Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Art in my little town

In my little town, of Bellingham, there is a lot of Art. Not great art, just pigments applied to surfaces, and photographs of pretty things, and chunks of metal welded to other chunks of metal, and so on. This is not to suggest that Bellingham is the end of line. No. If you fail in Bellingham, there are still places you can move to, to try again in a more forgiving market. But still, if you fail in New York, you don't move to Bellingham right away. First, maybe you fail in Birmingham or somewhere like that, and then Boise, and only then do you pull up stakes and come to Bellingham to see if there is a place for your art here.

There are, in my little town, Bellingham, any number of modest storefronts which represent someone's particular passion. Of course, there are bookstores, but what is unusual, really, about a passion for books? There is a museum of contraptions beautifully machined out of wood. There is a museum of electrical, things, mostly built around what might be the world's largest collection of dead shortwave radios. There is a train museum, where the wives of recently deceased old men donate their hundreds of pounds of model trains.

Also, there is a fish store. For live fish, fish for bowls, for tanks, for impossibly difficult to maintain aquatic environments. Tropical fish, goldfish, all manner of fish. Also, dog treats, dog toys, dog food, dog collars, bird seed, bird toys, and so on. But mostly, fish. It is the kind of store where, if you are not worthy, you may find yourself unable to purchase a fish for reasons you cannot quite grasp perhaps a nice goldfish says the young woman but I wanted the betta you say, bewildered. By way of explaining the breadth of the thing: they have a pufferfish, Miss Puff, not for sale please don't try to make me puff up it's bad for me. They maintain heroically large salt water environments in what seem to be intolerable circumstances.

Next door, in the former feed store adjoining the fish shop, is or more precisely was, a rather more ordinary pet store. Bunnies, parakeets, a few lizards, a snake, and aisle upon aisle of pet foods, pet toys, pet accessories, and, seasonally, setting out plants and seeds.

One night, the former feed store burned. Most of the animals were rescued, save only 10 birds and a snake. It is not clear if they are known to have perished, or if they are simply unaccounted for.

Allegations are being pursued to the effect that the fire was started by a homeless man who was trying to stay warm as temperatures dipped below freezing.

The fish store, with its lights and pumps and filters and heaters and coolers all maintaining the myriad delicate and complex environments was quarantined inaccessible to staff and without power for 18 hours.

All of the fish survived.


  1. Fish can be tough. My brother returned home from work years ago to find his goldfish bowl empty. He looked around and found the goldfish behind some furniture. It had jumped out of the bowl, he figures he had filled the bowl up too close to the brim. Anyway, a couple of its fins were dried out and partly fallen off, and when he put it back in the water, it swam sideways for a while, as if it had a middle ear infection. Eventually, it recovered.

    I don't know what to think about graffiti art. Somehow I feel I should be charitable towards it, I mean someone went to some lengths to express something. But they make a neighbourhood look like shit to me, as if the next step is that the cast from The Road Warrior will show up, steal your gasoline and carry off some blondes.

    You seem to have high reverence for places like New York or Paris (or wherever it is these days) as crucibles of great art and make fun of smaller art markets as 2nd rate or worse. There can be some osmotic value in being in a place filled with other practitioners, but sometimes you can just get inbreeding. But I take your point, movements need more than one person.

    1. The art in these photos isn't really graffiti, or graffiti styled. Bellingham has a lot of murals, commissioned (I think) by the building owners or tenants. Generally the style is as shown, which is a kind of folk art styling, I think. It's a bit blockheaded, but also kind of pretty, and it employs a number of artists.

      I don't revere New York perticularly, which always strikes me as something of a disappointment when I visit. Its virtue seems to be simply that it is large enough to have at least one decent instance of anything you can name, be it a falafel shop or an art gallery. The point about New York (and similar) is that is has become a sort of designated meeting place.

      If you want to be an international sensation, you cannot stay in Bellingham. David Zwirner and Larry Gagosian are not going to come to Bellingham, you have to go to them, and that's where they are. L.A., London, New York, and a handful of other places are the places where you go, because that's where the other people have gone.

      I admit I was being a bit tongue in cheek with the Birmingham -> Boise -> Bellingham progression, but there *does* seem to be a bit of that.

  2. Artistic 'movements' used to be a thing, perhaps like genres of popular music. Now there is just a global pandemic of notional 'art' writ large.