Wayne Michael Reich

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Wayne Michael Reich
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Month: September 2011

Daze of Whine and Poseurs PT.2 (Yes Phoenix, there is an Art Scene.)

“Sometimes, to pursue a new idea, the artist must forfeit his deposit on an old idea.”
– Robert Brault

Hello Blogiteers!

Is it chilly in here? Sorry, my bad- it’s just the candy-assed giving me their version of the cold shoulder. Brrrr, that is brisk… I’m glad that I brought my Hello Kitty Mittens with me, otherwise I’d be freezing. Thank God my hate keeps me warm. But it’s all good, since it just goes to prove my point that Phoenix’s Arts Scene is infested with both the thin-skinned and the thin on talent. I can hear them now:“Oh look, the “commercial” art guy is judging us… AGAIN.”

Ouch. That really hurts. And here I was, all hopeful that we could stay BFF’s and stuff. Life can be so cruel sometimes, can’t it? But like I said, it’s all good. When it came to my last blog, there were more than a few people who thought that the overall tone was a lot “tamer” than what it should have been, given the subject.

Whether I’m snarky or sweet, people have an issue with me. Most days I just can’t win for losing, and neither can Phoenix, it seems. I keep hearing from all these apathetic poseurs how much they LOVE art, the process of creation, supporting the 602, keeping it real, and all that blah, blah, blah crap.

As my dear Oma used to say, the proof is in the Bethmännchen*, and so far- I haven’t seen any.

 [*Bethmännchen are a Christmas specialty of Frankfurt. They are small round cookies, made of Marzipan and egg whites, decorated with almond halves. Now you know.]

Despite all the positive talk, the Art Scene in Phoenix, is not just struggling- it’s barely surviving. As far as I’m concerned, I’d settle for struggling, since it would actually be an upgrade at this point.

Wait a minute. Did you hear that? Ahh… the sounds of whining from the Shadows of the Internet. And as usual, they’re anonymous. Shocking. Way to stand your ground, cravens. One small suggestion: if you’re going to defend a certain point of view, it would have more validity if you actually attached your name to it. I’m just saying this as a friend. Because I love, you know.

Now, the argument was made by one of our poseur scenesters that since there’s a First Friday every month, our Art Scene must be doing “okay”. When I received the email containing this idiocy, I nearly horked up a kidney laughing. We’re doing “okay”… are they on drugs? If so, I definitely want some of what they’ve been taking, because it must make crack look like a freaking cheese danish.

Yet, I just know that there might be some of you out there who feel the same way as the schmuck above. So, I offer a simple challenge to my fellow Artists: just answer the questions below, that’s all I ask of you.

– Are you making a living off your Art? (More than 75% of your yearly income.)

 – Do High End Art Buyers from other states (as a rule) consider Downtown Phoenix a “go to” spot?
 – Are our Downtown Phoenix Galleries able to generate (and maintain) a national sales presence?
 – Do National / International Galleries (as a rule) consider Phoenix a hotbed of new talent?
 – Which makes more money on FF- The Lost Leaf, Jobot or ANY randomly chosen Phoenix Art Gallery?

Your answers, please. So… are we “okay”, then? Yep…that’s what I thought. Reality… It is such a bitch. But all is not lost- despite my rather acidic tone, I don’t think this situation is irreversible. But given the generalized malaise inherent in the Phoenix Arts Community (PAC), I think it is inevitable, unless we as a whole come together and force change.

Note that I said: “we”, not “me”, or “you”. This is something that requires a cohesive effort, and it will take ALL of the community to do what needs to be done- namely, to make it financially viable to be an Artist who lives and works in Phoenix. There are many issues that plaque the PAC, and they run quite the gamut, but they all have a common root cause: the Patrons, Galleries and Artists who operate within the scene. I still hold that view, but my gun sights have narrowed as of late. As I stated in my last blog: 

“Don’t think that I’m giving anyone a mulligan- the Patrons and Galleries are definitely part of the problem, and are issues that need to be fixed, say you me. No, the reasons why I’ve finally leveled my sights on the creative community is this: it all starts and ends with us.”

Oh boy… did that tick off some people, let me tell you- and the horde of bravely anonymous self- righteous poseurs couldn’t wait to start sending their emails ASAP. Thank Heaven for the common sense of my Blogiteers. The tally so far? A 70/30 average… in my favor. As is typical, the ones that weren’t on my side were chock-full of the usual ineffectual insults and a new interwoven tone of:

How dare I lay blame at the feet of the Creative community, who in the blankety-blank Hell did I think I was? Easy answer: I’m an established mid-career Artist who had his fill of being sick and f***ing tired of watching mediocrity and apathy strangle the day, and decided to stop playing nice with the other kids.


That wasn’t the answer some of you were hoping for, I’m sure. Ask me if I care. Go ahead. Hint: I don’t. So, what exactly did I mean when I said that “it” starts and ends with us? My point was that we’re the both the beginning and the end of the artistic process. We start the cycle by creating our works, and we bring about the end by selling them.

Yes, I said selling. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change from the usual First Friday? To actually make a living off our skills… damn. For a minute there, I think I went positively all tingly just thinking about it. Mixed in with all the anonymous emails of venomous idiocy, there were many more who agreed with my POV, and a handful which weakly opined that I hadn’t really offered any workable solutions, either.

HA! Said I, with a glee born of the darkest Schadenfreude. If you’re a loyal and long suffering reader of my literary rants, you know this to be total bull***t. In fact, the first blog I ever posted on Artbitch; “Thank God It’s First Friday” suggested several courses of action for the FF Triad, and it also happens to be the most widely read thing that I have ever written.

[Link: http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html ]

But then again, maybe it’s my fault- I do write a lot of words, and it’s been my experience that if there’s more than a paragraph to read, the truly stupid get easily confused.And let’s not forget angry. Especially angry. The “I’m completely out of Ding Dongs” kind of angry- it boggles the mind. I would think that if you were going to attack someone’s point of view, you would at least bother to do the merest of research. For some, it seems that’s just way too much thinking.
  
Phoenix- when it comes to doing things half-ass, that’s when we seemingly step up and give 110 percent.The rules and/or guidelines that I suggested were as follows:

Patrons.

1) Unless you’re an artist I respect, save the art critique.

2) I don’t care to hear what you think about my models.

3) Guess what? I’m not Kmart.

Galleries.

1) Clean the f*****g place up.

2) Location, Location, Location.

3) Failure in presentation is not an option.

4) Be open more than two nights a month.

Artists.

1) Quality IS job one.

2) Presentation- try it, you’ll like it.

3) Professionalism is never done half ass.

Can you see why my detractors are so annoyed with me? I dare to use Logic, which has the joyous side effect of confusing and enraging them. Speaking of Logic… despite my easily defensible position, my critics like to claim that I’m way out of line while whining that my stance is too caustic and negative. Oh yeah… it’s been ME who’s bringing it all down, and as you might well imagine, the culpability has just been eating me alive.

But my guilty conscience is your gain, yet again. Because I felt so bad at being such a burden on the good and noble Creatives of Phoenix, I locked myself away in my secret hollow volcano lair slaving day and night, until one day- there emerged a game plan for the Artists.Like I said earlier, it starts and ends with us, and we need, as a whole, to start realizing that. More importantly, we need to use what power we already do possess and force the changes that need to be made.

If I were to be brutally honest, being an Artist in Phoenix sucks huge donkey wahaunga, and we all know it. For clarity’s sake, I’m not talking about specific work or the art of the craft itself, nor am I for even the merest of moments, denigrating the interpersonal relationships that have formed within the community.I consider myself very fortunate to work among a number of the best Artists I’ve ever seen, and even more privileged to be friends with many of them. Having said that, I still believe that more needs to be done.

And can be, as well. Like I said, it starts with us: “Yes, yes- we’ve heard you say that several times now, but what do you mean?”I mean “we” (as a cohesive group) can control the scene. Stop laughing for a minute, and think about it. From the Patrons to the Galleries, we can shape how this juggernaut rolls, and I believe that this can be done with a modicum of effort and time.


The end result being a stronger, healthier, and more profitable Art Scene for us to partake of. My vision is over-optimistic to be sure, but it IS possible. Naturally, I might have a few ideas how, and since we are such good buddies- I’ll share some of them with you, free of charge. However; unlike the last time I threw out some suggestions towards all the players in the Art Scene, these are for the Artists alone, as a suggested “how to” on changing our currently brackish cultural pond for the better.

Remember the most important bolt in my argument: WITHOUT “ART”, THERE IS NO ART SCENE- HENCE, IT ALL STARTS AND ENDS WITH US. Therein lies the power that will change the culture of the PAC. As I’ve noted before, there are three key players in the PAC, and just like the last time I attempted to start a forward dialogue, we’ll start off this with the Patrons, except this is not going to be about what they should do, it’s about what we collectively as Artists need to do about them.

The generally accepted definition of a Patron is as follows:

 – A person who is a customer, client, or paying guest, esp. a regular one, of a store, hotel, etc.
– A person who supports with money, gifts, efforts, or endorsement an artist, writer, museum, cause, charity, institution, special event- a patron of the arts.

Now by that definition, a Patron sounds like a sure bet, except that in our art scene, our so called Patrons really don’t do d**k for us in the financial security department. It’s been my personal experience that most of the several thousand warm bodies that turn out for FF are essentially just useless scenesters smoking cigarettes, swilling beer, gumming up the works and buying the occasional two-dollar refrigerator magnet.

Don’t get me wrong, there are more than a few among the great lemming mass who do buy the high- end art, but their numbers are too low to keep this scene viable for all of us as a whole. Obviously, this needs to change, and the sooner, the better.


I would love to know of any other profession that throws a monthly free event with the substantiated knowledge that they’ll make less than a zero return on their outlay. We need serious art buyers at FF, not parasitic “here for the party alone” free-loaders, and if you think I’m being way too harsh, try walking a mile in my motorcycle boots and see how you feel. So how do we start culling the useless members of the herd away from our verdant pasture?

A Street Vendor’s Market: Come for the Corn Dogs, Stay for the DJ’s!

It’s an open secret that the majority of peeps who come out for FF do so because it’s a good time for very little to no money, and that’s ok- it really is. When I was in my early twenties, Top Ramen and I were the closest of friends, so I understand the concept of wanting a good time for cheap.

That had nothing to do with why I dated a lot of strippers back in the day, however. Pinky swear. Moving on… now, if they’re actually interested in buying Art, the odds are pretty good that their budget will be under fifty dollars, and the chances are even better that they’ll find work at FF worth that cost. Or most likely- someone who’s willing to accept such a price for their work. That desperate, I am not. Realistic would be a more accurate term for my current state of mind, I think. I’m an Artist, yes, but I’m also a businessman, and I have bills to pay just like you. And the typical FF poseur party-goer isn’t gonna help me, much less the scene, if at all.
To quote Ansel Adams: “Art is both the taking and giving of beauty; the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these.”

That there’s a beautiful thought. However, the sad reality is this: I’ve personally witnessed the scores of witless FF automatons traveling through a gallery, with a steady forward moving pace, looking at everything, and yet somehow- seeing nothing in the end. And these, the insipid, are the people whom we hope will keep us afloat? Boorish cretins who take what we do for granted, deride our skills, spend as little as possible, and yet somehow, every month get us, the arts community- to open our doors, showcase our wares, only to be rejected just the same.


Did I mention that we also foot the bill for all of this?If I were to draw an analogy, the PAC is like that nice (but plain) girl in High School who had no real friends, filled spiral-bound notebooks with really crappy poetry, and in vain, hoped that one day, the star quarterback would notice her solely on the strength of her personality. How does it help your career / sales/ the Art Scene if one thousand people see your work (with out actually seeing it) and aren’t going to buy anything, anyway?

Explain this to me if you would. And don’t even get me started on the street vendors. I really don’t have an issue with anyone trying to make some extra money, but… if you’re selling homemade five dollar collage art right outside the door of the gallery where I’m trying to move a $1000.00 painting, and the retail mojo gets screwed up because of you, know this- we are gonna have a serious disagreement with each other.

Just like the Hells Angels don’t want a group of yuppie weekend bikers at one of their rallies, or the way Neiman-Marcus reacts to the thought of a Wal-Mart opening up across the street, I don’t want the value of my work being undermined or more accurately- cheapened, by someone’s slapdash stab at being an Artist. It’s hard enough to sell as is, even more so when a potential customer decides he wants to cheap out and buy a handful of ten dollar color copies off a folding table set up across from my show.

Hobbyists have no place next to the professionals. Scathingly harsh, but true. In keeping with Artbitch tradition, I truly expect that some of you may have a slight problem with me saying this.

Tough. After working my a** off for the last two decades, I’ve earned the right to say it, and the hobbyists have the right to shut the hell up, and maybe learn their craft, instead of screwing with ours
I refuse to lower my standards and professionalism because you’re too vain and lazy to raise yours. However, this is America, and as such- it’s not up to me alone to dictate populist taste in the Art and Culture of a community.

Consider yourself lucky, because if I were the one in charge, there would be Reading homework for everybody. All snarky kidding aside, as I said earlier, I’d never get in the way of anyone making some extra cash, especially with the way the economy is now. To be blunt, I’m not a total pr**k, despite some hearsay to the contrary, and while you might find this possibly unbelievable- I’m still on Santa’s “nice” list, and that ain’t nothing to sneeze at.


As I see it, we have a dual problem here that needs solving; an influx of so called Patrons who have little to no money, and a group of varying talent selling cheaply priced trinkets to the same.Both have the bad habit of spooking serious Art Buyers- the poseur horde by their being crass, cheap and unappreciative of the effort put forth every month by the PAC, and the vendors whose DIY presence taints FF with possessing the depth of a church bazaar.

We really need to get these two together and the Hell away from us, so hence- I think we need a Vendor’s Market. A permanent retail location where people looking for a good and cheap time can hook it up with various street vendors selling the same. God knows we have several prime locations downtown where we could corral this herd, and provide them with what they truly come to FF for: DJ’s, corn dogs, tee shirts, cold beer, spray paint stencils on cardboard, the whole “bro” works.

They want a street party? I say let’s give it to them, so we can get back to the business of selling our work, uninterrupted by their crass idiocy. If you think that I’m being a little elitist in my approach, grow up. I don’t bust my a** so my work can sit at my studio collecting dust, I do it so I can make money and pay my overhead. Being paid to do what you love seems like a no brainer to me, and if you had the chance to do so, why wouldn’t you? If you need proof that a business model approach is the right way to go, just look at Scottsdale.


GROAN.

You have no idea how much it pains me to praise a city where arrogance has an actual physical presence. But, they do know how to move the Art, and they don’t f**k around when it comes to marketing either. My day gig involves dealing with galleries and art professionals of every discipline, and I can assure you that they wouldn’t put up with one tenth of the crap that we do in relation to FF.

Their Art Walk is actually just that- no street festival atmosphere, no bros, no drunken hipsters, no card tables hawking detritus of questionable quality, it’s actually nice- and it happens four times a month, versus our two, and unlike 99% of our so called art spaces, they are open at least four days a week.

Is such a draconian solution as the one I’ve proposed absolutely necessary? I’d say yes, but to be totally fair, I might be a tad biased. So, I ask you impartially, do we need it? Let’s reflect for a minute… boorish crowds, atmosphere akin to a carnival, drunken hipsters, and flat-lining sales. Still think we’re “ okay”? If you do, then please go stand with the rest of the herd, behind that velvet rope, as the wheat gets separated further from the chaff, using my next humble suggestion for the Patron problem.

“Sorry, Bro… You’re NOT on the list.”

Here’s another take on making FF better- since us Artists are throwing the party, I say we decide who gets invited. With all due respect, it’s not a high school kegger. Just because you heard about it, that doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to get in. And to control who does, I had to use my artistic TARDIS and retrieve an inspired idea from my gallery days back in NYC, a concept which is as old as the club scene itself: The Velvet Rope.

This, of course, is a very familiar adversary to anyone who has ever spent any time trying to get past one in order to be in the V.I.P section, the place where all the magic happens. I’ll explain. When I had my first solo shows, I needed something to bring the people in. Being the new kid on the proverbial art block, I had no previous street cred or show history to speak of, nor any reviews to back up the (at that time) personally-held belief that my work was solid.

I required a gimmick, a hook, an attention-grabbing publicity device. After ruling out bribery, blackmail, crying, threats of violence, holding my breath until I turned blue, and trading sexual favors, I hit on what eventually did work: exclusion.

Not too shocking a concept really, since I got the idea from standing in line outside a Manhattan club for about two and a half hours before realizing that unless I had cocaine or boobs, I wasn’t getting in any time soon. And thus, a marketing campaign was born. One of the great never fail triggers, especially if you want to tick off your fellow Humans, is to shun them from something. The fact that they didn’t really want to go in the first place doesn’t even matter- it’s the absurd idea that you had the audacity to judge them inferior in the first place.


Seems like it would be counter-productive, I know. But there was a method to my madness, and it was based on the concept of catnip for the Human Ego, as it were. And boy, did I use bags of the stuff to get my name out. First, I hosted a very exclusive invite-only Artist Reception a few nights before the general public opening to let the buzz build, and when the big night arrived, I made it almost impossible to get in. On purpose, mind you. And it worked like a freaking charm. When all is said and done, I love the fact that sometimes, we’re just monkeys with cell phones. Despite our inherent sense of Logic, we’re all hard wired to react a certain way, and it’s a system that’s easily manipulated.

Especially by a Machiavellian bastard like myself. I tend to run with my strengths, you know.The setup was this: I asked one of my more intimidating friends to act as doorman and screen the collected multitude, making sure that only those who looked like definite money were allowed to pass. Well…them, and girls who were really hot. It’s not like I’m a complete idiot.

The over the top act of his checking the clipboard for people’s names; “Sorry Sir/Miss… if you’re not on my list, I can’t let you in- hey, you two cute Punk Rock Asian girls? Go right on in.” was in my humble opinion, sheer f**king genius. And as I said, it worked like a freaking charm. The ones who did get inside were definitely a cut above the mass who didn’t, and the show sold out, much to the delight of the gallery and myself.

Elitist snobbery? You bet’cha.

Whether my fellow Creatives want to admit it or not, at the end of the day, it’s all about moving the work and getting paid. I’ve often been accused of having a touch of the soulless mercenary within me, and obviously- I’m okay with it. Oh hell, let’s be honest. I enjoy every second of it. When the Artist’s smock comes off, the Businessman’s shark skin suit goes on, and that’s how I make sure that a roof remains over my head. Having to split myself into two distinctive halves isn’t as difficult as you might think- heck, Batman does it all the time, and he’s just fine.

But let’s get back to the rope.

The time has come to elevate the culture, and the best way to do that is to start at the door. I don’t come to your job and act like an uncouth jacka**, try having a little respect and do the same when you come to mine. If you’re gonna act like an unrefined bro, I’m gonna treat you like one, and show you the sidewalk where you belong. One of the many beefs I have with FF has always been the consistent annoyance of the low rent crowd mucking about the scene- one’s pajamas should never be considered as formal outdoor wear, unless you’re Hugh Hefner getting his mail.

Depending on the occasion, I endeavor to make sure that I’m appropriately dressed to say the very least. I recently attended “Women’s Room: Art by Phoenix’s Premiere Female Artists” a show of Feminist Art on display at Bragg’s Pie Factory, and gave serious pause to gouging out my eyes at some of the fashion monstrosities I witnessed. Visualize Jersey Shore’s “Snooki” mixed with the “B” team from your local strip club, add a dash of Hoochie Mama, and you’ll have a faultless snapshot of what was fleetingly passing for Fashion that evening.

Sadly, that was just the dudes. To paraphrase Denis Leary: Pull. Up. Your. Pants.

The ladies are also getting a critique too- I like girls in thongs as much as the next guy, but not when it looks like they’ve been poured into their clothes and had forgotten to say “when.” Maybe I’m being a bit of a quadrangle, but I was raised to believe that you don’t leave the house looking like you just rolled out of bed. Seriously… would it kill some of these people to clean up a bit before they came out to the galleries? Apparently, it would, and I’m sick of it.

Hence my velvet line in the sand, which I feel is long overdue. Codes of Conduct and Dress are S.O.P. for other businesses, why not ours? Just because we’re artistic doesn’t mean that we have to put up with the kinds of crap that would get you kicked out of everywhere else. However, I do realize that some of our Patrons may honestly still not have a clue why us Artists get so annoyed, and therefore may need some additional guidance beyond what I posted earlier.

So, my Patrons, here are your additional rules. There will be a pop quiz later, so if I were you, I’d make sure to take notes.

1) You’re Drunk? Great! Please get the F**k out.

The last time I checked, just because there’s wine at an art opening, it doesn’t mean you’re at a bar, so lay off the two handed 12 oz. dead lift. Predictably, since the only time Shane MacGowan looks sober is when he’s standing next to you- you’re not really someone I find to be truly inspiring. Sure, I’ve seen people like you before – but usually I had to pay an admission first.

My apologies. That was completely uncalled for, since to be honest- I feel sorry for you, I really do, because when you look back on the beach that is your life and see only one set of footprints, you’ll realize that this was when Bacchus was sleeping it off. A heads up- if you f**k up my show because you’re staggering around and being obnoxious, I will personally snap off your arm, shove it up your a**, and turn you into a Whiskey-flavored human Popsicle.

For a start. Now, why don’t you go home and slip into something more comfortable… like a coma?


2) This isn’t a Motorhead concert, so you can bring it down a notch.

While we’re all really excited that you graced us with your presence, we’d probably appreciate it a whole lot more if we hadn’t been alerted by your louder than Zeppelin conversational skills when you entered the room. I get it. You’re self-important. However- whoever you are, and wherever you are, you will always be in the wrong if you’re rude.


Amazingly, no one here is interested in where you’ve been tonight, where you’re going next, or whom you’re “hooking up” with later on. It’s an art event, not TMZ, so please… keep it to yourself.

 3) Would you like to see if that I-Phone has a “shoved up your a**” app?

This rule is not going to be for the reason you may think. Since I already covered the base of general rudeness with Rule No.2, there’s really no need to beat a dead horse with a reminder of proper phone etiquette. With one exception: phone camera usage.

If I had a sale for every time I stopped someone from stealing my work with their phone, I could have retired long ago. Never mind that half the time they attempt this, they’re usually standing in front of a clearly posted “No Photography Allowed” sign. The fact that you like it doesn’t mean I have to give it to you for free. If you like the art enough to snap an illicit pic to later use as your screen saver, then you should like it enough to buy the original art work that’s hanging right in front of your face.

 

You have no legal right to do anything with that work UNTIL you purchase it, and even then- the right to do more than display said work is strictly limited and regulated by the laws of these here United States. Selling our work is how we Artists pay our bills, and when you electronically steal our work from us, you impact that ability greatly, and yes- it IS a big deal. If I came to your job and stole your paycheck while you were standing there, would you be cool with it, you loathsome hypocrite?

Thought as much. So next time you’re at an art show, and see something you like, buy it outright or negotiate the price, if that option is extended by the Artist. Speaking from experience, if you’re stealing an Artist’s work (and it IS stealing) the odds are good that if they catch you, you’ll soon find out two things: whether or not your I-Phone is waterproof, and if a colon extraction surgery is covered under your insurance policy.

But on the up side, you’ll have a brand new batch of interesting pics to look at, and it didn’t cost you a dime.

With that, I think it’s time for a well deserved break. And when we get back, the Galleries will be the next entrée on the Artbitch’s serving tray. Don’t you worry. I’ll save you a piece. But be warned, it’s more gristle than meat.

“You never see what you want to see, forever playing to the gallery.” – Robertson Davies

Daze of Whine and Poseurs PT.1(An Apathetic Vintage.)

“I’m just passing through on my way to somewhere else, and there’s nothing you can do but wait for me to leave. But when you fight me, you up the ante, you make me think that, yes, you can handle an even greater degree of fuckery from me.”
– from Greendale: The Graphic Novel

Hello Blogiteers!

From the quote above, I think you may have already guessed that there will be a certain… let’s say, tone to this, my latest magnum opus, and you’d be right.  I’m chomping at the bit to get this particular rant going, and it feels long overdue, despite several past allusions to the issue I will eventually address.

Great, you say- yet another snarky bitch-slap aimed at the Phoenix New Times. Again.

Well… NO, actually. Since the ol’ PNT and I were never exactly the best of friends, my past blogs pointing out the arrogance and incompetence foisted upon Phoenix by NT’s walking horror-show of a Managing Editor Amy Silverman, hardly constitute any actual skill on my part.


Pointing out the fairly obvious, it’s what I do. Granted, it relaxes me, but then again- so does a really good book, if one were to be quite honest. 

[I would recommend pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman, especially “American Gods”, or the excellent “Dresden Series” by Jim Butcher.]

While it is true that there are several bones left to pick with the Dark Bore of the Sith, I give you my word that today’s humble offering does NOT have anything to do with my favorite self- loathing scratching post. Besides, I still need to thoroughly vet some rumors gleaned from the proverbial NT water-cooler regarding how she runs her mouth and whom she routinely talks about behind her/his/their backs.

If they’re true, I may need a cigarette and some serious “alone” time. Bar the door and all that, you know. So, as we ease into the reason for this blog, I close the NT drawer for now with some heartfelt advice for my favorite and oh-so-cuddly Editorzilla: when people truly despise you, they just can’t wait to share with the rest of the class.


Moving on to the main course…

In my last blog, I touched upon the importance of knowing the business side of being an Artist, and how being in charge of your own destiny makes all the difference between success and catastrophic failure. So in reference to failure, I guess you can surmise whom (or what) I’ll be sharpening my Adamantium claws on this time: The Phoenix Art Scene, or more specifically- one small facet of it.

Ooooh… the anticipation is just killing me. I hope it lasts. Yes, yes- I know I’ve trash talked the “scene” before, scathing a few in the process, and while I did write an anti First Friday blog in 2008, I honestly do wish it wasn’t still as relevant in 2011.

Sadly, little has changed regarding this glorified street party since I first wrote those words, and I don’t foresee improvement on that horizon anytime soon, despite the obvious need to do so. Originally, my disdain was equally distributed among the three groups who comprised the scene- Patrons, Galleries, and my fellow tribesmen, the Artists.

Not too surprisingly, I took some heat for this point of view, not that I actually gave a damn in the end.

You’re mad at something I’ve said… and this is supposed to concern me why, exactly? Oh. Really. Hmm. You do know that unless you’re someone I like or respect… your opinion doesn’t count for d**k, right? Well. Now you do.

And knowledge is power- well, in useful hands it is, anyway. Here’s the rub: there’s a cash strapped, untalented, lazy, candy-assed, whiny 800 pound gorilla running amuck in Downtown Phoenix, and for once, I am NOT making an Amy Silverman joke.

Not that it ever crossed my thoughts, mind you. So whom then am I referring to?
Let’s see. Could it be: Our erroneously named Patrons who can’t afford any Art, but always seem to be able to afford alcohol, strangely enough? Nope. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally pointless to argue with drunken hipsters.

Maybe my scorn is reserved for those Galleries which present as a social club, rather than a serious business. Possibly, but since they’re only open the two nights a month that as an Artist I’m sure to be booked solid, I have no idea when I’d have such an opportunity to tell them this face to face.

So by process of elimination, that only leaves the Artists, to shoulder the blame, since- Lord knows, they haven’t been shouldering nearly enough accountability.

What?!? Am I actually going to lay a gleaming claw backhanded bitch-slap on some of my fellow Creatives? You bet. Awww… that’s the sound I recognize- an impotent art scene mewling like the neutered kitten it’s become. Something tells me that once again, a few of you out there might be really annoyed with me right now.

That’s good. It really is. Because if you are, you probably need to be vexed something fierce, and who better than the one and only Artbitch? Typically, after launching an opening salvo like that, I’d sit back with a case of Ding Dongs, a frosty pitcher of milk, watch the faux fur fly and wallow in the chaos that I’ve set forth upon the world.


But not this time.
No, today I think it’s imperative that I do something I usually don’t do within the confines of this blog, and that is- get right to the point. I bet you’re truly shocked now, right? How sad. After all this time, it’s like you really don’t know me at all. Let me enlighten you, then.

Recently, I’ve had a few somewhat heated run-ins with fellow Creatives who’ve expressed displeasure at what I’ve been writing. Surprisingly, they weren’t complaining about my most recent 3 part blog arc which described an artsy one night stand, or even the past screeds which bagged on persons I thought had no talent.

What was key among the complaints was NOT focused anger at my throwing light on the issues that plague the Arts Community as you might think, but was in fact- the overall “tone” in which I presented said content within the blogs that they themselves had chosen to read willingly. 

Give that a minute or two to sink in…

What I said wasn’t the issue… it was how I said it. That’s equivalent to complaining that the tartar sauce on your uncooked fish sandwich is a smidge too tart for your liking, after you dumped a whole mess on there.
A much denser lot bitched that my stuff took “a long time to read”, and for that, I do apologize. If I had known it was going to be that difficult, I would’ve broken it up with some pictures, Dick and Jane style. But to be fair, since I started writing these short tales of snarkiness, I’ve always told my cultured readers upfront: make a sandwich, slip on your comfiest PJ’s, and settle in- you’re gonna be here for a while.


My writing isn’t a Porn Scene- you’re not required to take the whole thing all at once, so feel free to break it up if necessary, and please stop blaming me for your
rabid-ferret-on-a-crack-bender attention span.
If you don’t like how I say things, the length extended when I say them, or (least importantly, it seems) the content contained within, I offer a simple solution to your woes:

Stop reading.

It really is that simple, and you’d be doing me a favor by helping cut down my E-Vite Christmas card list, thereby freeing up some much needed personal time around the holidays. So what was the main reason that the candy-assed cognoscenti was upset with me this time? They were upset because I (gasp!) stated publicly [on my personal FaceBook page] that the Phoenix Art Scene IS A FUCKING JOKE. If it wasn’t me, I would normally agree with their protests- it IS a rather rude statement, and from a certain point of view, could be considered disrespectful to those who work within it.

Except for one small fact… it’s TRUE, and everybody knows it. Now before you light the torches, sharpen some pitchforks, and gather the unruly townspeople, let me explain why I feel the need to say this [yet again] to a larger audience.


Semi-jokingly, I’ve often referred to the Arts Community in Phoenix as “the Tribe”- since it loosely fits the general definition of one, which is as follows: “A unit of sociopolitical organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent.”

To a degree, this definition is as a rule, correct. Creatives do share a common ancestry and culture of sorts, and our leaders can vary depending on whom you’re talking to, and when. Due to the disparate of both personalities and agendas, it’s unusual for all the clans to unite cohesively for any extended period of time.

Especially in Phoenix. I’m not really sure why this is. Oh wait, I do- it’s because everyone is too busy being important and patting themselves on the back for a job done completely half-assed. I see that you need an explanation of sorts. To that end, let me share the following two stories: the first tale references something I alluded to a few blogs back: the charity event that was held this June to help raise funds for The Icehouse..

I’ve noted previously that I have been to the Icehouse (http: www.Icehouse.com ) many times over the last two decades, and can honestly say that I have never walked away disappointed, no matter what was taking place there. To be honest, I had a great time at the show, and the works that had been organized by Hugo Medina, were a refreshing pastiche of ability and vision.

As an added bonus, I finally had the pleasure of meeting my FaceBook friend Helen Hestenes in person- and she was lovely, to say the least. But despite all that, I did leave feeling somewhat deflated. A few points for clarity: I wasn’t disappointed by the work that was being shown, nor was I disappointed by the combined effort of Hugo and Helen in getting the word out about the event.

And obviously, I have no issues with the space itself, it always just whomps me upside the head, no matter how many times I’ve been there. But the seeming lack of overall concern about this amazing space closing absolutely sickens me. Granted when this event took place, it was an atypical muggy night, where a water bottle is an acceptable fashion accessory, but even still, I was less than impressed.

When my GF Ashley and I arrived, we were informed at the front door that the “suggested donation” was a measly five bucks, cash definitely preferred- it was a charity event, after all. Even I could afford that, and I make Gandhi look like Donald Trump.


As I laid down a Jackson towards the cause, my attention was diverted by a couple that was standing next to me, and it was one of those times that I wish I could’ve klunked their heads together ala’ Moe. Seems a little “aggro” I know, but I swear I had cause.

These two screamed “Scottsdale”- unfortunate victims of bad dye jobs, a too-young for them wardrobe, and both were positively dripping with over the top bling.He was reeking of AXE and smug faux hipness, She was simply trying way too hard. Mentally, I offered a small prayer for them both: in the Future, may you please learn to age with some degree of dignity.

Now despite their obvious (and annoying) desperation to be one of the beautiful Hipster throng, I was attempting to ignore them when I picked up on the conversation unfolding over my shoulder.

He: “What’s the cover?

Icehouse (IH): “It’s a suggested donation of five dollars.”

He: “Not a problem.(opens wallet, confidently pulls out AMEX card.)
IH: “Um.., we don’t take plastic… sorry.”

Me:(inside my skull): “Hey AXE dude- it’s a CHARITY event… who the hell brings plastic to cover a ten dollar door charge? Seriously. Ever hear of an ATM, you jackass?

He: (making a BIG show of searching his wallet and pockets.) “Gee… I’m sorry… I guess I left my cash at home. Oh wait- I have a dollar here, would that work?”

IH: (insincere smile)“It’s ok… just go in.”
He: (feigning mock concern) “Are you sure?”

IH: (giving the patented “WTF?” look… ) “Oh yeah… I’m sure…

No wonder we’re drowning. These are our Patrons, kids. And just in case you were wondering: no, they didn’t buy any Art that night, either. What a shock. But unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst thing I witnessed that night. Despite my being there almost two hours, I saw only a handful (less than 10) of my fellow Artists, and the number of Patrons barely topped 90. 


Now while that may seem like a lot, it really isn’t- especially when you consider the number of people who come out for First Friday, and it’s downright pathetic as a show of solidarity from the Arts community.
While it is true that over 100 Artists donated their work, it begs the inevitable questions: where were they that night?

Where were their friends, their families, the Patrons of these established professionals? Why wasn’t it packed to the rafters with the kind of support that actually helps? Does this space have to be bulldozed or turned into a Banana Republic before we appreciate it’s inherent value?


If the Community doesn’t get it together, we’ll have our answer in about a year, I guess.
And we aren’t going to like it, I can promise you that. But on the upside- if it all goes south, then maybe Amy Silverman will finally get that Sephora she’s always wanted downtown, and that’s something, I guess.

So, one story down, one tale yet to go. And this one is just downright depressing on many different levels. On the surface I will admit, it sounded great- a casual get together of the downtown Arts Community under the roof of one of my favorite places in Phoenix, the MonOrchid Gallery.

Wayne Rainey owns this space, and it is awesome- a perfect place for a gathering of the Tribe. It had been over five years since there had been a mixer of this sort, and when I checked out the FaceBook page for the event, there were 130 “attending” alerts. Naturally, I was looking forward to it, since I just love talking shop, and the possibility of 130 Artists in the same room at the same time discussing what we do and the best way to do it- made me uncharacteristically optimistic.

In retrospect, staying at home and organizing my ABBA figurine collection would have been a way more productive use of my time that evening. According to Ashley, she couldn’t recall ever having seen me this bleakly depressed about something since my near-death experience back in 2009.

Depression mixed with a white-hot blinding rage… that’s always a good combo. So why was I so out of sorts, you ask? Let’s list the various reasons:

1) A Less than Stellar Turnout:

40 people out of a possible 130… Seriously? Granted, I did get there 45 minutes after the event started, but I highly doubt that 90 of my fellow Creatives came in, ate some vegan bean dip, and then left before I arrived. Way to represent, Phoenix Art Community… I’m assuming that “America’s Next Top Model” had a particularly riveting episode that night.

2) Now Serving Apathy. in Bottle, and on Tap!

For the length of time that I was there, I endured some incredibly vapid small talk- the kind that makes you want to drop an amorous ferret down the front of your shorts as an excuse to remove yourself from the conversation at hand. An Artist mixer where seemingly no one wanted to talk about Art, or anything even remotely dealing with changing the culture of a non self-sustaining scene.

With no exaggeration, I’ve had deeper discussions regarding world politics with my girlfriend’s four year old niece- but in her defense, she probably wasn’t drunk at the time. Seriously- if I had dropped a lit match down the throat of the “bro” who had engaged me in an asinine debate about my blogs “tone” and “message”, he would have imploded.

Damn. Why don’t I ever think of the really good ideas until it’s too late?

[BOOM!!! Yeah… that would have been freaking sweet!]

3) Who Are these People, Anyway?

A little History: Since 1990 or so, I’ve been involved with the Phoenix Art Scene, and despite my consistent criticism as of late, I’m still somewhat familiar with the movers and shakers who operate within.

To be fair, this situation is highly fluid, and the definition of who’s who changes frequently, but even so- I do my best to stay current. When I walked into MonOrchid, there was only a handful of people I recognized, and the rest who remained were, then and now- unknown to me.

One particular fact was not, however. The majority I attempted to talk to sure as hell weren’t Artists, and really had no logical reason to be there as far as I could ascertain. Hipsters, Poseurs, and Sycophants… oh my.


4) Oh goody. Claire Lawton is here too!

To recap the mixer thus far; a dismal turnout, painfully vapid conversations, and a cast of unknowns. This all seems oddly familiar, the only thing missing is a mediocre media representative… oh wait, here she comes… Hi, Claire!


I find this almost amusing; Claire Lawton, Editorzilla’s loyal pet, PNT’s answer to Hipster Journalist Barbie, is here at an Artist’s mixer. Excuse me for the briefest of moments, would you? WAHAHAHAHAHAHWAHAHAHAHAHAHWAHAHAHAHAHAH
WAHAHAHAHAHAHWAHAHAHAHAHAHWAHAHAHAHAHAHWAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!


Sorry… tension breaker, had to do it before I had an aneurysm.
Having Claire Lawton at an Artist mixer is like putting Ted Kaczynski in charge of a creative writing class.

No good will come of it, this I can assure you. Other than the fact that she writes as good as she handles valid criticism, this blonde elitist represents the pinnacle of what true journalism isn’t- inaccurate and biased reporting, outright fabrication of stories, and a callous disregard for the Community where her employer conducts business.

With it’s lack of quality reporting about the culture of Phoenix, New Times has done almost as much damage to the Arts community as some of the Artists themselves, save for the fact that unlike the Phoenix creative community, NT has a no holds barred bully pulpit.

And yet, as I’ve noted in previous writings, Claire herself is the very model of cowardice. This was proven to me yet again, as she raced past with her phalanx of hangers-on, as I tried to address a simple question. Specifically; “Why are you such a coward in relation to addressing valid criticism?

I now have my answer.
She’s not a coward… she’s a professional speed walker.

5) I’m sorry, am I boring you?

As I stated earlier, the depth of insipidness I experienced was awe inspiring- if the conversation I was enmeshed in had gotten any shallower, I would have sworn I was on the set of The Simple Life. Speaking of simple…

At one point, I walked into an in progress chat fronted by one of my photographer friends- she was talking to a local muralist and the co-owner of an occasionally open gallery, one that I actually do like. After the usual smattering of artistic small talk, my friend brought up my stand against the PNT and as an aside, this blog.

So naturally, I started talking about what I think we as Artists need to do, and that is- stop treating our craft as a hobby and more like a business. Ever have the feeling that you would have been better off talking to the wall? I now know exactly what that feels like. To say these two were disinterested in the topic at hand would be a major understatement- I’m amazed they didn’t fall asleep standing up. The last time I saw a glaze form that quick over someone’s eyes was when my Uncle John drunkenly tripped and fell face first into the Christmas Ham.

Once again, an Artist mixer where seemingly no one wanted to talk about Art, or anything even remotely dealing with changing the culture of a non self-sustaining scene. But on the upside, apparently I can cure insomnia… and there just has to be some serious money in that.

6) Business Cards… ever hear of them?

Call me crazy, but I could swear that the purpose of a mixer was to do something very specific- sure, it’s great to meet other Artists, swap stories, and explore the fascinating culture of pot-lucking, but I’m one of those strange thinking about the now career types. I come to network, not to nosh.

The definition of network as defined by business: “An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.”

On the surface, it seems like this would be an easy concept to grasp. But as I’ve heard way too many times in the last few months; “This is Phoenix.” Is that the reason no one in this town seemingly knows how to do business like a professional?

Yes, I know I’m generalizing, but it seemed that only I and a few others actually came prepared to pass out contact information, ie: business cards. Real ones. You know… the kind that weren’t printed off a home computer, and don’t dissolve in your hand?

Yes, it’s just a mixer, but that doesn’t mean you have to come unprepared. A Post-It note is not a business card, nor is a phone number written on a scrap of paper plate either, and asking me to “write down” your website’s address on MY business card is a sure fire way to guarantee that I’ll never visit it. But this is Phoenix after all, and when it comes to doing things half-ass, we apparently give 110%.

However- this pointless gathering of the apathetic did have one unexpected side effect: it altered my point of view in regards of who might actually be the worst offender of the art scene triad that I’ve been bagging on. The conclusion that I came to was the Artists, hands down. This only served to tick me off even further, since as we all know, my ire doesn’t have a top floor as of yet.

[“Third Floor! Apathy, Sarcasm, and non-stick Hipster Wear all to your left.”]

Don’t think that I’m giving anyone a mulligan- the Patrons and Galleries are definitely part of the problem, and are issues that need to be fixed, say you me. No, the reasons why I’ve finally leveled my sights on the creative community is this: It all starts and ends with us. Note that I said “us”.

I’m part of this community, much to the chagrin of some, and as such- bear some fault for not doing all that I could have done for the cause in the past. Granted, writing vitriolic screeds may not be much of an artistic contribution, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? Now, now. There’s no need for that kind of language. Think of the children. But more importantly, when you’re done reading- think of what I said rather than how I said it.

And on that note, I think it’s time for a break before I really get into it in our next installment. For those of you who’ve come this far without pictures, I commend you.

You can have an extra cookie.

“Man will begin to recover the moment he takes art as seriously as physics, chemistry or money.” ~Ernst Levy