Category Archives: art

Gallery Game

Balloon

I try to show my work in a gallery at least once a year. I’ve been doing well, and I already showed my work in a couple of places this year, but doing all of this by myself, shopping around, applying for shows, coordinating with galleries, framing and shipping work, all of it can be very tiring. Then I stumbled on an article which examined whether brick-and-mortar art galleries are still needed when the Internet allows artists to directly reach out to their audience.

It’s a rather long article which ends with the writer promoting his services, but the biggest takeaway for me is that for the longest time, galleries have enjoyed the myth that they are the gatekeepers to “making it.” That once my art gets into a particular gallery, I will reach an audience that would buy my art and love me. This might have been true back then, but now reaching out to audiences has been democratized by the Internet. Instagram artists can be more popular and possibly sell more works than professional artists who shows work mostly in galleries. And art-lovers no longer have to visit gallery to discover new art. Of course some art have to be seen and experienced first-hand, but many works are now made available to be enjoyed online.

Two things however, one is being accepted by a gallery is always a good acknowledgment of one’s talent. This is why I try to apply for gallery shows and not rent galleries. That, plus the returns for renting a gallery and hoping for sales simply doesn’t make economic sense. I also believe in Marcel Duchamp’s message when he made Fountain. If all works are accepted by a gallery as long as the “artist” pays a fee, then that makes every object art. It makes beauty, talent, effort, and meaning all null. And as Stephen Hicks argued, “Art is something you piss on.” Not to sound too conservative, but you need unbiased gatekeepers to tell you that yes, what you have on the canvas is indeed art. Of course, many galleries will reject your works, but when you do get accepted by a gallery, it makes the moment and the work even more meaningful.

Another thing is that because of the proliferation of art on the Internet, it is very difficult to grow an audience and stand out in a sea of artists. It has given rise to businesses ranging from online galleries that promise artists to introduce them to buyers, to companies which boost online presence and add more clicks to artists’ Web pages. The brick-and-mortar gallery model has moved online. It is still the same game.

So what is my point? My point is, if you want to sell work. Don’t rely solely on brick-and-mortar galleries. In fact, unless your work already sells wells and is ideal for hanging, then yes, galleries are the way to go. I think however for most people, a mixture of galleries, online hustling, and participating in art fairs and other events is the way to sell art. Most non-famous artists would be spending just as much time selling their art as making them.

If you’re interested in growing your audience, go online. Galleries will promote your name on their newsletter if you have a show, but more often, they’re relying on you to bring your audience to them, not the other way around. Don’t think that a gallery show will suddenly make you popular. If you are interested in growing a local audience, go with the brick-and-mortar gallery route. Show your work to several galleries regularly. I’ve been making art forever, but since I rarely do shows in my hometown these days, I’m quite unknown. Local galleries don’t know me although I’ve toured my works all over Canada.

If you want validation, apply for shows. Submit your work to calls for submissions. Chances are, you will get rejected repeatedly, but you’ll learn to deal with it. Don’t splurge on applications and definitely don’t spend money in vanity galleries in New York. Also remember that galleries are a business, and they often want art that they could sell. Don’t feel too bad if galleries don’t want your work especially if you’re not interested in making to sell anyway. Growing a big following on social media could be a sign of a good artist as well, but I’ve seen far too many artists on Instagram with thousands of followers who I know will never make it in a professional gallery.

So yes, for artists, there is still a need for brick-and-mortar galleries. It all just depends on what exactly the particular artist needs. Having work in hung in a gallery is no longer the standard of “making it” as an artist, it just simply means that it’s good enough that a business is willing to have it on a wall for a few days.

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Dog Whistles

Reyes_Joseph_Assiniboine_12inx14in

A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.

Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.

Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.

Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.

The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:

-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.

-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.

-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.

-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.

-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.

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Artist’s Block and Embarrassing Works

Gator Knife.jpg

When there is nothing I want to draw or when I’m uninspired, sometimes I just draw something I would define as incredible stupid. It might be incredibly stupid to me, but from the audience’s perspective, it could just be as stupid as my other pieces. This piece is based on an alligator in Texas with a knife stuck on its head. It was all over twitter a couple of weeks ago and seemed like a good subject outside of anything that had any personal meaning to me.

The good thing about drawing something that I personally don’t have any emotional investment in or something absent of any deeper message is that it ends up lasting longer and doesn’t come out as cringe-worthy after a few years. There are quite a few old drawings, that when I look at them now, they can be quite embarrassing. I’m sure this is true of all artists. Much like old Myspace or Friendster pages, naivety in art is embarrassing and doesn’t age well. It reeks of first year art school. This is why most popular art has ambiguous meanings or none at all. This is also why political art, when it becomes popular or when they rise to high art, they are truly done by masters.

As an artist that does small works, this is where I have an advantage over others who work on large canvasses. My embarrassing work can be stuffed in a bag and kept in a small closet somewhere. Heck, I can even put them in the recycling bin. They are not large works, taking up space in my life, reminding me of what a hack I was a few years (or months) ago.

So yeah, do small works, folks! Or at least think of long term storage whenever you make art.

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Art Forgery Drama

Good Beef

There is an interesting documentary on the works of the late Norval Morrisseau, ‘There Are No Fakes’. Morrisseau started the Woodland style of painting, using imagery from First Nations cultures showing the insides of creatures in a sort of x-ray effect.  His works are far more colorful and playful compared to the more traditional images in Inuit and West Coast art.

Unfortunately, many of his works have been forged, and a lot of what is passing off as original Morrisseaus could potentially be fakes made by an art forgery ring. I’m not sure if the documentary will show anything past what has already been detailed when I first learned about the Morrisseau forgery in Maclean’s last year, but what interested me was the very title of the film, ‘There Are No Fakes.’

Is it because somehow Morrisseau’s family was connected to the forgeries? Or is it because the forgeries themselves, just by the very fact that they are connected to the drama of Morrisseau and his legacy make them valuable on their own? Or does the documentary basically say that if you love an image and that you find it beautiful, you shouldn’t really care about its authenticity or its monetary valuable. That art is art. They are not objects to be traded or treated as real estate investments. They are far bigger than that. (I sincerely doubt that this is where the film will go.)

The leader of the forgery ring, Gary Lamont, was sentenced to jail back in 2016 for being a sexual predator. I’m not sure if many of the news media at the time mentioned his involvement with producing forged Morrisseaus, but according to one of the victims, the forged pieces represent a very abusive period. Gary Lamont would manipulate and abuse young men while the works were being produced, between 1993-2007, when there was increased demand for Morrisseaus and when the artist’s health was slowly declining.

I’m sure there are still more to this story, right now galleries and owners are still insisting on the authenticity of many works, but I do hope that the worst is over, and at the very least, no one is producing more forged works. Growing up in Manitoba, I remember seeing some of Morrisseau’s works and even more works inspired by him. After learning about the forgeries last year, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a real Morrisseau.

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On a Friend Dying

Mother Too

A friend of mine died recently. A few years ago, he came out with his HIV diagnosis… then a few days later, he confessed his love for me. I’m a cis gender male. He knew this. But it was something he just needed to simply get off his chest. He wasn’t asking for anything, nor was I expected to do anything about it but listen. In the spirit of confessing his health crisis at the time, I suppose it was time for him to come out with his feelings as well.

That was a healthy thing to do.

If you love someone, regardless of what the circumstances are, tell them. It doesn’t have to be reciprocated. We’re all grown-ups, and love doesn’t work that way. In any case, just tell them. Best case scenario, such feelings might eventually be reciprocated. At the very least, it tells that person that whatever they’re doing, they must be doing something right since someone loves or admires them.

This was a good lesson that he demonstrated. He also showed that a good life is possible despite a dire reality. The looming shadow of a grim health diagnosis can be very difficult to get over, but as he later moved on to a simpler life, he appeared happy… I’d say even much happier at times compared to when I used to hang out with him. Maybe it’s because he was more honest with things. Maybe it’s because he was closer to his family at the time. Who knows? But I noticed that after his diagnosis, he seemed more upbeat, or at least more fulfilled with what I would’ve foolishly judged as a simpler, slower existence at the time.

Rest well, buddy. It was good knowing you. I wish I was a much better friend, however. I guess now you’ll know the ultimate truth about your online “prison skanks.”

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Shake It Off

Creature

The page says “The Weekly” but I haven’t really been writing much nor have I been making much art recently. I’ve been far too busy, and quite frankly, a tad depressed, to be making anything. I sent some works to a couple of magazines and galleries, but I haven’t heard anything yet, so yeah… it’s been a quiet few days for art. But anyway, let’s get this started! Voila, ART!!!

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Satan?

The 90s

I don’t normally dissect my artwork for people, but here’s one that I think is particularly misunderstood (or not really “artsy”) and needs dissecting. It’s just a silly drawing filled with silliness.

The 90s

Here it is a little enlarged.

The 90sa

Dumb details are dumb. Be good, everybody!

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The Smell of Gas

Chest_Pain

It’s been a long day of political theater regarding the Michael Cohen public testimony. People all over are posting and publishing their comments and analysis about the testimony. I’m a bit of a political junkie myself, so please allow me my scattered observations.

Donald Trump is currently in Hanoi, negotiating badly with the leader of North Korea. I read that he already dropped full accounting of North Korea’s nuclear program from the US’s demands. This could all just be the usual bad negotiation skills of Donald Trump, or it could be he’s distracted from the drama back in the US. This is like going on vacation and wondering if you left the stove on.

I wouldn’t blame the Republican members of the committee for focusing on attacking Michael Cohen’s credibility and not asking one question about Donald Trump, the reason why Michael Cohen is there in the first place. If the shoe was on the other foot, the Democrats would be attacking the credibility of the witness as well. My only problem is, their attacks were simply bad, bad politics. I think it did them more harm than good. Rep. Matt Gaetz, prior to the hearing, exposed himself to potential criminal liabilities by brazenly attempting to intimidate a witness several times. Rep. Clay Higgins, claimed to be a moron who has never heard of Michael Cohen since that day. I’m a Canadian living in Seoul. I know who Michael Cohen is. Rep. Mark Meadows brings in a black woman as a prop in the most tone deaf display of I-have-black-friends-therefore-I’m-not-racist. Rep. Paul Gosar was ineffective and stumbled around with his papers. And Rep. Jim Jordan was not only outwitted by Michael Cohen, he managed to outwit himself in the beginning by withdrawing himself out of his attempt to delay the hearing.

Really? Is this the best representative that people can have? Who sees their behavior and thinks, “Yes! I’m glad I voted for that guy!”? Why are these people and their ilk running the US?

And as much as they attacked Michael Cohen’s character, what spoke volumes was not his character, but his confessions which is backed up by evidence. See, evidence doesn’t need character. A 2017 check made out to Michael Cohen signed by Donald Trump, arranged by Trump Jr and Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s CFO, proving a criminal conspiracy that Donald Trump did give out hush payments during the 2016 campaign doesn’t need character. It tells its truth right there. And as Rep. Ro Khanna mentioned, it exposes all four men involved to federal and state prosecution, and to which only Michael Cohen will currently be in jail for.

Allen Weisselberg has been cooperating and not cooperating with authorities, so I really don’t know what will ultimately happen to him. Donald Trump, even if it’s apparent that he did commit crimes, Republicans will have to act in order to get him impeached, and I find that highly unlikely. They are truly a craven bunch compared to the more principled breed of Republicans who were compelled to move to impeach Nixon. That, and they are likely to lean on the Justice Department memo that you cannot indict a sitting US president. He can be impeached, but not indicted. So why impeach him then if he’s not indicted of any crime? (assuming Mueller doesn’t move to indict him) Even some Democrats would probably be wary of indicting a sitting US president.

As for Trump Jr, it seems that he’s quite vulnerable after the hearing. If the criminal conspiracy is proven, he’s got his fingerprints all over it. He might be let off with a presidential pardon on a federal level, but that doesn’t save him from the Southern District of New York which is looking into him as well. And it’s all speculation and fantasy for now, but if they did threaten jail time to Trump Jr (for starters. There’s still Eric, Ivanka, and Jared for a myriad potential different reasons), will that compel Donald Trump to step down in order to save his son? I’m thinking no. Donald Trump doesn’t look like the type who would save anyone except maybe Ivanka. And I’m not sure about Trump Jr. Maybe he would probably jump at the chance of being a MAGA martyr of sorts, or maybe he would flip on his dad. Speculations, but the drama is simply too much!

And as I’m writing this, Donald Trump’s schedule for his summit today has been suddenly cut short. Hmm… I wonder if something was on his mind.

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A Grim Trend

Fish Folk.jpg

There seems to be an awful lot of death around me lately. Last November, my grandmother passed away. I had to fly to the States for a bit of a memorial gathering. I haven’t seen my grandmother for many years prior to her passing, and in at least a couple of scares, our family had to mentally prepare ourselves for her passing. And when she finally passed away, it was more like seeing the long inevitable, acting in a scene long rehearsed.

Not long after, my godfather passed away. I don’t have much of a relationship with him, but he was close with my father and I do love my cousins. His health has been in a decline for many years now. And while it was a surprise for me that he passed away, I had a feeling that it was to be expected. He wasn’t getting any healthier. A few weeks after his passing, another uncle passed away. Like my godfather, his health was in a decline as well. It’s a bit of a coincidence that he was really close with my godfather and that they both died within weeks of each other’s passing. It’s almost like what they say about old couples dying.

Just now, my landlord just passed away. He’s not a relative, but being my landlord, he’s physically the one closest to me. His death hasn’t hit me as much as my grandmother’s death did, but the fact that I just saw him smiling with his family gathered all around him on a Sunday afternoon a few days ago makes me feel really uneasy. He was a good guy who was kind and generous enough to let me stay at his place for so many years even though he wasn’t particularly fond of the way I decorated and furnished my apartment. I just hope he makes a straight beeline to heaven and not linger around to make his complaints about my living space known.

Oddly enough, we are planning to move to a different place sometime this year. Having my good landlord finally pass away seems to make that decision even more pertinent. Here’s hoping we find a reasonable place in this currently ridiculous Seoul real estate market.

I don’t know if there’s really a point to my writing this week. There have been a lot of people dying lately. It feels quite uneasy.  I really would like to shake it off.

Be kind to people while they are still around. One of my biggest regret in life is not being there with my mother in her last years. I could’ve found another job. I could’ve made arrangements around my life to make it possible for me to be there with her, but I didn’t. I was lazy, unimaginative, selfish, and unkind. I kinda shut it all out. I pretended everything was going to be fine, and in the process, I missed out on so much from a woman who was nothing but a saint to everyone in the family. Be kind to people while they around, because when they’re gone, you might end up writing blog entries about it repeatedly and getting reminded of your mistakes every time another person dies.

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They are just kids… racist kids.

drummer

Kids will be kids, and 17 year-old young men are still children. Nevertheless, it is disheartening how so many people in the media are bending over backwards telling everyone that what we saw those Covington kids do was not racist at all.

It was racist. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of any sort of bigotry will recognize the smug smile on Nicholas Sandmann’s face. It’s the smile that says among many other things, “I’m going to get away with this.”

I don’t want to dissect everything that happened. There are videos and different analyses about the event. It doesn’t have to be treated like a Zapruder film. Everyone’s actions are as plain as day.

First off, a Catholic school decided to bus a group of young men for political purposes. It was for the March for Life, an annual rally protesting the legality of abortion. Again, a Catholic school (which is not supposed to be political) decided to bus a group of young men (who will never, EVER, be pregnant) to protest the legality of abortion (participating in a political event, a very adult thing to do). The school organizers and their parents decided it was okay to have young men, voice their opinions on political issues, but the minute they get into racist shenanigans, they are immediately reverted back to innocent young children who have no idea how racist their actions were.

Also, prior to the viral video, there’s already evidence of the boys harassing young women with vile remarks. These are not the innocent actors that the Sandmann’s PR firm would have you believe. These boys are not the type who would freeze up and nervously pray silently when they see an old Native American man play a peace drum. They were loud, obnoxious, and combative.

What annoys me however is how quickly people in the media quickly turned from condemning their actions to making excuses for them after a PR firm got to them. So many articles and people online would try to convince you that the boys weren’t being vile, that there was a bigger story from a different angle. There isn’t. The boys were racists and misogynists. Their school and their parents are equally racists and misogynists.  If anything, the bigger story here is how easy it is to dupe the players in the media, and how yet again, attacks against Native Americans are so engrained in society that people easily ignore them. Tomahawk chops? That’s just something they learned through football! Mocking dance? Well, they were just moving to the beat of the drum! Native Americans experience racism regularly but you don’t nearly see much outrage about it. If anything, injustice against Native Americans is often seen with hopeless familiarity, “here we go again.”

It would be interesting to see how the media would react if the same actions the boys took were done by a group of a different color or gender.  I’m guessing more colorful language would be used to describe them, “a gang” if they’re black or brown men, and the word “hysterical” if it was a group of women. And you wouldn’t really see too many people quickly giving them interviews over the Today Show. Then discussions regarding crime, drugs, or rampant feminism would follow.

Ironically, Donald Trump has invited the Covington boy to the White House after saying they were victims of fake news. Donald Trump famously tried to get the Central Park Five, a group of black teens, executed despite being innocent of a crime. There are many differences between the Covington boys and the Central Park Five, but we all know which one matters the most.

And unfortunately, it’s not only Trump that has this bias. It’s so many people in the media as well.

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