Just Observe.

If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed the onslaught of notifications regarding SF Open Studios from me. Well, now it’s over- at least for me, but there is one more week left of #SFOS next weekend. *Plug: If you want to see some art, let me know. I’ll take you around, personally. The talent in this City is just too good to waste by not seeing it for yourself.

That said, if you read my last post here, you will know that I had conflicting emotions about opening up my private space to the public, selling my work, etc, etc. Well, I’m happy to report that that specific issue is now over, and since artists make it their business to collect observations, here are mine:

  • Part of the job of an artist is never to be satisfied, perhaps with anything- ever. This goes with your own work, other’s work, other’s perception of your work, the nature of the business, the list goes on. I’m fairly certain that the crippling, heartbreaking sadness of never quite being happy is somehow an integral of your creative growth. Knowing this can make you feel like severely depressed, an awful ingrate, or just annoying to be around, because you know you might never be actually happy- even if you’re wildly famous and enormously wealthy. As for me, I choose to compartmentalize and ignore it 99.1% of the time because I’m good at doing that.
  • People get it. One of the coolest, mind-blowing, and most humbling moments are when people become emotional in front of your work. This happened three separate times with three strangers, in response to three different paintings. I was stunned. One woman teared up when telling me what she saw in “Regrets Only.” Another man told me about his guilt when he saw “Lilac Wine.” When I finally asked them to explain what they saw in the painting, they fucking NAILED it. I’m not kidding, those emotions were real, and we shared it. Except that mine was outside of my body, and theirs was, well–within. From this, I gathered one of two things: 1. Maybe my art is too heavy-handed, or 2–STOP over-analyzing it already, your work actually matters to somebody. Also, don’t ever underestimate how much people understand.
  • Dualities exist, and that’s the beauty of it. Being an “artist” is both simultaneously liberating as well as stifling, and the art world is frustratingly small, yet crazy intimidatingly vast. Maybe that’s why we keep coming back to it. Because in that moment where you see a piece that is so amazing and genius that you tell yourself that you might as well pack up your shit and go home because you’ll never get to that point–you realize that you’re also doing the same thing they are; that maybe you’re at the same point on a different continuum or on a different point, but holy shit–you’re all in it together. And the next time you see their work, you’ll feel infinitesimally small again, but your ego might grow ten sizes larger: because you are getting that close to something brilliant.

I’m not there yet, and I may never be completely satisfied if I ever were– but collecting these observations makes me feel like it’s getting me closer. Thanks to all that came to support me and my work last weekend, I had a blast.

Open Studios 2014

From Left: Bob, Sandy, Me, Katrina, and Jude 

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Editorial Tribute to Aaron Swartz (11.8.1986 ??? 1.11.2013)

Ink and Graphite on Illustration Board (15″x 20″)

Aswartz_obituary

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Aaron Swartz, he pioneered the RSS feed at age 14, started Infogami (which later became Reddit.com) at age 18, and almost singlehandedly stopped the passing of the SOPA/PIPA bill in Congress last year. He dedicated his life to giving equal access to information, and was quoted in his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto saying, “Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.

I would also add that information is money, which is why it isn’t a surprise to me that in 2011, a federal grand jury indictment charged Swartz with wire and computer fraud for downloading large amounts of data from JSTOR, MIT’s digital repository of achives and he faced up to 35 years in prison. That’s more time that rapists and murderers get for what to me, sounds like checking out too many library books at one time. About a month ago, he was found dead in his Broolyn apartment, at age 26. 

I think it’s safe to say Aaron Swartz was a boy genius; a serious free-thinker who used his prodigious talents toward something he believed in– at the risk of some serious consequences. I’m not sure why his suicide struck a nerve with me. Maybe it’s the fact that I worked for Google, maybe it’s because I feel like he was an artist too, of a different stripe– or maybe it’s that I’ve always been a bit suspicious of how our society handles shy, brainy, inconvenient idealists like him. But I think it’s clear that given his trajectory, he could have accomplished a lot more for our world if we had given him a chance. But I guess the sad truth is that he didn’t really have a chance, at least not in our society. His death reminded me of this quote by journalist and author, Mignon McLaughlin:

Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”

Rest in Peace, Aaron Swartz.