Monday, June 22, 2009

Portrait of the Artist of an Old Man

George Viener, Director of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery, left a message the other day with exciting news: two of my wood carvings, Father of His Country and Eve of Liberty, have sold and I will be a featured artist in the gallery during July and August.

The gallery, which is based in Reading, PA, specializes in outsider and folk art. Both are the work of self-taught artists. So,what is the difference? The proprietor of a Manhattan folk art gallery has this to say on his web site: “Outsiders live on the margins of American life. Folk artists live in the mainstream. Outsiders are often troubled people living their lives in isolation or, frequently, they find themselves institutionalized because of emotional or mental instabilities or incarcerated because of criminal conduct. Folk artists are everyday Americans, with families and friends, and homes, and mortgages, and pets, and soccer games, and tuition, and church, and bills, and debt, often with full-time jobs.”

Clearly, he takes a dim view of outsider artists, but manages to make folk artists sound like Republicans. Based on his character description, it could go either way for me. Maybe because I haven’t been institutionalized yet, most people, if they consider my work art at all, consider it folk art. I don’t think much about such things. As I say on my bio on the gallery web site:” I do what I do, and it is what it is.” (Note: the use of two clich├ęs in one sentence, though a crime, is not enough to get me categorized as an outsider artist.)

George took an interest in my work after I had bombarded him with emails urging him to visit my blog site, Several months ago, at his invitation, I took some of my carvings out there. He liked them, but was not sure where they would fit in the gallery at that time. We agreed that he would keep them and try to sell them on the gallery web site.

His phone message was followed by several days of missed calls and intense fantasizing on my part. As befits a borderline outsider artist, I am bi-polar in my wool gathering.

In my manic mode, I convince myself that the American Folk Art Museum is the buyer of the pieces and that I can now quadruple my price. I am picturing my grandson taking his children there and saying: “The American art treasures encased over there were carved by your great grandfather. You come from a proud legacy, my dears.”

In my depressive mode, I am sure they will break in transit and the buyers will demand their money back. Or worse yet, one of their children will poke his eye out on George Washington’s sword and they will sue me for every dime I have.

Anyway, I am relieved to hear from George Viener. The buyers are collectors from Louisiana and really like my work. I will be a featured artist at the Outsider Folk Art Gallery for July and August.

I am very pleased. This is a highly regarded gallery in this niche of the art world, and I never in the world expected to sell anything. When I told my daughter the good news she said: “Well, you topped Van Gogh. He never sold anything in his lifetime.” At least I have cleared that hurdle. In case you are wondering, Vincent Van Gogh, although he meets most aspects of the aforementioned expert’s description of an outsider artist, ironically, would not be considered one since he received extensive art training.

But now I worry that perhaps these Louisiana buyers live on the Gulf coast and my art might be lost to history in a catastrophic flood like what happened to that potter in Mississippi or Alabama whose name I don’t remember who would never sell any of his work only to have all his pots broken in a gigundus hurricane. Well, as the philosopher once said: nothing breeds anxiety like success.

I will enjoy the moment, though, and not let it go to my head. Speaking of which, I wonder how I would look in a beret?

1 comment:

Mary Lois said...

Berets are only for outsiders or those who've had art training. Stick with a baseball cap worn backward, or, better yet, just display the haircut George Clooney stole in full splendor.