Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sex, Violence and Crochet

Now that I have your attention, this is a post with two stories. 

Yesterday I was trying to teach my ten year old granddaughter, Julia, to crochet. You should really know how to do whatever it is you're trying to teach someone else. I basically muddle my way through a ball of yarn and end up with a scarf. These are diet scarves. If I keep my hands busy, then I won't be holding food. 

Julia has about four rows of her scarf begun. And being that I'm a crappy teacher, her rows are wonkie. I finished my scarf. It was too wide, to short and also wonkie. So I un-crocheted it into a nice ball. Julia was appalled that I was taking the whole thing apart.

I told her that part of the pleasure was in the doing of the thing, and redoing if it wasn't right.

In the wee hours of the morning I had a memory that connects to this. 

When I was 27 I took an evening sculpture class from Sergio DeGiusti, who is one of Detroit's best sculptors.  We were using terra-cotta clay and had nude models. By the end of the first class I had a lovely little female figure. That's when Sergio told us to put our creations back in the plastic bags. What? Just squish them up? Most of the class was appalled. But, but, THREE hours were spent on this sculpture. 

Sergio told us that these sculptures were not precious. That they were not art.  That they were learning exercises.

One man was very upset. He said that if he went home without any evidence, his wife wouldn't believe he was at a class. 

The final night of class, instead of the usual models, an older man was going to pose. I was relieved that we were going to do head studies and he wasn't going to be naked. (Hey, I was 27, what do you want.) 

The sculpture class was twelve weeks long and after several weeks Sergio must have thought we were making art. We got to take our sculptures home.

It was traditional that at the end of the final class everyone went out for beer. Somehow or other I ended up being volunteered to take our OLD model to the bar in my car.  So I had his clay head in the backseat and him in the front seat.

Afterward I had to drive the model back to the school. When I stopped the car to let him out, he didn't get out. Instead he grabbed me. What! This old man, that I was being nice to by giving him a ride, grabbed me. I let him know I was not happy in not so nice terms, and booted him out of my car. I drove home, shaking, furious.

The next day that lecherous man's head was sitting on my kitchen table. Now here's the violence part, so take the kids out of the room. I looked at the head of still wet clay. I poked him in the eye. I pulled off his ears and punched him hard in the face. Wham! Pow! Blam! Splat!

The bust was busted.

Here's the take away: everything we make is not precious, sometimes it's learning.  And also it's really fun to punch clay.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The End of the Relationship

I've left a long term relationship. It's over. Our goals didn't match anymore. A long term relationship should have mutual respect, a common purpose, and trust, especially trust. I've left the art gallery that has shown my work since 2001. 

Sunday John and I brought all my paintings home.

In September I wrote a blog post about the people from "Detroit 1-8-7" choosing one of my paintings to use on the show. There were a couple things I didn't mention on the post. Like when I signed the release form I asked the gallery owner if we were being paid. Her startled response was something like, "Oh, umm, oh, well, I guess I'll have to ask them".


Well, that bothered me, so I had a conversation about it with Google when I got home. 

Google's response was confirmed a week later when I went to see a show at a gallery in downtown Detroit. I happily told the gallery managers that a tv show was going to use one of my paintings. They told me that movie and tv people had been renting art from them too. RENTING. Renting for 20% of the value of the art for a week. 

It took me several weeks of stewing before going back to the gallery to have a little chat with the gallery owner. I'm a mild mannered Democrat, I don't yell at people, I'm not fond of confrontation. Also I had to decide if I really wanted to leave the gallery. Where would I go? Would I feel rudderless, homeless, lost. 

It turns out that, yes, the gallery owner is making 20% on the art rentals. She asked the tv people if she had to share the money with her artists. They said it was her choice. She's choosing not to. 

I acknowledge here that keeping a gallery open is expensive. 50/50 sharing of sales has always seemed fair to me. She has to make a living too.

And after all, it involved a lot of work for her, she told me she spent two hours on paperwork and packing the selection of art they took (I think it was seven pieces from different artists). I mentioned that my 48" x 48" painting took 30 hours to paint. The painting's value is $3000, 20% of that is $600. So for her 2 hours of packing and paperwork, that's $300 per hour. That's just from my piece. What about the other artists?

She said I get exposure if my work is on the tv show. Hmmm. There isn't a sign over the art saying Lynn did this. There isn't a credit line at the end of the show that says, "Painting in the dining room by Lynn Arbor". Also they may rent art work, place it on the set, but it doesn't necessarily ever show up on screen. The gallery owner still gets paid.

I also found out that no other artist has questioned being paid, or so she said. 

Maybe because I spent 25 years of my life making art for a living, I'm used to getting paid. When I was a graphic designer I did the work, wrote a bill, then someone wrote a check. 

Of course, there was the time that I designed a brochure for a woman who grew orchids. She didn't like the design. Said her son the printer could do a much better, more creative, more professional job. When I got up to leave (taking my design) she said, "You can leave the design." Yeah, right.

It seems that some people think that if you love doing the work you do (especially artists, singers, musicians) that your reward is in the pleasure you get in doing it. You don't really need to get paid. 

If my brain surgeon loves cutting into heads, no one questions that he should be paid. Wait a minute. I don't have a brain surgeon, but you get my point. If someone wants to use your art, you should get paid. It's not brain surgery, but it counts.