Monday, July 14, 2008

Other things happen

Yes, other things, better things, beside poker happen in my life. I just won an award for a photo I submitted to a big local juried art exhibit. 500 smackers. My dear wife had to choke back tears of joy as the Mayor presented the award. I’m pleased. Now, if the piece will sell as a multiple edition…

I haven’t been making a lot of art lately, because of several things. Mostly poker, I think. It used to be the farm that kept me busy as hell. Not so much anymore. I hit a wall physically and emotionally, weed and drought. I’m feeling better now, thank you. And with that, I’m able to pull myself away from poker a bit more. (Yeah, poker can be a way to self-medicate and can be abused. I’ll have more on that in the future.) Yet, before I flamed out, I had amassed a lot of photo and video projects that had never seen the light of an audience. I’m now going through all of that work to put together an updated website of art. This show I’m currently in helped push me in that direction.

A few months ago, my dear wife saw an article in the local newspaper about a big annual show, now in it’s second year. They were looking for new entrants. She tore out the clipping and left it on the coffee table where I eat breakfast while watching the weather report. She didn’t say anything about it; she just left it there. And for a few days, there it sat.

Looking back, it seems like it took all of the emotional strength I could muster to finally pick the article up, read it, and a few more days to go to the website for a submission form, look through some photos I had taken of this area, choose three photos, write an artist’s statement and send the package to the jury committee. I was that bad. Maybe it was the four months of rain…

I made a mental note of when the selection process would take place, but soon forgot about it. A couple months passed. Dear wife and I celebrated our ten years of marriage with a weekend getaway, and when we returned, there was a postcard in the mail. It said to save the date for the show. What? Did I miss some notification? Whether I was or wasn’t in the show, I surely would have heard before the invitations went out, right? Maybe my dear wife, wanting to spare me the lament, had intercepted the rejection letter or email. No, she hadn’t seen anything. Then I checked email: Congratulations!

Thirty-seven artists had been selected from a couple hundred submissions. Goodie gumdrops.

I have to back up a bit. Not everything was in darkness after the initial submission. In fact, just the act of putting everything together for this competition helped me get back on track, at least a little bit. I had been thinking about a video project for couple years and somehow found a way to make it happen. And when the sun finally broke, I had some time to kill one day and mustered the wherewithal to go into a local gallery. I hadn’t been in a gallery in four years. Not my cup of tea, yet the woman who owns the gallery is doing what she can to make a go of it in an area where folks just don’t take a shine to anything except pottery, landscape painting and the like. By the time I walked out of that gallery, the gallerist had invited me to be in a one-day show/event the following month. I said. “What the hell. OK.”

I had four weeks to conceive and prepare an installation piece. In the past I have had several months to prepare works of a similar size and scale. It took four days to install. By all accounts, it went well. The gallerist seemed please; people took pictures with their cell phones. As the day was winding down, I mentioned to her that I had submitted to the Mayor’s thingamagig. She said that she had a role in that show too. The conversation didn’t go much further.

After reading the congratulatory email, I began to think that maybe she had had a role in the selection process. I dropped by the gallery the next week to find out, and if she did, to thank her. It turns out that she was in fact on the jury, so I thanked her. But she gave me this quizzical look. “What piece was yours?” Oh, it was a blind jury? “Yes.” When I told her the name of the piece, her eyes lit up. “Oh yes, absolutely!” Apparently those were the words of several jurors.

It occurs to me that this might read as some sort of brag. No, this is more the thoughts of a guy who is mildly surprised that he has been able to go from being in the crapper to a semblance of what it must feel like when good things happen.

The opening reception was a couple days ago. There were hors d’ouvres and a jazz duo. There was about 100 people in attendance. (The $15 ticket price may have kept some people away.) Dear Wife and I ate a bit and had a cocktail as we walked around to see the art. Lots of landscape painting and photography, some abstraction, a few figures, some calligraphic stuff, and my piece. My piece was the very last piece on the walls, kinda stuck back in a corner. I had been late in delivering the piece (our well pump died that morning), so what I got is what I got.

After about a half hour I was ready to go home. I don’t do well in large gatherings like this. I had to wear a tag that said “Exhibiting Artist” and felt like no one could really give a shit. There were other tagged people wandering around, looking at the work or staring out a window at traffic. I am so glad my dear wife was there. The gin and tonic helped a little too.

An hour into the reception the Mayor got up on a stage to start the awards ceremony. Five artists were to receive honorariums and one would win the Purchase Award. My wife and I moved closer to the podium to appear more civil and to hear. As is the case with most events like this, there are a lot of people who’d rather continue their conversations than listen to what they supposedly came to hear.

Four names were called before mine. I was the last of the honorable mentions. It was a little odd. I knew it was my name. People actually cheered. The gallerist was handing out the award envelopes. “Surprised?” she asked. Did I expect it? No. Did I hope for it? Of course. I’m not that depressed.

I kissed her hand.

No comments: