Wandering the streets of Schenectady during the “Art Attack” on Saturday, evading the pleading eyes of the artists hawking their works throughout the city’s downtown, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that I wasn’t one of the hundreds who’d signed up for what may become an annual event. I was reminded, too, how writers have it easy compared to visual artists when it comes to displaying our work.
It’s not that I wasn’t tempted. When I read the e-mail invitation to display my work at Art Attack, I gave it some serious thought. A chance to display several of my paintings and collages for free in a city-wide festival on the first day of spring, perhaps even to sell them – what’s not to like? Then I reminded myself of the logistics involved – loading my paintings into my trusty Focus hatchback, schlepping them to Schenectady, hanging them and arranging a display area, maybe babysitting them throughout the weekend, then putting the entire process into rewind on Sunday evening. Not worth the hassle, I decided.
Five-star Frame and Art, the first venue I visited, was a lovely gallery, with quality work displayed in mini-one-person shows. Damn, I thought – I shouldn’t have blown this off. Maybe next year. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Schenectady’s striking city hall, designed and built during the Depression by McKim, Mead, and White, was temporary home to hundreds of art works in many media – some truly excellent, but the majority mediocre or worse.
Artists sat or stood by their works with their game faces on, doing their best to make eye contact and smile. There were plenty of visitors, but there and at the other venues it was obvious that they were out for a leisurely stroll on a gorgeous spring day, and that the art was strictly secondary. I didn’t see any serious discussions of art happening, let alone any sales. I chatted with some of the artists, and learned they’d been advised to stay with their work if possible, since the event offered no insurance coverage.
Comparatively speaking, we writers have it easy. All our merchandise and display paraphernalia fit easily into a couple of cartons and a wheeled cart, so the logistics are simple, and we usually don’t have to put in the long hours that visual artists do. Our works come in multiples, so they’re priced low enough to tempt the occasional impulse buyer. Original works of art, in contrast, are luxury items and beyond the reach of most of us in today’s economy. Nonetheless, regardless of medium, we artists have similar motives. “I put my heart and soul into this work,” we think. “Pay attention. Please care enough to take my creations home with you, or failing that, at least to truly see them for what they are – portraits of the artist.”
But hope springs eternal, even for this jaded painter. A beautiful new coop art gallery will open soon in downtown Troy, and I’ll probably display some of my work there on consignment. As the New York Lottery hucksters say, “Hey – you never know.”
How about you? Do you enjoy hanging out at public venues showing and hoping to sell your work? Is it a necessary evil you endure? Or do you bypass it entirely?