Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Bush Leage II

I have thought about this some more, and what I am trying to say is coming out clumsily. Which is an indication that I am unsure of what, exactly, I am trying to say.

I think it comes down to this, though: there are good, serious, struggling artists all over the place. Some of them I would surely judge as "crap" and a few I would judge as "good" but that is beside the point.

When those artists are spread out thin, as in Duluth, Bellingham, or Toronto, they don't really know one another socially. If you reach out into a pool of friends, even if you are yourself creative, and know a bunch of creatives, you're unlikely to stumble across one of these people.

I hypothesize, but do not know for sure of course, that in that very small number of cities to which creative types move/flee in their 20s, the density of genuinely good, talented, creatives is high enough that simply asking around has some reasonable chance at turning up someone worth talking to, worth showing.

I am biased, of course, because I don't use the "asking around' method, instead I wade through mountains of stuff I find on the internet and in various and sundry printed materials, following leads, following my nose, and occasionally I stumble across someone I like. This is radically different from reaching out into my social network, asking "hey, do you know any good photographers?" I happen to be certain that the latter method would produce endless birds-in-flight, colorful landscapes, and other insanely boring derivative, albeit well-executed, photographs.

Perhaps it is a foolish pipe dream, that If Only I lived in NYC and was young, and beautiful, I would know people who knew the really good rising artists. I am not in NYC, I am neither young, nor beautiful, so I don't actually know for sure.


  1. I’m not sure being young, beautiful, and living in NYC would be any guarantee that your immediate social network would include any “great artists.” Artists who show at galleries in Chelsea, maybe, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.

    Of course there would be people in your immediate social network whose art would be lauded by their (your) friends, etc, but that would be the case no matter whether you were in NYC, Paris, Berlin, Toronto, or even Bellingham. For example, back in the day, my friends thought my semi-abstract colour prints of urban subjects etc. were just great, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that a million other people were doing pretty much exactly the same thing, and none of it was Great Art. Pretty to look at, sure, and fun to do, but...

    The difficulty, I think, is that there’s just so much of this stuff. Billions of photographs, thousands of books. And this is exacerbated by the MFA industry, which has undermined the independence of gallerists, curators and editors (if that ever existed) by defining a kind of artistic party line. So on the one hand we’ve got a swell of “content” (anybody can take a photograph and then post what they’ve done on the internet) and on the other hand a surge of officially- sanctioned “art” (difficult if not impossible now to get a gallery show without an MFA, unless you’ve been showing for years and have an “established reputation”) -- no doubt there is good work out there, but it’s very hard to find. You could spend all your time looking for it.

    Which is not a bad thing to do, and I appreciate people who take the time, and say, hey look at this over here, this is worth your attention, it’s not the same old (or new) shite.

    But I suspect that, as an artist, it might be best not to think too much about what others are doing at all. Which is not the same as not being aware of history and “tradition” or even “current practice” -- and yes, there’s a bit of tension and contradiction there, I know.

    In the meantime, I will continue to take pictures of my cat and post them on Instagram, along with the occasional semi-abstract thing, maybe, but hopefully with no pretence that any of it is great art.

    (BTW you’ve really got to stop comparing Toronto, Duluth and Bellingham. The population of Toronto itself is about 2.7 million, the Greater Toronto Area is about 6.4 million, while Duluth and Bellingham are, what? 80000?)

    1. If you're not careful, I will instead compare Toronto to Deadwood, OR, where I lived as a teenager for a couple of years!

      But yes, I have long advocated (and live myself) as if larger fame and fortune are an absurd goal. Almost nobody knows the things I do, and that's the way I like it. If you're looking for someone to interview for your web site, you won't find me.

      Artists, in these modern times, if they seek "success" at all, should generally look locally, for a small group. 1000 true fans, rather than global fame. There simply isn't room for Global Fame for every truly gifted artist, and so the game becomes capricious and arbitrary and soul-killing.

      Skip that game.

      BUT, if you're looking for someone to interview for your web site, it's a somewhat different situation.

    2. Deadwood OR? This could be interesting. I'm thinking: a photoessay with alternates shots of downtown Deadwood and the back alleys of Toronto! It could be profound!

      My feeling is that for most of us, even 1000 true fans is a reach, if by that we mean "people who will buy our work." Even if the work is “really good.” And that's ok, with me anyway, since my work is done for my own sake, for its own sake. Still, it's good to talk to the handful of people it reaches and be aware of that reach, limited though it may be. But maybe even that isn’t necessary.

  2. Bellingham, WA. is a wonderful little college town and community about 50 miles south of the Canadian Border that I think the world of and it pains me to hear you call it Bush League. You're right of course, it really is but still it pains me. I prefer to think of Bellingham as simply being Off Broadway. Kind of a really long way off, but hey...

  3. Might there be a problem with only viewing the world through the lens of online content? Does it approximate reality, what does it miss?

    1. It puts reality in a blender and turns it into a pablum with the nutritional value of boiled cardboard. Enjoy!