Purchase these well appointed ladies and I will toss in one of our 6 x 3′ exhibition banners. Great for the kid’s room or the man cave where the football posters and pennants used to hang before we realized that the NFL is just an oligarch plantation where wealth drops down in bags of gold, but dignity is fumbled, time and again.
And you can place the beautiful painting where your dignity still seeks appropriate outreach. The parlor or dining room. Below the purple granny we pass the potatoes on holiday and look upon the world with delight. Life is easy for the industrialized cultures. We know we’re lucky, so we make or purchase a painting and raise our young to be better than we are. It is the joy of responsibility. Those who refuse to seek it, are just jackasses, and there are many. That is why we have pain in places where its always Christmas on earth. Know an artist. Be an artist. Save the world from our wealthy self-pity.
Everybody is getting cable. All the houses are connected. And the Spectrum thugs come in pairs, sometimes even a foursome to snatch away your dreams. Many of you will order the complete package, and in a month pay what the painting is priced at, for thousands of strangers to advertise meaninglessness to you. For $15 you can get live streaming of practically any talent without the commercials, and afford a painting to last two lifetimes. And when friends come over, they won’t be able to judge you, like “Oh my God, window cleaning and beer commercials. How 80’s indsutrial! Wait, what’s that hanging on your wall? What is it? A painting. From a Russian? But the people at Spectrum told me to fear Russians because oil runs the world, and petroleum makes the plastic bottle for my Windex to squirt out of. Oh God, I’m confused and it makes me uneasy inside because I see now that everything is absolutely the same! How much? Let me take it off your wall, I love it! 150? Sold! I am born again and free!”
We can do this. We are human again. We can call up Spectrum and tell them to eat our cheese. There are only a few evils left, and they’re touting the lot of them. Eliminate propaganda and join the artists as we visit new worlds from the peace of our little tomorrows and wonderful homes.
As you may have seen in the last couple weeks, Lena has taken our photos of Danae in New York and made them art history. If this exhibition is not entrainment—verve, gusto, passion, spunk—then we cannot help the lost art world find its way home. And the oligarchs have won with all the money in the world.
Lena has done this kind of thing before, back in Moscow a couple years ago. However, these were not any Greek gods and goddesses. Just regular people on the street thinking of a hot lunch. Here are a few:
The other day at Sotheby’s billionaire playground, cubicle artist Banksy self-destructed his art as soon as it sold for a million dollars to an idiot. That crazy Banksy showing the world what art is and is not while he improves his brand tenfold and private planes still land in his plan. What a clever outlaw! To be made by the finance mob and then laugh at your makers, fooling them to impress those whom you think you were once like, long ago, as a younger man, when time did not exist, either for future peasant painters or deep-pocket dilettantes.
This photo is art and the person painting in the photo is an artist. Sothebys and Banksy are not art and artist.
I want to bundle up in my Salvation Army coat and walk beneath the gray skies of a Moscow autumn. I’ll stop across the river and have a smoke with Ulanova and Stepanov, and then a coffee somewhere, and a soup on the stove for dinner. We made some paintings and we talked about them, and other things.
Banksy and Sothebys are counterfeit. The Rupert Murdochs of art banking and media. Antithesis of art.
I just finished reading an article about cronyism in art and culture. It provided rare admission on a subject that many unfunded artists know in their hearts to be all too true. The business of art is anti-art. The “good ole boys” club. Paid administrators (curators, gallerists, art faculty) seeking non-paid visual artists who, by virtue of “poverty in the arts”, are forced to either request admission into the club or schlepp a scam they hope will convince the right paid people. Art is defeated on a mass scale. It has become another corporate model, open to collectivism and always in danger of cronyism. No snake-oil salesman ever fell in love with snake oil first and then sought distribution of, not just an imperfection, but also a worthless placebo that only the ignorant believed had merit. On the contrary, the salesman was always a desperate working man seeking pride with a job while struggling with a family in a muck-stagnant economy. It was the snake-oil company that placed adds in farmland newspapers enticing the poor to hawk to the poor a product said to improve health and wellness. The company knew what it was up to. Likewise, the art industry plays the same game claiming to have a soothing syrup for the people’s mental health. The museum, established gallery, Ph.D., multimillion dollar “auction” house, and the billionaire all claiming to possess gnostic insight to the mysteries of art. They have no freaking idea what art is any more than I do, or the article’s author, or kangaroos in Australia.
Picasso and Dali were once household names while they lived. And then Pollock and de Kooning, to name a few. The corporate model had not yet fully “metastasized” into the art world. These artists and others were cherry-picked by influential people and so big media (already well-established) latched on to their individual stories because big media schmoozed at big weekend parties with the influential people. Still, the corporate cancer persisted, as it always will. Kellog’s Corn Flakes added more sugar to the same wet, chewed-like mush twice-baked, added a playful type, and a tiger for a mascot. Voila! Frosted Flakes. The corporate paradigm of the 1960’s and beyond. “The Depression generation brought you Picasso. We give you Warhol. Next, to cement our complete control of an industry, we printed the word “organic” on our cereals, and, to certify the illusion of self-liberation, here is the shiny new pervert Jeff Koons hosting a company of college grads in a Manhattan factory to sculpt many replicas of his penis for you!”
Picasso was a household name because big business, in all of its post-war glory, via the voices of politicians and media, needed to pretend instant sophistication to match its multinational approach to schlepping snake oil around the globe. In one famous experiment, Stanley Milgram proved to the powers that be that control is a breeze. Just give someone a title and a white coat, and kids will follow orders to shoot and kill other kids half a world away. Likewise, starving artists will enter a lottery their whole lives and hope to be authenticated. The new economy spewed more and more lower and middle class kids with art degrees, but lacking the courage to pursue an actual career in expression. Hence the lackeys of art business. The snake oil salespeople. The army of art history professionals getting tenured jobs in corporate universities. They were not to blame. They were folks with families in need of love and care. No criticism would ever be allowed in to undermine their careers as long as there was a living to be had. To them, by virtue of economic survival, art became money. Powerful art administrators not only peddled the snake oil, but controlled the ranks of its production and distribution. But it was never their art to become money in the first place.
There are solutions to cronyism. They can be found wherever art is alive and needs to be nurtured.
Eliminate the middle man. Boycott all third party galleries and museums. From the dinosaur downtown to the humble subsidized gallery at the state college. Take away the eyes and judgment of the third party. Make art for the patron once again. Let them create personal hobbies looking for their own concept of “the diamond in the rough”. Have a show in your living room. Pool monies with artist friends and rent an abandoned gallery for a month. Get back the time you lost trying to impress the gallerist or curator who judged your snake oil by its packaging, its reviews on Amazon, or the accolades on a CV (Latin for “current viability”).
Find the coffee house in your hometown to meet and socialize with other artists to talk about everything. This is a top priority. The business of art fears the merger of artists. Their congruence is its downfall.
To stress how unlocal artists are in my tiny town, I give you the example of our state university art department. The combined art education of the faculty is over 200 years. According to the industrial system, they are recognized, real, credentialed, and of course, paid living artists. They disseminate the knowledge and skills acquired, and are successful in that young people still graduate knowing how to draw a chair and place historical artists into their proper movement. That is their day job. But at night the professors return home, the full timers to the suburbs, the adjuncts to a second job, and then finally to a rented apartment in town. If one ever has a show, a piece or two gets entered in the annual faculty exhibition, or representation is sought in his off time anywhere outside of our small city. At the university, the adjunct suffers second class citizenship, even if his pencil drawing of a tree looks a spark better than the same tree drawn by the full professor. The oneupmanship begets avarice. Avarice begets competition. And competition in art breeds pettiness. So my small city becomes just another “Hey Spike” to the Great bulldogs New York and Los Angeles who have practically eliminated all that was ever good about art, that is, its expressive communication to known human beings. Art in America is the NFL, and no longer a touch football game in the park with Howard, the art history professor, Rita, the painter, and Robert the sculptor, to name a few of the creatives who get together after work for team sports and then later, a beer. To make matters worse, visiting artists are brought in from around the country to “inspire” the students. Yet the students never see the corporate business model which delivered the talented anomaly from New York City—The secret art agent, nor the international C.V. which puts in writing how amazing this guy’s psychedelic paper mache paper wasp’s nests truly are. Believe it. The MoMA said so. Buy him.
We all must share our criticisms and solutions to replace the corporate paradigm with plans better suited to the career happiness of the individual man and woman as artist. No matter where we live, we all are local. The minions running the business of art would prefer we all be loco, separated, howling at the moon, and crushing the fingers of potential friends and colleagues on the ladder of success, always brought to you by a lower humanity seeking your work to bring them to the top.
Autumn has arrived to Lake Ontario. It is my favorite season. It is the book time whenever I find the time. Years back, before Jeff Bezos became a monstrous scourge to humanity, I would wait expectantly for the mailman to bring me my Amazon® order of books, several to read to my daughter, and one or two for my own enjoyment. Nijinsky’s diary came on a late September day like this one, with the fresh chill, the house gray and Canada breeze. I sat on the balcony to watch the busy squirrels, opened up the book and read, “God just wanted us to be happy”.
That’s all I read of The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky.
I closed the book and never opened it again.
I am so glad to have found sensitive people who paint. Nijinsky would find me laughable in life and on stage. I may exhibit grace under hot kitchen pressure, however, I dance like a brick with chicken feet. And Diaghilev would have thought me a peasant unworthy of his time and influence. I think he would despise my painting even if he agreed with many of my rich thoughts on poverty street.
Lena’s paintings make me happy. I have opened a chapter of her book, and will keep it open all season long for the people to see. Come by Fuel Gallery in October and read Nijinsky’s one-liner with 35 visual subtitles by Lena Ulanova.
Then we’ll sit on the balcony and watch the squirrels dance until winter.
I have written some imaginative work on Picasso. A few years ago I was getting ready for two exhibitions during the same week, and felt like I was actually working. Expecting substantial financial loss (as usual), I questioned art’s role for the working man or woman in a society bent on Netflix originals. There is hope for the individual. Picasso is alive, making paintings in Saint Petersburg Russia, and stepping out for a river stroll before the Finn winds bring the lake effect snows.
Art is Work
Actually, in this case, painting is work. I have never considered myself to be an artist, really. I don’t even like “art”, the way my art-lover friend Dan does, one to leap at the chance to visit a gallery or a museum. I love painting though, any kind, and at an art show, I will make a bee line past all other forms of expression to see work of painters, more to learn and compare than to enjoy. Some times professional jealousy creeps in, especially when I see rendering that has a special hair shirt quality, when each stroke of the brush belies both a practical and encyclopedic knowledge of control or constipation—hard to tell which for sure until I meet the painter for beer and oysters. Unfortunately so many masters are either dead or practically inaccessible, and from my viewpoint in Oswego at least, painting is tolerated as a form of yoga, just another hobby distraction to the despair of the modern age. Thank God for family and friendship, and the blessings of the narcissist Internet. Otherwise by now I’d be eating my toenails at a local mental health spa.
In Providence Rhode Island I looked at my first van Gogh through a painter’s eyes. It was a religious experience. The great and powerful Vincent was a failure. Hurray! Another human being. It was a 14 x 17″ landscape entitled View of Auvers-sur-Oise, a day’s work in a village north of Paris in the year he took his life. I read into that painting like any tome of art writing could instruct. The great Vincent van Gogh was nothing much really. Just another proud working man, driven day after day, year after year with an obsession to perfect his limitations. I saw the human hand laying it on thick, always at the right place at the wrong time, a failure at night, hopeful idiot by morning. One life to live, and if he was determined to be a painter, to Hell with the greatest of art critics, Mssrs. Degradation and Poverty.
It worked! A few hours coloring a French village from a field, and he succeeded to live another day pretending to be a painter. It was the billionaires who got rich though. They took the dignity of pride in pretend and made a killing for themselves. Endowments all over the world buy up van Gogh’s paintings to prove unwittingly their dislocation to humanity. They “get” the history, but fear the present moment like a pathogen. I could count all the struggling van Gogh’s living today. But it would take a lifetime and more assistants in my employ than those pretending to be artists at a Jeff Koons factory.
One more point before my plea:
Kurt Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”.
Last month I checked out from the library a photo book about Picasso. Pictures taken of him at leisure and work in 1956. A mess of canvases and sculptures in every room, painting on the walls, dripped paint on the floor. His mansion had twenty foot ceilings and huge doors at the end of one studio opening out onto a balcony of palm trees. “La Californie” was the name of his hermitage in Southern France.
There is a brief passage in the book referencing his time in Montmartre, when he lived in poverty, painting. Somehow still able to acquire materials without the financial support of credit cards and/or a well-endowed sugar mama. I think poverty in 1905 was a world of difference from what we call it today. He must have made modern starving artists look like rich dandys sacrificing a week of television and a bowl of chocolates for art. Or, God forbid, cell phone service! The photos of him as a rich millionaire painting in a mansion, juxtaposed with my imagination of a poor Parisian painter holed up in some cold January flat over a hundred years ago, instruct and educate like nobody’s business. His wealthy genius in 1956 appears unchanged over 50 years time. He looks just as poor to me, but rich in determination and singleness of purpose. He eats, sleeps, voids excrement, laughs and paints. There is no stopping him. The art crazy old man.
I mention Picasso’s sameness to my wife the other morning over coffee. I asked her how differently would we live if suddenly Jeff Koons got cast inside one of his poodles, and Ron Throop went viral throughout the acquisition dreams of bored billionaires. “Our coffee and climate would get better. Other than that,” she admitted, “nothing”.
A few months ago I helped hang a show at our local art association. One of the helpers, a member my age, asked me what I do for a living. “Paint,” I said. “I am a painter”. It was more difficult for me to get that truism past my lips than if I told him I was an untouchable scouring latrines with my socks.
Picasso’s Picasso. Throop is Throop. We have nothing in
common, besides a heightened desire to perfect our limitations. My path for the rest of this life is to pretend like Picasso. It won’t hurt anybody. It won’t even help. Maybe, if I just work harder and dream longer, Rose will taste a better sip of coffee with her next husband, from the Florida room of her beach condo in Boca Raton.
Now finally, an explanation.
I found out last winter that I am a Stuckist, more or less. Their manifesto is available here at the show. Take a look. The strongest statement, #4, Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists, if not cryptic, is flat out silly wrong. I know nothing about ceramics, but I know a man, a teaching artist who would take his class to Chimney Bluffs along Lake Ontario to gather clay to be used for glazing. Ho boy! Show me a Stuckist in London who longs to extract cadmium from zinc ore. Or, take my friend the marble sculptor, who travels out of state to steal marble from parking lots. He approaches his stone like I do any canvas. As an ignoramus. I wish I had the knowledge (and time) to make my own paint and weave my own canvas. I’d rather paint on a log with berry juice, but the berry juice will never put out like my sweetheart dioxizine purple. And dioxizine sounds like painful chemical death to workers in that industry. So I just hold my breath while I paint.
Anyway, Stuckism. Good medicine. We are painter-workers. We get up in the morning to paint. We are international brothers and sisters in pretend. Yet we all need to get paid. Here is how I dream to be paid. Milton Glaser has the phrase “Art is Work” painted on the transom of his company door. Another tome of knowledge garnered from just three precious words. Art is work. The big painting I finished this week took exactly 40 hours—from surface, image, and finally to frame. At $13 dollars an hour (what I was making at my last job as “cook in the great north woods”, plus materials, and “element-X” fee (30%), I value it at $832.00.
So, any takers? I’ll have to add $100.00 for shipping.
There you have it! The first Oswego Stuckist to admit the truth. Art is work. So is toenail chewing if one can pretend really hard. I promise to play this game out to the end. My dreams tell me that buying up my work now, will secure some legacy to leave your children. Buy a signed book. Put it in the attic. Buy a painting to hang in the parlor. Its story will not die.
I apologize about the lack of framing for many of these paintings. The truth is I have another show going on at the Dyer Arts Center at R.I.T. in Rochester. Unlike Zink, I would be banished from furthering that avenue of pretend if I didn’t deliver framed work. We’re out of money now, and I blame myself for scheduling two shows in the same month. The gallerists at the Rochester venue must keep up appearances. R.I.T. needs to pretend too. And I need to pretend that I have a chance to break into a world that will provide me a line cook’s salary to paint. Please, if you find my art not practical enough for your tastes, patronize Zink Shirts® in any way you can. Glenn has offered this space to local color. Come here for holiday shopping. His work is sublime and corporate killing at the same time. Wear one of his shirts and flip a tall bird at the bottom-line world of men who care not a bean about your day to day. Glenn and I do. Look, we invited you all here. Open your wallets and pick out a record album to play. But first, open your wallets!