Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Opening Doors For Outdoor Artists

One venue that artists have traditionally used to sell their work is the outdoor show. No other showcase offers the number of art viewers who are able to buy directly from the artist. A prolific hard working artist could conceivably do a dozen shows a year and earn a decent living.

Over the years, show organizers, realizing they had somewhat of a captive audience, began offering more – food, alcohol, music, raffles, children’s activities, and art demonstrations. Many shows became expanded festivals and some took on the look of county fairs. Mom, dad and the kids could be entertained by art while chomping chili dogs and kettle korn.

Because of this, sidewalk shows are often criticized for having a “something for everyone” mentality. Art museums and galleries especially take a dim view of art fairs. Artists who list outdoor shows on their resumes run the risk of being considered not museum worthy.

There is, however, an exhibition at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art that signals a change in attitude. Rocky and Friends is a tribute to the 35th anniversary of the Palm Harbor Fine Arts and Crafts Festival and some of the artists who have shown their work there. This excellent show was organized by the Museum and artist Rocky Bridges, a long time exhibitor and favorite son, born and raised in Tarpon Springs.

Yesterday a friend and I took a walkthrough which slowed to a crawl as we took in a gallery full of magnificent and mysterious awe inspiring art. Afterward, we concluded that every piece of art hanging there was museum worthy.

Outdoor art shows offer the best of two worlds – entertainment and fine art – and the hope is that exhibitions like this will help people distinguish between the two.

Rocky and Friends runs through January 10 at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs. (Photograph: Tribute, assemblage, 2009, Rocky Bridges, courtesy of Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Searching For Art

A recent St. Petersburg Times story, “Seeking but never finding,” caught my attention. According to behavioral scientists, there is a biological explanation why we’ve become addicted to Google searches.

It appears this activity stimulates a region of the brain called the lateral hypothalamus, or “seeking center.” The constant arousal of this region is what compels people to sit for hours at a computer googling. Some psychologists believe that doing this over time renders us unable to perform concentrated thinking or extensive reading.

I can now disclose that I have first hand experience of this new phenomenon. Last month, after moving my art studio back home, it became necessary to rearrange my workspace. The living room has again become the matting and framing area. The dining room table now doubles as a wet- media work station.

Taking advantage of the only available north light, I placed my drawing board by the bedroom window – directly across from the computer. Bad move!

Creating for me requires an empty mind, so before beginning each day, I must first sweep out the place. Every distracting thought skulking in the corner is pushed out the door, every yapping desire temporarily chained outside. Only then in the emptiness of the present moment does inspiration show itself.

This process is difficult in the best of times. Throw in the instant gratification of one Google fix and another and another and making art gets down right impossible.

I wonder who the world’s tallest man is.
Google: “Sultan Kosen, a Kurdish shepherd living in Turkey is 8’1.5” tall.”
Kurds? Aren’t they the largest ethnic group without a country?
Google: ‘There are about 35 million Kurds today living as minority populations in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.”
What is the capital of Syria?

Hours later I look up and wonder where the time went. A blank canvas remains on the easel. Clean brushes are lined up waiting to be pressed into service. The Google home page glows from my monitor.

I wonder who the world’s shortest man is.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inside The Fantasy Factory

The bane of us former commercial artists is for our fine art to slip back into mere illustration. The drawings could then be easily incorporated into magazine ads for time-share resorts or packaging for hot dogs.

This problem is especially tricky since my art tends to be figurative with some sort of narrative element - both ideal for advertising purposes.

Through trial and error I've learned to block all preconceived ideas from entering my mind. The Buddhists do this to achieve clarity of being. I do it to banish the commercial artist.

Today I kept them out of the studio long enough to make two drawings.