Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rouge Wave or Sea Change?

I have been in the art business long enough to know it is filled with more excitement than anyone outside of the art world suspects: intrigue, theft, forgery, genius, romance. But nothing prepared me for the reaction I saw last night at our Charleston French Quarter Gallery Walk. We hang this amazing painting of Sadie Valerie's in our front foyer above our guest book. Almost every visitor stops, stares and comments on the incredible beauty and skill manifested in this lovely work of art. We often discuss Sadie's technique, talk about the way the painting is constructed. The conversation often drifts to a dialog about art valuation, competency and the sad state of affairs in the popular media, academia and museology regarding contemporary art & its value. People are a-gog at the works we have in the gallery, noting how much they love the work and had no idea there was an entire world of painting going on, so different from the garbage they are typically presented as "art"...As my friend David Leffel says, "So many paintings, so little art..." Anyway, back to last night and the reaction to this painting: A fairly "artsy" looking woman saunters in (I have no idea who she was) and was literally bowled over by Sadie's painting. And I mean bowled over. She fell into the wall (and painting) behind her, recovered her balance (I caught the teetering painting - no harm done) and started to tear up. She held her face, cried a number of expletives and indicated she was moved to her very soul's core...had no idea any one could create anything like this work and held my hands thanking me for hanging the work. I mumbled something vaguely appropriate and watched her go back out into the street and drag her group of friends in to see the painting. They of course, loved it (as most people do) and then she continued to exclaim her adoration for the work, ask questions, etc. It was of course very delightful and at the same time humbling. Sadie's Bottle Collection often has a strong positive effect on people as do many of our painters & their paintings (I had some one threaten to marry a painting of Clayton Beck's once but that is for another blog...) Anyway at that point we had gathered quite a crowd, the gallery was filled beyond the ability to walk around...I squeezed by and asked everyone to allow in bound visitors past, only to be informed by our British Wine Merchant, Stephen, that we were out of glasses. Janice Rossmann & I scrambled about, washed a slew of plastic glasses, had Lawrence, in his sweet demeanor, facilitate a little crowd control, sold a couple items to customers and reflected for a moment on the woman's amazement. As I pondered her reaction and the reaction of most of our visitors to our works, I sense a great sea change. I did market research for many years and feel as if we are about to have a "Hundredth Monkey" phenomenon occurs where enough of the population has an understanding of a fact, a skill, an idea, and it magically emerges through the minds of most individuals. We seem to be reaching a critical fulcrum swing towards competence based art as opposed to -- oh my, I never know how to politically correctly describe it -- non representational? works...(I am trying to be more diplomatic as one of my previous blogs caused one of my neighboring galleries to print my blog, walk over, thrust it in my face and rather loudly complain that due to my writings people were calling him a huckster! He was quite incensed at me & later that evening my very ornate pots out front were vandalized. It may have been a coincidence, but I was a vexed at the degree of rancor and rage he displayed. As if a bit of decor like an Andy Warhol Soup Can painting would hold up throughout the ages next to a Richard Schmid master work...I mean, really?! Other than price paid (sucker punch anyone) who could possibly think there was any comparison?! I used to think the reactions to our work were exceptions to popular thought...rouge waves in the world of art. But since my angry visitor, visibly shaken by the comments he was getting from others, came charging in the gallery I have come to think of it as a sea change...a little like the absence of water at the shore before the tsunami hits...Not to cite the obvious, but doesn't Sadie's wax paper does resemble a big wave? A very, very big wave?


Terry Strickland said...

I think you are right! Sadie's work is beautiful beyond words and there seems to be a growing appreciation for time tested art skills and work with content. I'll be in Charleston for the Women Painting Women Show and will come by to see your gallery and this beautiful painting if it hasn't found a new home yet!

Costescu said...

I hope it is a very, very, very big wave ;) Sadie's work is amazing, I only wish I were closer to come see both Sadie and Terry's works as they are two of my fav artists.

Woodward Simons said...

Maggie, your writing certainly captured my attention today and held it throughout the entire blog.

Want to cut and paste the line where you compared Richard Schmid and Andy Warhol and send it to Richard. I paint with him and a group of artists in Putney, and he has changed the way I see art. I had always admired representational work, but understanding and constant viewing of really great art has nurtured my taste.

Thanks for your wonderful blog.

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