Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So it seems I won’t be working with the gallery after all. Yesterday marked the conclusion of the “Water” show in which my seahorse was featured.

Last Thursday, I turned in a portfolio of work that was to be evaluated at a board meeting this morning to determine if I would be invited to show there on a permanent basis. Basically that would involve having up to ten works on display and for sale at any given time—for starters, the seahorse and the portfolio pieces.

My friend Lisa, who happens to serve on the gallery board, encouraged me to submit my work because she felt that it would bring something new and different to the gallery’s offerings, plus, she’s been trying to pump up my artistic self esteem and pegged my work as a shoe in for that venue. It seemed a safe path to tread enroute to upping my artistic game.

As a board member, Lisa was at the meeting, but was told that she couldn’t speak or vote. From Lisa's report and the account of the board representative who drew the short straw and was tasked with calling me after the meeting, I have cobbled together a rough model of what transpired.

Rubrics were distributed to the participating members. The first two questions called upon the assemblage to determine if the works were unique and if the gallery currently has anything similar in their holdings. Evidently the board was united in their opinion that my offerings were, indeed, quite innovative, and would be completely new to the showroom.

Lisa errantly took this as a good sign, seeing as she recently sat through a meeting wherein grave concerns were expressed about sales, and the need to expand the gallery offerings. However, the rest of the meeting seems to have followed a pattern that went something like this:

Random Board Member (RBM): “Oh, a crab! Crabs are big right now. This would sell!”

Other RBM: “I would love this for my garden! But…she used ...wood. How could I ever display it outside since she made it wrong?”

A chorus of RBMs then proceeded to express general puzzlement and alarm that works which were clearly outdoor pieces would be backed with wood. I, myself, am alarmed, mostly by the fact that as the designer of these works, I wasn’t even aware that they spoke so convincingly of the out-of-doors. Would you believe that I actually made the seahorse (were I to get it back, or its twin, should I not) for my bathroom? I’m frankly embarrassed. How could I have missed this?

Let’s head back to the board meeting for further enlightenment.

RBM: “This seahorse is quite nice.”

Other RBM: “Yes, sea creatures in general are very popular right now.”

RBM: “But, again, the wood.”

I picture the board members engulfed by uncomfortable silence here, as the enormity of the gaffe washed over them afresh.

RBM: “I feel it shows a certain lack of planning.”

I envision a simultaneous upward motion of all the eyebrows in the room, in a collective “do, tell” sort of gesture.

Pretentious RBM: “Well, it’s the mixture of large and small pieces. It's like she realized she couldn'd fit any more big ones on there, so she just started using small ones. They should all be uniform in size.”

RBM: “That is what The Book says.”

Murmurs of agreement must have rippled down the table as holy tome, The Book, was evoked. Seems someone there has taken a shining to a certain mosaics how-to manual, and regards it as the Final Word. The gallery representative who called me highly recommended some deep contemplation and penance between those sacred covers. I gave it a little look-see on amazon, and it looks for the entire world to cover the same ground as a few Lesser Works I keep on my humble shelves here at home.

Lisa broke her silence by pointing out that my seahorses are, indeed, selling—I’m working on two, right now, in fact, and at better prices for my clients because I don’t have to jack up the cost to cover the 1/3 commission the gallery wants, but the board remained unmoved by economics. No matter if the general populace wants seahorses with multi-sized tile—The Book, ah the book, no mention of such practices in the book.

Much was made of the garden pot—the only work that I ever envisioned in a potential out-of-doors milieu. It was held up as The Standard. “This would sell,” they all nodded. “Yes, yes, it would.”

RBM: “If only all the works were like this. Here, we see some evidence of the conventions of design. Ah, the uniformity!”

RBMs, all : “Yes, yes, it would sell. Too bad the others don’t look like this.”

Interestingly, I threw this work in with the sole purpose of including something a bit more accessible (read: lower priced). I like it, but value it the least artistically, because I got the idea from a book. A book from my shelf that I’ll blasphemously submit, resembles the One And Only. But we digress from the meeting.

By the time they got to the tray, the gloves were off. The tray—clearly an outdoor service piece—was the most epic fail of the entire portfolio. The tray, you see, does not look like a painting. It lacks the proper depth and shading, a failing the board saw reflected across, well, the board, in my pieces. Which is really shocking, because I could have sworn I fired several shades of blue for the crab, to you know, differentiate the various features, but what do I know? I don’t own The Book.

And I may be mistaken, but is that perhaps a flecking of darker red, there, on the-- dare I say--shadowed side of the apple? I could have sworn I painted something like that on my tile, but, again, this is from a Serial Wood User, so take it for what it is.

The best part by far, was listening to The Gallery Representative trying to explain all of this to me. She clearly wanted to be absolved—for me to say, “Oh, I see, I understand. I get it, you are so right.”

And I refused her the satisfaction. I just let her go on and on, with no compassionate, “it’s okays,” or sympathetic “umm-hmms,” nothing but a polite “thank you for the opportunity,” when she was done.

“But the one thing we want to make sure you know,” she concluded, “is that we really liked your ideas, and hope you’ll resubmit. After you read The Book.”

That, my friends, will happen just as soon as I shun wood, measure all of my tiles for uniformity, and only attempt practices condoned by The Book. As in, never.


Anonymous said...

That is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous. That's one of the reasons that I HATE doing art. People judge art off of their own personal (and usually wrong) opinion. Who said art had to be uniform? I want to read this book and possible imprison the author(s). That being said, if I ever open an art gallery you get a free-entrance pass.

Lisa said...

This sounds pretty accurate....

Erin said...


Screw them. They're missing out. They want you to conform. You're an artist--you can't change the way you see something in your mind. You can't change your process.

Much like writing...I'm going to write what I want, how I want, etc...and if anything ever makes it to the desk of some editor and they don't like it, too bad. I'm sure the rejection will sting, but you can't let it get to you.

As for my fleur de lis, I haven't googled yet. I am so sorry, it's been a helluva week thus far. But today is catch up day and I PROMISE to get back to you. Forgive me???


p.s. your things are wonderful and you should keep doing what you're doing....

blueviolet said...

If you fit a certain mold, it takes away from the uniqueness and creativity of the artist! This is all a load of crap!

Julie Schuler said...

Boo. I have had my fair share of run-ins with "boards". My condolences.

Julie Schuler said...

Boo. I have had my fair share of run-ins with "boards". My condolences.

5thsister said...

Cynthia...fortunately the most innovative of artists have yet to read "the book". Your work rocks and I would suggest that you set up an ETSY site to sell your works. But can I tell you something...your rendition of the board meeting was really quite hilarious. At least you have a good humor about the whole thing.

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

Good for you! I mean, I'm sorry the board was full of a bunch of stiffs - but I'm glad you were able to take it with such humor and grace. This is just so typical of hellish clients though. They want innovation but are afraid of it.

Is wood really that problematic an outdoor material? Couldn't you cover the exposed parts with an enamel or protective coat of some kind?

Melanie said...

Oh my gosh, that is crazy! Your mosaics are beautiful! Forget them and their darned book :).

Stopping by from SITS...


Kathleen said...

I don't know anything about art. I'm just a normal person. You know, the kind that buys things to make my house look pretty because I lack the skills to make decorative things on my own. One thing I would not buy is something that looks exactly like what the next guy who read the same book is making. I want something original. Another thing I don't want is every piece to be uniform because, really, what is uniform in nature? Trees have different sized branches, no apple is perfectly round-shaped, animals have varied fur colors and patterns. And I like wood. It adds stability. But what do I know?

Brian Miller said...

yeah, never i would say as well. i like the pieces, of course i like wood, so...actually i like all the color of luck...

thanks for popping over from Jen's, she is great people...look to see you again soon. smiles.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

I have so loved reading these comments today--I've appreciated every one. These words, along with all the comments on my facebook posting of this link have helped me move beyond this to a better mental place. Thanks, friends and readers all :)

Holly said...

What the heck..are these people nuts - wait don't answer that they already did! They sound like they could work for the government/. I love all of your is gorgeous!

Dawn said...

hi :) i am just catching up! this is... appalling! truly. and gosh... why do you not have the books that tells you how to make your mosaics exactly like everyone elses? wouldn't that be great to have every piece of mosaic look exactly the same? jeepers! i think your pieces are beautiful and those gallery mucketymucks are missing out. good for you for not saying... oh, i understand!


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