September 1, 2009

Beauty Bound, Lost then Found

Once again, the annual international exhibition of mosaic art will take place at the Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, NC. The gallery is small but packs a good punch. It is always fun to be in this show. This year, I have three works in this exhibition which I will discuss in three posts.
The piece I have reproduced to the right is called "Blind Balance" and has a history as rocky as its constituent parts. "Blind Balance" was a part of a one woman exhibition I held at the Rabold Gallery back in 2005. The exhibition was well-received though not well-attended. There were two nicely done articles about the exhibition as well, one in Carolina Arts and the other in the newsletter Groutline, of the mosaic organization I founded some time ago, the Society of American Mosaic Artists. The exhibition, "Reflections on an Imagined Archaeology," displayed one of my most coherent bodies of work, and one which I am still working on today. Needless to say, the work received more in the way of accolades then cash - as not even one work from that exhibition sold. The gallery owner was even more demoralized by this than I was - perhaps because at least at the end of the exhibition I still had my work and the hope of a more successful future. I did not listen to his advice to refrain from making more of these mosaics of ceramic and stone but continued to explore this venue. I actually did acquire a few patrons for this art despite such inauspicious beginnings - but mostly I did them for myself.
After bundling up my commercial disaster but successful intellectual experiment in painting and mosaic, I divided up the work among my other galleries. The gallery to the North eventually gave the unsold pieces back to me after an unsuccessful attempt to find clients for them there. When I got the work back I noticed that one of my favorite pieces, "Blind Balance" was missing. I checked with my other galleries and no one had it. Apparently this caused the owner of the North gallery great distress and she made a desperate search for "Blind Balance," turning her loft gallery upside down for many hours in the process. Although a simple consultation of the consignment sheet would have sufficed for me, this was assurance that the work was indeed gone. Since the piece was not listed on the consignment sheet at that gallery or anywhere else there was nothing that could be done to locate it. I just relinquished myself to the fate of yet another art loss - consigning it to the pile of stolen works and both natural and manmade destroyers of art. I don’t think that in this regard I am necessarily less fortunate than most artists. I take this as the consequence of being prolific - the more art produced the more opportunities to lose some of it. I was therefore resigned to never seeing "Blind Balance" again.
Three years later, however, "Blind Balance" suddenly resurfaced after my gallery in Columbia, SC closed down for good. Since the gallery in the North had delivered my holdings to this gallery, I can only conclude that probably it was with the returned goods and somehow did not get on the inventory list. From Columbia it was taken to Beaufort where it stayed quietly until the Columbia branch of the gallery closed and the Beaufort gallery downsized to accommodate those holdings. Whatever the cause of the mixup, it was good to have the mosaic back again.
"Blind Balance" is a curious mosaic, with a central blindfolded woman balancing on a plate on either side of which are two squares of clay stamped with an impression of a stone seal carved in archaic Chinese script. They read, consecutively, "candor" and "good health." These can be read as candor leading to good health or being diametrically opposed to it. In the context of our current health care crisis, "good health" and being true to oneself and others can be mutually exclusive. This is expressly so when following one’s calling may entail a risk of not being covered by health insurance. Many artists and other self employed people are in this plight, having to weigh following one’s heart against protecting one’s body.
From time to time, I digress from an art blog and veer into politics. My discussion of "Blind Balance" and its implications may be another opportunity to comment on our present health care debacle. It has been disturbing to read about the shouting matches and breakdown of all rational discourse at the recent "Town Hall" meetings across the country regarding plans for universal health care insurance. Universal health care coverage is so desperately needed it is appalling that partisan politics once again came into play. Perhaps the blindfold in my mosaic "Blind Balance" can serve to illustrate the way Americans debate serious issues, refusing to look at facts, each other, themselves, the world.

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