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Art Bust

So, I had gotten a slot in this year's Art Fling. It was my painting What Questions at the End of the World, a self-portrait I did in December as a response to the events of last summer. It was mainly catharsis about my ex-husband's death, and at the time I was five months into my alotted year of mourning. (I can stop this June, as if grief and mourning can be turned off like a light.) I don't think it's my magmum opus, but it's my style that I'll be painting in for quite some time.

The founders of the Art Fling thought that it would be nice to bring some more modern types of artwork, like abstracts, art noveau, clay sculpture, with different themes other than western art, as it is over in Cody. Cowboys, cattle, horses and the lone coyote dominate the art market, and it's nigh impossible for modern artists and styles to get a foothold over there. It's similar to the environment in Placerville ten years ago, home of Tommy Kincade, and no other budding artist could get a canvas in edgewise unless it were in the "Painter of Light" style. (Dig Joan Didion's comments on Wiki. She is one of my writer heroes.) Thankfully for P'ville and for the work of many wonderful artists, things have changed. Not so for this town, alas.

When I got to the event all of town's usual elite were there, in the same fine evening garb that they always wear, wearing the same spectacles, drinking the same wine. I looked at the wall and my heart sank. Mine was one of only three non-western pieces there.

I left after the live auction started, but my sister was there doing the Vanna White thing on the runway, and reported to me later that I only got one bid. That didn't hurt much, as I had also learned from her that one of the art students at the college whom I most admire said that my painting was her favourite. To be ranked so by a peer is a bigger compliment than getting accepted for the show-auction.

My friend Rachel, a copper lady of twenty-two, said that she learned that the Town Elite only bidded on local artists who they knew would be in galleries, and would not but speculation pieces at all. Sure enough, as bidding progressed, only the recognizable names and the works of recognizable landmarks –Heart Mountain, the Absaroka Range—were bid upon and bought.

This apparently disgusted the auctioneer. After the third painting, one of a gracefull buffalo under a sweeping storm by a little-known artist was hung back up on the wall, he stopped in the middle of the bidding to say: "The artists have a lot of time and effort invested in these works, folks. Please remember that and bid." He paced and shook his head as he said this, but the Elite went on chattering among themselves.

I know that the organization that started the Fling were disappointed too, and I feel my heart ache for them more than anything else. Rachel ended up selling one of her pastels, but only after dropping her minimum by $200. She earned only $70. The work is worth $600. As I said, heartache. 

The next afternoon I was talking to my ceramics teacher, and she said that a lot of the local artists feel bad about the Art Fling too. They realize that the hearts are in the right place, but we need more new people here to appreciate the newer, non-western artists.

For next year I plan on doing a western piece in my style, of course. It's going to be horses sweeping across a plain near dusk. On the right-hand side, just running out of frame will be a horse's rear end. 

That's my commentary.


Jack Rabbit Slim

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