Category: Et Cetera

Forest Park in the rain

Forest Park in the rain

I went for a walk through Forest Park with Alyson Provax on April 23, 2017, despite the promise of rain. We began on Leif Erikson Drive, at the top of NW Thurman Street. I generally start at the Lower Macleay Trail via Macleay Park – but a first hike with a long-time friend seemed like it warranted something other than my usual route. I wanted to look with new eyes, to consciously note the various textures and hues of the park. I studied my little guide to Forest Park’s native plants, coffee in hand, while I waited for Alyson to meet me – not unlike how I would study before a quiz when I was student. I am out of practice: I forgot at least half of the plant names, and the rain prevented much consultation of the book during the hike.

The rain fell in earnest almost as soon as we entered the woodier, windier part of the trail. We tried to shelter from the fat, wet drops under the viney branches of a young tree just beginning to shoot out its light-colored leaves. A few runners came by, each alone, and smiled laughingly at us as they went past, cautious of the slippery mud as it splashed up their calves but otherwise undeterred. If one wishes to make a regular habit of traversing the Park, one must make peace with damp and mud. We didn’t see any of them again. This is one of the magical properties of the many winding, interconnected trails: you can be surrounded by people and still alone.

I forgot what it was like to hike in the rain. It was beautiful and wonderfully quiet, with more things in bloom than I ever noticed before. We saw trillium – such a strange and elegant flower, with its three stark petals – often accompanied by little bursts of woodland violets (a misnomer, given their distinct yellow hue), fuzzy-budded Pacific waterleaf, salmonberry flowers in vivid pink, and little white petals floating down like snow from the bigleaf maple branches above. My favorite flowers were the Hooker’s fairy bells. They remind me, somehow, of bleeding heart.

Setting identification as a specific goal made me see Forest Park in a more complex way: each texture and shape, once named, became a distinct part of a whole, rather than a wash of tangled but monolithic greenery. I feel like I’ve taken the Park for granted, and am just now learning to appreciate it for itself.

You can read about how Forest Park came to be (much more recently in history than I had thought) via The Oregon Encyclopedia, a project of the Oregon Historical Society.

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Art hoarder Gurlitt makes Swiss museum sole heir

Read the full story from the BBC

Matisse’s Femme Assise is the subject of an ownership claim

At least Gurlitt’s now-notorious collection will wind up in a museum, whether the Swiss accept it or the Germans declare the will invalid and keep it for themselves. The expense of restoring more than 1,200 poorly-stored works (estimates vary) – in the sense of archival restoration as well as returning an estimated 450 looted pieces – is not a minor consideration. 

I always advocate for the frequent and accessible public display of art, particularly when the works in question are generally held to be “great” works by highly lauded artists. (The politics of those designations notwithstanding.) One of the saddest realities of our generation is the sheer quantity of great works that are disappearing into private collections, because skyrocketing auction prices place them firmly beyond the reach of public institutions. So there is a sad edge, too, to returning looted artwork to family heirs. There is little point in wondering whether the original owners would have bequeathed the works to museums or institutions, and no one can contest the right of heirs to reclaim work that was extorted under duress or stolen outright – but I still hope that even those reclaimed pieces will someday grace the walls of public institutions, to be shared with the world at large.

But back to the Gurlitt collection and its extremely questionable provenance: Many museums will display works that are suspected of being ill-gotten until a rightful heir can be located (though their efforts in that area tend to be pretty minimal). I’m sure the Gurlitt collection would be an impressive, though tenebrous, thing to see.

What’s the alternative to formulaic artist statements?

Explicitly or implicitly, [various parties that assign and request artist statements] endorse the conventional wisdom, the codified model for fill-in-the-blank, forced prose meant to serve as the ultimate linguistic record of an artist’s work. It’s worth noting that according to many scholars in writing pedagogy these factors—checklist writing prompts, prescribed outcomes, external rather than internal motivation, and one-shot attempts—prohibit expressive and effective writing. Writing is better practiced as an ongoing process in which a series of self-discoveries unfold in organically organized form.

But what’s the alternative to our formulaic norm? Far from uncovering some definitive ur-statement, the selective history of artist statements offered here shows them to be as varied and complex as the conditions that brought them forth. Comprehensibility, tastefulness, and brevity were clearly not always the goals. These statements, rather, are generous, adventurous, defensive, incisive, vindictive, eccentric, experimental, bombastic, sly, sad, funny, personal, political, and poetic. It’s hard to tell when they even began. Indeed, the difficulty of locating a precise “birth of the artist statement” is both explanatory and potentially liberating, since many of the genre’s most depressing examples seem to be written as if the writer is trying—and failing—to emulate some kind of “correct” model, one which he or she has never actually set eyes on. Artists have become convinced they’re supposed to say “my work explores the notion of self-reflexivity” rather than “I paint about paintings,” but they aren’t sure why. It’s like sitting down to write a poem and throwing in a bunch of thees and thous because that’s how poetry is supposed to sound. The results are obviously less than artful.

Excerpt from “Toward A History (and Future) of the Artist Statement” by Jennifer Liese

This is an excellent look at the conundrum of artist statements. Liese’s proposal on how to undo the damage that seems inherent (and “depressing”) in the typical artist statement is like a breath of fresh air. This is well worth a careful, thoughtful read – not just for artists, but for all arts professionals who must request, read, edit and/or write artist statements.

Online Art Scams

With the increase of online art sales for small galleries and individual artists, it’s no surprise that there are also scammers looking to rip-off artists and galleries. Scam e-mails typically start out like a genuine inquiry into the work, and may even include questions about specific pieces. The scam usually comes in with shipping.

The “client” will have some crazy reason why they want to overpay the artist for the work(s) in question and then have the artist pay a shipping courier specifically chosen by the client (“my son has cancer and I’m in another country”; “I live in a tiny place and big companies won’t ship directly to me”). These are bullshit reasons that usually make the targeted artist feel squeamish. If the artist goes along with it (the scammers are counting on the artist to be eager and maybe slightly desperate), the client will send a check for the amount of the art plus extra for shipping. The check appears to clear; the artist then wires the extra to the shipper. Then the check bounces, no one collects the work, and the client and shipper disappear. This scam is actually pretty common, and is applied to all manner of individual-to-buyer transactions.

Recently, I’ve been getting this e-mail (with different names on it) sent to my work address:

Reply-To: art.buyer@leadmanagers2.info

Subject: interested in some of your work

Are you a painter or a photographer? Do you have a website with an online gallery where you display your art? I would very much like to have a look at more of what you have.

Thank you.

Kristos

The e-mail address they contacted is only listed on the gallery website, so one could reasonably assume that if it was an actual person sending this (and not a search bot), “Kristos” would have already seen the work on the website and could determine that (a) the email address is not for an individual artist, and (b) that our website has many online galleries with paintings and photography, among other things, most of which are clearly labeled regarding availability.

Artists and galleries are always so eager to talk, to make a sale, to work out the details – these scammers know this and prey on that, as all scammers do.

My advice is to listen to your instincts, use only shipping companies that YOU trust, and never take a check for work unless you have already established a sound financial relationship. (Personal checks can be cancelled for up to two years after issuance, even if they clear, people. Keep that in mind.) With the availability and affordability of more reliable ways to get paid, don’t be afraid to demand secure payment. Any reasonable person will understand, and anyone who doesn’t is probably trying to manipulate you.

If you’re not sure if an inquiry is a scam, you might want to check out Katie Moe’s Stop Art Scams blog, check to see if a U.S.-based business or courier is legitimate through resources like the Better Business Bureau, or try searching for the company name with the word “fraud”. Most countries also have systems like the Better Business Bureau that you can check, if you get the “I live abroad and don’t like major international couriers” routine. Though really, the best course of action is to just delete that nonsense and move on.

While I don’t endorse any payment system, the most common ones I’ve encountered as a buyer are Square (by a landslide) and PayPalIntuit has the benefit of connecting to QuickBooks if you use that to track your finances. There’s also Dwolla – which might be the cheapest option for people who aren’t regularly making large sales, or if your average transaction is less than $10. It’s worth noting that PayPal and Intuit are the only ones that are BBB accredited, though the other companies are listed through the BBB (and have accompanying complaints, of course). When I did my Christmas shopping at Crafty Wonderland, all I saw were little Square card readers and change pouches.

Good luck out there, and remember to trust your intuition when it comes to potential scams.

Practice, Nonsense

“I hate when they call it creative ‘practice’,” someone said to me other day. “We’re not attorneys and we’re not just monkeying around.”

I nodded. Sometimes I nod to indicate that I am, in fact, listening. That can be meaningful, if you know me well enough to have seen me tune-out mid-sentence, but it can also mislead people into thinking that I agree when I do not. I began to wonder about the word ‘practice’ and the phrase ‘creative practice’ in particular. I stopped nodding.

I am newly appointed ‘gallery manager’ at a contemporary art gallery.  I began in early September, on its fourth day of public operation, and it is the first full-time position I’ve held that involves a regular paycheck and tax forms. So the notion of ‘creative practice’ and what it might mean to me personally has grown like a tumor on my consciousness over the last six weeks.

‘Practice’ does not bear a negative connotation, as far as I know.

I haven’t been producing much or working in my studio (more accurately described as the corner of the desk where I can leave copper shavings without sullying my partner’s pristine inks and papers). I’ve been working, establishing a rhythm and setting up calendar reminders for my job. I’ve been living 40+ hours a week in a beautiful white box, surrounded by the manifested ideas of others. I love my job.

I haven’t been ‘practicing’ anything and my need for it is going to reach critical mass soon.

I did make a small, experimental edition for an annual print exchange hosted by Rainbow Ross. I listened to Raidolab and made relief ink from gouache and honey. It smelled odd and dried to the velvety matte finish I wanted.

Anyway. Creative practice: to me it seems appropriate, the phrase. The final work that winds up in a gallery (if one is lucky) or on a collector’s wall (if one is luckier still) is often the tangible result of much scratching around, working out, seeking, destroying, rebuilding, and thinking. Are all of those unshared, unseen moments and movements something as prosaic as ‘practice’? Well. Yes, I think so.

Putting down a mark is a banal gesture (or pushing into a daub of clay, chunking off a piece of granite, or manipulating a pixel, etc. etc.). An artist is made not by a single gesture but by a multitude; one must put in the time to practice, to doodle, to experiment, fail and learn. Most of that mark-making stuff can be learned by nearly anyone with the will to dedicate time and effort (that is an unpopular opinion, I know). The artist is one who dedicates, one who practices. Even if someone has an unusual degree of innate ability, it’s meaningless without practice.

I must redefine a work-life balance, to carve my practice into the structure of my days. It is, in some ways, the hardest part. My excuses are good: new job, looking for a new apartment, waiting to find out if I’ll have grant money to fund this project that’s simmering in my back of my brain. But they are not not good enough.

Even if my life feels distractingly full, I must practice in small ways, so that I am ready when I am finally willing to admit that life is made of distractions and the only thing standing in my way is myself.