Saturday, October 16, 2010

Paradise City - Northampton III Debrief

I was at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, MA over the weekend. This was my third time going to this show and I have to say it has been my favorite venue. It is a well established show that always has good crowds with plenty of people who aren't afraid to spend money, even in this economy. I can't say all the artists are selling at the level they need or expect to, but people are definitely spending money. For me, even if I'm not selling, having a large audience certainly helps in that I always get good feedback. Luckily, sales were good, especially compared to the disappointing Spring shows. I sold the new piece, Peaches and Pears, as well as an older piece, Green Grass-Summer Day, and I know a couple of people are seriously considering additional work. That, along with the additional 27 email addresses that I collected, give me hope that I can eventually earn a living making art.
Booth Shot
October 9, 2010

After the show I decided that I need to start taking notes to document what people say when they see my work. In particular, I need to count how many times I hear the exact phase "I've never seen anything like this." It is somewhat amazing to see a stream of random people walking by and hearing the first thing out of their mouths be the exact same phase. I estimate I hear it about five times a day but I'll start collecting data at the next show and then use the numbers as a gauge for evaluating success.

Other interesting comments included one person who was raving that they the work should be in museums. Unfortunately, he wasn't a curator nor did he have connections to any but I encouraged him to remember the work if he ever ran into one. Another artist stopped by and asked "Do people understand how beautiful these are?"

I also remember someone saying, "You must really enjoy making these." To which I responded, surprising myself, "No, actually I don't enjoy it." I enjoy the final piece, I enjoy thinking about them, I enjoy having a purpose to go to the lumber yard, but the actual process of making them I mostly don't enjoy. Rather, I find it to be a painful struggle that I'm compelled to complete. An endurance battle much like a marathon. Does anyone ever really enjoy running marathons? I've done them and I can't say I liked it either; still I would like to run more. I've hoped that making art would somehow get easier over time but I haven't found it to get any easier. Interestingly, I recently heard Philip Roth being interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry Gross and he said essentially the same thing. Writing has never gotten any easier for him, rather, it has always been a difficult struggle that he battles with every day. I guess I just need to get used to it (though, I'm sure, if it ever got easy I'd find something else to do -- the struggle keeps it interesting). Update Oct 22, 2010: I saw Frank Stella talk at Dartmouth College yesterday and, when someone asked whether he found more pleasure in making his art, looking at the finished piece, or looking at the work of others, he said that he doesn't find pleasure in making his art, that there are always problems that he is trying to fix which take all his attention, and that it is much more pleasurable to look at someone else's art.

In addition, I was surprised, and very humbled, to hear one artist compare my work to Agnes Martin's. I don't see it myself but have heard it enough times that there must be some truth to it. I hadn't known of her work until I made Silk Ribbons and Cherry a couple of years ago and had three people tell me that it reminded them of her paintings. Her work is so subtle that looking at images on the web is really pointless but finally saw one over the Summer. Like a whisper, it forces you to listen. If my work could do that, it would be a great accomplishment.

Another advantage of the show is meeting other artists and learning about their work. I especially like to see other people working with wood. This time I talked a bit with Mark Del Guidice, a unique and very accomplished studio furniture maker. He combines his own contemporary designs with his interesting, intuitive, hieroglyphs. They appear to tell a story but they are ambiguous enough that the viewer is drawn in and challenged to decipher them. He also adds text in morse code sometimes. I believe he creates pieces that work as an antidote to the ever increasing speeds of modern culture by slowing people down and getting them to look and think about what is in front of them.

Love Chest


This chair has morse code on the back. It says, "Relax Have A Seat."
Sanfra Chair
I was glad to see this piece of non-functional wall art. The rocks are a nice touch. It seems a little altar-esque, something that promotes contemplation and prayer.

The next show is CraftWestport, November 20 and 21.

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