I said there’d be a Part 3 to my THIS LAND show story, and it’s a bit overdue now. So, here it is. I’ve been busy with other things. So, sorry for the delay (if you’ve been waiting, that is).
This covers the Artist’s talk that occurred on Saturday, October 1st, at the gallery. LA WEEKLY‘s Art Editor, Shana Nys Dambrot led the conversations with artists Kelly Berg, Debbie McAfee, and myself. If you want to see the whole talk in its entirety, it’s now on YouTube here. It was filmed via iPhone by Craig.
I arrived in Santa Monica late on Friday, but I’d previously driven a bit out of my way to see a friend’s group show at Cal Baptist University, Riverside. However, although the gallery was open, the gate was locked to non-students and faculty. It was an exhausting and irritatingly hot, sweaty hour of wasted time. I was pretty angry about that whole experience. I had to park in three different places on the campus before being anywhere near it, had to ask two different people if they knew where the place was, and finally, the walk to the gallery was longer than I thought. It was 90 degrees out or more. Worst of all, I didn’t get to see the show.
I had to get back on the road and check into my Airbnb, which was equally as frustrating. It was a cute little guesthouse in Ocean Park. But the inside was like an oven. There was an AC unit in there, but it had a sign on it about not using it between the hours of 4-9 pm. Whaa? I was a bit shocked. I texted the owner, who eventually said I could turn it on. It took a few hours to cool the place down, but at least it finally worked.
But by 9:00, the wifi went out. No TV. I need the TV on so I can fall asleep. I’m weird like that. I don’t really watch it or anything. I just need to hear it softly so it will put me to sleep. I wind up turning it off at some point, but it lulls me into slumber and makes my mind stop racing.
By morning it came back on, but I don’t care about TV then. And I had to get ready for the talk.
But then I get a text from, of all people, my brother. What does he want? He wants me to communicate more with my nephew because he’s depressed. Why suddenly am I hearing about what to do with my life from my brother? I can’t deal with this right now, so I deleted his message and kept getting ready. But now I keep thinking about it and start to defend myself in my brain about all the times I have tried to communicate with my nephew, and he doesn’t communicate back. I’m not about to tell my brother that though. I haven’t talked to him in years.
Anyway, I brought my camera and a tripod, along with the brand-new mic I’d just purchased. I was going to video the whole talk. But when I got there, all the chairs were set up in a circle in Kelly’s space around her installation piece. I didn’t understand how the talk would go or where to put my camera. I was a little confused.
Craig said we’d start in Kelly’s room, move everyone to Debbie’s space, and end with me. I set the camera up on one side of my room hoping to get the tail end of the talk. The camera will only run for 30 minutes max anyway, and I was told the entire event would only be 45 minutes. Then we would start the Q and A.
None of it happened like that, and I couldn’t videotape it. Kelly’s portion took about a half-hour. During that time, more seats were being set up in my gallery facing Kelly’s space. Shana and Kelly talked in the doorway between the two spaces. They took questions just after she was done speaking.
Then it was my turn, but we stayed put in the doorway. My camera was facing the wrong way for this, so it was useless to turn it on. I took up about 15 or 20 minutes. I’m not exactly sure (I’d have to look at the video). I was nervous and couldn’t remember much about it. But there were no questions for me. Not one.
Debbie’s talk took about the same time as mine, and she had lots of questions to answer. She did great. It is her first major solo show, and I am super happy for her. She was nervous beforehand, but you’d never know. She did so well! I think she has sold almost all of her work now.
Some people bought my catalogs. That was nice. I even signed one. There were coffee and donuts, and Bridget saved me the last donut (not that I needed it).
But I was sure glad when it was over. Relieved.
When I left, I drove to George Billis Gallery to see my friend Valerie Wilcox‘s show. It’s excellent! Her abstract wall constructions are elegant and simply beautiful. The other two artists there were also great, but I was partial to Valerie’s work.
I hung out with the director, Tressa Williams, for a while. She’s my previous dealer from days of ole. It was very nice to catch up and rekindle the friendship.
From there, I went to the market and picked up more food than I needed, and holed up in the guesthouse. I watched a movie (Lou), and then that was it because the wifi went out again for the remainder of my stay. I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I think I got three hours. In the early morning hours, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I had plans for breakfast with my friend Paul Pitsker, but I had to cancel. I was out of it and decided to down three cups of coffee and drive home, which took me less than two hours.
My show runs until the 22nd and Kelly (and maybe Debbie too) will be at the gallery on the last day for another meet-and-greet. Craig extended an invitation for me to come that day, but I backed out since I don’t think it would be worth the trip both financially and energy-wise. Truthfully, I’m already in the hole quite a bit for this show, and I have exhausted every bit of my efforts and then some. I really don’t think I could have tried any harder this time around. I don’t know what else I could have done.
Sometimes, you have to accept what you can and can not control in this life. I can’t force people to purchase my work. In the past, people have purchased it based on whether or not it has spoken to them and nothing else. In the end, that’s actually how I want it to be.
I’ve thought about writing to you since the Art Talk to say how poorly Craig and that art critic handled it. Dambrot, her name is. She showed up with a theory about how the three artists were connected, which meant that instead of drawing out each artist about their particular process she tried to squeeze you into her theory. Kelly was happy to go along with everything she said about her and just generally sucked up to her. Gross and boring. Her painting tries to make a big splash but it’s flat. Next Dambrot did not take any time to explore what was going on with you and your process. She just said a couple things that kind of fit into her theory. You didn’t even get warmed up! Then she asks for questions ( we didn’t have time to hear from you and formulate any freaking questions)! and when there weren’t any right away she moved on. I thought it was so wrong.
I also agree that we have no control over how people respond to our work, so no point in obsessing. They did a bad job, but you can move on.
Hi Peggy, Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate your feedback. It gives me a lot of food for thought. Candidly, a few things: I do think that Shana Nys Dambrot did a pretty good job in taking some pressure off me in making the talk a back-and-forth conversation so I didn’t have to give a formal lecture. As far as the show in general, I feel that, while it was a good selection of artists on a theme, it may have also been a situation where it took away from my works as a singular show, if that makes sense. It was too difficult to compete with the strength of the other two artists, as their shows were both very powerful and appealed to wider audiences. My work has more of a niche/naïve following I think, but it is what it is. Maybe three artists in one space isn’t the greatest layout. Or maybe that’s just an excuse. It’s not that my sales were nonexistent or anything. They just weren’t as strong, or the interest wasn’t as strong.
That’s a lot of words of justification, I don’t know?