My finance and I sponsor an exhibit space for local artists who are not represented in Santa Fe galleries. We do not jury the shows or try, in any way, to dictate what art is. People show in groups on a first come, first served basis. Each group hangs their own show, promotes it and staffs the space during their show. This is a free, gorgeous, 2000 sqft gallery in a great location and the artists take 100% of any sales.
I was in the exhibit space this afternoon with my photographer doing a shoot for the invitation card for my show at the gallery. Some of the pieces were too big to photograph in my studio and the exhibit space has really high ceilings and clean walls.
One of the artists participating in the next exhibit space show was there also, hanging his work. I asked him to help me hang a 4 x 4 painting on the wall. He looked at the 3 paintings I had there and commented, “Oh, are those supposed to be art?” It was pretty comical, and also a bit sad.
I don’t really know why I’m telling you this. Somehow, it got to me. Artists, I think, are supposed to be open. They are supposed to look deeper, feel more, and, if nothing else, support the creative process wherever they find it.
His comment made me so instantly angry that it took every bit of self control to not squash this guy like a bug. I wanted to ask him how many pieces he’s sold this year, or last year, or in his entire life. I wanted to ask him why he’s hanging in our exhibit space and I’m getting ready for a solo on Canyon Road. I didn’t. I told him instead that my paintings are decorative table tops. Then I told him that I liked one of his pieces. These comments made him happy.
The last show in the exhibit space was the life time retrospective of Dean Howell. Dean’s an amazing guy who continues to alter my reality in subtle and profound ways. I keep accusing him of corrupting me. He’s in his 70′s and he is an artist with a capital A.
Dean’s show was dark. His work was amazingly well executed. Some of it was downright scary. I told him this. He chuckled at me like I was a little kid. Then he said, “This work isn’t dark. Its honest. ” His work, he explained, is about being fully human. He wants us to be allowed to show, feel, live in all parts of our humanness. “If we were able to be fully ourselves all the time, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Then, we wouldn’t have to feel so bad all the time.”
I’m wondering, if I had showed my full humanness this afternoon and let out the full range and power of my emotions, whether or not that other artist would be still be standing and whether or not I would feel better or worse for having done so. His over inflated ego and obvious insecurity made me a little more conscious of my own and I ended up wondering about honesty, about what Dean is referencing, about humanness. That other artist, I am sure, felt he was being honest. But doesn’t honesty require openness, curiousity, a willingness to look at what’s beyond the surface? At the end of the day, I ended up feeling like honesty isn’t about immediate response. It’s about what comes after the examination of that response. And I think, if I have to be honest, what I found was compassion for this man. And for myself.