“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
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:
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
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