May 05, 2007

Going Solo

Another opening, another time... 1993

Been receiving interesting comments regarding pros and cons of openings and thought I'd elaborate a bit more on my take, based on my own experiences. I think it's been well established that during this last decade I've become much less the social butterfly and much more the recluse. I don't think this is a bad thing, it's part of our personal evolution... we change with time and that's a fact. But I digress... that's not what the subject line is about.

I believe there is nothing like a good solid deadline to really challenge an artist. The promise of a solo or featured show means responsibility to be the best you can be... no shortcuts, no mistakes. Not only does each piece need to be special... you must compose the whole show so it is cohesive and makes a strong statement. You will not be taken seriously as an artist until you can create a body of work that fills this criteria... on command.

Until the web entered our lives, it was important that artists establish themselves in regional art centers so that their work could become known and judged. If successful (and lucky) enough, they could move on to larger art centers and eventually, the Big Art Apple. Naturally, I'm not talking about the super stars who are hand picked from the throngs, I'm talking about the throngs... you and me and all the rest.

Today, the center of the art world is everywhere. Thanks to our websites, our blogs and our links... Google can sort us out and serve us up with a quick click. We can show our faces... or not. We can hold our own solo shows with just the basic knowledge of HTML... or less. We can converse with each other... and maybe even a few potential buyers (who aren't even from Nigeria.) But... we can't create the same impression that a well established gallery can offer. It's a validation that is hard to find elsewhere. Maybe that's changing... everything else is. Maybe, like some are saying, big art fairs will take the place of brick and mortar galleries. It should be interesting to watch, and with the web at our fingertips, we can.

"We all want to be wanted." A variation on a recent comment, stating that I was sure to sign up for the next offering of a solo show. But I don't think so. I won't swear to it, I just don't want to work that hard preparing, nor do I want to carry the whole shebang on my shoulders. The thrill has been thoroughly enjoyed, many times over. More and more galleries are offering two and three person shows as a regular venue... that seems to make more sense to me anyway.

Openings are very often 'party time' where friends meet and greet. If it's a crowd scene, even a small crowd, viewing the art itself is secondary. I nearly always see gallery shows after the opening, only showing up for the party if it's a close friend.

***Note from gallery, they're rockin' ! Had a big crowd, much interest, several sold and more going out on approval on Monday! WooHoo!

***Poison Ivy not getting better, even spreading. If no improvement by Monday, will seek outside help. Coffee rubs still soothe as well as anything.


Self Taught Artist said...

KJ, this is a wonderful post. I take heed to what you say and appreciate that you share your wisdom and experiences to us. I read with hungry interest what you say when it comes to galleries and getting work made/out there as I have yet to tackle the brunt of all that.
May I put a small plug in as it fits into what you say about galleries, the web etc. You say 'But... we can't create the same impression that a well established gallery can offer., it is my hope that online sites will in fact be able to offer up works & impressions about the artist that supercede galleries.
I have recently been listed on , while it is a new site with little to no traffic/publicity YET , it is what I hope to be a site that sets standards for how art is presented online. I believe things can and should change drastically for artists and art buyers, times are changing!

KJ said...

Validation. That's the important concept I forgot to mention in this post. Representation by a respected gallery means you've been judged and passed muster by (supposedly) someone 'in the know'. Fact is, most buyers may know what they like, but most also feel more secure about buying when the work is backed up by that 'someone in the know.' It's part of the branding thing between artist and gallery, not much different than brands associated with high end stores. A sense of quality is assumed.

Enjoying the conversation, Paula... love the clocks and am looking closely. The site is well done, good presentation and potential. I agree that times are changing and the web is becoming a primary marketplace. But somewhere along the line, that validation thing will have to play a part or we'll all just become producers competing with imports.

patches said...

Karen, I've been lurking for a few months via Meno's blog. I enjoy your work, specifically the underlying framework that some of your recent paintings reveal.

This post (and the previous one) struck a chord. Ten years ago, when I made the effort to market my work, speak at the local gallery, and participate in the social role of being an artist, I was always on the edge of imploding. It was easier to discuss art with friends and contemporaries than strangers. Conversing with them, made me feel like a dancing chimpanzee, an object of amusement. But I wasn't an entertainer, I was an artist, or so I thought.

I think as we mature as both people and artists, we feel more compelled to let the work speak for itself and less obligated to explain ourselves. Talking about my art made me feel redundant, because I felt the work spoke for itself (but I was younger and naive). I readily admit these issues were part of my own insecurities, but I've always been the reclusive sort.

Your last paragraph is spot on. The older I get the more difficult it is or me to truly take in the art, when I'm surrounded by hoards of people gossiping with champagne glasses. (My apologies for allowing this comment to evolve into a mini-post).

Anonymous said...


You are SO right about openings! I only go for one if it is a friend. They are large cocktail parties in the main and if I think I might be interested in the art, I try to go ahead or afterwards so I can really
'see' it and not be distracted.

You are on the right road and spinning right along very successfully, and I admire you and your work.


KJ said...

Hey, Patches... as the saying goes, any friend of Meno's... ;-) Thanks for looking in and commenting. Redundancy... a word that's on my list of things to avoid... not only in art making, but in conversation. Yet that's the trap when in conversation about our art. The written statement isn't enough, we seem to have a need to go into detail about why we did it this way and what you might not see unless I point it out. That's okay for blog talk, I can say it once and link to it for latecomers. But in public conversation, such as openings, it's hard to avoid the redundant words (ouch, they pop right out!) that artists are expected to spew. Don't make me list them here... they are found in every written statement, ad nauseum. "Dancing chimpanzee"... yep! The flip side is that, strangely enough, the listeners seem to respond and enjoy. One of these days I'll get it right.

Pat, if you're the Pat I think you are, I can imagine that you would feel exactly that way ;-)

Self Taught Artist said...

Thanks for the clock feedback, and good to know you are enjoying this conversation...its lively isn't it?

On that note: Glad you brought up the validation thing. I am not a young pup, but I am young in the art my enthuisiasm is probably nausiating at times to more mature artists. Would you agree the gallery validation sometimes is full of pomp?

I don't think anyone, no matter how many years they have been an artist should repeat things, feel obliged to 'explain' themselves or their work. I too already know that feeling, people ask you to explain and they STILL dont even get it. Its superfluous conversation and complete waste of energy. But there are people out there that do gleen something from talking to the artist about themselves and the work they have created. I have sold more works when people know something about me than not.

As far as being mature and letting the work speak for itself and not being obligated to explain ourselves...I think there is a difference between sharing when you know someone is truly interested and just blathering to whomever tries to make banal small talk. I don't believe for a second that putting your work up and walking away from it puts it in a better light than when someone has an opportunity to learn more about it and /or the artist.

Look, I dont enjoy art openings either...does that mean you just don't go? don't have them? If no one enjoys them why DO people put their work there or go to them?

I'm not trying to be irascible or stupid, I don't even know how to change things, but I keep hearing and experiencing all this "I dont like going to openings". I feel it as an artist and a visitor and I just want to wake the art gallery giant up. Wake people up and maybe one of us will go to an opening and be an enzyme and say something different. Start something different. Wouldn't that be nice?

KJ said...

"Would you agree the gallery validation sometimes is full of pomp?" Yeah, but so are most rites of passage, from open houses to church weddings. It's the way we expect things to be (at this point in time.) I do agree that a lot of people like to meet and know something about the artist and openings provide that opportunity. However there are many more who are only care about how the work will look in their home or what their decorator thinks about it. Believe me!

Rebecca Crowell said...

Well I guess I'll jump in here with a different viewpoint...I actually really enjoy I really so odd? To me it is an honor that people will come to see my work, and that the gallery gives it so much attention (and yes, validation.) Of course there are some downsides--I do tend to get nervous beforehand, though much less so as I get older, and I do answer the same questions and respond to the same remarks over and over, but I just try to be straightforward and friendly, and enjoy the connection.

And yes some openings are more like cocktail parties, but then other times they're not, and instead there is a certain focus or interest in the way people are looking or relating to the paintings, and this is very gratifying, and I end up learning something about what people see in my work or what they get out of it.

I'm fine with other people's openings too, though like the others posting here I know plenty of people who really dislike them. What I like is the chance to talk to the artist about their work, standing right there in front of it, not just hearing about it second hand or seeing it in a day to day life, I tend to feel cut off from what other artists are doing, and frankly as great as the internet is for connecting and talking and blogging and all things having to do with the written word, most people's art loses so much in translation to the screen.

The bigger issue in the comments here seems to be the whole gallery system, the marketing and selling of art. And I guess I've made peace with that...I'd rather be earning my living in the studio than doing anything else I can think of, and at this point, paintings are buying the's not that I don't have any cynicism about galleries, but not enough to want to go some other route.

I do think there are lots of ways to operate in the art world though--it's a very personal thing how you deal with it.

ArtSocket said...

Hi all, Paula just pointed me to this great comment thread. It’s inspiring for me to find a discussion about openings and validation. My opinion is that if an opening is in a gallery that is showing work with the intention to sell, something needs to happen in order to foster a feeling of accessibility, conversation (not just dissemination of information, or opinion) focused on the art (possibly including the artist’s life experience, intention, or process brings to it), or a sense of discovery. I do admit, that when it comes to art selling for $2,500+ speculation becomes a big factor. Yes, good point about decorating too – this is very true. The way I see it, these two segments are unlikely to be affected by what happens at an opening beyond immediate peer pressure buying.

Validation is a fantastic subject with regards to art being shown online. Online social validation can more easily override the marketing/blessing of a tastemaker than offline. There are now emerging artists that have managed to establish themselves purely online by self-representing. Until recently it has been unprecedented for an unknown fine artist with unknown representation to be able launch a career (I would define that as generating enough income to be self-supportive). Granted the artist are still validated through press, but the balance of power is significantly different. Interestingly the validating press isn’t even necessarily from the art industry! Two of the best examples that come to mind are Sala's onethousandpaintings and anthonywhite.

KJ said...

Rebecca, I enjoyed the whole scene for many years. But even fun things change and become less entertaining, I can look at a painting and pretty much know the answers to technical questions I might have. It's nice to meet other artists via their openings, but buyers can be intimidated as well and not likely to interrupt a couple of artists having a gab fest... as I'm likely to do if given half a chance ;-)

KJ said...

Thanks for some interesting perspective, Artsocket. Thinking how much things have changed on the web in the past ten years and looking ahead to the next ten... I imagine we will see changes, not only in technology, but in how it effects the art marketplace among so many other things we can't even imagine at this point. You're smart to get a toe hold now in order to get caught up in the current... hope you have a great ride, it's going to be fun to watch! Beautifully designed site, btw...

CMC said...

I still enjoy going to openings. If it's mine....I'm nervous like Rebecca noted but if things go well, I enjoy talking with the people I meet who ask about my work. I think collector's on the whole do want to meet the artist and this is as good a way as any. There are people who have their work picked out by the designers so they won't even realize whose work it is anyway and won't be there. One other reason I feel it necessary still to go to openings if I can, is that you have to mix it up some and let the galleries you respect and hope some day to send a portfolio know you are interested in their gallery. Of course, I can't do this except at the galleries not too far away.