Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Concerning the Show

I signed up last fall for a one-person show at the gallery to take place this month. Part way through the summer I became disillusioned with the idea of selling paintings, turning them into a commodity, "prostituting my art" as it were. This is not a new idea for me, of course, and rears its head particularly when I can't seem to sell anything. Such is the state of this summer season. I have sold only three paintings, and two of them were priced quite low. Enter the thought, "I can not sell what I like to paint as easily as I can not sell what I paint mainly to please perspective buyers." There is some confusion about what I really like to paint, which confuses the issue further. Am I explaining this clearly? I believe I like to paint what I think of as conceptual art, especially when I am painting landscape and still life. Then when I do my conceptual stuff, I miss painting representative subjects. I like to use my technical skills and dazzle myself (and hopefully my audience) with my expertise. But no sooner does my smug satisfaction surface than I begin to feel superficial, satisfied with a craft that has no substance.

So here I am , long about the middle of July, irked that I am selling poorly, seriously missing the rewarding experience of having somebody turn over some cash for something I have made. This experience is rewarding only because I know it validates me in the eyes of others. I don't make enough money even in the best of times to have it make much impact on my lifestyle. So, I'm driving home from one of my therapy sessions and the idea comes to me that Elizabeth and I could do a show together in the time period that has been allotted to me for my one-person show. Before I go home, I go directly to Elizabeth's and present my idea to her. After a lively discussion of what we will do, we decide on a wildly complicated and convoluted idea vaguely related to myth, with some specific attention to Demeter and Persephone. We will NOT expect to sell anything out of this show so will be free to do whatever we want without worrying about public pocketbooks. The idea lies dormant for many weeks and is mentioned only in reference to the fact that we have done nothing about it.

Only two weeks ago it became evident to both of us that we were not going to be able to follow through on our original idea. It would mean thinking up a specific concept about the myth and then producing work that expressed that concept----------way too much to accomplish in a few days. Luckily we had been purposefully vague in the advertisements for the show, calling it simply "Impressions" without saying of what. Out of desperation, I came up with the idea of using mainly existing work and comparing our different ways of representing women in out art. I had some new work that I did last winter that I had not shown because I did not consider it saleable, and could also use some of my old feminist paintings that I had never had at the gallery. Elizabeth grasped the idea like a drowning woman presented with a life jacket and our exhibition was born. I did one painting of one of her sculptures to tie the thing into a cohesive unit and we had it.

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