Exile on Pretentious Street PT. 1 ( With apologies to the Rolling Stones)
June 16, 2010
“Bad art is a great deal worse than no art at all.” – Oscar Wilde
“Art is like sex- most of it is pretty bad, and the really good stuff is out of your price range.”- Anonymous
I need to do a favor for a friend first: SF? Take your drama and stuff it. Now that I have that out of the way- It’s so nice to be back! I can only hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you.
You did know I was gone, right? Oh. Well, it’s good to be back anyways. And have you lost weight? No? Well… (Clears throat) you look great anyway. But I’m going to warn you- this blog is a long one, so I’d assemble the snacks now if I were you.
I recommend S’mores!
Now- back to me, as always.The last blog I wrote (for my soon to be deleted MySpace account) was posted on Thursday, July 03 2008. So, it’s been a while.
Why, you ask? Well- I did come disturbingly close to shuffling off the mortal coil in July of 2009, but I’m not going to address that right now, as I need to get my head wrapped around it a little better, and I don’t want to kill the happy buzz we’ve got going on right now.
See, there’s a small issue when it comes to my writing- I have to be in a certain mind set to scribe my literary rants. Bitchy. Snarky. Vexed. Irritated. Peeved. You get the idea. So, when I’m not annoyed, the well dries up. I don’t know why. Now don’t get me wrong, I have been annoyed from time to time in the last two years, but there’s been so much good stuff too, that I really haven’t felt the need to rant and roll.
As a general rule, people who don’t know me very well perceive me as being an angry kind of guy. I would strongly disagree. It’s not anger, its motivation. In my humble opinion, intolerance, greed, and willful ignorance persist only because your average person doesn’t get angry enough to get motivated and effect change.
I’m a big believer of the power of anger, as long as it is used with focus. Focused anger gave women the right to vote. Focused anger took away Jim Crows teeth.Focused anger repealed Prohibition. Focused anger brought back old Coke after they replaced it with the abomination known as “New Coke”.Focused anger put Barrack Obama in the Oval office (You Go, America!) and will hopefully keep Sarah Palin out of it- unless she’s with a tour group, of course
Focused anger will eventually make Gay marriage legal, and hurl “don’t ask, don’t tell” onto the rubbish heap of History where it belongs. But I digress. As I was saying- people who don’t know me very well usually perceive me as being an angry kind of guy. But it’s not true. At least not all the time. For instance?
It’s practically impossible for me to look at a penguin and be mad, as an example.
My way of dealing with the world sort of grows on people, given enough time. You know… sort of like mold? Of course, there are times that I hear from people who detest what I say and sometimes do, and while I feel rather proud of having made those people angry, I also have to wonder sometimes why I put up with such resistance to my freely given unvarnished thoughts.
It has been my unfortunate experience that those who believe in nothing are usually jealous and angry of those who believe in, and more importantly- stand for, something. But I have developed a theory why I keep plugging away despite all that. Every now and then, someone actually listens and dwells upon what I said, and without their realizing it, they convert to my way of seeing things.
Now I am a cynic at heart- for all I know, they may just see me as a form of free theatre. To quote Matt Spastic, the drummer for local punk god legends The Complainiacs:
“I’ve always been amused and entertained by your little rants.”
Let’s face it- if you can’t trust a punk rock drummer with eyes the color of the ocean after a storm, who can you trust? No one, says I. The last two years have been fairly low key and positive, despite my near death experience. I’ve been in two documentaries, with my role as the villain in one of them garnering strong reviews, there was a redesign of my website from scratch, and my current relationship is proceeding amazingly.
In fact, I haven’t been that big of a bitch to anyone in God knows when.There also haven’t been any of my typically harsh blogs full of griping about how certain things really suck big donkey donkus. As a side note, this is the first time I’ve used the phrase “big donkey donkus” in over a year. I was actually being mistaken in public for a really nice guy.
Have you ever seen that episode of Star Trek that had the two Captain Kirks? One evil, one good?
Well, my life was going along just like that except in my case both Wayne Michael Reich’s were replaced with Zen Masters who collected My Little Pony, made toys for orphaned kids, and rescued tree stuck kittens on the side when they weren’t volunteering for their local Catholic League.
See, I honestly thought when I wrote my opus blog “Thank God it’s Friday (I think not) Parts 1 & 2” that I had gotten all my issues with PHX’s First Friday (hereafter referred to as FF) out of my system, but then came the relocation to Tucson of artist provocateur Peter Petrisko. And with yet another PHX artist leaving for greener pastures, a few cracks started forming in the walls of my artistic Zen dam.But first, some history.
I have known Pete since the early 90’s or so. Already infamous at that time for his unique approach to “in the name of art” related antics, all of which can be “Googled”, he was responsible for the legendary art space Gallery X where I was first exposed to PHX’s then burgeoning art scene.
After taking a brief leave of PHX, he returned to create new artworks, spoken word pieces, and innovative performance art, such as Uncle Sku’s Clubhouse which was performed regularly at The Trunk Space, along with the wickedly sharp Internet series Doc Sterno’s Wise Advice, which hands down- is my personal favorite thing he’s ever done.
Doc Sterno. Seriously funny stuff. And you might even learn something. Despite the fact that we are both creative, Pete and I have had our disagreements over the years on a laundry list of various issues, such as who rocks harder- ABBA or Lords of Acid (I still say ABBA) but we both had common ground- PHX’s art scene had changed since the early days, and not for the better.
But even with all the entrenched FF obstacles, Pete kept creating- not for financial gain, not for fame (or infamy) he did it for the sake of art. I can see you sitting at home (wait- are you naked? Is that spray cheese?) thinking that I’m romanticizing the creative process, but I am a cynic at heart. The one trait Pete and I both share is that we do like to mess with people’s heads every now and then, whether it’s for our own warped sense of fun or to get our point across.
And we use Art to do it. A bubble wrapped hammer of Art, as it were.
Despite his being one of the artistic backbones in the PHX at scene, Pete received very little media attention for his work- oh sure there was the occasional blurb or artist “interview”- which all artists generally loathe, mainly due to the stupidity of the questions, but I believe I can say without any fear of backlash that the local media does a shitty job of covering the arts scene in PHX., or any town in AZ. for that matter.
This issue I will address later, so let’s stay on point. So, why did yet another PHX old school artist flee for Tucson to explore (in his own words) “exile”? Well, I do have a few theories as to why we have such a talent exodus.
I’ve noticed that a lot of our talent establishes elsewhere, and then comes here because studio and living space is cheap- the amazing graffiti artist known as “The Mac” for example. Being an artist from PHX is downright embarrassing sometimes, since no one takes us seriously.
And I really don’t blame them anymore, because it’s entirely our fault.
Yep, I said it. And you can hold your breath- there will not be a fucking apology forthcoming.
As everyone who reads my blog knows, I have a lot of issues with FF, which for sake of space & boredom I won’t rehash here. You’re welcome- think of it as a gift. But I will take into account (in my humble opinion) of what drives our artists out:
1) We’re the 5th largest city in the USA, and our “artwalk” is a fucking joke.
The patrons don’t buy art, they buy tchotchkes, as long as the price is right- preferably under 10 bucks, I’ve noticed. Over the last three years or so, there’s been a huge influx of candy ass hipsters who actually have the cojones to come out to the monthly FREE event that my fellow creatives and I expend time and energy on (with little to no reward), and complain about it.
These same artistic lampreys love to claim that by showing up (and not buying art) they’re “supporting the scene”, yet oddly, these defenders of art are usually nowhere to be found on Third Friday, which usually has less beer, no DJ’s, and no corn dogs at hand.
I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. You hate FF so much, my asinine hipsters? It’s probably a good thing then that you never drop money on it.Oh sorry, my bad- you did buy a corn dog and that three dollar refrigerator magnet.
But don’t worry- that cash you parted with is enough to keep us artists in green for another 6 months at least, since we pay all of our bills with compliments, and purchase our food with good will, which is kind of ironic, since so many of us have to shop there now.
2) The majority of our so called ”galleries” are only open a few nights a month at best.
You can’t create an art community based on that kind of schedule, nor will you be able to create valuable exposure for any of your featured artists. And it would be nice if we had at least more than one gallery with some actual national clout to expose our talent outside Arizona’s border, wouldn’t it?
3) A gallery is a BUSINESS, not a social club.
Take it seriously or please get the fuck out. If you’re not marketing and selling art, what’s the point? Want to feel important? Call your Mom- she still loves you.Everyone else however- knows you’re a poseur.
4) The corporate blandness of Roosevelt Street, versus the street party atmosphere everywhere else, has been a huge detriment to the scene and to the artists in general.
This schizophrenic approach has failed to produce any long lasting economic effects for the downtown art scene, unless you’re a bar owner or a street vendor- real artists have been left out in the cold. Give the Lost Leaf time and it’ll become another Starbucks around the corner from the current Starbucks. Oh joy- I can’t wait to order a seven dollar drink that has no alcohol in it.
5) Art cliques.
I don’t believe in kissing ass or paying dues to receive exposure, my belief has always been that everyone gets a slice, not just the “cool kids”. Due to both infighting and general warring with corporate entities, any progress has been mired in the muck of who gets what and when, and yes- you DO know who I’m talking about. Get your own house in order before you start throwing rocks.
6) The Willow House closing.
It was one of the coolest places to hang out, especially if you were a creative. Many of my current friendships were first formed there- Pete would perform regularly at the Willow which is where I actually got to know him a little better. While it is a well-known fact that I generally dislike any “open mike” night- it was a metaphorical watering hole for the creative community, and I believe its passing represents yet another closed door, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, it reopened as “Hob Nobs”- which has all the charm and warmth of a Benigan’s.
The rude and pretentious staff is just one of the many reasons I avoid this hipster gloryhole.
Wow. You make coffee. Sorry? You’re actually a barista? Isn’t that just a fancy name for “a guy who makes coffee”? Thought so.
Anywho, Hob Nob barista- many thanks for critiquing my art, giving me your opinion about how I dress, and implying I have no money. Here’s an idea- how about you go grab that overpriced sandwich I ordered 25 minutes ago? Or is there another Italian named specialist I have to confer with? I have an idea, think globally act locally- go visit Conspire Coffee at 3rd Street and Roosevelt- local art, jewelry, poetry slams, etc- they also have vegan cookies, and they kick ass.
I swear. And let’s not forget the awesome robot sculptures that they sell too.They rock, and I would know- I own one, courtesy of my kick ass girlfriend Ashley.
To sum up my long-winded opinion?
Peter, like the other artists before him and the ones to surely follow- left because it’s going to get much worse before it gets any better. Unlike PHX, Tucson’s art scene seems to foster a much healthier environment for creativity, not to mention it also seems to lack the culturally challenged masses that we’re currently cursed with. Since relocating to Tucson, Pete’s created a magazine, a few short films, and a music video which, ironically, was shot in PHX.
See? PHX is finally good for something, even if it’s just as a prop, Best of luck Peter- we’re worse off without you. Congratulations, Art Scene! You drove out yet another talented artist. But you do have plenty of crappy ones to fill the void- it’s the one thing we seem to have a surplus of.
Like some sort of crappy second rate Army Navy Thrift Shop.
I feel at this point we all could use a little break. How’s five minutes sound?
Great. So go stretch your legs, grab a cigarette, go to the bathroom, and catch up on some dusting. I’ll be right here when you get back.
OK… I might sneak off and have a Ding Dong with a glass of milk, but I will be within shouting distance… Promise.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”- Maria Robertson