad. Nevertheless I managed to sell four paintings of decent size and price. Normally I would have been disappointed with this outcome but under the circumstances I was relieved and happy. One of these days I'll get around to posting some of the images from my show but meanwhile you can get a taste of it here