Sunday, May 25, 2008

Theme Shows

I was just thinking in the context of past commissions - making an object in accordance with subject matter or theme and art shows that require applicants to make work that relates to a certain theme or specific title.

I must admit, usually I knee-jerk at the idea with a negative reaction. I'm repulsed, nay insulted by the kind of arrogance that assumes they can dream up some theme and make everyone dance to it. Who knows why a show has to have a theme. For marketing? I think that sort of mind-set reveals a basic ignorance of the art for it's own value and an ignorance of the creative process. It dishonors the artist.

Now, if I happen to have, on my own, created a piece that could fit into the 'category' or theme requirement that's fine.

The two commissions I have taken on were done because the subject intrieged me and because the driving force behind both of them was education-related. And I find that a most worthy cause indeed.

I have made and contributed pieces with a dog and/or cat themes for a charity sale that supports a women's prison inmate program to train guide dogs. Also a very worthy objective, as is Empty Bowls sales. The focus is on the charity and the contribution to the cause, not jumping through an advertising hoop.

"20th Annual Glass and Clay Show" or any other title that is repeated every year and the collectors know it will come around at a certain time is a 'way better marketing idea than "The Purple Show".

I recently asked for a prospectus for an outdoor festival-type event. A one-day show. Acceptance is based on 10 samples of work (photographic examples would be okay, it said). The paperwork stipulated the artists must set up their booth on the morning of the show, which means an arrival at around 5:30 a.m. or so. Although entry fees are not too high, a one-day event means you must make back the entry fee, expenses incurred getting to the show, possibly two or three meals, transportation costs, other costs like business cards, display equipment, etc. AND make a descent profit within 8 hours. But an 8-hour show really means half a day for loading the tent, display, business materials, merchandise; packing it all up and breaking down the canopy and shelves; getting there and back and unloading it all--probably as much time as the actual selling part of the show.

But the icing on the cake is the organizing committee requires that all participants come in a Specified Theme Costume.

That is a bit much. I think I'll give this one a pass.

But it isn't just this particular event that I blame. It's the whole problem of the way shows have evolved. When did we hand over this kind of control to organizers who sometimes only regard us as window-dressing for their event? We need to take control back. There are a few shows or events which are organized and run by artists who do understand, but unfortunately, they are not the majority.

Can you imagine Salvador Dali knuckling under to a committee? Vincent Van Gogh (that poor man) or the American treasure, Andrew Wyeth?

Who knows what Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo could have done if he didn't have to always find and please a patron?


I feel better now.

This totally has nothing to do with the above, but this drawing lived in a not-too-often-used closet for quite a while.

Why? Because I wasn't too sure I liked it. Whenever I opened the closet, I would see it anew and so it was a fresh image every time.

It's called "Reflection". Nobody in particular, just an old woman looking at herself in the mirror, thinkng.

I finally decided that I did like it.

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