Friday, February 18, 2005


I've finished my PAINTING *tiddley-pom* it's a beautiful PAINTING *tiddley-pom* with a spiralling SUN *tiddley-pom* and then there's the INSTALLATION *tiddley-pom* called "the idle thoughts of ANGELS *tiddley-pom*...

well, maybe it sounds silly to describe the intricate doodle in graphite on the ceiling of the Whitney, with the looooong chandelier covered with silver vines, and the paper lantern hanging over a mirror, and the lace ripples on the floor, and the red leaf drawings pinned to the wall with little gold tacks. Plus I don't know what it means, it would just be pretty and it popped into my head while I was taking a nap. Naps are good for the soul.

Small miracles of the month:

1) M0's C4rting Co. dropped a dumpster on my truck. Instead of driving away in a hurry they looked through the front window of my truck, got my address off a piece of mail I'd left in the front seat, leaned on my doorbell until I got out of bed, confessed, apologized, and, after various negotiations with Terry the mechanic, dropped off a check for $2500. With which Terry the mechanic not only fixed the dumpster damage but my front-end suspension, which I couldn't afford to fix myself. My paternal grandmother's name was Mo. I take after her. M0's C4rting Co. ROCKS, and in the unlikely event that I ever need any carting done, I know who to call.

2) I got a phone call on Valentine's day from one of my favorite former valentines, who offered to pay for a ticket for me to come visit him where he lives, which is far away and sunny. Maybe I will take him up on it.

3) One of my formerly represented artists actually returned the favor, and recommended me to a very high-end furniture company which also sells art, and has a big showroom in Chicago, and also one on Madison Avenue and 62nd. Neneng-girl had just been telling me that I need to forget Chelsea and W-burg and go for the Upper East Side, Greenwich and the Hamptons, and I agreed, but pointed out that--

--small but important revelation of the week--

the art world does not work like the job world. Self promotion isn't. Any artist who goes into a gallery and shows the dealer her work is automatically disqualified from ever showing in any gallery that dealer even knows about. It DOESN'T WORK. The art world is full of cagey, oppositional, difficult, egoistic people with a deep distrust of sincerity, openness and good manners. The only way to get your work shown is if an Art World Insider sidles into a gallery and mutters, "so-and-so's work is really hot. Don't tell anyone I told you."

This is not an exaggeration. Last week I attended a seminar, "Selling without Selling Out," featuring the premiere Chelsea art dealer who shows emerging artists. She told us that she gets hundred of slides a month, which she throws away. The only artists she considers are those recommended by other dealers, collectors, or artists. The work she shows is total crap--I checked out the website. This means nothing. Dealers don't Look at Art. They Listen to Rumors. Which is why the whole scene makes me gag and consider giving up in despair.

But anyway, the salient piece of this revelation, which I now must communicate to dear friends everywhere, is that for fifteen years I have been stressed almost to the breaking point by dear friends who are constantly telling me, "you should check out such-and-such a gallery. They should show your work."

These dear friends mean to be helpful, and I must respond accordingly. So I smile and nod and promise to check the gallery out, knowing full well that this is useless and if I go in and introduce myself, I will be roundly snubbed. Many times I DO go in and introduce myself, and am roundly snubbed. But if I try to equivocate with the dear helpful friend, I come off sounding defensive, and Not Willing To Do What It Takes, and thus Undeserving of Success.

And meanwhile I am still stressed out by not getting into the galleries and not getting reviews and not earning enough to live on. With the added stress of having to make the dear helpful friends feel helpful. Because deep down, I always knew that the art world worked this way, I just didn't have the right words to explain it.

(This is also why I have nervous breakdowns when I DO have art world insider friends in my home and my gallery, and instead of muttering, "serena's work is really hot," to their dealer, they blather on about dancing poo. This is tantamount to attempted career homicide, and these people know it.)

So, the right words are: (please pay attention)
"Thanks so awfully much. The thing is, the art world doesn't work like the business world. Art dealers are egoistic, oppositional and suspicious. If I go in and introduce myself, I will definitely be treated like pond scum. What would really help is if YOU would go in, or a rich, important friend of yours, preferably a dealer or a critic or a well-known artist, wearing a discreet Armani suit and carrying a Hermes bag, and say something like, 'Do you carry Serena LaBella's work? I'm looking to buy/deal/write about her, and I need a contact. Oh, you don't? That's surprising. She's amazing. Anyone who IS anyone is talking about her now. Well, I don't know, try Google. You see? Absolutely stunning. If I were you I'd try to get in now, before her prices skyrock...oh, there's my agent. Ciao!' That's what would REALLY help."

Of course, we can't all be performance artists like Neneng-girl. But six degrees of separation, SOMEBODY has got to know Cameron Diaz.

At any rate, my formerly represented artist is a trooper and I thanked her a million times. She said, "Nobody's watching the kitchen door." I don't know if I can actually get my work into the showroom on the Upper East Side, but at least they were POLITE to me when I called. For chrissakes.

This is a much better lead than the "curator" I met at the conference, who has a "gallery" in TriBeca, on the fourth floor of a building with a broken buzzer and no sign. The gallery doubles as a dance rehearsal space, which I am not opposed to, but the answering machine has a generic voice on it, and there were almost no "sold" stickers on the very expensive artwork from Sweden, still on the walls one month after the show officially closed. This "curator," furthermore, let me show her my work, but only after she bored me for an hour and a half talking about the "nouveau riche" Filipino families in Manila that got rich by stealing WWII gold from the Vatican. I told her to read "Cryptonomicon." She told me to invite her for a studio visit. I actually considered doing so.

That evening I had a meltdown on the phone with Neneng-girl, who said, "I think that woman upset you." It's true. Some days I feel like I'm a strange amphibian, drowning in the cold Caribbean, and the people on shore are all smiling and waving and blowing kisses.

But today was a Happy Day, tiddley-pom. Good night.

No comments: