Monday, March 24, 2008

A Play of Art

"Peace Offering," (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Hand Altered Polaroid

Sometimes I will engage a person looking at my work and it's suddenly clear I have misunderstood. I thought they were looking at my work in awe, but apparently it was confusion -- or worse!

The person doesn't seem to know what to say to me, and they fumble. Occasionally that fumble turns to "Gosh, it looks like you have a lot of fun with your work."

Well, that's pretty neutral. Doesn't sound too bad.

Oh, yes, I love this work! I gush. Then I realize -- they're really trying to get away because they don't find the work compelling at all. They might not understand, or they might not like it, but they want to be polite -- so they unwittingly downgrade my work to something frivolous, frolicsome or lighthearted.

Hey! I want to yell: It's called a WORK of art, not a PLAY of art. I put some serious effort in here!

Then I realize that the work we do in the studio or in field is supposed to look effortless. I don't want the technique to show. I want the ART to show. It should look as if I'm having fun.

Maybe it should be called a play of art.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Cosmos II, (C) 2008 Jeane Vogel

I've been hearing bells lately.


That's not Southwest Airlines telling me I'm free to move about the country.

That's the sound of rejection.


It's a fact of life of artists -- and most everybody else, I suppose. Rejections happens. What you do with it determines how successful you are and how much character you have.

I must have character in droves these days.


All year long I apply to juried exhibits, galleries, residencies, art fairs. I get accepted to quite a few. I have two exhibits hanging right now, one a solo show of selections from the St. Louis and
White series hanging in the Board of Aldermen's meeting room at St. Louis City Hall. Still, like most artists this time of year, I have dozens of applications pending. I'm being quite selective with art fairs this year and have eight excellent shows already booked.

It works like this: I decided to apply for an exhibit or art fair. I select what I think are my best three or four images and send them off, either on slides or digital images. 500 - 2,000 other artists are doing the same thing. For the same show. That has only 100 or so spaces available.
There are thousands of us competing for a few dozen spots. Most of us are pretty good. My competition is a little steeper because there are more photographers than other 2D artists. Sometimes there are 50 photography applications for every available spot in an art show. There are hard choices to be made.

Outstanding artists are rejected. Bad ones too. Can't tell the difference from the letter, though!


Honestly, I don't get rejections every day, but I got three in a row last week. That pinched. Lots of times I get acceptances.

For three years I've been hearing from patrons and other artists that I should be in the Belleville art fair in May -- Art on the Square. Well, sure I should! So should every other good artist. We all think we should be in the best shows.

Almost since the day it opened six years ago, it has been consistently ranked the best in the country. No kidding. Everybody wants in this show. Lots of people get dinged. From all over the country, the best artists come to display and sell.

Every year I apply and wait for the rejection, all the while hoping that this will be the year.

Oh my gosh! This IS the year! I was so thrilled to get into Belleville. I am psyched! I read the letter three times. Brilliant art connoisseurs, those Belleville jurors!

So.... if I can get into Belleville, maybe I can get into Prairie Village outside of Kansas City.


I still had hopes for Clayton -- one of the best in the country. I gripped the Belleville acceptance letter like a talisman.


Well surely I can get into Art and Air in Webster Groves. I did that show the first three years. The Belleville letter had been filed away by this time.


Acceptance is fleeting and rejection lingers. How much character do I need?

A little more, apparently. The life of an artist is about tenacity, inner vision, confidence and the support of friends and family.

Oh wait. That's everybody's life!

Monday, March 03, 2008

You Can't Do THAT!

What do people need so many rules? Especially artists? Are we supposed to be the ones who are allowed to think beyond convention?

Ok, sure. Don't poke your studio mate with an Exacto knife. That's a good one. Don't drink the glaze. Don't mess with any body's else's art... EVER. Good rules.

My daughter has an art teacher who is constantly telling her that she's doing something wrong. Don't use that color. This element belongs over here. If you shape the ears like this it'll look better. Apparently this teacher believes that every project in the class should look the same. Talk about sucking the life out of learning! How many kids in THAT class will need therapy during college?

Art should be about expressing and experimenting and creating. Rules? Bah!

My dear friend and amazing sculptor Ilene, an MFA candidate, is preparing five pieces for a crit. Working in concrete, she needs to make some plates as part of a much larger piece. She could use a mold, but she wants them to look thrown -- more organic, more natural. She asks: can I throw concrete on a wheel?

Why not?

I need a new plate rib though, so she heads to our friendly neighborhood clay retail studio. She tells them what we're planning. You can't do that!

Oh please. It's my favorite thing to hear. Tell me I can't do something and I'll find a way. It's not that I'm stubborn or obstinate (HEY! I saw those eyes roll!!!), but I love finding new ways to do things. Actually, I love working with new media, seeing what can be done.

We humans tend to put people in little boxes: he's a lawyer, she's a soccer mom, they're gay. The assumptions build from there. Most people are so much more. Can't we be more than one thing? Can't artists work in more than one medium?

So we threw the concrete. We took a more experienced potter's suggestion to throw a plate of clay first. After drying it in the sun for a couple of hours (it didn't even crack! How did that not happen!) we poured in the concrete and threw! She made me wear gloves and I HATED that sensation. I need to feel the texture of the medium on the wheel. I was pretty sure my skin would grow back.

Ilene emailed me this morning that one of the two we threw turned out beautiful! One was a little thin and cracked. We learn. We do it again.

See, you CAN do that!