Tuesday, April 5, 2016


"New York Rooftop Series" oil on canvas
A couple of Thursday nights ago, an artist friend and I decided to check out the Chelsea opening scene. Apparently Thursday night is a big draw and the streets were filled with packs (they travel in “packs”) of joyous thirty somethings, enticed no doubt by free wine and the opportunity to hone in on the latest wave in the art scene. Unfortunately, based on what we saw, there is no latest wave, only same old – same old.” Of course, I hear that Chelsea is passe, as is the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, although no one seems to quite know where to find the latest “Happening” place. I hear Queens or the South Bronx, but by the time I find out, it will all be over.

"New York Rooftop Series" oil on canvas
Anyhow, I got talked into the trip because I was curious to see if my artwork had a place there. The gallery spaces are enormous and beautifully lit, but I cannot image my rag-tag “oeuvre” fitting in such a slick environment. What struck me most was that the artwork I saw all seemed to have been created for “the show.” There was no evidence of experimentation, growth; everything was tasteful, competent but without any challenges. Different color schemes perfect for the decorator to match with the drapes, but otherwise all the same sizes, same frames. I couldn’t imagine doing twenty or thirty versions of ANYTHING! I would go mad! It would feel like a JOB!

One of the problems I always have preparing for a one-person show is that my work evolves all the time, especially if I’m producing steadily, working every day. I have absolutely no capacity for repetition; in fact, if I even try to repeat myself because something works well, I find all the life is sucked out of it. Everything even looks like I was bored, like painting with numbers. I console myself that Picasso had the same problem. In fact, there are at least twenty different periods in Picasso’s artwork, ranging from Romantic Realism to Cubist experimentation to series of murderous –looking females with teeth bared (his version of vagina dentata), My late husband, noting my difficulty with repetition, used to mutter that he had no idea how he lasted so long with me. Of course, what he didn’t realize was that he too changed all the time, providing new “problems” for me to resolve.

"New York Rooftop Series" oil on canvas
My companion informed me that a “gallerista” (those Size 4 clothes horses who sit at the desks in the galleries) told her that the gallery she worked for paid $30k a month for rent (not the highest amount by any means.) They are not in business to advance “art”; they need to make the monthly nut, and hopefully even, a profit. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself fitting in to their business model and I must say, given their lack of interest in my work, neither do they.

BTW, since it’s obvious that Chelsea is “dead,” does anyone know where to find the latest art scene?  It’s quite possible that art really is dead and this is not the time to be an artist anywhere. I just hope I live long enough for the next Renaissance to occur. Maybe if Donald Trump gets elected president (just kidding) although bad times often create the best art i.e. Weimar Germany.

Friday, April 1, 2016


Definition: gim-mick (noun).

A trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity,
or business.

Synonyms: contrivance, scheme, stratagem, ploy,
shtick (my favorite)

I’m on the e-mail list of a relatively new art center known as the Bronx Museum. It’s located on the Grand Concourse and 165th St. and I have to confess, despite my interest in the borough, I’ve never been there. A press release arrived today announcing an upcoming “performance event” (their words, not mine) in which an artist (who shall remain nameless) will present an “interactive community based project” (again, their words, not mine) in which participants will share cups of brewed (donated) tea and make a room-sized quilt out of the tea stained paper filters. I let out a giant AAAARGH! when I saw this ….the triumph of the gimmick, I fired off an e-mail to the sender of the press release saying: “Re-purposed tea-stained paper filters woven into a quilt? Give me a break. This isn’t art, it’s a gimmick!” But why should I have been so surprised, most of today’s art is gimmickry masked as high-sounding “Conceptual Art.” I even believe that Gimmick I and Gimmick II are currently taught in all the major art schools in America. Everybody is searching for the cleverest gimmick, the one that will lift him or her above the rest. Tea-stained filter quilts? Not bad as gimmicks go, but not terribly original. A friend of mine did coffee-filter curtains a few years ago.

Anyhow, my e-mail to the Bronx Museum asked why contemporary art always needed a gimmick? Couldn’t it stand on its own? I’d be perfectly happy to see a lovely quilt made by an artist out of stained paper tea filters, but to make a media event out of it? To my surprise, a real person answered (chalk one up for the Bronx Museum), the Social Media Coordinator.) He actually wrote back asking what I meant, and, given an opening, I fired off a diatribe against this kind of busywork, a gimmick that to me was only one step away from a clever advertising campaign. Apparently, the Social Media Coordinator decided he had given me enough of his valuable time and did not respond. I’m sure he thought there was no point arguing with someone who didn’t understand “art.”

That leaves me with the point of my little tirade: so much fashionable art today isn’t art but an attempt to become successful through notoriety. Novelty sells, especially to art buyers that largely don’t know what they are buying. I appreciate and understand an artists desire to do something new and challenging, but that’s not as easy as it was a hundred years ago, in the days of the Dada  - true rebels and intellectuals who saw their unconventional art as a way of challenging a corrupt society. Today, it’s pretty hard to do something that hasn’t been done before - and who says novelty should be an artist’s goal?

But it’s an interesting issue and needs to be taken seriously. At what point does true creativity morph into gimmickry? I think the answer lies in the aesthetic value of what is being produced and the artist’s intention in producing the work. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s famous “readymade,” the urinal he entered into an art exhibit one hundred years ago, really is a work of art. Its harmonious curves make it a beautiful abstract sculpture in white porcelain. Plus, Duchamp was also saying that there could be aesthetic value in the mundane, the mass produced and the ordinary. But without beauty (debatable as it might be) as a goal, all you have left is a gimmick.