Thoughts in the Final Stretch

#class is already making me do, and think about, a lot of things I usually try to avoid. I do not normally seek out conflict but I have already had heated discussions about it and I anticipate more, particularly with artists who do not enjoy obsessing about the “art world,” a term that is more a litmus test than anything else. For a long time the business of art (and I do not just mean commerce) has been one of the subjects of my work. Anyone who rents a studio, who spends time there instead of working somewhere a paycheck is certain, who buys art materials (whether at the art supply store or the thrift store or Home Depot), who stares at a blank canvas (or wall, or floor) for hours, who hopes to exhibit her work where someone will see it, is engaged in the business of art. Why do we keep going, when the sacrifices are so obvious and the rewards so uncertain?

When I attempt to make sense of this endeavor in which we are all engaged, the shorthand phrase is “the art world,” which does not to me mean Miami/Basel penthouse parties where collectors lick large chocolate sculptures (thank you for the mental image Bill Powhida), I mean informal crit groups gathered in a friend’s studio, reading all the way to the end of the comments on art blogs, having conversations with people you only see at Williamsburg gallery openings but you always love to see, bubble-wrapping unsold sculptures in my 4-foot-high crawlspace because they’re too heavy to carry out and carry back in (as my dear friends Jennifer and Kevin McCoy like to call chores like that, “living the dream”), and finding excuses such as this show to gather people together.

I belatedly read the Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker about the idea that it was actually Gauguin who cut off Van Gogh’s ear with his sword. Apparently, what Van Gogh longed for most throughout his short artistic life was to live and work communally with other artists. However, it ended badly for him and, Gopnik argues rather romantically, it has and will for every artist before and since: “You always begin with a dream of community – Braque and Picasso in the bohemian hermitage Bateau Lavoir; the handful of painters brave enough to go abstract in the Cedar Tavern – and end with a reality of competitiveness and assault, suspicion and estrangement.”

#class would like to prove you wrong, Mr. Gopnik. Here’s to that!

, ,