Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Part Deux: Decisions

It suddenly seems that there's no way to promote a show without becoming a target. The Amagansett Fine Arts Festival started out as a chorus of many voices, each one rising up in harmony to express discontent and a need to do something better. Everyone chimes in with their own version of the ultimate solution for the ultimate exhibit. When a show suddenly doesn't exist, everyone is suddenly whispering in the silence, because now there is a big open space, and the bravery and boldness pales when faced with a wide open space. In wide open spaces one can fail, one can be conspicuous, every action and sound is suddenly amplified tenfold. And then, in steps my hero complex.

The first American hero was Nathaniel "Natty" Bumppo, of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. For the first time, the hero doesn't kiss the woman and become domestic and tend to the farm, instead he kisses the horse, and rides off into the sunset. The vast openness of the frontier symbolizes the lack of limits, staying at the homestead to be responsible represents the acceptance of limits. One definition of maturity is the acceptance of limits, so the Great First American Hero defied maturity and responsibility by riding off into the great beyond. Ever the child, ever the exploring free spirit. The hero then evolved to be the masked man, who would do the good and selfless deed before his trademark disappearance. With a tip of his hat, he became the envy of every little boy, the mysterious hero that would enter from stage right, save the day and exit through stage left. I always wanted to be that hero, to swoop in and save the day.

I really do mean to be helpful and kind and generous, but invariably someone falls through the cracks. While grappling with the notion that no good deed is without fallacy, I decided that my decisions should support the act of becoming. To wish and want and hope is not to change anything, but through observation we can transcend who we are by becoming what we do, and what I do is to endlessly strive to better myself as a painter, as a man, and as a husband. The easiest and the hardest of the three is to only improve as a painter, for no measurement is as valid as the measurements we impose on ourselves, so the notion of staging the Amagansett Fine Arts Festival should, in the end, make me a better painter.

So like a hero, I stood up and gathered the tools of information, and piece by piece I started assembling the components that make a fine art festival. The very notion of a fine art festival suddenly creates a polarity of what is and what is not. Is a fine art product actually the product of a fine artist? Functional art gets the fuzzy definition of craft, while the term "fine" can be used to describe things that are the exact opposite of "fine", in directions of "rough" and "crude" and "rude" and "audacious". Once you manage the moral calisthenics of straddling a view of what is fine art, you have to investigate presentation. In the typical art festival jury system, this is based on what is known as the "booth slide", or now that nobody uses slides anymore, it's called "the booth shot". In an event such as this one, the booth shot does not convey enough, for me, for what I want to stage as an exhibition.

No mortal really has the right to decide what is proper conduct and presentation. There are several artforms that are insulated from any visible artifacts, such as photography. So many people can take a great photograph, yet when someone stands up and proclaims responsibility for photographic images, we can only trust that this person did indeed understand all the myriad of controls and processing to have taken these images. Painters have spots of paint on their shoes, sculptors have sinewy arms and biceps of steel, and printmakers have the look of weariness and toil in their eyes. Jewelers become permanently hunched and pinched, and you can see the familiarity they have with being resigned to viewing the world of detail through reading glasses or a jeweler's loop. Photographers are always just so cool and calm, that if they didn't express a deep knowledge of gear and processing and the logistics of travel we'd never be able to tell them from accountants or even just tourists relaxing while on vacation. If we dig into a photographer's website, we'd like to see some explanation of philosophy and vision, or at the very least to see a love for the things and places and people that show up in their images. Painters will gush endlessly about how much they love everything, the paint, the light, the air, the atmosphere. On some level, I guess I'd like to see a love for what one does. Maybe this is how the fine art is actually the product of the fine artist, specifically born of love of life, of process and challenge.

And in the very nature of decisions, some are decided in, and others are decided out. In my greatest efforts to be good, invariably someone believes I'm bad.

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