Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back in May, I wrote a post about the (time, energy, and) money one invests in each exhibition, always in the hopes that "something might happen". The point was that, usually, very little happens… maybe you sell a piece once in a while, maybe you get a good review. Despite the articles one might read about those sold out MFA shows that immediately put 24-year-olds "on the map", the impact of an individual exhibition for most artists usually amounts to a few more lines on the resume. Looked at on a case-by-case basis, it does not seem to be worth the effort & sacrifice. But, like giving birth, you forget the pain of the previous experience, and you are always willing to put it out there again, because this time may be different, but also because this is just what you DO. It is your job, the life you have chosen, and it is better than any other kind of life you can imagine, because you get to spend hours on earth doing what you love.

The irony of my May post is that this show WAS different. When I came here initially to install my show at the Belger, the strange feeling of well-being that I experienced in Kansas City was difficult to articulate. Part of it was the old industrial brick buildings with the black and white block-lettered text, coupled with the railroad going through town. (One of my first serious drawings in high school was of the railroad tracks where I used to hang out, surrounded by similar buildings.) The people in Kansas City are friendly and open, and there is tremendous support for the arts. There is a very funky (as opposed to conservative) retro vibe to this place. And the people at the Belger, as well as the building itself, were amazing.

I have been to Kansas City three times since June, and have fallen in love with the city. I have made some new friends, seen lots of great art, and discovered lamb barbecue. There were a few reviews of the show, and people who understand what goes into making my work got exposed to it through the surface design conference. I got curated into another show in the company of some amazing artists, and it looks like I have sold a major piece to a prominent collection, one that will circulate the work and place it in much better exhibitions than I ever could on my own. The sale means one more semester spent in the studio, rather than the classroom. One more semester of “seeing what will happen” in this full-time artmaking experiment.

I always reminded my students (when they were feeling discouraged) that people in various parts of the country respond differently to various types of work, so what may be uninteresting to art audiences in LA might be fascinating to viewers in Atlanta. So I feel that Kansas City has been lucky for me in an inexplicable way. I am developing an almost superstitious feeling about this city. When I checked into my hotel this time, I told them I wanted a room that was as high as possible, to look out over the city, and I almost always have the drapes open, with a clear view of the railroad racks and the Belger building. Last night, I am certain that the people dining at the rotating restaurant at the top of the Hilton had a clear view of me sitting in my flannel PJs, embroidering in my room.

And every night since I have been here, I fall asleep watching the animated light of the Western Auto sign go round, thankful that, after 20 years, I feel like I am experiencing some momentary momentum.


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