Friday, March 25, 2011

Themed shows

OK, there it is.


One of my pet peeves is this, gallery theme shows. That's when a gallery tells all of their artists they are doing a special show and want paintings of some particular subject, say, Forgotten Foods of Yesteryear. I think the only theme that I really like is "New Work". I am a landscape painter, I don't really paint food, but I obligingly and naively do a beautiful 24 by 36 of a suet pudding and take it to them. They say they love it and even put it on the sleazy postcards they send out to be ritually discarded by their clientele. Well it's one of the six on there anyway, cropped.

At the end of the show's run, I go back to the gallery and they hand me back the painting unsold. Again they smile and tell me how much they loved it.They are so sorry it didn't sell, but now they are done with it. They think they have done me a favor, in fact, they included me in a show! Years ago I learned never to work for exposure. Now here I am doing it again! But what am I supposed to do with my apotheosis of suet now? I put all the effort into making something I would never have made except for their request, I wanted to appear to be a good sport, but I wasted two weeks of effort and a pudding, and they still know I'm a crank. I have put out all of that work for nothing. No other gallery is going to want my over the sofa sized quivering desert. I have made a painting that should have been a commission.

Here is what I intend to do in the future. If a gallery calls me and tells me about a "themed" show I will ask myself "will what I make be portable?" For instance, if the gallery is in a place of great natural vistas, or in a historic village, or something else I would ordinarily paint, and they want something local, OK I'm there. If they don't sell it, I can take it somewhere else. But if they want, Steam Driven Wurlitzers that Changed the World, count me out! I will be as polite to the dealer as I can be, but that is the rule. I have lost weeks making things for dealers that they never sold, and I can't afford it.

A newly wed young couple is going to be perplexed, when as their wedding gift they receive my lovely suet pudding painting in a Chinese frame with an open corner. Its a suet pudding! I'll tell them, but they will still look glum.

44 comments:

ARMAND CABRERA said...

You are cracking me up. Are you going to paint the dog?

Joshua Bronaugh said...

I am getting married on May 7. If you gift us your pudding, we will hang it, with pleasure.

Main Loop said...

"hey hand me back the painting unsold. Again they smile and tell me how much they loved it.They are so sorry it didn't sell, but now they are done with it. They think they have done me a favor, in fact, they included me in a show!"

Such a familiar sentiment I've ran across, theme or no-theme...

Ptolemy said...

I will never look at my suet feeder the same again!

Philip Koch said...

Bravo! Loved this post.

I find myself wondering how Stape's fevered brain comes up with something like suet pudding. I have no idea what it actually looks like, but in my mind's eye it is breathtakingly unappealing.

mariandioguardi.com said...

Uhm...themed shows-I only put in a piece if I have a piece related to the theme. If I don't., I don't. Is there something bad about telling your gallery "sorry, but I don't have appropriate work for this theme ?" NOT submitting a piece in a show has not come back to bite me, like the suet pudding.Ouch.

Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

Stape, you're killing us. Where is the pic of the sofa-sized, gelatinous, artery-clogging extinct foodstuff? :)

Simone said...

I'm sorry what did you say? I wasn't paying attention. I was stuck on the puppy's pink tongue. Quite a lovely hue!

Good advice, thank you.

willek said...

Group painting projects, on the other hand...

Deborah Paris said...

You are a very funny man Stape...but then you already knew that. I completely agree- and what is even crazier is I don't think these themed shows ever work very well for the gallery either.

Anyway, I love the puppy.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I wish they would have more themed shows where the subject was "Good Painting" or "Beauty" or "Work by Skilled Painters".
I have noticed that the more specific a theme the less those things are present.

billspaintingmn said...

Ha! Stape! Reminds me of the gilded buffalo skull I did for this guy years ago. He paid me, but hasn't been able to sell it since.
Who the hell wants a gilded buffalo skull? I'm ashamed and imbarassed.
He still calls for stuff, I can't seem to get rid of the guy.
So this post speaks to me loud and clear!

Linda Schweitzer said...

So funny, so true!

hagerstudios said...

Ha! I love the "rantings and ravings." Always entertaining and insightful.

hagerstudios said...

Oh, and Bill It's always been my dream to have a gilded buffalo skull. (totally kidding)
Would be curious to see it tho:)
I bet you could find some modern museum that would be all over it.

Suzann Grogan said...

Ooh, a trend! Rants and kittens and puppies, oh my!

Though spot on about the themed show. Thanks for letting the rest of us know that it happens to the best, too!

Jim Gibbons said...

Too Funny........you have to post this suet painting!!!!!

Sunny said...

I LOVE Suet Pudding! My mom used to make it at Christmas time..... How much for the painting?? :-)

John D. Wooldridge said...

Yep...I've painted for "exposure" before. I'll never do it again, either. The worst part is, some of the "exposure" events I've done were for people or groups with pockets deep enough to at least have covered my expenses with no hesitation. But, no, they want my services to make themselves look even more important and they pay me in "exposure" and the mighty glow coming off their monied hind quarters. No sir...never again.

Chad said...

Hilarous, lets see that pudding painting!

Marian Fortunati said...

Unhappily too true, Stape...

Your rantings, while they seem to always ring true, to also make me smile!!!

john pototschnik said...

You are hilarious. I wouldn't want the darn suet pudding painting either...well maybe, since YOU did it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Armand;
Thanks. No dog paintings.
......Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Joshua;
Have you chosen a bride yet?
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Main;
That's what happens.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Ptolemy;
Waste of good suet!
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip;
Suet pudding was very popular in colonial America.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian;
I bit too.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Ernest;
No picture will be provided.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Simone;
The puppy has been eating cotton candy.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

willek;
No group projects.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah;
I concur, I don't know why they keep doing them.
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Richard;
Yes Good Art would be a great subject for a show. Never happen.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill;
That would make a great hood ornament for my Lincoln!
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Linda;
Thanks.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

hagar;
I am off to a new subject
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Suzann;
Baby animals are posted after I have been to edgy or bitten someone.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jim;
No photos!
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sunny;
Not available.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

John;
I am through being exploited in this way, time for me to be exploited in a new way!
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Chad;
No.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

John;
No suet painting!
...........Stape

Prairie painter said...

"Years ago I learned never to work for exposure."

Words of wisdom to go up on the wall, having just participated in a themed show.

Humbly thank you!

Thomas Kitts said...

Stapelton:

Some thoughts in response to your excellent post.

When a gallery asks their artists to paint to a show theme they are essentially asking them to work on spec. Of course, galleries do this all the time with the hope of luring out additional sales from established clientele, like a miner re-processing played out mine tailings in the hopes of extracting leftover ore. And it's a bad place for both the artists and gallery to be in.

In the illustration world, this is identical to an art director asking an illustrator to create finished art, with the expectation that if the end-client likes it the illustrator will get paid. Again, a lousy place to be in. Does it happen? Yes. Should it? No. When it does who ends up taking the larger risk? The artist who can't or won't say no.

But sure, how does spec work differ from, say, the artist who places their work on gallery consignment? Isn't that spec too? Not really. As you clearly point out, Stapelton, if the artist is creating work which represents their own artistic interests, and if those paintings are appropriate and transportable to other galleries, then there is in fact a discernible difference. A huge difference.

In my opinion, no matter what the arrangements may be to participate in a gallery or show, the artist must be willing to walk away if they wish to have any control over the arrangement.

At some point the artist has to be able to say, "I'm sorry but I don't work for free for anyone except for myself."