Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Thoughts on the Exhibition ...

This picture somehow didn't get printed yesterday. It is Diane Gaulston Robinson's quilt, Vacant Lots, Brooklyn Waterfront. The photo is inadequate -- Robinson needed every inch of her 36x36 to show the images that are extremely reduced here. But it was a beautifully balanced quilt with fascinating images.

I keep thinking about the exhibit. I'm a muller -- things keep working in my mind. That's okay about these experiences but very frustrating when it's a matter of realizing, hours later, the perfect riposte in a contretemps, or what I should have said in a difficult emotional situation.

The size problem keeps nagging at me. Would exhibitors of most art shows impose such rules? Even, say, for a showing of student art work at the end of a semester. I don't think so. I don't think any group of artists would bow to such limitations ... although, I think of the many, many 10 minute play competitions in the country. An equally ridiculous restriction. There are even calls for one-page short stories. Really! As a playwright who's done her share of ten minute plays, I can tell you it's desperation that make one do it -- only so many venues exist at all. But a ten minute play is almost never really a play, it's a skit, a slightly fleshed out anecdote, usually a joke -- not a full expression of what a playwright has to say, It's a matter of skill at dialog and incident, not the construction of a vision of life.

The same desperation probably is at the root of quilt shows that restrict size -- usually the rules have a maximum but don't insist all be the very same size. Venues, whether exhibition spaces or theatres, haven't the space, or money -- or nerve -- to commit to being open to all comers in whatever size or genre. Presenters feel a bit self-righteous that they take a chance with what is relatively unknown, may be less than familiar to their audience, but, hey, it's only 10 minutes, hey, there are only 21 quilts and they're only 36x36 -- nothing overwhelming or demanding, really. Nothing will jump off the wall and bite you.

Parallels can be found in other arts. Poets and novelists know almost no publisher will take a chance on a vast saga of a literary work. So, what to do? Either find a place within the restrictions or be a hard headed idealist and simply do your art. If the latter, be sure you have a day job or a reliable source of income or a taste for poverty and obscurity. It's helpful to have enough "religion" [however you define it] to believe that the reward is in the creation and not in appreciation of that creation. You need an ego big enough to insist on doing what you need to do, and secure enough not to need reward, verbal or monetary. And let's hope that person has both skill and something to say -- both are in short supply.

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