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October 2008 Naked Brush Blog Posts

Thu, Oct 2nd, 2008

Here I am. Back from a terrific, and terrifically tiring, trip to Seattle and Portland.

At the moment I'm wrapping up the Seattle/Portland leg (really two legs in one, but that's not a pretty metaphor), at the same time that I'm preparing for Leg 3. And Leg 3 happens in only two weeks, which means the first email to galleries should go out now. What was I thinking when I planned a leg a month? No, it was two legs last month.

First, Portland. Since the 7 a.m. Amtrack train had sold out weeks earlier, I rented a car in Seattle and made the three-hour drive to Portland. Most of the galleries I was visiting are in Portland's Pearl District, which has that familiar mix of sophisticated culture and light industry that is magically fertile while it lasts. My itinerary was walkable so I parked the car and left the tube of drawings there.

First I needed a moment to collect myself. I walked into what appeared to be a straightforward espresso place but was actually a nice Italian restaurant, Caffe Allora. I ordered an espresso and it was heavenly. Then I headed to the restroom and tried the door. The fellow inside, a construction worker in a hard hat, opened the door and invited me to enter while he finished washing his hands. I demurred. Truly the Northwest is different from the Southeast. Magically fertile, indeed.

The first gallery had not replied to my emails, so I didn't know what kind of reception to expect. One of the owners greeted me warmly and recognized me as the emailing artist visiting from Florida. She described their submission policy, delegating the decision-making to her partner, but also stressed that a lack of storage limited the number of artists they represent. She didn't ask to see my work. But she did take the time to get me a map of the neighborhood, which she marked to show galleries not already listed. It was a nice welcome to the task at hand.

I went in search of a gallery not on the map, yet recommended. No one on the street or in the new age healing center could help me find it. Back to my itinerary, to my second stop: a gallery that primarily shows photographs, yet the exceptions on the website were so interesting that I had to make contact. I entered, I introduced myself, and I barely had an impact. The owner got up from his lunch, cordially handed me the price list for the exhibition and invited me to look around. That was a first. The exhibition was wonderful, and it was of the South, but Naked Brush was on a mission. I tried again, I explained my intention, I handed him my card. He said he would look at my website and contact me if he was interested. I shouldn't have interrupted his lunch.

Somewhere I read that blog entries should be 300 words long. I can't remember if that's a minimum or a maximum, but I usually end up with about 500 words.

Sat, Oct 11th, 2008

What have I been doing? Researching galleries for Leg 3 of the Naked Brush Tour. Following my protocol, I identified galleries in my target city that are looking for artists similar to me in aesthetic and experience. Then I sent those galleries emails about my visit next weekend. Afterward I scoured the internet to find a hotel room downtown, convenient to those galleries since I have no time (or money) to waste.

I’ve also thanked all the galleries I visited in Seattle and Portland, and submitted my portfolio to galleries in both towns.

This leg will be more like Montreal than the Seattle-Portland trip when I visited two cities’ galleries in three days. The Naked Brush is systematic, that’s the key. Plus she’s travel agent, market scout, researcher of galleries, weather/wardrobe consultant, etc. The Naked Brush wears a lot of hats.

Still waiting to hear about my submissions to Montreal galleries. Meanwhile, other news:

My small drawings were juried into The Edge exhibition at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach—by juror Bonnie Clearwater, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami. That’s an honor. But I’ll miss the opening on account of Leg 3.

And Mary Woerner, who represents my work in this area, has graciously offered me an exhibition along with Mary Segal in February.

In between, my big drawings are in a show in November with four other artists’ work, curated by local pioneer Talya Lerman at a brand new 3-story gallery at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center.

Back to Portland which seems, in my snap judgment, like a no-nonsense art-selling town. Most galleries had a distinct personality and someone on hand cordially channeling your interest toward a purchase. I didn’t hear talk of developing an art market, like in Montreal. And in the midst of economic calamity, only one dealer voiced concern.

In the third gallery I got a reception like the one in gallery #2: no recollection of me as the visiting, emailing artist from Florida. On to #4, where the staffperson was eager to track down the director so I could meet him. Twenty minutes and several cell phone calls later I met the director who immediately wanted to see my work.

My work. The tube was in the car some blocks away—too far at that point. That was the protocol, to avoid walking into a gallery looking like I expected an impromptu critique. Now I was face to face with an interested dealer and all I had was a small box with 8 x 10 inch drawings and prints of several 6 x 4 foot drawings. He was interested in the large works. But he stressed that he had just taken on several new artists and, with the current economy, would be focused on giving them their due. It meant he couldn’t consider me at this point. Yet it also told me I was talking to the kind of dealer I’d like to work with.

The last gallery I visited that afternoon was inviting. The owner was eager to show me the works on display, and some that weren’t. He spoke with parent’s pride of the artists he represents. He didn’t ask to see my work, but was clearly interested in my visit and initiative. He encouraged me to submit images.

I drove the three hours to Seattle, accompanied by Mounts Hood, Saint Helens and Rainier. In their lofty company I had to admit my protocol needed revision. The face-to-face meetings felt important, more than I had expected. But given the choice between walking into galleries with a tube under my arm and not having my large works seen, I wanted new choices.

Fri, Oct 17th, 2008

Leg 3 underway. Eight galleries to meet in two days. I received replies from four of them, two to say they don't do impromptu portfolio reviews. For me that's another opportunity to engage with them, to underscore that my intent is to visit the gallery, meet the personnel and gauge whether a future submission would make sense. The protocol calls the shots. That's the Naked Brush way.

One exchange was much warmer. In researching the location of the gallery I came across a number of ads (thank you, Google) that left me with the impression that the gallery only exhibited the work of gay artists. That's great news for some, but it would exclude me. And I was particularly interested in this gallery from its website--which didn't mention the gay emphasis--because it melded the visual arts with the literary and other art forms, and involved social issues.

I emailed the gallery and asked "straight out" if it only worked with gay artists. The owner replied, assuring me that artists "of all walks of life" are included. I even got a smiley face.

Yeah, yeah, but what about Seattle.

Right. Seattle.

I had four galleries to visit the first day, my sixth day in Seattle. The first gallery I had had an email exchange with, I knew the owner was focused on artists in the Northwest. Still I wanted to follow up with a meeting. You never know. But my timing was off, she was preparing for a private event. So we met, I had a quick look at a striking exhibition of abstract work, and she welcomed me back the next day. Sounds good.

Nearby I found the second gallery. This one had felt like a stretch from the start: some of the artists were very highly accomplished. And yet I didn't see anything that disqualified me, other artists were not so accomplished. So, how to explain? I walked in, tube in hand, and received what felt like a chilly welcome. The exhibition was first rate, but this was not the first time I visited a gallery whose exhibition intimidated me a little. Humility is a good thing, especially for artists. Still, I faced a barrier that could have been entirely in my head. In any event I didn't summon the courage to overcome it, I'm embarrassed to say. I mean, I left without introducing myself.

Quick, get to gallery #3. There I found a man and a woman struggling to set up a slide show for a presentation that evening. The man would be presenting his paintings, which were representational and abstract at the same time, and reminded me of what I'm doing. (Except he defines his work with a very distinctive palette of colors.) The woman was the owner of the gallery. She was embarrassed that her staff had not passed on my emails. Too busy to talk much, she commended me for wanting to see galleries and meet dealers before submitting work for consideration. I thanked her for a singular exhibition and promised to be in touch. Ordinarily I would have loved to attend the presentation, but stamina was a limited resource.

Or was it just time for coffee? I stopped in at Bauhaus, a quintessential Capitol Hill café with terrific espresso. Always thankful to be among my fellow bohemians.

Gallery #4 was another one focused on regional artists. But the owner had responded warmly to my emails and now she was happy to talk and to recommend four galleries to visit. I had visited this gallery in the past and always found landscapes there that enthralled me. The Northwest is exquisitely beautiful, it's no surprise that landscape paintings are so beloved there.

And now I had four more galleries to visit. But not today.

Sat, Oct 25th, 2008

Before I can tell you about last weekend's trip to Denver I need to finish Seattle. The aim is to catch up. Now with three weeks before Leg 4, I stand a chance.

The Naked Brush started her last day in Seattle breaking a cardinal rule of the protocol. My tube of drawings was under my arm, since I would be relying on the city’s bus system. If I needed confirmation that the protocol worked, this day provided it. I felt the impact of the tube in nearly every gallery I entered. It might have been subtler if I’d worn a tee shirt that said, “Artist seeks impromptu portfolio review. Right now.” The point of my protocol is precisely to get around an art dealer’s distaste (disgust?) at an artist’s expectation that the dealer will stop what he or she is doing to review the artist’s work.

As we saw in Portland, the protocol is not flawless. Even when I had a car to stow the tube in, it was out of reach when I needed it. Yet my work is both large-scale and finely detailed; photos don’t show that.

In Seattle, the dealer I met the day before, who suggested I come back today, wasn’t there on my first try. On my second she was meeting with someone and seemed slightly annoyed to see me. I took off.

Gallery #5 was a priority since it specializes in works on paper. The dealer greeted me warmly, recalling our email exchange. Seeing the tube she said the obvious, "Okay, let's have a look at your work." I pulled the prints out of the tube and discovered that in the humidity the vinyl "paper" now refused to lie flat. After a low-key, Twister-like effort to hold down several corners with hands and foot, all I could do was apologize and try to entice her verbally. Thankfully the gallery won't be accepting submissions until the spring. Time heals all wounds.

A quick stop at Zeitgeist café, sister of Bauhaus where I was the day before. I studied the walls of this gorgeous high-ceilinged room; they were hung with photos whose warped foam core backing detracted from their quality. It hadn’t occurred to me to research specific climates in my tour plans. Now I pondered hanging my work in this café filled with dealers. And how best to frame it in that climate.

My next stop, #6, was the gallery whose owner had emailed me expressing interest in my work. It was closed.

On to the galleries recommended to me the day before. Unannounced, I was greeted as any artist appearing with a tube in hand can expect to be greeted. In one gallery, however, the owner was already meeting with an artist, and looking at his drawings. I walked through the gallery slowly, enjoying an exhibition of work that didn't hide its politics. But she was giving this artist his due, and I had to move on. She would be a priority to follow up with. And some of the other galleries were worthy of submissions too, now that I had seen the spaces—if not met the dealers.

Back to gallery #6: still closed. On to #7, a much "edgier" venue than its website suggested. I didn't introduce myself. A gallery along the way caught my eye though. Again those glowing landscapes they do so well in the Northwest. I'll write to them, I decided. Hopefully in the absence of a visit preceded by multiple emails, The Naked Brush could impress them with tales of her travels and determination.

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