February 11, 2008

Artists' Collective and Gallery

I’ve been working, finally, on The Decorated Betsy, which I believe I told most of you was the next large papier-mâché sculpture I’d planned on doing many months ago. I started it right after the fight with Karen and subsequent “separation” from her, one I hoped would be permanent.

I built her out of found materials, the only boughten elements having been one medium-size kitchen wastebasket and a very flimsy hollow plastic chair. Every other part of the skeleton, I either had on hand or got from someone else who was throwing it away. The rest was papier-mâché. I had just gotten to the painting stage (see below) when I got a call from, guess who—yeah, Karen, wanting to make up and be friends again. I didn’t feel I could rightly say, F— off, get out of my life, so I accepted her offer but vowed not to fall back into dependency again. I invited her up to see the sculpture – she was very impressed – and then we went out to a restaurant for a soda and to catch each other up on the past 2 weeks (not that there was much I cared to share).

As we left, she mentioned that she and Gary were attending an art show that evening at a gallery they frequented every month or so, knowing the manager and many of the artists and patrons. She suggested I take a picture of Betsy and bring one of Yurtle and wear some of my jewelry so she could introduce me to Francesca, the manager, and see if she was encouraging.

For some reason, though I’d refused many other times, not having much energy that late in the day and fearing the cocktail party atmosphere of an art show (Karen and Gary like eating the free supper of finger food au d’oeuvres as much as seeing the art), this time I said, “Okay, I’ll try it.”

On the way downtown, Karen keyed me in on what to say to Francesca when showing her the pictures, how not to simply clam up and say nothing but to add as much to the simple story behind the pictures as I could, maybe talking about how I went to medical school, or telling her how I did the sculptures etc. She gave me some ideas of what sorts of things to say, but I was sure I would forget the moment Francesca asked me a question.

When we got there the show was already in full swing and the room was crowded, the food not as plentiful as “usual” according to Karen, who was disappointed. I found it difficult to make myself lean over the table to reach for anything, the act making me too vulnerable and conspicuous, so I mostly contented myself with one piece of some egg-roll thingie and gave up eating anything else. I mostly stood near Karen and hoped nobody touched me going past me to the tables as contact felt like an electrical discharge and gave me a shock.

Finally Karen spied Francesca and dragged me across the room to meet her. She was a short, white-blond-haired but not elderly woman who, after Karen introduced me as a writer and a papier maché artist and jewelry maker, seemed very hospitable and open to looking at the pictures I’d brought. Fumbling with the pictures, I explained how I’d been to medical school once a long time ago and had learned anatomy, so when it came time to fleshing out the mailing tube skeleton of my sculpture, I knew how to make the newspaper muscles and then attach them one by one to the scaffolding of cardboard “bones.” Then I managed to get the pictures out of my purse and gave them to her.

She smiled when she the half-painted Betsy, and she became even more enthusiastic when she saw Yurtle the Turtle. She asked me to apply for membership in the gallery collective, and said to send my application directly to her, not to the collective panel. She seemed eager to hear from me and it was very flattering. Little does she know that I only have three pieces (including the Llama), and that I don’t have the $250 it would cost to join the collective once I had more sculptures to show. I realized later that of course I have plenty of jewelry to show her, to make up the 7 extra pieces I’d need for my application. Since I am both a papier-mâché artist and a jewelry maker, I naturally could enter both kinds of art in the application process (and they accept both). Much more difficult is the commitment involved in the cooperative: once more there is fundraising and committee work... I might just apply, for the sake of seeing if they like my stuff, even though I have no financial ability to join...

I’d pay the $25 application fee after all, I just would like to have an evaluation of my work to date. But the fact of the matter is, I can’t sell my work anyway, so what use is it to show in a gallery where the point is to sell what I can at the highest price? Well, of course there is a use: to have people see it and know what I do, and maybe ask for more. Then they could arrange to barter for it privately. All I can and want to do is barter, and no gallery is going to allow that!

In fact, an Elderlaw attorney I have arranged to talk with about my book contract has intimated that I can in fact earn some money, and though I may have to give up some of my benefits, it would not be dollar for dollar and not my medical benefits either. I will call her Monday and see what I can find out.

All of this is a nice problem to have, I suppose, and completely unexpected. I can’t handle any more commitments, though, and do not want to deal with actually showing or selling my artwork right now, what with the difficulties selling or getting royalties from my poetry book and how that can be handled. I don’t even know what to do there, let alone if I do sell a large sculpture.

As I said, it is a problem worth having. But one the Elderlaw attorneys I consulted had no idea what the answers to my questions are, he’d never run into them before. Odd, and they are the experts!

Posted by pamwagg at February 11, 2008 11:37 PM | TrackBack


Hello Pam,

I LOVED "Decorated Betsy."

Rock on with your artwork!


Posted by: Chris at February 21, 2008 10:55 PM

The most important thing is to keep working. I think your work is excellent. I do admire you for it. The thing that is most pleasing to me about it is its originality. If you could display your work that would be wonderful, but really it is the process that uplifts you. So don't stop!

Posted by: Kate K. at February 17, 2008 09:27 PM

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