Wednesday, December 12, 2007

fancy schmantsy art openings

The other night we had a fabulous opening at 580 Hayes Street ( This is the offsite Hunters Point show (with other artists included). it was kind of crowded because Ferlinghetti was in the show and we had free wine...lots of free wine.

Normally I'd rather cut off my right arm than go to an opening. When I was younger I was shy. I don't think I looked anyone in the eyes til I was about 35. Also good girls don't shout about themselves. Like other shy artists at openings I always stood as far away from my art as possible.

And as a young woman, I felt like a hooker at art openings. Eighty percent of sales of art exhibits happen at openings. Artists stand next to the work. There is a certain subset of the attendees who like to chat up, flirt with or pick up artists. I never knew if I was chatting with a potential collector or someone who wanted sex. "Are you the artist?" they say and proceed to discuss your work with me. I am smiling and so excited. I wonder if they'll buy. I wonder if they are an art critic. Later I may see them at the next art opening and the next -- and they turn out to be winos who frequent art openings.

Anyhow, I've have had many many openings (including one at a rustic ranch lodge in Montana). At open studios since 1987, one to three times a year, I stand next to my work and chat with the public. I even learned how to shut up. In the early days I talked people out of buying my art. Now I just shut up. People will buy if they really want to.

At this opening there were many artists including but not limited to the art guild artists who are hungry for sales. I was watching them work the crowd. Most were standing next to their art and would jump into any conversation that started...or sometimes they would just start talking about the art to people who were looking at it. Often the same opening sentence each time. "Did you know...?" or "That's a picture of Monet's garden" or "What kind of dog do you have?" (in front of some dog art). I guess it was interesting for the attendees as most stayed and listened with interest. One common trick is to get the target to touch or hold the work. Another is to take the piece off the wall.

I tried to stay near my art but there was another artist also standing there, in front of her art. She said she had only been painting 3 years but was trying to support herself and her child by her art sales. Wow. She was quite good at working the crowd with her sentence which I didn't hear but may have involved suporting her 3 year old daughter. One of her pieces was very nice, painted from life -- a sunflower.

I amused myself by taking photos of artists in front of their work and by trying to sell others' art. I really, really love art and it's easy for me to get people excited about it. "Isn't that a fantastic color!" One lady and I were discussing some ingenious and painstaking fabric work with great enthusiasm. The fabric artist was too shy to talk to her. The lady asked about my work and I said, "Well I just have two little paintings over here" and I brought her over and told her about them.

Why do I say "little" paintings as if they are worthless? They are lovely paintings, painted on site with a full day burned into my memory of people and animals who went by. They are snapshots of the day filtered through my mind and hand. These two have expensive frames on them, just right for a good home. And frankly I think they are better than most of the art in the place.

Of course artists have to feel that our art is IMPORTANT and BEAUTIFUL or we wouldn't keep making it. But my art does feel important. And I don't understand that everyone doesn't see this! All I ever wanted to do was paint. (Except ride horses.) After my bad car accident, I thought I was spared to do more painting. And it has NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO with selling it or making money off it.

Perhaps all artists feel this way. But few seem to be as abhorent of the money angle as myself.