Sunday, February 15, 2015

Do it

   I was thinking recently about a pattern that sometimes emerges  of people resenting me when I'm rewarded for my talents....

   I'm not unique in this regard, it happens to everyone....and for a short while it made me fear was like anytime something good happened to me a friend would voice their resentments.

   When I first made the push to get my artwork seen and I was befriending curators and even started dating one. This curator who I was seeing decided to have an after party at a neighborhood gay bar that I frequented and they happened to be showing some small paintings of mine at the time. Someone came up to me at the party and said to me "It must be so great to be dating this curator and having shows like this...." I was speechless....It's pretty easy to have a show of your artworks in a bar you really only have to be mildly talented and just to think that this person assumed that the only way I could have a show in a bar was by dating a famous curator sowed a little seed of doubt in me.

   Then there was the time I was awarded a residency at Cite des Arts in Paris, it was a gift that fell into my lap. The French government was giving me a place to live and work in Paris for my choice of 3 or 6 months. All of my friends were thrilled for me, congratulatory and I was boyfriend though felt I chose the shorter option to appease didn't work and he never got over his resentments. I learned a lot from this experience and other ones like it which caused me to be a little fearful when on the verge of success or when ever anything good happened to me.....

   I've learned to just own it, accept and be glad for my talents....these are Luxury Problems  and part of growing up and being who I am....thank god for lessons like this...

   My talents aren't really "Mine" to own....they're just kind of on loan from my creator and I'm the vessel.....I'd really be doing my creator a disservice to not use them to my fullest potential......thank you

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Days of Yore....

   I'm reminded of a time a few years ago when I had a f**k buddy in the neighborhood, he came over around valentine's day and brought me a chocolate heart. So we ate some candy and then he wanted me to piss on could have been romantic, but it wasn't.

   Then there was the year when a friend invited me to his post opening dinner on Feb 14. This was his first solo show with a great gallery he had just joined and that gallery had a custom of renting out a restaurant and feting the artist with a nice dinner filled with collectors and friends, I was really happy for my friend and glad he invited me. My boyfriend at the time was none too happy with me but a few years later he broke up with me in Paris, on Valentine's day.

   In high school, my algebra/pe teacher, Arnie Femrite, had a Valentine's Day tradition involving a bag of those little heart candies that had slogans on them. He would stand up in front of the class and say things like "Erik says to Amanda.....(and then he'd pull out a candy and read from it....) Be Mine" etc etc......

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ports in a Storm....Snowpocalypes 2015

I woke up this morning and took a walk through the neighborhood to see what effects last night's snowfall had on the city, it made the city more beautiful......

Last night the predictions were dire, comparisons made to superstorm Sandy, I watched "Inside Llewyn Davis" and went to bed. When I got up this morning I thought about what I had done during Sandy, a couple of years ago, I went out for a walk around 8 PM shortly after it had passed. I passed by a local gay bar "Urge" where there was a handwritten sign taped to the door saying "WE ARE OPEN!! 2 for 1! So I went in, ordered a drink and fuzztttt!! ....the lights went out, the bartender shouted to the barback "Lock The Door"! and everyone lit up a cigarette.....

   I considered bumming a cigarette, I remembered how much I used to like sitting at a bar smoking a cigarette, feeling my senses numb as I smoked and sipped my cocktail, I used to like that a lot. It had been 7 months since I quit smoking and this would have been a great excuse to light up, but then I would have had that monkey on my back again. I remembered how I hated having to hide from my Friends, family and boyfriend that I was still smoking a couple of years after I had professed to have quit in 2008, it wasn't really until February of 2011 that I had my last cigarette.....I went months without smoking in 2008, 2009 and 2010 but there was always some reason to pick up again.

   I was traveling a lot in 2008, 9 and 10, I went to  Brazil, Hungary and China to visit friends and lovers, where cigarettes were cheap and everyone was smoking, I couldn't resist rubbing the balm of Nicotine on my feelings as these close relationships were changing in ways that I didn't understand and making me uncomfortable.

   I heard a lot about addiction and there's a statement often made that cigarettes  are more addictive than heroin, it's often explained that the reason is that if you're a cigarette smoker you can be lighting up 20 or more times a day like me .....while even the most committed heroin user can only shoot up maybe 5 times a day. So the cigarette smoker is constantly nurturing that addiction.....

   Thank god I didn't bum a cigarette that night, I did enjoy the camaraderie of the bar though. I remembered how during another emergency here in NYC, the blackout of 2003 I also went out for a walk and ended up in a gay bar, "The Bar" on 2nd ave and 2nd street, it was a lot of fun, lit by candlelight and one of the bartenders who lived upstairs had brought down his wind up victrola and was playing 78 rpm records on it....good times!

Funny how I felt the  need to go somewhere safe and known during those emergencies. This time however, I wasn't that concerned....I figured I'd get through this just like I had gotten through all the others. I didn't feel the need to be around people where I could let down my guard as I'm not really feeling so guarded these days.

It's a nice feeling and I thank god for that....

Who I Am and What I Do....

One of the many paradox's as an artist is that you've got a full time job, your art career.....but you need a steady income to pay your bills. Ive had a number of different jobs from bartending, to painting the faces on mannequins and a lot of positions in between. 

In the past, when going on a job interview I've tried to guess....."who do they want and what person should I be for them?" I am always my authentic self in my studio, just doing work for me there but I always used to think I needed to play a role outside of the studio, that my authentic self was not enough. In the last couple of years Iv'e gone on a lot of job interviews and had some amazing jobs, some of which worked out and led to other jobs and others which didn't go too far, which ended just when they were supposed to.

I used to think that there had to be some kind of line between what I do for my career and what I do for money....more and more I see that line blurring, coming close to disappearing. Ive been trying to find jobs sharing my experience as an artist

   I would love the opportunity to share my experience with students.  I had a fantastic experience at columbia in  the 80s, reading Dante’s Divine Comedy with Prof. Joseph Mazzeo was a mind blowing experience. My education there opened me up to the idea that Art could be so much more than paintings on a wall..I had a fantastic public school education in Minnesota  My high school art teacher Brad Nuorala was an exhibiting artist and all of my teachers from kindergarten on up encouraged  me to be an Artist,  consequently I let the other subjects slide without reading a single book in high school, just concentrating on art. While in high school I exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of arts, apprenticed with an exhibiting sculptor and took college level art history courses in a joint program with the university of Minnesota.

 When I graduated from Marshall - University high school in 1977 I was Ill-prepared for college, I tried a year at the University of Minnesota, getting straight A’s in all my studio arts classes and failing all other subjects, I was not invited back for a second year so I worked hard, saved money and traveled for a year through europe and the middle east, and I did a lot of reading. I came back to NYC in may of 1983 and got a job as a carpenter on the workshop production of “Sunday In The Park with George” and applied for Columbia’s school of general studies where the worlds of literature, science and languages opened up to me. I made dean’s list my first semester there in the fall of 1983.

   I chose Columbia for the core curriculum, even though it was always my goal to be an artist I thought it was a great chance to make up in the areas of my life that I've neglected to develop in high school…..reading literature science math  …..all the professors I encountered at Columbia helped me get over some of the blocks I had constructed, keeping me from becoming a more well-rounded human being.…. I treasure my experiences …..I'm sorry that I ran out of money and I was not able to finish my degree there….still, my life is a dream come true …when I was a little kid I told my parents I was going to move to NYC and be an artist and now I’ve had seven solo shows here in NYC and been in group shows at various institutions around the world including PS1/MoMA ….it's what I’ve always wanted to do……and it took a long circuitous route to get here with many years spent on the outside looking in. It’s great to be part of the Nyc art world, and I would love to share my experience with students .
   I’ve spent the last couple of years teaching in a variety of positions. In 2011 I was hired at The New Museum to help visitors navigate the Carsten Holler “Experience” exhibition where I stayed on through 2012. Then In 2013 I was hired by Fete Paradiso to teach about the origin’s of the antique french carousels on display on Governor’s Island and Ron Athey asked me to participate in his "Gift’s of The Spirit” Performance at Participant Inc.

   From Fete Paradiso I was recruited by The Museum of The City of New York where I now give a talk to visitors 3 times a week about creativity in NYC and what it’s like to be an artist in the NYC art world. I enjoy talking about this and sharing my experience with visitors as I remember how it felt to be on the outside looking in and wondering how I could ever be a part of it. At the end of 2014 I was hired by Artwork NY to give walking tours of SoHo and The Bowery talking about the art that grew up in these areas and how. Participants find me knowledgable,open and engaging. I’m excited to share what I know and I’m turned on by curiosity, and the challenge of finding a way in for those curious about the art world.

   Ive been doing all of this teaching while maintaining my studio practice which I recently moved to Bushwick where I’m working on some Needlepoint versions of some Abstract photographs of music for a show curated by Marco Breuer at Yossi Milo gallery this June.

  I’ve taught about all these other subjects that are close to me but I think I could do the best job teaching about the subject that’s closest to me, art making, being an artist, helping other people achieve their dreams like so many other’s at Columbia helped me to do back in the 1980’s.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dream come True

I'm an artist, I make visual work and show it regularly in museums and galleries in NYC and all around the world. It's a real job and I love it.

I work in many different styles and mediums, I've had 7 solo shows in NYC and they often look like group shows. The one consistent thing in my work is that it's often a record of an ethereal experience, there's usually a story behind everything I make. Wether it's my high school girlfriend's love of Judy Garland or the first time I heard The Pixies, there's a lot of myself in my work and my life, I try to be as authentic as possible and I like the fact that I'm unique.

I don't really live in an Ivory tower though, I grew up in Minnesota solidly middle class and luckily I was exposed to art, music and dance all throughout my childhood, so I believe art is really for everyone.

I used to keep my art and my "day job" separate, then, a few years ago I was asked to come help out at the New Museum on Bowery, the were overwhelmed with visitors for the Carsten Holler "Experience" Exhibition. The museum basically just needed bodies to control the crowds. I learned that I liked interacting with the public in this kind of environment.

From there I went to "Fete Paradiso" a carnival of Antique French Carousels on Governor's Island. I did all the things that one does at a carnival from cleaning up baby vomit to helping an 8 year old find the carousel horse of their dreams. I also read and learned some of the history of the carousels and willingly shared that with  the visitors who asked, I was pretty good at that and people liked me.

Then, I was asked to come speak at the Museum of The City of NY about what motivates creative people to move to NYC....for me  it was a postcard of beatniks in Washington sq. park that my 3rd grade teacher gave me back in Minnesota, that prompted me to tell my parents "When I grow up I'm going to move to NYC and be an artist".

My life is a dream come true, and I'm loving it...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Takin' me back....

   I remember when I was a little kid, I craved excitement. I loved the carnival, the circus and pin-the -tail-on-the-donkey....I loved chaotic environments because that's where I felt most at home, when things were still and quiet at home I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the drama to begin. I never wanted to make the drama begin myself,  I didn't really know how ...... and my older brother and sister and mom and dad were all so much better at it then I could ever be. But there was always some drama playing out between my parents and siblings, I survived by learning how to be entertaining or invisible.

   So when I first came to NYC I loved the pace and the constant surprises, I learned how to recognize the different sounds of the uptown and downtown trains at my subway station and I rushed and ran when I heard my train coming. Now, when I hear that sound I tell myself it's not an emergency. As I'm preparing for the final exit from my art studio of 8 years, the place where I make my artwork, not the apartment where I live. I spent a couple of weeks waking up in the middle of the night with an overwhelming sense of dread......."I'm not prepared",  "It's too much work" "I won't be able to find an affordable studio" , "I can't aford a mover"........thoughts like this overwhelmed me, but I addressed the move one step at a time, I'm halfway done and Ive learned so much in this process....mostly that I don't have to be in a hyper-excited state of emergency to get it done. It's just part of the job, a regular part of an artist's life. Other people have gotten through it and I will too.

   It took a long while to learn this, to not catastrophize every major event in my life and even though I knew I shouldnt, I couldnt get out of that was like an addiction.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kansas City 1999

It's been a fantastic experience preparing for the move to my new studio, I've had six weeks before the final move. I've already brought some things into a friend's storage space thank you, my friend!…. and in preparation for the final day of the move I've had a lot of time to go through everything in my studio and find good homes for the things I no longer need and examine everything I've amassed. 

   The gems from my record collection I've been posting along with snapshots from early on in my career. As  most art world people know, Bill Arning and I were boyfriends for 8 years, from 1994 to 2002 and Bill loved to take snapshots. Even before Instagram and Facebook he was always taking snapshots and giving me copies of the ones that I was in, Ive lost some things to basement floods and other clamities  but I was really thrilled to come across the group I'm posting here.These pictures are from New York:Neither/Nor at Grand Arts in Kansas of the few times Bill curated me into a show. I don't see that with any regrets or remorse as it was very strange kind of a double edge sword to be dating a well-known curator as I was just beginning of my career. I met all kinds of fantastic people through him, which benefitted me enourmously and that was very helpful in getting my talents out into the world,  but some people were suspicious of any success that I might've received thinking it was a result of my famous boyfriend. 

   I remember very early on,  Bill decided to have an after party for a show he curated at a Gay Bar in the East VillageVillage called “The Bar" . I happened to have a self organized exhibition of my own paintings up at the bar and at Bill's party someone came up to me and said “Wow this must be so great to be getting shows like this because you're dating this famous curator” ....... I think this guy was serious, maybe he didn't know that it was really easy to get a local bar that you patronize to put up your paintings, anyway, it was clear that some people had some kind of suspicion about any success I would achieve. although Bill and I did not talk about this a lot it was clear that he was not going to be curate me into every show he was doing and I was fine with that. I wanted to be recognized for my own talents and really did not want people to be suspect of my career for any reason, I figured my talent can speak for itself. 

 In 1999 Bill organized an exhibition for Grand Arts in Kansas City called "New York: neither/ nor " and I'm really glad he curated me into this because the whole lot of us got to go out there and spend a week in Kansas City putting up this exhibition and having as much barbecue as we could possibly stand and having rooftop parties, smoking like crazy. In most of these pictures Bill and I have cigarettes in our hand and not sure where this happened but it one point we snuck Rachel Harrison into a men's room…. maybe it was at the "Dixie Belle" the fantastic Drag Bar in KC,  I'm not sure where but in any event it was really fun trip and a great exhibition, I’m really proud to be part of it .

 On my way to work at The Museum of The City this Sunday morning here in NYC and I think seriously about so many opportunities I've had and made the right discussions or maybe it seem like the right ones at the time, but certainly no regrets….there are things I want to achieve that I haven't achieved yet and I do my best not to beat myself up over that . I've been doing the best I can with the tools I had at the time and now I try and see every challenge is a new set of doors, a new set of experiences to learn from. It’s taken a long time for me to get over my fears of both success and failure and accept my God-given talents and feel I am  worthy of them and just plain own who I am....I like myself, I'm a pretty good guy....