Water, Water Everywhere

The L'eau Down:
At SoHo 20: Darla Bjork, Water #2, 2008, encaustic and oil, 16 x 32 inches

Maybe it's because an aqueous sensibility has permeated my own artmaking recently, but I'm more attuned to painting in which water is reference or theme.
Paintings from Darla Bjork's Water Series had the main gallery at SoHo 20 Gallery. With a cool palette and a fluid gesture, Bjork creates an environment in which water seems to roil, wave, break and flow. Using encaustic, she takes full advantage of the medium's fluid qualities, allowing paint drips to develop the compositions and enhance the sensation of liquid. The show ran through September 26, but you can see more on Bjork's website.
At Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, Kylie Heidenheimer shows eight paintings that reference the elements. Two stand out as particularly topical. The show has been extended to October 17.

Port, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 38 x 38 inches

Installation showing Port and Raceway
Below: Raceway, 2008, acrylic on panel, 46 x 46 inches



Marketing Mondays: Open Studios

Back in late May, Nancy Natale suggested I do a post on the topic of Open Studios. I decided to wait until fall, when many of these artist-run events coincide with the new art season. For unrepresented artists, Open Studios are an opportunity to show work and build a collector base. Even for represented artists, they're an opportunity to participate in a community event.
Logo and map for the TOAST Art Walk (Tribeca Open Artists Studios) in lower Manhattan. Not a current notice; images from the Internet

I have done exactly one open studio in my life (hated it; too much set up, too many boring questions, too few sales to make the experience financially worthwhile), but I have occasionally attended them and enjoyed the experience. .
What I Like About Open Studios
Speaking as a visitor, then, I can say that the Open Studios I've found most enjoyable are the ones in which at least one wall is set up to show the work in a gallery-like setting, which means a white wall and good lighting. Mind you, I like seeing the studios--the tools and materials of each artist, how the setups differ from artist to artist, medium to medium, and whether the studio is a work space or a live/work space--but in terms of viewing the work, the experience is best for me when the work is easily viewable. This might mean, for instance, repainting your painting wall, since that's usually the best vertical surface in the studio.
I also appreciate when the artist acknowledges my entry. I don't necessarily want to engage in conversation with every artist in every studio (and from my one Open Studio experience, I know she doesn't necessarily want to chat with me), but when the artist is totally involved with her friends or reading a book and doesn't look up, it feels like a closed studio. I see a ton of art every month in galleries and museums. What makes an Open Studio unique for me is the peek into the inner sanctum and the opportunity to talk with the artist about her work if I am drawn to it. The artist who can speak clearly and succinctly about her work is the one who will make an impression. And it has happened that hearing an artist speak about her work, to me or to others, has sent me back for a second look even if I was not bowled over initially.
I personally know one New York artist who ended up with a solo show and gallery representation in Berlin as a result of the exposure, and a Boston artist who's now with a Boston gallery, which then resulted in a commission for a major New England museum, so sometimes the dots do connect. And I know or know of many artists who do well enough saleswise to keep doing Open Studios on a regular basis. (Many dealers won't tell you this, but they do pop into the occasional event to see who/what looks new.)
Business basics
. Provide information: a price list for the work on view, an artist's statement, a resume
. Give your visitors something to take away with them: a postcard, business card or (best of all) a sheet with a few images along with a statement and contact information. They may decide in a couple of weeks that they want to come back to re-view a work, and you want them to be able to contact you easily. In that same vein, have some printed images of specific works to give to someone who shows serious interest in the work during the event--4x6" photo paper is inexpensive yet provides a sufficiently large image for a collector to ponder
. Accept credit cards. Considering how many people pay with plastic, it's to your advantage to set yourself up to take them
. If you're taking cash, a sales slip is a sufficient receipt for the collector, but follow up with a PDF or a hard-copy receipt so that you have data for your mailing list
. Promote the event. Don't depend on the Open Studio promoters do it all. Put the information on your website, your blog. Send an e-mail to your list. Send a postcard. Include all the pertinent information: who, what, where, when (sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at what gets left off the announcements). Include a phone number and e-mail address, and directions or a map if you think it would be helpful
. Price the work reasonably. While you don't want to give the work away, one of the draws for collectors--and artists also collect--is that the prices are lower than at a commercial gallery because there is no commission to share
. If your work is large and your prices aren't low, consider special projects at a lower price: works on paper, a print edition
. Factor in the discount. You're going to be asked, so set your prices accordingly
. Have a raffle. Hey, why not? Open Studios are a fun event. Make it fun! Make the raffle part of your advertising strategy
Follow Up
. Consider a newsletter to stay in touch with your Open Studio visitors. Let them know when you have new work, let them know of a professional success. People who follow an artist like to know that artist's progress

. Definitely consider a wine and cheese event for collectors when you have new work to show
. Or invite your best collectors to a private studio visit when you have that new work. This is harder work for you-- it's the kind of thing a gallery does all the time: inviting collectors to the gallery to see new work--but as long as you are unrepresented, you want to represent yourself in the best possible, most professional way. When you do find representation, you want your collectors to follow you to the gallery
Over to You
. Who has had good results with the Open Studio, whether in terms of sales or attention from dealers or curators?
. Any advice, trade secrets, caveats?
. If you've got an Open Studio coming up, please post it in the Comments section


The L'eau Down: Paparazzi Pictures


Entering the gallery early in the evening. That's Nancy Manter's photograph in the window. Note the second-floor space in the gallery; the next shot is taken from there

Remember the scene in La Dolce Vita when Marcello Mastroianni, the jaded journalist, is cruising the Via Veneto for action and Paparazzo, the photographer, jumps into his convertible? Well, a multi-lingual noun was born.

I got to play paparazza at the opening of Slippery When Wet, shooting most of these pics at the beginning and the end of the three-hour evening, when the gallery was less crowded and I could take time out from conversation. Look out, Page 6! (Installation pics are here.)

Looking down from the second level, above, and from the spiral stairs, below

That's Metaphor's Julian Jackson standing in front of Andrew Mockler's banded canvas. Mockler is standing in front of Peter Schroth's paintings. Schroth, partially hidden, is standing between Jackson and Mockler

Sculptor Richard Bottwin standing in front of my paintings. I love the color coordination, though he assures me it was a coincidence

Below: Matthew Deleget, painter and Minus Space director, flanked by painter Karen Schifano and Richard Bottwin. Both artists are represented on the Minus Space site. (Related n
ews: Minus Space now has a bricks-and-mortar exhibition space in Brooklyn. Bottwin, who shows at Metaphor, is participating in the Dumbo Arts Festival this weekend. I just made a studio visit with Schifano and will be posting the story soon; stay tuned.)

The photogenic owner/directors of Metaphor: Rene Lynch and Julian Jackson. (Lynch has a show of her own opening at Jenkins Johnson next month; Jackson opens 2010 with a solo at Kathryn Markel.)

Jackson, center, is talking with painter Sonita Singwi, who has a studio in Brooklyn

Below: The handsome bearded gent in the very center of the photo is photographer Don Muchow

Painter Julie Gross talking with Laura and Steven Alexander, the painter

Below: Muchow, an artist named Charles, painter Kylie Heidenheimer chatting with Edward Shalala

(Related news: Heidenheimer has a show up at Gallery Thomas Jaekel ; I wrote about Shalala's work recently, here and here.)

Shooting the shooter

Kylie Heidenheimer, right, in conversation with painter Cecile Chong and her husband Ryan Behroozi

Below: painters Margaret Neill and Peter Schroth

Jackson, Alexander, Alexander, Gross
Below: Chong, Alexander, Alexander and me

Mary Judge and Julian Jackson with a soupcon of Julie Gross and Rene Lynch
Below: Art to represent the artists. Suzan Batu, left, was home in Turkey, and for some reason all the pictures I had of Susan Homer showed her obscured by someone else

The Man on the Bike, aka James Kalm and Loren Munk

Below: Night falls



The L'eau Down: Installation Shots from "Slippery When Wet"

I'll have paparazzi pics on Friday, but I wanted to show you installation shots of Slippery When Wet at Metaphor Contemporary Art, in which I have work. Obviously I can't review the show, but I can describe and discuss it--a diverse thematic show in which water asserts itself abstractly and representationally, in color and in black and white.

View from the front door: Foreground, Andrew Mockler, Untitled, 72 x 49 inches; three paintings from the Ocean series by Peter Schroth, each oil on paper mounted on canvas, 28 x 28 inches; two framed photographs from the Water Studies series by Don Muchow, archival inkjet prints; a grid of 18 of my Silk Road paintings, most 2009, all encaustic on panel, 12 x 12 inches

The images, courtesy of the gallery, begin at the front entrance and sweep around clockwise. Let me say that I love Andrew Mockler's paintings, beautiful canvases that compress a thousand sunrises and sunsets into coolly formal compositions of horizontal stripes. You can see a large one, above, which is just to your left as you enter the gallery. (The gallery itself, a beautiful white cube with an enormous glass-front overhead door, must have started life as a garage. It would be completely at home on 24th Street next door to Gagosian or Mary Boone.)

Continuing around: Schroth, Muchow, Mattera

Peter Schroth and Don Muchow-- painter and photographer, above--have much in common with their water studies. Each captures the movement of the ocean. Schroth, working in oil on paper en plein air, depicts its turbulence, while Muchow, working in black and white photography, finds the moment between ebb and flow--like the still point after an exhalation.

My grid of Silk Road paintings, each 12x12, encaustic on panel

When Julian Jackson and Rene Lynch, the owner/directors of Metaphor, invited me to participate with an installation of Silk Road paintings, I allowed the aqueous theme to flow into my consciousness. The result are the paintings you see above, which are more atmospheric, more referential to the ocean than I would normally have done. I loved having the opportunity to stretch in this way. There are ridges suggestive of waves, and graduated color suggestive of horizons. I haven't become a seascape painter, of course. I retain my minimalist sensibility. But let's call it "minimalist with benefits." (You can see some individual works here.)

Suzan Batu, Slurpee, oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches; Susan Homer, Rainy Day Painting, oil on canvas, 55 x 48 inches. Batu's work is all about the flow, while Homer's have a quiet lyricism inspired by the garden on a rainy day

Andrew Mockler's four gouache-on-paper studies are shown over the desk, above, and on their own, below

Climb the winding staircase in the back corner of the gallery and you reach a narrow second level. Normally it's a project space, but for this show it holds a continuation of the show. I have a larger work up here. Muchow and Mockler also have work. Nancy Manter has photographs as well. Manter's work is in the street-level window of the gallery, and that will be the first image you see in the paparazzi post on Friday, but for here, take a peek at this loge-like space. Below it is a closer view of one of Manter's works.

My Vicolo 53, 2008, carved encaustic on panel, 36 x 36 inches; two by Don Muchow; two by Nancy Manter; Andrew Mockler painting on far wall
Below, Nancy Manter, Windowpane #2, digital photograph



Reference Letter Requests: An Update

Marketing Mondays update: You know how I feel about reference letters. Now along comes my buddy Sharon Butler, of Two Coats of Paint, with a stunningly smart idea: a request for a reference letter that gives something back to the letter writer.

In her quest for a promotion to full professor at her university, she needs those dreaded letters. So why is her request different? Let me count the ways:
. She has posted the request via blog to involve those who know her in her cyber art life
. She's requesting that the letter writers include information about themselves as well (enough about you, let's talk about me) because . . .
. She's going to publish a book of those letters
. The letter writers become published authors, giving them . . .
. Another line item for the resume
I still hate writing reference letters, but I almost always respond to a good idea. My response to Sharon: Count me in. I'm going to work on it later this week.


Marketing Mondays: Are All Your Electronic Eggs in One Cyber Basket?

I've told this story before (most recently in short form in discussion on Ed Winkleman's blog) but I'm going to expand it here because I think it's so important.

In 2006 I installed an updated anti-virus system (Norton). A few days after installation, when I went to access some images of my artwork—images that I saw in thumbnail form on the screen—a message came up saying "Image unavailable." That was odd. I tried another image; same message. Then another; same thing. I panicked when I saw that the first four or five images in each folder were visible in thumbnail but not in actual fact. I felt like the astronaut in 2001: A Space Odyssey, at the mercy of the computer.

The view from HAL in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Spacy Odyssey

My geek-service guy made a house call. I greeted him with, "It's like my computer has turned into HAL."

He looked at me and coolly responded: "It is HAL."

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. My own sci-fi nightmare. This is how he explained it: "These anti-virus programs work on heuristic algorithms, which means that the program is 'taught' to learn from each new alien encounter. It can't be programmed to defend against a virus that doesn’t yet exist, but extrapolating from what it already knows, it can identify the parameters that make a virus a virus, and use it to attack new invaders." HAL, he added, was short for Heuristic ALgorithm (not the one-letter-over from IBM, which now seems quaint).

Apparently my little HAL was also misfiring, seeing the ones and zeros of my images as the enemy. Aside from being insulted, I was totally freaked. Yes, I had some images backed up on CDs, but I wasn't sure that I had everything. All those hours of shooting the work, editing images, Photoshopping them, and then archiving everything…
Lens eye of the infamous HAL 9000

Long story short, the service guy removed Norton, which he identified as the source of the frozen images ("I've seen this problem before, but never as bad as yours") and installed McAfee, which I've been using with no ill effects ever since. The images that were "Unavailable" remained unavailable—even after Norton was removed its damage could not be undone—but with the help of an Unlocker program he installed, I was at least able to get them out of the folders and into Trash so that I could replace them with functioning image files.

Fortunately, I was able—over the course of some 30 hours—to fully restore my image
files because I had created a number of different folders for different ways of accessing my images:
. Work by series, which contained several years' worth of work
. Work by year, which contained the various series I'd created
. Work by gallery, which contained work in different series and years
. Work sold, same as above
. Work available, same as above

I also had hard-copy printouts of all the folders, and I checked those against what was available
in each e-folder, not because I was expecting an algorithmic meltdown but because of how I access my images. Let's hear it for redundantly redundant redundancy!

Once that was done I purchased and installed an external hard drive, which backs up my data once a week. I also put all my images onto several 8 gig memory sticks, along with some data,
and put them into my safe-deposit box. I'm going to put all of 2008 and half of 2009 onto a new memory stick this week.

So here's my Marketing Mondays message today:
Don’t keep all your e-eggs in one e-basket. If you don’t have a back-up drive, install one. And you might think about physically placing information in a second location as well.

Readers—especially those of you who are more cyber sophisticated—please tell us what you do: Who uses a software program as opposed to my images-in-a-folder system? . . Do you back up? .. . Where do you store your backup? . . Is anyone using an online storage system?


A Great Opening on Friday! Pics Coming Soon . . .


Slippery When Wet, a group show of painting and photography that expresses and references water, has opened at Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn.

I'm one of seven artists (Suzan Batu, Susan Homer, Nancy Manter, Andrew Mockler, Don Muchow, Peter Schroth) in the show, which is curated by Julian Jackson and Rene Lynch.
Soon, soon, soon I'll post pics of the show and from the opening. Meanwhile, click here for the Metaphor website; here for a peek at some of my paintings.



What I Saw This Summer, Part 8: Montreal Studio Visits with Yechel Gagnon and Alexandre Masino

Marketing Mondays will be back on the 21st. In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy my accounts of What I Saw This Summer

Yechel Gagnon and Alexandre Masino were my Montreal hosts. They not only put me up, they drove me around the city, so I got much more than a tourist’s eye view of the city. It turned out they both had work on public view in the city, so not only did I get to see art in Montreal, I got to see their art.

And not only did I get to see their art in public, I got to visit their studios. (Gagnon and Masino built a studio behind their home, a light-filled, two-story contemporary box that fits in perfectly with its surroundings. Each artist works very differently, so while their spaces may have the same configuration, each setup is quite different.) .


Yechel Gagnon's Osmose, 2006-2007, carved plywood, 12 x 40 feet, installed in the Jean-Coutu Pavilion, University of Montreal


We begin with Gagnon, who has an enormous permanent installation in the school of Pharmacy of the University of Montreal, above. Gagnon works in carved plywood. Her installation, Osmose, is 12 by 40 feet, installed in the four-story-high center of the Jean-Coutu Pavilion. Viewable from balconies on three levels, it’s the only artwork in the space, which is exactly as it should be—just the architecture and this enormous relief work. There’s a landscape quality to it, like a Japanese brush painting, with a delicacy of line—surprising given the scale and the means by which the work is carved: with a router. The dark passages are the glue used to bind the layers of ply. The fluid quality provides a welcome counterpoint to the rectilinearity of the space.

Gagnon with her work
Back in her studio, across the St. Lawrence in Longueuil, Gagnon has several commissions underway. Gagnon is a thorough planner, with numerous sketches and meticulous maquettes, as you would expect from one who wins numerous commissions. Much of her work is commissioned through percent-for-art programs. It's an understatement to say that Canada is enlightened in its support of the arts.

The corner detail above shows you the surface of Gagnon's work
Below: a corner of the ground-floor studio

The just-completed work above is ready for delivery and installation. Note the full-size ink drawing next to it and the maquette on the floor
The maquette, above, and a series of small ink drawings from which the large one was selected

Another maquette, above. Note the distinctly non-industrial color in the layers

Above: That plywood in the foreground is going to be the sculpture you see in the maquette. But it’s not just any plywood. It’s custom made. By layering veneers of different-color or different-grained woods, Gagnon is able to introduce hue into the work on her own terms
Below, some samples of the veneers Gagnon uses

Now let's walk upstairs to Masino's studio. From the landing you can look down to Gagnon's studio and up to Masino's. Let's walk in.
Right away I liked the flexibility of Masino's setup: planks on sawhorses, which can be easily configured from project to project. And, of course, I loved the light. Masino is a representational painter—still lifes, landscapes-- who works in encaustic. Like others who work in this medium, he’s more or less tethered to the heat source, which keeps the wax paint molten and thus workable.

View into Masino's studio
The artist uses a double-boiler system: cans of paint set into pots of water, below

Masino with a tray of paint in cans (artists who work in encaustic do work differently from oil painters)
Below, the impressive shelving with paint tins and pigment. The stacked cakes of translucent white wax are encaustic medium, a mix of beeswax damar resin

The easel, above, and its prodigiously textured surface:

I’ll show you some of Masino's paintings in a moment, but first let’s look at the exhibition at Espace Creation in which Masino’s work and studio are featured. Called L’oeuvre et la maniere—work and process—each wall presents an almost life-size photograph of an artist’s studio with actual works displayed. “The studio allows the viewer a peek into the secret universe of creation,” writes the curator. Or, as the text says above Masino’s section of wall, “a place of order and apocalypse.” (Don’t you love that artists are accorded an almost godlike power?)
Espace Creation is supported by Loto-Quebec, which acquires work for its collection and exhibits it in its own gallery. That's right: lottery money pays for art! Don't you love Canada?
At Espace Creation, a view of Masino's studio with actual paintings at left
Below, just to give you a bit of the rest of the show, a view from the opposite wall (sorry, I don't have the name of this artist). The trompe l'oeil mix of photograph and actual object is kind of trippy, though I'm sure the curators were aiming for a you-are-there effect, as opposed to you-are-there-on-acid. Interesting either way.


Above, an exquisite still life
Below, Les vagues bercent le ciel, 2005, encaustic on board, 16 x 19 inches

This large painting, shown at Boon Gallery in Salem, Mass., in 2005, is from a series called Sanctuaire.