Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art


Month: October 2013

Happy Happy. Joy Joy. (Chaotic Zen)

“This is a song about a whale… NO!!!! This is a song about being happy.”

– Your old pal, Stinky Whizzleteats

Hello Blogiteers!
Isn’t it just an absolutely glorious day?

The birds are singing, the sun is shining less intently, and the clouds are all puffy and floating in that vast blue sexiness that we like to call a sky, and that’s just swell. Sigh… isn’t Life just nifty?

Um… why are you looking at me like that?
Oh, I get it- you’ve never actually seen me happy, have you?
Calm down. It’s all good. Really, it is.

Sure, at the time of my last Blogvella, I was somewhat depressed due to the veracity of my fellow Creatives displaying all the strength of microwaved Velveeta in regards to bettering their personal self-interest, but that was the recent past, and I tend to be an “in the now” kind of guy, always keeping one eye on the end goal.

In fact, I’m in such a good mood that I feel like writing a blog that’s just chock full of sunshine, unicorns, and otters doing endearing things with their adorable paws.

Doesn’t that sound just great?
I thought so too, so we should get moving- but before we do, I have to address a small issue first.

As I noted, my last screed focused on the troubling aspect of PHX’s artistic apathy and it’s chilling effect on possible future success. Along with my take on that particular problem, I also meted out a well-earned artsy bitch-slap to a local non-entity, also known as “Scooter” Harris, a never-was who constantly bags on the PAS, despite his never actually contributing anything of substance to it.

If I were to draw you an analogy, his theoretical critiques are akin to having Pat Robertson conduct a symposium regarding the works of Motley Crue- it’s just that asinine, and yet- still strikes as highly comical to those of us who know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes and in the river.

Concerning his weak attempt at character assassination in regards to myself and curator/gallery owner Robrt Pela, I wryly stated the following: “Every village has its’ idiot, and apparently… the village next door loaned us theirs as a courtesy “.

An observation that NOBODY disagreed with, I might add.

Granted, I don’t truly believe that this general opinion is based entirely on his exorable writing, I’m also pretty sure a lot of it has to do with the irrefutable fact that nobody in the PAS knows who the hell he is.

Normally, when I engage in a battle of wits with an obviously unarmed opponent, I don’t usually give them both barrels, mainly due to the fact that when it comes to this scene, it’s sort of comparable to shooting at kittens with an ICBM.

An egotistical overkill as it were, especially when the majority of my detractors seemingly lack the ability to fight back effectively. But I do appreciate it when they try. Honestly, I do. It gives me hope that maybe, someday soon, they’ll be a worthy adversary- the kind that has a secret handshake, a flying car, and a nifty laser decoder ring.

Creepy Asian henchmen optional.

Seriously, is it too much to ask for a right proper antagonist who can go the full ten rounds without needing a diaper change and a bottle? In this town, apparently it is, and here’s some proof: the only person who’s ever knocked me for a loop is Connor Descheemaker, and he’s essentially on the same side as me.

However, his approach to the inherent issues within the PAS has been much more diplomatic than mine, and for that I have to give the kid some mad dog props. Staying on the path without killing someone is almost damn near nigh impossible in this scene some days, but he manages to do it, and do it well.

Along with having a much better sense of self-restraint, he also has done the following, much to the betterment of the PAS: at Modified Arts he worked as a Gallery Assistant; doing PR, installing shows, sitting gallery hours, serving as a member of the Phoenix Gallery Coalition, while also representing Roosevelt Row/Modified Arts as a Phoenix location for the temporary public art project IN FLUX begun by Scottsdale Public Art.

Served (via the Sustainable Communities Collaborative) as Project Manager & Curator of “Exit to Left: History Along the Light Rail,” a three-city photo exhibition, lecture series, and website dedicated to documenting historic properties along the light rail line in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

As if that wasn’t enough, he was also the Director of Community Initiatives, and responsible for organizing the monthly Downtown Devil Discussions, a panel discussion series devoted to critical issues facing downtown Phoenix, one semester of which was focused on arts and culture.

Topping it off, he then added the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to his impressive list of accomplishments, where he honed his skills as an Installation and Curatorial Intern; researching exhibitions and artists, compiling reports, and installing shows in all media.

See what I mean? That’s the definition of “worthy opponent” right there kids.

Unlike most of my detractors, he came at me head on and at full speed- an approach that garners a lot of respect from this here Artbitch, hence the reason why we’re all cool with each other now.

I don’t mind losing, I just don’t want to lose to the mediocre, and he is so not that.
As to how it was possible for him to ring my bell…

Well, I was tired that day. The sun was in my eyes. Somebody put something in my drink. He was lucky my girl was in the room. I was stone-cold pimpin’. My trick knee started acting up. The dog ate my assignment. Jesus is my Homeboy. I was workin’ in a coal mine, going down down. It’s all the [insert group here]’s fault. I ran out of crayons. I blame my parents, mostly. I was practicing charity. I was distracted by something shiny.

I was flying my freak flag. My other suit of armor was in the shop, and I had to go with the cheap one. I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Thanks to my deep concern over who would win American Idol, I forgot I was supposed to defend myself. It’s all Obama’s fault. I was working the dance floor. My battery died. I ran out of hair gel. I left my wallet in my other pair of pants. I was getting down with my bad self. I was teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Not to mention that I was also partying like it was 1999.
And did I mention that he cheats?

Yes, he most definitely cheats… because that’s the only way one could best me within the halls of the Lair of Snarkitude. Seems like a perfectly plausible explanation when you get right down to it, so far as I can tell. Sure, that whole “energy of youth” thing he’s got going can be a tad bit vexing, but mark my words… one day he’ll be old and tired.

Granted, I’ll have been dead for decades by that point, but vengeance will be mine, this I swear.
And if Time refuses to help me on my quest?

Well, there’s always the fall back position of cutting his brake lines.
Or hitting him with my walker.

Moving on…

Other than my now fellow ally Connor, I honestly can’t think of anyone who’s ever been able to lay a glove on me, whether it be metaphorical or reality based. It’s not that I haven’t had my share of confrontation within this scene, trust me, I have- it’s more along the line that my adversaries seemingly have no ability to get to the heart of who I am, and that’s why they fail so miserably.

To those of you who just perked up, cease thy optimism- I’m not going to give you a primer on how to get under my skin. I may be snarky, but I’m also not stupid. In fact, I already can see the question forming in your head in regards to my always being ready for battle: If I don’t like, respect, or fear you, why should I care what you say about me?

Overall, I don’t. But there are a few caveats to that way of thinking, nonetheless. The only opinions I have ever valued come from those rare few that I truly respect. Whether that esteem stems from your abilities, character, or intellect matters not to me. What is important is that once you have earned my admiration, it’s very hard to lose. Moreover, while it has happened in the past, it’s been quite some time since I righteously abandoned anyone to the dark side of the moon, sans the album.

Here’s the truth of the matter- when it gets right down to brass tacks, I loathe two specific types of people: spineless cowards and/or ignorant bullies. Characteristically, they’re usually one and the same, but not always, and if there was any sort of contest for failed social experiments, the Internet definitely would qualify as a serious contender for allowing these arrogant cravens to propagate in the manner that they have.

It’s been my observation that in the world of the real, very few people would dare say what they unconditionally spew without a thought all over the web. As I’ve often noted, the net is a lot like numerous shots of tequila- after consumption, everybody’s ten feet tall and fearless as f**k.

Until someone dares to get in their face, that is.

Then it’s akin to watching Jello under a heat lamp, as they liquefy back into the candy-ass pond they crawled out of. If I had a dollar for everyone who’s ever uttered their honest opinion about me behind my back rather than to my front, I’d be comfortably ensconced on my private Ding Dong island, being served Mojitos by my cyborg monkey servants.

You know… like you do.

See, I don’t go after my critics because I’m thin-skinned, I go after them because I don’t believe in letting arrogant inanity flourish, even if it’s just for a second. I’ve always been of the mindset that the truly dense need to be put down ASAP, regardless of whether they’re a person or a cow.

To be clear, I’m not talking about someone who’s naïve, I’m talking about those that are immune to proven facts or logic. In essence, it’s anyone you look at and the first thought that comes to mind is:

“Seriously… how have you survived this long without being eaten?”

While I am known (or hated, depending on your POV) for being intensely harsh about the PAS, I still believe in what it’s trying to do, and imagine what it might be if we could all just make that sucker run lean, mean, and clean. We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the space, we just have to get that art-car in the garage and make it as bad-ass as we see it in our collective mind.

[Starts singing “Greased Lightning” inside his head…]

Criticism doesn’t always imply disdain for forward progress, nor does it want to be cast aside- it can (and should) be used as a blueprint towards strengthening the base for whatever concept you’re attempting to construct from the infinite ether of creativity.

As I’ve often said with a fair amount of glee: “Critics are legless men who teach classes in running”, and when it comes to describing a rather large portion of the PAS’s detractors, I think that quote is  fairly apt.

But not always. Not by a long shot.

I’ve always striven to provide a balance of sorts to my assessments of the PAS and it’s pond of Creatives- a sweet/sour approach, as it were. For every metaphorical swat with the belt, I also try to offer a resolution to the issue at hand that I’m griping about.

Seriously- I’ll never understand people who complain endlessly about something, yet refuse to entertain the thought of being part of the solution due to their own self-importance or pettiness.

[See: “Scooter”, “Tingbat”, “Justice O’Donnell”, “Weekend Anarchist Brigade”, etc…]

Willful ignorance should never be tolerated or disregarded, and it most certainly should not be rewarded, unless said compensation involves getting publicly dope-slapped upside the head,

To my sorrow, I have noticed a lack of committed effort within the PAS to exile such cretins, a regretful Achilles’ heel that’s been incorporated into the bedrock of any steps forward we attempt to make. But progress is being made however, and here’s where our tale starts with the dispensation of warm fuzzies and fairy wings.

Over the course of the last two years, much has been done in regards to the visibility of the PAS- highly effective gallery associations, artist groups and new spaces have been popping up and getting proactive with lightning speed.

Heck, even the Phoenix New Times is starting to write articles worth reading about the PAS, and while I’m pretty confident that Mangling Editor Amy Silverman still hates Phoenix with the heat of a thousand suns, it’s nice to see that even she has to acknowledge what’s going on downtown, albeit it grudgingly.

I know, I know- give the poor lady a break. I will concede that it must be exceedingly galling to get up every morning and have to start your day off by eating a giant bowl of crow-flakes in regards to your long held belief that this town sucks, and seeing glimmers of growth on the horizon, nonetheless.

To be fair, they’re still churning out the same yellow journalism fluff they’ve always produced, but who cares? Andy Warhol once said: “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” – an ideology I can fully get behind, and one I have lived with for most of my so-called career.

As far as I’m concerned, all ink is good ink, regardless of whether it’s upbeat or pessimistic- at least they’re talking about you, and that’s what truly counts in the end. And most recently, what was being discussed was the 14th installment of the group show that’s known as Chaos Theory, or what I like to breezily off the cuff refer to as “The Artists’ Prom” or “The Artsy Super Bowl”.

In spite of my flippancy, I do mean that with respect- I freaking love CT.
Why is that, you ask?

Well for me, it’s the opportunity to interact with my fellow Creatives and network like a boss, while simultaneously having one hell of a good time. As I noted in a related blog last year, CT is the one time that the Tribe is all gathered under one roof, and that’s just awesome, especially if you’re a manic chatterbox like yours truly.

For me, CT has always been a two-tiered event- one level is the show itself, the other is the rare social interaction that we get to have with our fellow Creatives under the guise of an art show.

I get to catch up, meet the new blood, hang out with my fellow dinosaurs, all the while gauging the depth of the creative sea in PHX. This year was no different, and despite the objections by some that CT has gotten less innovative and more “mainstream” as the years have rolled on, I personally could find no fault with this years’ offering as a whole.

There are always going to be pieces that I don’t care for, but that’s my aesthetic quibble, and it’s really not worth splitting hairs over when it gets right down to brass tacks.

If I were to play Devil’s advocate, I’d forward the thought that CT hasn’t mellowed, it’s matured. I for one, am nothing like I was 14 years ago, and I seriously doubt any of you are either. Sure, those core values remain, but as we move through our lives, the perspective is bound to change, which isn’t always a bad thing.

My outside take on the whole dismissive “Chaos isn’t as cool as it used to be” mind-set? If you don’t like it, then start your own yearly group show. It really is that simple, depending on one’s inherent ability and dedication to promote and curate such a monstrous behemoth.

And if you’re not willing to do just that, then please stop droning on about it already.

Happily, there was no sign of the faux slanderous drama that was inflicted upon CT last year by the PAS’s resident artsy crazy cat lady, Suzanne Falk*, whose childish rant within the pages of the PHX New Times did absolutely nothing except help swell attendance and publicize the show.

That success by the way, was partially due to her ludicrous (and ultimately baseless) charges of homophobia and misogyny falling on deaf ears- a self-serving move that in the end, backfired, and elevated Randy’s public profile via all the publicity she unwittingly helped create for him.

*[Link: http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html]

And while I’m on the subject, I’d also like to point out Suzy’s latent hypocrisy, as she did attend this year’s show, despite not having any work displayed in it. So, I guess that it’s okay to attend an event that you publically (and loudly) claimed was ubiquitous with homophobia and a sexist agenda, just so long as you didn’t contribute a piece, right Suzy?

Furthermore, it’s an art show, not a dog park- so please leave your stupid pet at home next time, too. If I wanted something furry with bad breath to dry-hump my leg, I’d have called up my ex-fiancé.

That minor irritation not withstanding, Chaos 14 was packed to the rafters with the PAS’s art elite and their protégés, along with the art-curious. And if there was a singular emotion running through the show that night, it would have to be one of “I’m ok, but you… you’re just great!

When I left after closing the show down, I seriously felt like the hottest bitch in the room, and not just because I was wearing leather pants. Which by the way, is the first official sign that Winter has come full swing in PHX. At the risk of sounding a tad bit sycophantic, I’d put forth that when it comes to putting together a show of this magnitude, nobody has done it as well or as consistently as Randy Slack.

To speak the Truth, haters gonna hate, but they’re going to be doing that hating within a very small circle- everybody goes to Chaos, and whether they like the show or not, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t enjoy themselves on some level, even if that’s only to bitch about what Chaos is or isn’t. 

There was so much love floating around in that room, I’m surprised we all don’t have to go get our blood tested. My already unwieldy Ego was the size of the Goodyear Blimp when I left, due to all the compliments I received in regards to my latest writing and advocacy efforts occurring within the PAS.

If I were to be entirely honest, it still feels really weird when people come up and tell me that they love what I do- especially when you consider how long of a slog it was to get to the point where people are starting to pay attention to what I say, and not focusing on how I say it.

But in the end, maybe remaining constantly uneasy is a good thing for your development, as I’ve always felt that self-doubt is still one of the paramount ways of making sure that you remain as sharp and relevant as you were when you started your career.

Many moons ago, I once had a teacher tell me that when you no longer got butterflies in the stomach before a show, that’s when you know to quit and walk away- because you’re done, kiddo. For me, it’s close to 25 years that I’ve been involved with the Arts in one form or another, and I don’t see the end of the road just yet.

When it comes to local promotion, CT shows off the talent and passion that exists within this scene, and serves as an excellent barometer of where the PAS is going creatively. And while it remains the defacto model in regards to putting on large art-related events in this city, I do hope that it won’t be the only one in the years to come.

Imagine it. Being paid to do what we love, and being respected for it at the same time.
That’s the kind of warm happy vibe I think everybody can get behind, even this snarky bitch.

Hopefully, one day serious and well-financed Patrons will help shape PHX into the “must see” destination for all things creative and visionary, viewed by the world stage in the same way that NYC and LA. are- a serious contender that holds it’s own while maintaining it’s unique identity.

But until that happy day arrives, I say embrace the Chaos.

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe