Thursday, January 31, 2008


I received some really great responses to the post from a few days ago about juried shows and the satisfaction, or sometimes lack of, inherent in sending your work across the country to some place you can't visit and then receiving it two months later with nothing more than the assumption that someone unpacked it, hung it on a wall, and then repacked it at the end.

Among the feedback that came in was the great question of why one should even bother with gallery shows (on a side note: this brings up the great question of book vs. show, but we'll delve into that at another time)? Why do it at all? Is an exhibition the reason for making the work in the first place? Shouldn't the process itself, that mixture of inspiration, discovery, labor, and skill be enough?

In a serendipitous parallel, my recent Saturdays have been spent in gradeschool gyms, watching my son's basketball games. In the first game, our team lost 16 to 59 and didn't score a single point until the third quarter (I must admit- I choked up a little when they finally did). The second game was 12 to 48. Believe me, these kids aren't there to win.

I don't really care about basketball, but last night I caught the tail end of the Blazers game and watched them lose by one point that was scored within the final seconds. The post game commentary was pretty black and white in its conclusion that losing is losing, and that's not winning. While I was watching, I flipped through a magazine that I'd bought with the intention of scouting out in the hopes of drumming up editorial work with them. The photographs were fine and I could see what I do fitting in, but as I flipped through each page my heart sank with the realization that even the editorial content was selling something. If not a specific gizmo or t-shirt, a lifestyle at least, that was tied into the products and services that were advertised throughout. That magazines are created to make money is so obvious that it shouldn't have hit with such force. To make a magazine (or a book, or an exhibition) takes money that's got to come out of someone's pocket. This epiphany brings me to an even greater appreciation for those who trudge along and pursue their art simply because that's what they like to do. Is the show the goal? No, the gallery world is as entrenched in trend and fashion as any magazine on the rack. But ultimately, it does get the work out there, encourages dialogue, and spreads the gospel. If anything, I think the trick is the creation of even more voices & venues. Shane Lavalette & Karly Wildenhaus's Remain in Light, Humble's Group Show, Paul Schiek's These Birds Walk, and the slew of online magazines that plug away without income are as encouraging as it gets. They're not in it to win, but because they love to play.

1 comment:

gemstate said...

There must be a connection between basketball and photography-aside from the word "nice shot". Your post got me thinking about my experience at the Blazers game last night-those live games are confusing-do I watch the monitors- the fans-the moving billboards-or the game? Between my eye shifting here and there, I daydreamed about competition in sports and how we compete against one another as artists and/or photographers. If the Cavaliers made a "nice shot", I clapped-"good shot". I didn't jump up and down and hollar, but I clapped. What harm is there in a quiet clap even if you're routing for the other team? Is that good sportsmanship or is it best not to recognize the opposing team? In our photo circles, we seem supportive of one another-willing to clap when recognition is deserved. But are we really just routing for the "home team"? I think that answer comes down to how secure we are with our work (if i sound secure, that's good-because 90% of the time I'm not). Validation of a show, book, etc., is great-but it doesn't mean the work is any better than what someone may do in isolation and never show others. When you get that little jolt of "winners validation", it's a delicate combination of talent, hard work and the element of luck-opening up that lane for a layup in the last .5 seconds of the game.

Go get 'em team!