August 31, 2010

The Count Down Begins

Sold out. It is a phrase that every artist would love to hear. No. It is not the metaphorical “sold out” to imply artistic compromise. It is the literal “sold out” of having an entire or almost entire collection of work purchased. Ideally this should occur when one is about to leave for a trip or when a bill is due. But good news can come at awkward times as well and the best of plans can go awry.

I had the end of summer planned very well. I didn’t think I would have to work exceptionally hard on creating new work for my upcoming exhibition because I had a collection of paintings that had not sold in one gallery that I would simply transport to the new exhibition venue. Planning exhibitions of the same or similar work back to back is living life a little dangerously. What if the work is all sold at the first venue? Then what? But only a small percentage of my work is ever purchased from my exhibitions and sometimes nothing at all so I figured that it was perfectly safe to come back from Maryland at the beginning of August and work at a leisurely pace here, then pick up my work in Beaufort for a show that hangs on September 1 here in Orangeburg and opens on September 9. The collection of landscape paintings of rural South Carolina had been sitting in Beaufort for over a year so I figured that they would naturally still be there. But when I announced my plans to come down and pick up the work by the end of August I noticed some hesitation in my agent’s voice as she asked me to wait on a few phone calls to clients first.

Just two weeks ago, I got the news that the entire collection, save two pieces, had been acquired by a collector. Since two paintings do not an exhibition make I had about ten days to paint ten replacement paintings. Being a slow working painter, this was a challenge (I’m still working on it). But despite the good yet daunting news, I have been making almost a painting a day.

The first challenge was to do the paintings on the invitations and other publicity over again. So the painting above is very similar to, but not the same painting, as the one on the invitation. Revisiting a previously painted landscape brush stroke by brush stroke is not something most artists would do. But I did it because visitors might be expecting to see the work that they have been invited to see and I wanted there to be at least some truth in advertising. So for the next ten days up to the opening of our three-person exhibition, this will be a painting a day blog.

The ten day countdown to the opening of our exhibition, “Locations/Dislocations: Abandoned Houses and Unsheltered Souls,” begins with another countdown of much greater magnitude and seriousness. Today the drilling started towards the trapped miners in Chile. When I first read about the incident I was mortified like I’m certain everyone else who read about their plight was. I even lost a night’s sleep over it. The thing about reading stories about people trapped is that it occupies a place in the mind that seems to hold its breath and not exhale until the people are freed. Four months is an unthinkable amount of time to be trapped in a mine. Although it may never directly help the miners, I am creating a small painting every afternoon to mark the days until they can be released . I’ve divided them into four groups of thirty-three paintings - one for each miner. Each group depicts various visual interpretations of four animals from Chile, the puma, the wolf or alpaca (haven’t decided yet), birds, and butterflies - one for each month. I’ve attached the first one to the right - a blue puma breaking free and soaring.

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