THE QUILT I STARTED AT TEN
(BUT ONLY GOT TO FIVE SQUARES)
This painting has been in three separate shows, hung in four different homes, and traveled from Toronto to Brighton to Stirling to Brighton to Toronto and back a mere five or six times. I’ve had offers from a handful of people, interest via email about once a month since its creation, and after one year, seven months and twenty-five days I have finally sold it.
“You don’t care though, right? I mean, it’s just a painting. You’re probably glad it’s gone.” – Said someone to me who should probably know better.
(My favourite square)
Yes, I am glad it’s going to be gone. But not because I’m sick of looking at it. In Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, he says [something-like, because I don't have the book in front of me] “Some of my songs are good, some of them are bad, some of them are just okay. These are all opinions of other people. To me, they are all children.” I’m of the (popular) belief that once you finish creating something, that is only the beginning. What happens to it, in front of it, despite of it, because of it, or just in the presence or thought of it are all things contributing to its lasting dialogue. I made this piece come to be but I don’t really feel like I created it, in a sense. It was already there, the only thing I did was move the mud around it, polished it a little bit, gave it a name. I can’t give it the value it’s worth, that’s up to someone who loves it a whole bunch. Or someone who hates it a whole bunch. Whatever it is, it’s not my job and I don’t want it to be. I do, however, miss it already.
I knew someone would eventually buy this painting, they had to, everyone seemed to be drawn to this piece even if they didn’t like any others. It offers something you can grasp onto, little paintings making up a whole, a quilt in its name, something tangible for the anti-abstract mind. I can tell you where I bought the original canvas I painted this on, how I got it to my studio, who was involved in helping me get it there, that I was lucky to have access to a car that day, how much it cost, how many times I’ve reinforced its frame, repainted its sides, pulled out a nuisance hair embedded in its smears. I can tell you its frame will be fully replaced before it sees its new home. I can tell you about that first smear of paint thrown on it from the floor, leaning it up against the heater next to Aime, in our old studio singing Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk and singing his praises, cursing over my stubbornness to commit to such an tedious plan*. I can tell you how I insisted on coming back the next day for seven hours to finish it after seven hours previous because leaving something unfinished makes my skin crawl. I can tell you how many times I’ve turned down a client for offering me less than I know its worth. And while I’m unbelievably astounded that anyone ever wants to buy anything, I can tell you that sometimes I wonder if I even want to sell my work, because it seems like no matter what I get in return for it, even if I’m begging you to take it off my hands, there is always a part of me that wonders if its all worth it. Art, in general, is really expensive. And as artists we’re only allowed to charge what “the public” has deemed us worth. I mean, we can charge whatever we want, I guess, but that certainly doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it. Having sold a few pieces, and having been the only one responsible for naming the prices of those pieces, I’ve discovered that in this [awful!] process I’ve begun to take into consideration a number that is going to help fix the hurt. I have to.
The first time I showed this painting in a public forum it was through my first (and to this point, my only) experience with an art dealer. I think it was this piece that sparked their interest (between scolding me for selling my other work for “so cheap”, which I will admit felt good) and convinced them to ask me to sign. They raved about it, telling me it “needed its own wall”, that it would probably sell faster than anything else in the gallery (despite hanging in the same room as some ‘really good’ artists), that they couldn’t wait to hang it. They selected the Quilt and another one, and I promptly wired them, wrapped them, and delivered them to the gallery the next day, excited about what this opportunity would bring. To keep it short, this “deal” did not work out, but I now consider it a valuable lesson I learned for $500. After I told them I was done, that my paintings weren’t doing any good in a closet (yes – I essentially paid someone the equivalent to what I pay in rent to keep my painting in a closet for six months), I was told that this was all my fault, that it was my responsibility to track them down, to remind them of my work, to ask them to find me places to hang my paintings. I disagree with this, and I expressed that. Needless to say our “agreement” was promptly dissolved (and made official by his deleting me off Facebook, evidently). **
I think selling this piece, (along with the other one under his care/in the closet) is the final chapter in washing my hands of that experience. I love this piece, if I hadn’t I would have sold it for the pennies I was offered for it a year ago. As a result of that, it’s been around. Because of that I think I’ve considered it my strongest piece thus far, the one I’d always fall back on in the event of a spur-of-the-moment show. All this said, I could not be happier about saying goodbye to it. It’s time for it to really start it’s own dialogue, away from me. In selling this piece, finally, I’ve proven to myself that while it may take some time, I can do this on my own. And I am promising myself that I’m going to try really hard to not lose sight of that.
Thank you, Heather. Enjoy the painting. I am so happy it’s yours!
* * *
*by my standards. I hate to plan (this applies to all areas of my life), and usually when I commit to something I don’t want to do it anymore (this also applies to all areas of my life), this is why I amazed myself that once I committed to the pattern-d essence of this painting I decided I would never do it again. Of course, I did, a few times, but this remains my favourite in that category.
**Please do your research before signing with an art dealer. I receive lots of email from emerging artists asking for information on my experience. It was not good. But I can’t say it will be the same for you. (This is a good article. So is this one.) It is very, very easy for someone like the person I dealt with to approach an emerging artist, (or someone who has never had experience with representation) promise them the world, then tell them they won’t find success over night as a means to cover their own tracks. No, you won’t find success over night, but if your rep is refusing to even look at your work, and unapologetically blaming you for your lack of success, get your work back, count it as a loss, and move the fuck on. I decided to take a chance, knowing no artist has ever been (really) successful without (adequate) representation. Luckily, on the grounds of our “agreement” the only thing I could possibly lose was the sign-on fee ($500). In my particular experience I was incredibly frustrated because I saw several artists finding (different levels of) success under this representation, but it was obvious he wasn’t doing anything for me.