Starving Artists and other misc.

tears artists

I recently attended the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver – we spent about five hours strolling around and it was hot sweaty fun, on constant sensory overload and hoping to find greatness every once in a while. The people-watching is as fascinating as the art. Since I cannot publish any of my photos of the art, and I took many, without violating copyright laws these two pics will have to suffice. The collective cultural mood of the weekend was friendly, the people typically free-spirited and a little on the crazy side. My kind of folks.

As you might imagine, there were 3-4 streets, both sides, jammed with art booths. It took a long time to see it all and yet I am convinced it was worth our time, because we are both serious artists ourselves and because it has traditionally been enlightening to attend and view the enormous variety and check out the current trends. Paintings, Pastels, Ceramics, Photography, Wood Working, Jewelry, Collage & Mixed Media, etc.etc. A new surprise around every corner.

You would think that Denver is screaming with fine art – we have the oldie but goodie Cherry Creek Art District, the newer South Santa Fe Drive Art District, the upcoming Rino Art District (river-north), the Highlands, the LODO (lower downtown) Art District and the various neighboring suburban art areas in old Littleton, Greenwood Village & Centennial, as well as Boulder just up the road about 45 minutes. There is the highly prestigious Denver Art Museum, the newly acquired and widely acclaimed Clyfford Still Museum and many other fine places to view art. Denver has become a foodie town; I wish we would become a fine art destination town.

People tell me that good abstract art is hot right now in Denver. I just don’t know exactly where. If I knew I would go there immediately. To me, it seems that really great abstract art shows up sporadically and mostly not at all. My instructor, Homare Ikeda, at the Art Student’s League of Denver is one of the best abstract artists around. We found some sophisticated abstract art, quite exciting, at the booth of Michael McKee from Fountain Hills, AZ. at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and he comes back almost every year. Western art is always popular, and usually it is very fine here in Denver. There was recently an important show of women artists’ work. And of course there is also a plentiful supply of junk.

Denver is hot right now; we are some of the most well-educated and fit people in the country. We are almost electrically charged with energy, jobs, people moving here in droves and a real estate market like it used to be in California. However, galleries close here as fast as they open. One week they are here and the next they are gone. As an artist it is very difficult to break into the gallery scene unless you want to be in the kind of shop that carries a lot of trivia as well. True fine art galleries that endure are rare. That is because a large number of inexperienced idiots with a bit of money believe that all you have to do is find a large space, paint the walls white, put up a sign, open the door and you will have collectors streaming in to make purchases. Heh. Omg. Really? Yes there are still people like that out there.

I know very few artists who live here who are not starving. We all have to have other incomes. The people who rent booth space at Cherry Creek Art Festival, or any of the other summer art fairs pay outrageous amounts of money to set up their booths all across the country – very few are local people – and it is a gypsy life for them, traveling around in the art fair circuit and working through all kinds of extreme heat, wind, hail and torrential rain. They have to be able to cover and protect their precious wares at the drop of a hat or a hailstone. It is not an easy life.

But being artistic is not, and never has been an easy life – you have heard me talk about it before in my blogs. It ebbs and sometimes it flows, but it is always unpredictable.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes about artists, only a little bit relevant to what I am talking about today, but always important to remember:

The greater the artist the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.  Robert Hughes

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The Fourth of July Weekend and Summer Art

  

first photo courtesy of winridge.srgliving.com – second photo courtesy of artsnfood.BlogSpot.com – third from visitfortmeyers.wordpress.com

Summer in the Denver area is plentiful with outdoor opportunities for art, wine and food appreciation.  Friday we spent all afternoon walking the route of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in the premiere gallery district of the Denver area. I had not attended in many years due to the fact that I was living in California, but now I am back where I belong and happy to have had the opportunity to be leisurely wandering around at the festival checking out the art and craft of fine artisans from all over the country. The competition at this event is always fierce and the art is nationally diverse – ceramics, photography, woodworking, mixed media, watercolor, oils, acrylics, textiles, pastels, jewelry, baskets, metalwork, glass and even more. It took about 3-4 hours to make our way around, not even stopping to inspect each and every booth, and with an hour or so lunch break. It was hot, of course, as you would expect on July 4th, but everyone was well prepared. Even I did not get all hot pink and crisp as I might have – I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and layers of SPF15.

My companion and I are both artists – experienced life-long artists, who have had deep experiences with many galleries and selling situations. We have empathy for what is required of an artist to pay for a booth, fill it with art that has been carefully packed and transported from far away places, SMILE, answer questions and talk to people all day long while roasting in the heat and also attempt to make sales so that you can do better than just breaking even. Many of the people we spoke to said that sales were slow, but of course it was only the first day. Some booth owners were sitting in chairs out behind their booths rather than standing up inside where they could meet & greet the visitors….not such a great idea, expecting customers to come and search for you behind your booth….

Several things struck us as we made the rounds. Generally speaking, the art was highly commercial – much more polished and expensive than you would find at the art fairs in the mountain communities such as Evergreen. The people who do these major festivals make a  profession of it because they have to in order to sell. They make more money in summer events and seasonal bazaars than if they tried to sell in galleries, and so the product has become rather slick and in some cases a bit trite. But that is what happens down through the years – the game keeps getting more competitive and the art has to become geared to the mass-market tastes of the people who attend the shows.

Another thing we noticed, in a big way, was the relative absence of any quality abstract art. There were feeble attempts at abstraction, but the few examples we found were soul-less and poorly done. How does this happen in such a prestigious venue and why? Of course the jury committee decides who makes the cut – and if the powers that be have no appreciation of abstract art, and/or that kind of art has no audience and just does not sell…..well than we have a sort of sad situation. If you don’t even show abstracted images how will you build an educated following? People have to see it to learn and understand it. I would rather see a bit more abstract art in the show and less furniture inlayed with thousands of bottle caps. I would rather see an abstracted landscape here and there in the show than 55 ways to paint a red barn. But that’s just me. Well hell YES it is just me! I have a right to expect a bit more intellectual stimulation from a summer art fair that has such a fine reputation and gathers such huge numbers of attendees.

Nevertheless we had a great time – the food trucks were like an art show all their own – and deciding what to eat was a 25 minute long walking and smelling crash course in gourmet food truck cuisine. So much to choose from and so many wonderful aromas – I settled on Greek. Of course the “people watching” is often better than the art – it IS THE BEST FORM OF ART, actually. I kept thinking I was seeing people I knew – from years ago when I lived here – in disguise – as older people than I remember them to be. Me included in that same type of disguise.

From there we went to a traditional dinner menu of  BBQ chicken, potato salad, etc. from my own kitchen followed by fireworks and ooo’s and aahhh’s. Then the familiar tingling feeling we get when we remember why we are celebrating and what we have to lose if we do not stay aware and alert. The older I get, disguise or not, I can barely hold back the tears that come when we celebrate the Fourth of July and I realize once again how amazed and blessed I am to have been born in a country where I am free. If I had but one wish, it would be that everyone everywhere, no matter what the circumstances and location of their births, could experience a life of free choices. It is precisely what makes a life worth living.