Nesting, They Call It.

Gemma waits patiently for Michael to return with an early dinner. Little does she know that none of it’s for her.

So, here it is, a couple of weeks into July and we’ve living here in Joshua Tree 16 days today (as I type this). There are a total of 10 boxes left to unpack. I think that’s pretty damn good considering how many we had to begin with (over 100)! I’m not even counting how many boxes I had to pack up for my storage space, which still isn’t even organized yet. I have plans to go there next week and take a couple of hours to do that. Everything is mostly thrown in there willy-nilly. That sounds worse than it is. It’s not thrown in there–it’s mostly art after all. I mean it’s just a mess.

My new office is coming along. It just needs artwork on the walls now. I’ll have to pick some things out from the storage space and bring them back with me. I didn’t pick enough pieces out for the house to begin with. I guess I underestimated the wall space, but there’s more than I thought, and it winds up it’s all in my office.

I got my new cabinet by the way!

I even have my own private bathroom!

Pretty nifty, eh? I get to pee in private No one knows about it but me, and now, you.

When I went to go hang art up in the living room, I was taken aback to find that Gemma had already curated the room and hung everything for me! She sure saved me a lot of time and trouble.

She did a pretty good job with these three.

The best news is that I started to get back to work on a watercolor I started eons ago. I’m still not sure about these mountains though. Originally, I had a little something different in mind with a bunch of little slivers of various colors, which I still may do. I’m deciding if I’m liking it this way though. The skinnier lines and waves of colors may work better with the rest of the painting when it’s all finished though. It might need that contrast, but we’ll see.

So I might erase these next few paragraphs, as I don’t usually post what I write on the day I receive rejections, but today I received the rejection for the COLA grant. That’s the City of Los Angeles Individual Artist’s Fellowship Grant that I’ve been applying to for over 20 years. I also did not get the Metro commission for Downtown Burbank, if I didn’t mention that before. Here is that painting. I am able to show it now that it’s over and done with:

Anyway, as for the COLA, I’d say maybe the last 15 of the 20 were the more appropriate years to actually apply for it, since it’s really geared for the “mid-career” artist. That’s what they say anyway. I’ve been at this for something like 34 years now. That’s no joke. I’ve been exhibiting 28 years, and have had serious (major) solo shows for 17 years, the first in 2002 at 18th Street in Santa Monica at Highways. Then I was picked up by George Billis Gallery in 2005. I won the Pollock-Krasner Fellowship in 2009-2010, was with Shulamit Nazarian for two years before landing with Craig Krull Gallery where I am now. I am only saying all this because I suppose I’ve considered myself “mid-career” for a while. I have watched many, many other artists with half the experience win the COLA year after year. Just sayin.

Well, this was the last year I was ever able to apply. That’s it. I am no longer a Los Angeles artist. It’s a weird feeling. But I stupidly had a little hope in the back of my mind that maybe I’d win this year. Maybe this time I’d get lucky, or be recognized, or my work would be on par, up to par, or sing to someone on the panel. I submitted my video installation and a portion of my film. I figured my paintings weren’t cutting it all the other years. If I won, I’d keep a studio going in the city and work on my next body of work between LA and Joshua Tree. Then I could go out with a bang at the big Barnsdall exhibition in 2020. But, it’s not to be.

I realize it’s very competitive grant. About 170 artists applied this year and they had to pick around 10 in the visual arts. It’s silly to think of the chances. And, the merit aspect–well, I have no college degree and am competing with 150+ others who have Masters in the arts. There’s also a point system whereby merit counts for a lot in this situation.

Criteria and Scoring for Fellowship Program:

Excellence Maximum of 80 points
Scores for excellence reflect the competitiveness of the artistic and community accomplishments as evidenced by resumes, strong reviews and press materials, relevant and compelling letters of support, as well as the quality and content of the artistic work sample. Merit is based upon the quality of submitted material, especially the artistic work sample. Merit is not determined by potential nor by the artist’s reputation, but is evaluated against the merit of works and proposals submitted by other applicants in the same discipline, as well as other works in the field.

Creativity and Innovation Maximum of 20 points
The creation of new works with new ideas or new methods, or the continuation and advancement of an existing body of work, is evaluated against the other applications as well as other works in the field.

This is not to say I think I didn’t get it because of any of these things: merit, luck, reputation, fairness, quality of the work, or being deserving, etc. I’m just plain old sad, disappointed, and dejected. I feel “put in my place,” as they say. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do. Isn’t it normal? Twenty times is a lot of times to be rejected by this particular grant, and this is only one of hundreds I’ve applied for–not over and over, but I’ve applied for a lot. This is not the biggest money grant by any means. It’s just the one I wanted the most because of the recognition by my city, the city I love so much and grew up in. Los Angeles has always been such a huge part of my identity, but I guess my heart has been here in Joshua Tree for the last few years. Not that I’ll be looking for “recognition” here. I think I’m done with all that.

And speaking of here, something that near ruined me when I was doing a residency here a few years ago was finding out some truths about what the judging panel felt about me then, because I was never offered/awarded the main residency. This is why you won’t find me on their website. Maybe also because I didn’t stay the whole term. I’m not sure which. But a few days into my stay I found out just how crucial not having a degree was, and that being “self-taught” was looked down on. I wasn’t recognized as a “serious” artist. After having worked 30-some years in this field, hearing that (and it being one of my worst fears of what people think about me) threw me into one of the worst depressions of my life. It took a couple years to get out of it–perhaps my readers recall this long and annoying struggle. Well, that was the catalyst–those 10 days in the desert alone thinking about what a loser I was. I wondered if that was information I should have never heard, or if it was good to know: good to know what I was still dealing with that on this path. Well, it changed everything about everything. It reinvented the wheel for me…

Maybe for some, they’d go back to school, get a proper degree and see if that would “help.” But that’s not my style, and definitely not at 50. Plus, I’ve done my fucking time. I’ve won awards, I’ve been in galleries, shown all over, and sold my work for thousands of dollars. And, I am not uneducated. I don’t need a piece of goddamn paper to prove that to anyone, or that I am a legitimate artist. I suppose the only “paper of proof” I need are the ones I practiced on in the first years I studied painting. It seems a lot of these educated people in the arts don’t understand that art doesn’t have to have perspective or realistic aspects, and in fact, even photorealism and photography is abstract. Once you make anything two-dimensional, it becomes abstract, so what the fuck? Reality is already realistic enough for me and my choice is not to create realism, not so much because I am lacking the ability. I could if I really wanted to. Any aspect I want slightly real in my work is made so when and where I want it to be to the degree I desire it. And that is that.

Yet, my work doesn’t seem to be contemporary enough. Not for many people’s tastes. Not for people on the judging panels for the City of Los Angeles’s Individual Artist’s Grants. Maybe the art isn’t high enough. It’s not a contemporary commentary, or like a video about global warming? Or maybe it’s not ugly enough, ironic enough, 1980s enough. It’s not exciting, bold, graphic, colorful, or lacking of enough color, or it just doesn’t speak out to a judgey judge. Or they read this blog and hate what I have to say all the time. That has happened by the way. Don’t think it hasn’t. I just never mentioned who exactly black balled me, but, it scared me into not really speak my mind ever since. Thanks for that, _._. (you know who you are). Be careful who you piss off. If you’re an arts writer or a critic, apparently, you should be careful too (if you are also an artist). Someone somewhere can make things very shitty for you as you move forward. They can keep you from writing any more commentary AND exhibiting at certain venues. It’s true. You don’t even have to say anything all that bad! You just have to be someone that “shouldn’t” get recognition I guess. Okay…now I just sound crazy and bitter.

This blog post will most likely get deleted in the next 48 hours because I’m sure I’ll regret writing it when I wake up tomorrow.

Oh, but back to that whole scenario about reinventing the wheel. I eventually learned that I didn’t want to try so hard anymore. I didn’t want to compete, or climb to the top of some art world ladder that doesn’t want me there to begin with. I already had this realization, so I don’t know why I feel so upset. I should not try so hard to be accepted in a place I am not welcomed. Even if lately it has been “cool” to be self-taught” it doesn’t take away the insidious prejudice I’ve lived through about being so for so long. I don’t find it ironic at all that it’s been a passing trend that some MFAers want to claim they are “self-taught.” I don’t know why they would want to claim some disadvantage when they have something that puts them ahead in the running. But whatever. If you have a degree, you’re not self-taught and you should be proud of the fact no matter how it happened, even if your parents paid your way. Your parents worked their ass off so you could get that education, so be proud of it, just as you would be if you worked five jobs to put yourself through school. Just as I should be proud that I had to go the extra mile to prove my place among all of those with an MFA without a high school diploma. It is what it is, don’t hide the truth. We all work hard. So what.

All that said, I thought I’d add some very old paintings. These were done when I was hardly old enough to drive (or thereabouts), so don’t fault me. It’s just to show that I did practice how to paint real shit once upon a time.

And another thing… Ha ha, just kidding. I am not really on a real rant. It’s all in fun. I’m not really mad or upset. I’m just here and had time to vent a little, momentarily. I have time to type. When do I ever have time? Never!

I’ve also finally had time to start entering my drawings into a new database. Mjp built me an interface so I can start uploading all my drawings I ever did into a database that is going to take me the rest of my life! Ha. Not really, but it’s going to take me a long, long time. I’ve only uploaded 30 so far and have about 1000 more to go. I realized I have way more drawings than paintings. Obviously. They are faster to jot down. Some are much rougher than others, like this:

versus this:

but they are all going into the database: when I did them, on what kind of paper, if they are in a book/publication, and what I made them for, if anything.

For my paintings database, this watercolor I’m working on will be work number 991. I’ll be living here when I reach 1,000.

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