Post #271 • May 6, 2004, 3:19 PM • 11 Comments
This morning I tendered my resignation to ArtCenter/South Florida. (See that navigation? That's my navigation, driven by PHP. Navigation contents are double associated arrays of text, a dream to update, and are included automatically site-wide. The previous version was in frames, for crying out loud, and still had uncalled DHTML scripts from a design before that one. Total site revision by yours truly, done gratis as a loyal resident. Let it not be said that I didn't pitch in.)
Where was I? Right, I'm leaving ArtCenter. The impetus was some static involving the administration, but I've been thinking about it for a while. I miss the intimacy and familiarity with my art that I get when I'm working at home. I'm half-tempted to paint right in the bedroom, like Morandi.
Most of my artist friends say that leaving is a great idea. ArtCenter has a reputation around town as a nursing home for artists. That's not as deserved as it might have been in the past, but the stain lingers - as an arts writer, I hear the word. Current policy has it that artists are awarded three-year terms. Active AC/SF participants can apply for another three - something I was due to do in August. Certain members who are proven contributors to the organization, if chosen by a review committee, can get an additional three. Artists jury in, but they do pay rent, at a rate that's about one-seventh of the market price for square footage on Lincoln Road. Some folks have been there a long time. Longer than several local art stars have been out of school.
I'll miss ArtCenter. I met some great people and remain friends with many of them. I'll miss the Road; in spite of the Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic, and other venues of conformity shopping, Lincoln Road is the only public pedestrian mall in the county and attracts a mix of people unlike anything else in the state, if not the whole South: schizophrenic street performers, Lubavichers, Hare Krishnas, gay couples holding hands without fear of attack, activists offering free HIV tests and condoms, elderly Cubans on tricycles, nuclear families, Italian tourists, hoochie mamas, on and on. I'll take my bike out there and visit, definitely. (Parking's too much of a pain.)
Something else: from being at ArtCenter, I found out that kids really like my work. They respond to the texture and the intense colors. There's nothing like a positive review from a six-year-old - all love, no irony.
The occasional sale was nice too.
But it's time for a change. Stupid aggression rules the road in Miami, and the Beach is especially bad; in this town, less driving equals more happy. I'll get to live in my house more. If I want to blast Flaming Lips and paint in my underwear, it won't be an issue. If an idea comes to me at 5am, the studio will be right there - so will the bookshelves. I'll miss the community, but making art is not a community affair, and the decision about my studio has to be made solely on the basis of my art. I thank everyone who helped me and gave me their friendship at ArtCenter, and wish everyone the best.
May 7, 2004, 1:45 AM
Not to mention the books. No, despite the appearance of the work, I'm a pretty fastidious painter. At some point I decided that only the paint that ended up on the art counted; everything that ended up on me didn't. That said, it's a good thing I have tile floors and the couch has a throw on it.
May 7, 2004, 2:01 AM
Longer than several local art stars have been out of school.
May 7, 2004, 2:16 AM
The local arts s/tar/t/s are the product of what would be called "conflict of interest," or "insider trading" in other industries. But these kinds of relationships are the order of the day in the art world.
The tendency to maximize positions that other fields require be kept separate from personal interests for one's own gain -- in this case, those promoting the "stars" -- is a public secret of the art world. Everyone knows its going on, but nobody will say anything about it.
May 7, 2004, 1:06 PM
Longer than several local art stars have been out of school.
Franklin, In all honesty. Do you think you might be a bit jealous?
May 7, 2004, 1:46 PM
A fair question, comment. (Can I call you comment?) But nah, not really. M is right, above, and there's no point in feeling bad about the mechanisms of fame if you secretly wished the machine would work in your favor. Honestly, much of the art world holds values that I don't share, and when people succeed according to those values, they experience a kind of success that I don't seek and wouldn't trust the longevity of if I had attained it myself. So mostly I find it all amusing. Frankly, in this economy, I'm happy to hear that anyone's not starving. Let everyone do what they can to get by.
May 8, 2004, 12:28 AM
Maybe I'm just a dope, but I'm not really clear on what M is referring to . . . . hmmm. I'm not entirely confident that most other fields require the kind of separation which M suggests. I think people talk a lot about such ideals, but from what I have observed in the business world, opportunity appears to be a consequence of both contacts and knowledge, and most such opportunity is ethical, even if it is not fair.
I'd venture that it certainly wouldn't be a good move for any artist to be represented by an outsider gallerist, nor would it be good business for a gallerist to represent too many artists who don't sell, lest the gallerist's ability to represent anybody at all be jeopardized by going out of business. I don't see the point in giving a businessperson a hard time for marketing their product well. Nor do I see the point in holding a gallery to the same standards as those we expect institutions such as museums or non-profit alternative spaces to hold.
Additionally, Universities are also in the business of marketing their products, which are at once the quality of the education which they provide and also their alumni. At most universities, anything produced by the student during the time of their studies is considered property of the university, so I can't imagine one holding the assumption that universities have only the student good in mind. I think it's kind of seedy that universities lay such proprietary claims, but not necessarily unethical.
And wouldn't it sound a bit nutty if someone accused a law professor of an insider-trading style impropriety if she ended up hiring one of her former students to work in her practice after graduation?
Perhaps we should move to a raffle system, in which all artists put their name into a hat, and all gallerists get a rotating draw until their roster is filled. Or maybe an NFL-style draft would be good. Or we could force the art-buying "public" to purchase one undervalued artist along with each hot commodity. Maybe we could institute a federal matching funds thing to ensure that all artists have some kind of marketing parity, but that might not work out so well unless everybody does representational images of lighthouses and carriages so as not to offend the constituents of our elected officials (but maybe without including piss as a luminous juxtaposition to any religious iconography--that could fox the whole thing).
On another note, I'm sure you've made a wise decision to leave ArtCenter, Franklin. I'm all for the benefits of the home studio, especially the pajamas.
May 10, 2004, 2:10 PM
Kathleen, as you point out, the free-market approach is preferable to any solution designed to correct its shortcomings. But in an art world as small as Miami's, there is a relationship between the for-profits, non-profits, museums, schools, and collectors that is so cozy that the overall shape of the art world is being decided by one or two dozen people. I don't think there's a way to change that, so it's important to challenge the moral and intellectual legitimacy of the situation and speak about who is pulling whose strings. Then people can make more informed judgements about what's going on.
In the case of the law professor, you would think that the student he hires would be a crackerjack lawyer even if their relationship is familiar. I think in the art world, the art that's easiest to talk about rises to the top, not necessarily the best.
May 10, 2004, 5:58 PM
What's totally interesting, Franklin, is that I feel that some of the local art which "rises to the top" is actually incredibly difficult to talk about. It seems to me that a lot of what is current is also somewhat un-formed and developing, and that when I think about what it is actually doing as a work of art, I feel like I am attempting to condense a nebula. This has nothing at all to do with my estimation of its worth, although I will confess to being able to easily discuss what I don't like, usually. Of course, most works have something that I do like, even if I don't like the work as a whole, initially.
Concerning the size of the art world in Miami, perhaps you feel it to be smaller than I do because of your job; being steeped in a culture 24/7 can be taxing on one's sense of novelty (I use the term in a Terrance McKenna-ish fashion, rather than the snake-in-a-can or handshake-buzzer fashion).
There are so many different facets to the scene down here; each grouping has its own distinct flavor. Also, I've been in smaller scenes, so . . . . so, maybe I appreciate how open our scene actually is!
May 10, 2004, 10:54 PM
Fair enough, Kathleen. Although I'm thinking the handshake-buzzer sense of 'novelty' may apply, now that you mention it...
May 11, 2004, 10:02 PM
May 7, 2004, 12:44 AM
Well there goes another living room couch.