Sunday, May 25, 2008

waving the white flag



like the little drummer boy and his white flag of defeat i've crested the rise and laid down my arms. while voraciousness in battle has always been a trait that i've admired, there is a grace in peaceful concession that i value more. there's something very freeing about knowing that my blog has received no comments, and this anonymity makes me feel safe. i hope to someday have the time and energy to mold this into a great art blog (by great I mean well written and interesting, not great as in popular or profitable). my desires for this blog extend no further than allowing people to be exposed to great art, and maybe in turn get some exposure for the gallery that i work at. but until I get one single hint of an audience i see no reason that i can't use it as a soapbox from which to vent my frustration - its publication in the world wide web abyss giving me the smallest inkling of hope that some one might hear my ramblings and maybe, though i'll probably never know, agree with me.

i've been taking on a lot of outsourced stress in my internal anxiety factory of late. went through a really rough patch last year and nearly killed myself (figuratively) with stress and worry; had a moment of clarity and decided to force myself to be self aware enough to deal with it. the last few months have been fortifying. i've done some serious inner growth, and, pardon the cliche, found an inner happy place. but as dictated by our old friend Mr. Murphy's laws, as soon as i got my act together the people around me seemed to start falling apart. i speak of no one in particular really. i've been blessed with a grounded, easy going and self sufficient group of friends. its not any one individual, but merely the natural cycle of drama and peace that i see prevailing any fairly complicated social scene. what gets to me most is the some what unspoken assumption that to be part of the group you must feel like the group, and that a happy, balanced person in a room full of wingnuts is obviously exhibiting a glaring omission in empathy. is it my personal responsibility to those who i hold dear to take a serving of shit pie when its passed around the table?

and more importantly, if that is the social standard that i observe, how do i get myself, a born people pleaser, to believe my own hype enough to rebel against the gloom? i tried being steadfast. but preternatural chiperness is a known tantrum causing agent in the presence of any stubborn, cranky mule of a friend. then i tried going blank - attempting to neither flaunt my serenity nor submit to the blues - but lets face it, blankness = creepy. unfortunately, meditating on these notions seems to only make me feel introverted and thus on the verge of joining my community on the dark side, and my place setting at the table of the well adjusted has been hard won. in other words, me spending my day off sitting in my room blogging about the craziness in my live only cements me as a sad but willing actress in the drama. 

(Alla Nazimova - visionary feminist silent film maker)

in the past few weeks i've been trying to get out of it by throwing myself into my work and trying some self imposed art therapy. truly beautiful, meaningful art is a potent elixir for me, but even a hard pull from the Brancusi bottle doesn't seem to be doing it for me lately. my work is its own kind of drama - an ever evolving, mine filled playing field of egos. i got out of waitressing because i couldn't handle the constant belittlement of strangers (and because waitressing in a college town equates to being trapped in career limbo, and everyone can smell it on you). it made my hair fall out to have some one i'd never met shake an empty glass at me like a trained monkey and have to not only satisfy their wishes, but do it with a smile. and though artists, and participants in the art community are generally less oblivious than the average customer in a restaurant, part of my job still entails stomaching complete strangers b.s. - albeit b.s. buffeted by weak intellectual scaffolding (which is apparently designed to trick me into taking a back handed compliment like an orphan meakly smiling while accepting a proffered chunk of moldy cheese). 

i worked really hard to write the submission protocol for our gallery. my boss gave me a brilliant blank slate on which to craft my vision for where we are going in terms of art that we represent and how we choose to launch it into the wider world. i felt pretty pleased with myself, and my ever supportive boss seemed stoked too. now that its in effect i find that for those artists who it doesn't suit ("us old timers can't possibly figure out how to put 5 .jpgs in an email" - "my art is far too complex to be summed up in 5-10 images, you're amputating me artistically!!") they just go around me. i know its new - but its just down right insulting to work your way up in your career only to be completely overlooked when you get there. 

i can't tell you how many artists that Brent has tried to have me work with only to have them push me aside and tell me they will only work with B - who not only doesn't have the time and resources to be doing all the portfolio reviews and artist interviews, but gave me the job because he actually thinks me capable of doing it. the most damaging reviews that i've gotten recently are from those people who i am introduced to as the gallery manager, who are told that i will be the one reviewing their portfolios, and who from that point on continue to refer to me as Brent's assistant - or in one particularly stomach turning photographers charming words "your secretary" wink wink. 

i'm only 24, and i look young for my age, so i understand a certain amount trepidation on the part of the elders in the community. maybe they feel like i couldn't possibly have the breadth of knowledge to understand their art contextually, or maybe they think that if i liked it i wouldn't know what to do with it. i think my youth is one of the best qualities that i have going for me at the moment, in the confines of where our gallery is at and where we want to go. i think that some of these people are just genuinely terrified of change, and can sense full well that i intend on changing the status quo in the eugene art scene. and its not just the elders who show an immense lack of faith in my abilities. the other day i had a young man in, who i feel sure i was exceptionally kind and professional with, who not only had a list of criticisms about my submission protocol longer than the sheet itself, but had the nerve to leave the sheet on my desk and a poorly formatted , unlabeled cd of mangled images reading "to brent" on my bosses desk. its not just that people seem resistant to my administrative overhaul, they're blatantly ignoring it.

if you are an artist and you are reading this: please, PLEASE leave your ego at the door when you're trying to get booked at a gallery. i know that there are some galleries, bastions of snobbery and elitism, where having your ego in tow is probably a valid self defense weapon. but there are other galleries out there that really seek to be easy going and open to all, and we don't have the armor to deal with all the ego. there is a great interview that i read in which a seasoned art gallery owner talks about the realities of owning an art space. artists often come into a gallery armed with demands, but the power really rests with the gallery because they're the one working day to day to meet the overhead needs of the space itself. no one wants to work with someone they know is going to be hard to please, and when you come with your portfolio AND an attitude it makes fillies like me pace madly with wariness. if the first few steps of the process go smoothly, it fosters confidence in both parties, and gives the time and space for a mutually respectful relationship to form. 

phew! that shit was all over the place!


1 comment:

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