business of art

My Silver Dollar Campaign Updated

Newtie

“I’d Rather Rendezvous With This Sexy Italian Newt Than Wait Around Here For Tasteless Billionaires To Win Again” 2016. acrylic on discarded press cleaning sheet, 7 x 17″ (In private collection of a friend)

Repeatedly, I suffer bouts of intense self-doubt that usually presages a light epiphany of sorts. I get a new idea or a reaffirmation of a past philosophy, and all is set back right with the world. Always temporary though. Another self-doubt monster will invade my pshyche in due time. It never fails to torment again and again.

Last night was bad. I won’t go into it, because the good idea that transpired has charged me back onto a positive path.

For some unknown reason, the life of my great grandfather sprang into my mind this morning. Henry Throop lived in the central New York area all his life. He was born in 1880, raised in Lebanon, N.Y., attended Colgate when it was still a prep school, went to Cornell to study civil engineering, married, and settled in Syracuse, where he worked as a railroad engineer, and then on his own as independent engineer/contractor until his death in 1956.

I use his life often in writing and conversation to juxtapose today’s culture to the one of a hundred years ago. Was it a better time? Who knows? I can say with certainty that Henry was a very mature twenty-something year old. He kept a journal—observations and day to day life for the most part, and also an expense account book, showing where every penny went. This morning’s idea was to use this account book to revolutionize the way I intend to sell my work.

My Silver Dollar Campaign

I have had it with business and art. It doesn’t work. The moment the painting gets offered, haggled, denied, etc, on the market exchange, the entire culture of the thing created gets violated. I lose all semblance of its original innocence as soon as the money door opens. Only once have I made a painting thinking about money, or a sale. Here it is:

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“My Heart’s Desire Is That One of You Is Drunk Enough To Buy This Painting” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16″

I was invited to a rock concert with some friends where there would be a section of the parking lot cordoned off for vendors. I painted this the night before, and had it sold before we finished putting up the tent.

It is stated in my great grandfather’s account book that on September 14, 1907, he purchased the following for one dollar:

2 loaves of bread
1 dozen cookies
toothpicks
paper
salt
chestnuts
peanuts
pound of butter

and a haircut…

A dollar in 1907 had the spending power of about $25 today, without the haircut (some small luxury to prove how contemporary inflation experts always seem to get it wrong). So, about $40 today would buy these goods Henry bought in 1907. A dollar was a dollar and it purchased what forty more dollars could buy today.

I love the silver dollar because it has an ever changing value on the money market. For several years I have watched its value move between about $15 to $35. And it’s just a dollar! It also feels good in the hand, and I bet many of them in a small pouch attached to my belt (a lá Rimbaud), would feel even better.

Henry’s items I listed above are worth any one of my paintings. No one is buying the luxury items I have made available. So I have sweetened the pot in order to avoid the money exchange problem for the rest of my life.

I will amass silver coins!

From this day forward, any one of my paintings not hanging in a gallery can be bought for a silver dollar. Not what a silver dollar will buy, but exactly one, shiny silver dollar. I don’t want to barter anymore. I want to jingle coins in a pouch. I have set the value, and it is universal. Any size. Any painting not in a gallery. Of course, the buyer must pay for frame and also shipping on top of the silver dollar. I have some very big paintings. If they were purchased, I would have to charge a handling fee. (Quite a bit of work goes into hiring a tractor trailer to pick up at a residence). Frames, shipping and handling could be exchanged in paper currency, however, the painting itself—always just one silver dollar.

Now imagine the creative time we could have. No more of that embarrassing “real” money exchanging hands. You can stop at the local pawn shop on your way to my studio and deal with the proprietor. He or she will certainly have silver dollars to sell you in trade for the paper money. Get it. Heck, get two, and stop by to pick out any painting(s) you want. If framed, I will price it fair, and you can give me the paper money that I will spend on groceries, or a dress for Rose at the second hand shop. I will mark your name, painting, and date of purchase in a little cardboard envelope, and if I make it to seventy-five, cash in on retirement fried eggplant sandwiches once in a while, thinking of you and our shared human experience.

(Please note: I can only accept silver dollars, and not paper money of what a silver dollar is currently worth on the pretend money market. I made the effort of the painting. Now you can go the extra mile to pick up the actual silver dollar).

Please think about this, and spread the idea far and wide. There must be some painting that you like for such a fair price. Think of birthdays, upcoming holidays. I am just so exhausted from these encounters with the self doubt monster. It’s time to kill the money.

Several of my recent paintings can be found here. I look forward to jingling coins in a pouch.

Ron

The Everson Vs. The Memorial Art Gallery

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“The Everson vs. The Memorial Art Gallery” 2013. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 15 x 7″

From Last Communion:

Two feelings today. First individual. Second communal. In the second I fix museums. In the first I fight despair.

I am weary of thinking. S.A.D. covers me like a fog at this time of year. S.A.D. with financial worry is a toxic cloud sizzling acid into my frontal lobe.
Depression? I don’t think so. It is what any man, of any culture, of any time feels when he possesses creative energy and spunk but has no waiting outlet for his expression.
“Keep it to yourself for six months mister, then in spring we’ll be committed to the same routine, and not have time for you then, either.”
Lows like this always bring me back to Henry Miller. He is the artist whose legacy champions the driven failure. He is the dreamer’s Jesus, and Tropic of Cancer the New Testament. Forty-four year old man coughing up green gobs in a Paris artist ghetto delivers pure hope to the future neurotics inhabiting modern earth. Nihilism with warm bread and salted butter. Joy as a routine of failure. Happiness with no expectations. Scratch that… At least one expectation… Dinner!
Most houses of present day claiming to represent the artist are supermarket chains stocking their shelves with glossy Keebler® products. They have lost sight of the man and woman as artist. “Give us the output that PBS wants to see. We don’t care about your thoughts. As long as you supply us our boxed Toll House® cookie crackers—stale or fresh, it doesn’t matter. And you better dress well. And be approachable. And portfolio a resume that looks corporate like accounting…”
Oh Jesus, Henry, they’re taking away art’s right to failure, to jugs of wine, to 3 a.m. coffee, wild plans for the future, close friendships, and sleep as a favorite pastime for lovers. They are accomplishing the death of art in the cruelest manner to the artist. With silence! With form letters. With business. With pedaling works door-to-door, alone, in a car. Individuality and avarice. Now artists tap in like cable TV to a corporate model for communication. Twitter. Facebook. They’ve gone public. Promoters, promotees, a sculptor I just met telling me in a sports bar how his friend needs to show more in order to build his resume—
These are weapons wielded by the enemies of art. Soldiers paid by anti-creative institutions. Bootlickers of art history PhD’s. The temporary gatekeepers. Thank you Jesus Miller. Again.
Now to keep to my subject promise of finding creative ways to slaughter the corporate model that has usurped art in America.
Christie’s is a pig sty, and the people who work there are rats who feed on pig drippings.
The Everson Museum is a Syracuse treasure, as is the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester. But they have lost their way. They are mirroring their favorite soda brand (“pop” in Rochester—so you can tell which city I advocate for). They are seeking identity in a sea of exactly the same thing museums. Each a division of Keebler® trying to outdo its sister product with the “individuality” of whatever a cool million can purchase this year for the collection. Brand identity. The new thing. Like the new normalcy of networking. Concepts verbatim from page 2 in the corporate charter.
We smell a rat.
There must be three hundred or more museums of equal size across America. And they all cry poverty in the sense that attendance is down, upkeep is up, and it just feels like so few are interested in the arts these days. The Cincinnati Art Museum spends 1.8 million on an 18 x 24″ Georgia O’Keeffe and Johnny’s mother is opening up a can of SpaghettiOs® for breakfast so his stomach won’t rumble at school today. Johnny likes the Cincinnati Bengals but the Bengals corporation wants to whore their “anything they can” on Johnny. So Johnny gets a Bengal helmet for Christmas this year. The Bengal business model was a success. The linebacker got three million. The art museum an O’Keeffe. Avarice can easily find its connections in Hell. Just plug into the bottom line.
So my idea is this: Bring local art to the status it has deserved since Barbara the Neanderthal iron oxided the cave wall with a horse. Today it’s like museums around the world would be jonesing for a slab of that rock.
“France has a lot of ‘gaul’ to keep cave art in its own caves, especially when we’re willing to offer thirty million a cubic yard.”
All the artists in the Syracuse area, represented by the Everson Museum, can enter a yearly juried competition, like in January, when creatives are locally the most desperate. Same for the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. Each museum chooses ten of its favorites for the juror, who is from out of state and has no bias toward either city. She is invited to stay at a middle ground no-man’s land along the I-90 corridor. Clyde, for instance. The host museum will alternate each time the two meet to fight. The juror judges the work, both staffs sort it out, and the top three out of five of the total twenty declares the winner museum. There is a show in summer at the home of the victor. And it receives more hype than a dead O’Keeffe, born and raised in Wisconsin, ever deserved.
Local artists become the art stars of their own communities. Now the Everson can challenge Munson-Williams in Utica next year. The Memorial Art Gallery can take on Albright Knox in Buffalo. In a five year period, several cities can duke it out and declare a champion institution for that region.
So when the Jones family from California visits the Everson they will be shone a room displaying Syracuse’s artist cream of the crop. I know the work will be just as inspired as any from van Gogh, Picasso, or that internationally adored, anal retentive metal sculptor, who, by virtue of some corporate art Gnostics, sits atop the sculpture throne in America, even though he was born in Natchez and hates the snow.

An addendum

“On My Own Time” is an exhibit the Everson hosts every October. It is a show where participating businesses send the top two or three judged pieces from their employees, who all have a hobby called “art”. Just to give you an idea of how screwy things are in our culture these days, I cannot even well express the insult dagger that drives into the very heart of humanity, which is all things art. But it does, and it goes deep. My friend, a marble sculptor who has shown at this venue the past two years, does university teaching on his own time. He spends hours searching for stone, dreaming the stone, cutting, carving, and sanding the stone. And he has something to say that he can never say while hobbying at his day job, which always pays him on time for work that is one part inspiration, three parts stultifying. And he is lucky to practice the art of teaching. To receive his certificate for “doing art” even though he doesn’t have to do art, can be a rewarding result of herculean effort. Along a similar vein, the poor janitor, who works at the same institution on his own time, scrubs dried vomit off of toilet seats in dormitories. His non-art is all stultifying. He is a photographer snapping photos in the bright light of day, from mountaintops in the Adirondacks. This makes him forget briefly that his culture and society expect him to pull hair out of clogged drains in order to take pictures on his own time, and never the other way around.
The show costs ten dollars for guests. It’s catered. And my friend for his piece, which took him over a hundred and fifty hours of time to perfect, leaves with a show book and a desk top printed certificate.
Every time the Everson acquires another fifty thousand dollar piece of someone else’s culture, they figuratively ram a can of SpaghettiOs down little Johnny’s throat, and likewise remind the community that art is for the dead, just keep at it on your own time. The Everson needs our ignorance to fill its coffers. Like Walmart. Like Pepsi. Like McDonald’s and the Cincinnati Bengals.
My friend the sculptor is an artist and a teacher. Everything he does is on his own time. The problem is that the thieves of our culture want to snatch pieces of what is ours for themselves.
The Everson and Memorial Art Gallery should exist because they are our community treasures. But they need to wake up and throw open their doors to a new vitality. Keep the stuffy tomb rooms of worldly historical art. They have their story. In my opinion they should be restocked with the art of dead central New Yorkers. I would want to know what a painter living on Midler or South Geddes was up against back in 1923. Looks pretty good. Yeah, yeah, Picasso was in Paris painting a gargoyle. And Woodrow Wilson harbored no regrets after sending thousands of human beings to unecessary slaughter. Jesus my dear Henry Miller, are they ever going to cut out this worship of dead kings?

Answer To Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question: “Is Art Urgent?”

Justicegene

Without the Presence of a Justice Gene, Public Radio Will Have a Strong Corporate Bias 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″ Painting has little to do with following subject matter beyond dancing chromosomes.

From Last Communion

This also appears in my website that I have never advertised. Take a look. Lots of pictures. Many paintings available for silver dollar, or two.

Answer to Agora Gallery’s Twitter Question “Is Art Urgent?”

When viewing the work of an artist I seek the biography of the man/woman expressed in hard copies. I mark the energy of the joy or angst living in each piece. If there isn’t any, there isn’t art. Easy marker. With that said, allow me to cite a piece of yesterday that I hope will help answer this important question.
Early in the day I shared with my wife a break time video (via e-mail) of Tom Jones and Janis Joplin back in 1969 singing and dancing “Raise your hand”. I wrote to her that this is what gurgles through my veins most days.

Skip corporate commercial. Tom and Janis.

Did you see it? Got up and danced, yes? Made you almost feel ashamed to live in a land that has warped the meaning of joy and dance (which is often art) into Beyoncé, a phony by-product of Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola, or AT&T smartphone toothpaste glued to your face.
Not ever, even in a very weak moment, say solitary confinement in a boy’s prison or island castaway, would I be interested in the choreographed faux-dance of Beyoncé. It is without real desire. I think it hasn’t loved since it was a little girl. It says “Me” like a blazing sun, but not a star. More like a thermonuclear detonation. All in all, I think Beyoncé hates art, and has sent her husband into gallery show rooms to rap about it.
Her dance is not an “outward expression of an inward harmony of the soul.” It is, to me, a kind of death of individuality and its right to expression. Poor Beyoncé. She is just a tool, as were Tom and Janis in their day to a degree. The difference lies in their humanity. That unlikely 60’s couple each got to dance like any nerd in the lunch line and feel good about it. Real good. Today the corporations steer us to do the impossible and copy the world’s champions, which sets up stone walls to our dance as expressive creatures. Then this negativity gets revealed in our every day lives: Paint a picture? Not if you can’t out dance both van Gogh in color and Wyeth in boredom. Chisel marble? Are your balls square? There has been only one Italian superstar worthy of that! The world’s champions, (a Kurt Vonnegut idea), existed in 1969 too. Yet from watching the “Raise Your Hand” video (I was 2 years old at the time thinking about becoming a painter), it is so obvious to me that the door was open for humanity (at least for those existing in a healthy economy) to virtually explode with creativity per capita.
Art’s urgent task is to reopen that door. It must go back a generation to Tom and Janis, further back to the Mohawk and Santee Sioux; I say shine light on the first clan even, to notice how Glub the Firestarter turned a rock into a Mastodon with his smoldering magic stick. Hurrah! Let’s party!
And Glub’s brothers and sisters gesticulate the wild human dance while drinking spit beer late into the night.
Beyoncé, Jeff Koons and Rita the corporate-sponsored conceptual artist who uses her feet to throw rocks at spider monkeys, are barbarian invaders in our once deeply expressive village. ABC and PBS are working overtime this week getting us to authenticate their celebrity. This will sell more Crest, more Toyota Corollas, and less and less of the truth that each and every one of us is deeply expressive if we dare to dig that deep. The entertainers can be amazing and excite us to our own expressive joys, which is art manifest. I got up and raised my hand with Tom Jones, but I didn’t want to be like him. I writhed and wrinkled and spilled my spit fermented beer on the hide carpet. I woke up and rock painted a saber-toothed tiger stalking a Super Bowl celebrity into the forest.
Art must coax art out of the box that money and power have stuffed it into. Museum is art history. Instrumental in preserving art’s stories. However, no joy comes from paced, clockwise observation at a respectable five foot distance, whether that be an afternoon at the Louvre or your local, struggling art association. And celebrity is anything but celebratory. Lady Gaga is Cindy Sherman. Mick Jagger is Jasper Johns. Millionaire super jocks with dead style choreographed. I think their art is as much fun to be around as burning plastic. It is urgent that we support the expression of our neighbors Donna, who paints us the real news, (what the fourth estate has abandoned for advertising deals), and Fred, the marble sculptor sweating out angst in the oppressive July heat. His suburban neighbors doze the live long day long in the cool of the swimming pool.
Hey, crank up the music.

Yawn.

Just another Beyoncé tune.

 

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Three Presidential Primary Paintings

“The NY Times Must Think Sanders Is Talking In My Daughter’s Aquarium” 2016. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 17 x 7″

Predator

“Super-Predator” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″

“The Last Time Donald Was at a Funky Reggae Party He Dreamed of Destroying Everybody’s Happiness As An Old Man Confronting Mortality” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14″

Young Professionals Purchase Paintings. Significantly Improve Painter’s Faith In Humanity

SophiaTyler

Yesterday, a nice couple from the big city came to peruse the archive. They left with three paintings and a piece of my pride. The negative kind of pride, that over time, turns the eager, inquisitive mind into the sour, cynical one. I hope they threw it out the car window on the way back home. I hope a Mack truck hit it head on and killed it.

When we were discussing purchase price, I felt my eyeballs bleeding. I have the most difficult time making trades with money. On the market of widget exchange, they did get a good deal. Likewise, on the figurative market of right living, I secured enough faith in the future to afford rent for the next several months.

Art is for peasants to make. Like good beets or healthy garlic, it should be affordable and accessible to anyone holding enough imagination to want to get up and continue for another day. Thank you aristocrats of the spirit, Tyler and Sophia, for taking a better part of Sunday to purchase a painter’s peck of potatoes.

Noodling

“Noodling Is Just Another Form of the Pathology of Love” 2015. Acrylic on canvas board, 36 x 24″

 

The Ignorance of Bliss

“Looking Out the Back Window When You Were in College” 2013. Acrylic on panel board, 48 x 32″

 

centralparky

“Strolling Through Central Park Arm In Arm After a Fine Meal At Restaurant Daniel” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24″

The Business of Art in Sub-Suburban Obscurity Is Next to McDonald’s on Highway 61

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My front yard where the perambulators have died.

It is an oxymoron fit for a moron lemonade stand, yet I keep at it, like a duck addicted to quack. Why not? The work trucks pass by with Taylor Swift sound ripples on the wind, as the squirrels re-discover their nuts in the artist garden. There is always hope, and therein lies happiness. Cha-ching! Gagosian the elder discovered me while I was taking out the trash. He asked if I could pencil in a few weeks this fall for a Paris show. I told him flat out “no”, that he’ll have to wait in line behind the family out bike riding their safety helmets and the multiple heart attack man counting his strokes on a fast walk to another dinner of cheese and white bread.

Painters stop, go. No one is buying. No one at all. Can you hear the poleese? They’re beating the crap out of enthusiasm on Highway 61.

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Rose Spray Paints an Old Window Seat

Rose Paints an Old Window Seat

2015. Acrylic on Masonite® (3 panels), 33 x 14″

Well, it’s official. I need drawing lessons. I sat by the tobacco and sketched while my wife attacked a furniture reject she found at a dumpster. She knows how to draw and also put harmony back on track. Not me. I practice my limitations daily and dream way too much. Still, after each failure, I always make sure to color it in! Fools can have virtue too, you know… After they finish. I can’t draw, but with decent preservation, I bet our great grandkids will hang this on their wall one day, and tell visitors their own story of us. Way long after the fake Internet archive is dead.

A good Saturday morning to pull garlic and weed around the edible weeds. And I promise to keep the pencil at bay.