Family Loss

On June 12th and 13the the Painted Bride Art Center will be featuring a theatrical event: “Life on the Spectrum: A Love Story,” a documentary play based on over 30 interviews with families of individuals with Autism.  In addition to the nightly performance, there will be a gallery exhibition featuring concerned local artists, as well as artists with disabilities.

THE PRODUCERS OF THIS EVENT ARE SEEKING ARTISTS INTERESTED IN DONATING THEIR ARTWOK TO BE EXHIBITED AND/OR SOLD AT THIS EVENT. 500 people are expected to attend this event, which will provide artists with an opportunity to expose their artwork to a large audience, as well as contribute to a very important cause.

So…

This was sent to me by someone I recently met at a going away party at a bar. We talked about the stomach churning process that is networking and discussed all the wonderful nuances of the art world.

The past few art shows I’ve had have been work that I donated. Fine art has always been my weakest event in the Olympics of my artistic life.  I love painting for the same reason I love dance, it’s physical choreography in a visceral form, except with painting you get a tangible everlasting object.

I started taking my fine art seriously about 9 years ago after a near-death experience. I wanted to leave something behind – not necessarily a legacy; but artifacts. I took several art classes throughout school and I thought I had an above average aptitude for foundation and drawing but I never had the patience to match my perfectionism. It wasn’t until I started studying modern art that I realized that there is life outside of the lines.

On a class trip to the art museum in what could have been the 3rd or 4th grade, I remember there was a Dali exhibit that fascinated me. I ended up staying behind and losing my group. Eventually I found one of the museum workers and they led me to the bus that had been waiting for me for a little while. I got into trouble, but it was well worth it.

I started researching different artists and art periods, spending endless hours at the Collingswood library. Like with most of my studies, I learned a lot more on my own than I ever did in any classroom. With each new artist I was studying I became more and more inspired, stealing techniques and ideas here and there all while trying to find my own voice. I have always been in love with Impressionism and the pointillism method and I adapted a lot of that technique into some of my work. I was finding that I was using a lot of reds, purples and blues in my paintings and every time I tried to force myself to use other colors, I ended up painting over them. I did several studies, none of which I was fond of except one painting I did of a still life of pears. I still have several sketches for things that are at times embarassing to look at, but the content is meaningful.

I met a friend through a friend who was also into painting but has a career otherwise. This was around the time I was getting into found object art and using old glass windows, scrap metal and various materials the likes of hair, sand and candle wax (encaustic).  I loved his shit. He’s Jewish and has an astounding wit which shows in his work. He was kind enough to let me use his garage as a painting space. My works were getting bigger and bigger. Us both being huge Pollack fans, he understood my need for more space to spread out for large canvasses, and was happy to loan me some space.

Cut to about a year later. I started submitting my artwork to calls for submissions. I got my first group show at a gallery on Haddon Ave. that I can’t remember the name of. I was hella nervous knowing I was literally hanging my emotions up on a wall. I had chosen a few pieces from my dancer series that consisted of abstract figures “dancing” over nondescript, geometric backgrounds. I took some scanned photos of vintage New York Ballet dancers and painted over them in oil, highlighting their attributes and pasting the pages over the background compositions. The theme of the show was “Spring in Your Step” so I tried to pick and make pieces that really exuded a sense of rhythm, rebirth and movement.

I sold three paintings that night.

The best part of any gallery exhibition is the alcohol. The owner of the gallery came up to me in a panic about 1/2 way through the show and said “Oh my God, this is the first time we have ever ran out of wine!”. I should have told him a little more about my friends that I invited. Everyone was happy and flirty, more so as the night went on, and it was really a good time. My mother was there wearing leopard boots and doled me a bouquet of flowers and balloons (she always brings balloons – to my chagrin). My only worry was that the man I was in love with did not come to the show, but the man that was in love with me did show.

Several months after that I had my first solo show that was the first exhibit at a new gallery further down Haddon Ave. called “Exposure Gallery”. The guy that ran the place is really cool and we got along swimmingly. Turns out that he is a photographer (his other job) and does a photo journal of the mummer’s every year.  Good stuff. By this time I thought I was hot shit and in my head I was a local celebrity, but in such a small town, it seemed like everyone was. This was around the time when Collingswood was experiencing gentrification to the max and becoming a lot less Southwest Camden everyday.

The second show wasn’t as fun as the first. The good part is that it was held during a festival (that town is always having festivals) and the walk-in crowd was pretty steady. I would watch as people would come in and look at the work kind of puzzled, wondering why there weren’t any portraits or landscapes. It was that kind of crowd. There were a few stragglers that wanted to talk to me and thought my work was interesting, but like any true artist, I could help but to concentrate on all the negative aspects of the experience.

I didn’t sell one piece.

I had a few other shows after that, some I donated work to, some I helped arrange, and one I even had to ship off to a show in New York (I didn’t go to the opening, I had a dance performance that night). That was a surprise after months of rejection letters and lack of callbacks. Through all of that, my interest in painting thrived and my work consistently improved.

Three summers ago I began painting down the shore in a garage. It was really a little bit of heaven. I would work on 5 to 6 paintings at once and I was experimenting more. I had access to several natural materials and woodworking machines. It was really nice. But after a while, my interest dissipated. I felt as though I wasn’t prepared for the business of art dealing and that the numbers game wasn’t adding up.

Now, here I am again. Wanting to burn all of my stuff or give it all away. I once had a bout of this and threw several of my paintings in the trash outside. The next morning, they were all gone (the real trash remained). I figured that maybe it was another starving artist who could have put the materials to good use, but I really wished someone had really loved my work – and maybe even hung it on their walls. One piece was a large abstract painted American flag with yellow yarn strewn about it with chains attached to it. I thought it was way cliche, but I loved that fucking painting once it was gone.

And now again I have to consider giving my art away for a cause…to better someone else’s life. Not that it wouldn’t be on my own voilition, I just really need to make sure I am ready to murder my own children. My paintings are my babies. Every conception has taken everything I had out of me.


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