Friday, April 27, 2012

New Storefront

Finally got around to redesigning the storefront on my site. Who knows how long this will last, it may change next month. I decided I needed a change to allow those who haven't bought anything from me to have something new to look at when deciding not to buy anything again. I'm debating whether or not to put original art prices online - don't think I will. Probably just put up some works that I would consider selling.

Click on picture to enter store - open 24 hours a day.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


New Data Reveals Artists Aren’t Gettin’ Paid

Alexis Clements on April 20, 2012

Tonight, the group W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy), will release the results of the artists survey they conducted with Artists Space, a gallery in Soho. The survey found that 58% of the nearly 1,000 artists interviewed (including visual and performing artists) received no compensation at all for exhibiting or presenting their work at nonprofits in New York. In the weeks prior to these survey results being released I had been conducting my own, informal survey of the artists participating in this year’s Whitney Biennial, and found that none of those exhibited in the galleries that I exchanged emails with were paid to include their work — arguably one of the most important exhibitions of young and contemporary artists in the city. At most they had some of the costs of bringing the work to the museum covered, such as transporting or installing the work. But according to the W.A.G.E. survey, 58% of the artists they surveyed didn’t even have their expenses reimbursed. What W.A.G.E.’s survey finally makes transparent, is a reality that most artists have known for many years — by and large, most cultural institutions in the United States do not pay artists when exhibiting or presenting their work.

Many of the people I tell this to have no idea that artists aren’t paid for exhibiting. Others shrug their shoulders. They assume that artists make lots of money through gallery sales or big grants and prizes, so it doesn’t matter that they don’t get paid to exhibit. In fact, that’s the rationale of most museums. They argue that the exposure artists receive through exhibitions will set them on the path to financial reward. But the realities of life as an artist are quite different from these assumptions. Research by the NEA shows that artists across all fields earn much less than other professionals, with dancers earning a median income, including non-arts earnings, of only $15,000 in 2005 (museums, including the Whitney, are now regularly including dance and performance works in many of their major exhibitions). And women artists earn only 65% of male artists. Further, research by the sociologist Pierre-Michel Menger confirms that the arts in Europe and the US are a winner-take-all market, in which a select few artists are given the majority of the money.

When it comes to questions of artists and money, you’ll often hear the name Damien Hirst. He’s a favorite example for many of the potential wealth an artist can achieve (as well as the corrupt intentions of contemporary visual artists), given his record-breaking sales such as the 2008 auction of his works that raked in over $200 million. Even the prominent art philosopher Denis Dutton evoked Hirst for those very purposes in an OpEd for The New York Times. But nobody ever mentions the name Charles Saatchi — the art collector and dealer who is among the primary reasons that so many people know Hirst’s name and work.

A significant player in global advertising since the Mad Men days, Saatchi bought up large amounts of work by a set of young artists working in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when their work could be bought cheaply. Then in 1997 he launched the infamous exhibition, Sensations, filled with work hand-selected (and owned) by this man who spent his career learning precisely how to press people’s buttons through advertising. As was reported in the Times, Saatchi himself donated funds to make sure the exhibition would go forward, while also actively stirring the pot of controversy building in the media (i.e. free advertising) around some of the works on display, which included a portrait of the Madonna by Chris Ofili that was made up of, among other things, pornographic imagery and elephant dung, as well as another portrait by Marcus Harvey of the convicted murderer Myra Hindley created using the handprints of children. Not long after that, Saatchi went on to sell a number of the works at auction for record prices—money that went back to Saatchi in that instance, not the artists. In a climate when we’re looking more closely at all the ways that people of great wealth are able to manipulate certain markets to their own benefit, it’s worth noting that this kind of thing goes on regularly in some segments of the art world.

And if Damien Hirst is so many people’s poster boy for the visual arts world, it’s hard not to notice that he’s white, British and male. As indicated above, the arts are often far worse than most fields when it comes to achieving parity for women, as well as minorities.

Another response to artists not being paid is that artists chose to live a life of poverty, so they can’t expect to be paid for their work. Or an extension of that thinking — that artists are elitist and privileged and make obscure work that nobody cares about, so they shouldn’t be paid. Or the Neoconservative version of these same assertions — that it’s a free-market economy and if they don’t get paid it’s because nobody wants to pay.

But, in the case of the Whitney Biennial, for instance, we’re talking about artists being shown in a prominent cultural institution. According to the Art Newspaper, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Guggenheim together attracted close to 10 million visitors in 2010 — more than the entire population of the five boroughs. And all of New York’s top art museums either request or require that visitors pay to view the works on display. These are artists who have been recognized in their field and are having their work viewed by large numbers of people, who, by and large, are paying to view it. The artists who generate the work are the reason we all show up and that museums are able to find funding, yet they often go unpaid.

The fact is that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) devotes less than 2% of its meager budget to direct grants to individual artists. State arts agencies spend only 3% of their grant dollars on individual artists. The bulk of philanthropy in the arts goes to only 2% of the nation’s arts institutions, who are among those with the largest budgets. And we know that many of those institutions don’t pay the artists whose work they show. Everybody keeps shifting the responsibility of sustaining artists (the real lifeblood of the arts) to some other group; meanwhile, the money keeps finding its way into the coffers of the few who hold the most power and the purse strings.

As the NEA said in its own 2008 report, Artists in the Workforce: “The time has come to insist on an obvious but overlooked fact—artists are workers.” 

W.A.G.E.: 2010 Artists Survey Results Presentation and Open Forum takes place tonight, Friday, April 20 at 7pm at Artists Space (55 Walker Street, Soho, Manhattan)

Ava Duvernay fades to black

I absolutely loved Ava's first film titled 'I Will Follow'. Check it out if the Tyler Perry offerings aren't your cup of tea (definitely not mine!). This snippet of an interview brings out some great points for artists in general:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The great Saul Williams

Interview with Saul Williams

Saul performs 'Black Stacey'

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dr. Myrtle Glascoe - My Beginning

Awhile back I wrote a tribute to one of my art mentors, Dr. Leo Twiggs. In that post I wrote about our first meeting in my apartment when he curated my first real exhibition at the Halsey Gallery on the College of Charleston's campus. I briefly mentioned that the exhibit was a part of the opening celebration of the Avery Research Center, which at that time was under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Myrtle Glascoe. It has often become cliche to state that 'this thing, event or person' changed one's life, but in this case, cliche is fact. That cliche was Dr. Myrtle Glascoe.

Dr. Myrtle Glascoe

In 1990, I worked at an art gallery one block from the College of Charleston and was in the earliest phase of pursuing an art career. I had little to no direction and was doing what every early artist does, trying different styles and pursuing sales in any medium you thought the public would glom onto. I was exhibiting some art at the gallery where I worked, but was growing dissatisfied with the resultant work and was desperately trying to find a voice to call my own. There were a few pieces that I was playing around with that would eventually morph into my current visual state, but I couldn't see it at the time.

Fate would show up in the form of Beki Crowell, another local artist that had a vision for the disenfranchised mass of artists seeking to show their work and legitimize themselves in the Charleston art market. Beki envisioned an exhibition called 'Freedom Space' and enlisted my help in putting that together. The idea was to rent a space and invite any and all artists to display their work. No one would be turned down and guaranteed at least 2 works would be exhibited (dependent on size constraints). I had two works of art in that exhibition.

Dr. Glascoe was organizing an exhibit, curated by Dr. Twiggs, as part of the opening festivities of Avery. There were to be 5 artists exhibiting and 4 of international renown had already been selected. She was on the lookout for a local artist to join the fray and stumbled upon 'Freedom Space' and chose my work to be a part of the exhibition. I received a phone call from her in which she outlined the exhibit and asked to meet with me in her office a few days later.

On occasion, I had seen Dr. Glascoe on the campus and at a few events, but had never met her and couldn't place the name with the face. From those earlier sightings I had quickly surmised in a single glance that she was a woman of deep substance. She carried that 'no nonsense' aura one associates with people of great intellect and purpose - the kind you didn't approach lest you waste their time with your foolish prattling - and if introduced, you immediately know that it was best that you to kept your mouth shut and offer only the most fleeting of responses to any questions tossed your way. I imagine I would react the same way today upon meeting Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou. In a word, the woman scared the hell out of me.

I knocked on Dr. Glascoe's door with the bravado and arrogance of youth. After all, hadn't she been so impressed with my art that she had chosen me to display with this so-called international cast of characters? The moment I entered and saw her seated behind the desk, the wind left my sails. She glanced up at me over her reading glasses and motioned for me to sit in a chair opposite her desk, then continued to read and pen notes on a document that was clearly more important than my visit. This simple act reinforced my fear of the woman and I sat straight backed like a fourth grader in the Principal's office and tried not to fidget while she worked. I sat there for what seemed like a lifetime until she afforded me her attention. She told me about the exhibition and the history of Avery Normal, then informed me that Dr. Leo Twiggs, the curator, would call and stop by my 'studio' (I was too embarrassed to tell her that I didn't have a studio and worked in my livingroom) to select works for the exhibition. I was so green at the time I had no idea that 'curators' were in charge of exhibits and selected or commissioned works for display. 

I wrote about that painful visit with Dr. Twiggs earlier. It can be read by clicking here.

The day after Dr. Twiggs left, I met Dr. Glascoe outside the entrance to the Halsey Gallery to deliver my art. While she was unlocking the door, I looked through the glass entrance and was humbled and floored by one vision - an immense work of art by Tarleton Blackwell titled  'Green Dragon 1'. The massive triptych looked like it was moving before my very eyes. I had never seen anything that intense in my life and knew at once that I was in above my head. His work dominated the first floor of the gallery. My work was to be hung on the second floor and upon arrival, what little dignity I had left was mocked into submission by the sculptural work of Winston Wingo, hand dyed and woven silk garments by Carol Anderson and the multi-color woodcuts of Bahamian, Maxwell Taylor. I literally felt weak and sick and wanted to cry. My art was a sad joke compared to these artists and I wanted to run and hide. If I could have pulled out of the exhibit I would have. What a fool I had been to believe that I had the goods or ability to display in the same space as these artists! Dr. Glascoe glanced at me and saw my distress. She edged closer, hugged me around the waist and patted my back. I remember telling her that I didn't belong here and asking her why? She told me words that I have never forgotten to this day: 

"I see something in you, young man. You have the potential to become a great artist one day, but you must start taking your art more seriously. Maybe this will give you the incentive to study harder and apply yourself."

The rest of that afternoon was a blur. I remember going home (what a long drive that was), crawling in bed and putting the pillow over my head, wondering if I should even bother to show up at the opening. I did. I found a corner and remained there, trying not be noticed while watching Tarleton Blackwell hold court with his many admirers. I wanted to say something to him but was too afraid to approach him lest he find out that I was the artist who ruined the exhibit by putting my crap on the walls. I revered the man and it would take 5 years before I had the courage to speak to him during a group exhibition at SC State College.

Dr. Glascoe's call to arms did not go unheeded. In the following months I destroyed nearly all of the decorative work I had previously created and embarked upon the path of discovery outlined by her and Dr. Twiggs. Since I never went to art school, I picked up every book I could find and read the biographies of many artists - my favorites being Aaron Douglas, William Johnson, Warhol, Matisse and Modigliani. I was not concerned with the how of their art, but by the why. Why did they do what they did? What were they trying to convey in their work and how had their lives and experiences influenced and informed their art? I turned my back on the commercial art market and took the road less traveled which has brought me to where I am today. It has not been a financially successful journey, but creatively, it has yielded riches and I wouldn't trade the journey for anything. This is where I belong and if I remain true to the art it will all work out. I believe that.

I lost track of Dr. Glascoe sometime in the mid 90's when she moved to the Midwest and I to Los Angeles to write for television. We reconnected last year at the funeral of Charleston's legendary jazz enthusiast, Jack McCray. She's moving a bit slower these days but the intensity and intellect remains, now equaled by the respect and depth of gratitude I owe this woman who singularly pulled me from obscurity and set my feet on the path. My heart rose and skipped a beat when I saw her at the panel discussion for my current exhibit. I will cherish the photo above and have it framed - not for the sake of reminiscence - but as a reminder that within each of us resides an opportunity to encourage and challenge the potential we see in others, and in doing so, perhaps change the course of a misdirected life for the better. Thank you, Dr. Myrtle Glascoe. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Congrats to Carolina Arts!

Tom Starland's Carolina Arts on-line publication usually averages about 80,000 downloads a month. The April issue has exceeded 100,000 downloads in the first 13 days of April - setting a far. Can't wait to see what the final months tally will be. I'd love to believe that my art on the cover along with 2 full pages on the interior had something to do with this - but I'm not that narcissistic. Tom has done a marvelous job with the pub and I hope that this is not an anomaly.  You can download the issue here: Carolina Arts

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd recently responded to a media story about her looking 'puffy' in the face. I thought a portion of her missive fit nicely with my attitude towards the distracting influences I run across in the art world.

"I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that." 

- Ashley Judd

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Plantation - (plan-ta-shun) Exhibit Installation

Here are some images from the recently opened exhibition at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC. I have some pics from the opening reception as well as the gallery talk and panel discussion (both were standing room only!).


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Carolina Arts downloads

Tom Starland and the fine folks over at Carolina Arts graciously placed my art on the cover of their April issue. The magazine used to be a hard copy about a year ago but transitioned into digital 'print' and now can only be downloaded. It seems that the recent issue has seen the most downloads to date. Tom speculates on the reasons on his latest blog post: 

Posts Tagged ‘Colin Quashie’

Tracking the Download Numbers for the April 2012 Issue of Carolina Arts
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

At the first of the year I stated that I was finished with giving monthly reports on how the paper was doing as far as downloads go – once as a first ten day report and than again at the end of the month. And it’s been great reporting in my commentary in the paper that ever since the Dec. 2011 issue we have been seeing over 80,000 downloads a month.

But now, we reached a new level that I think deserves reporting – mostly because so many people are responsible in helping distribute this paper by forwarding on my monthly notice that the paper is ready to be downloaded to their friends and contacts by e-mail. I’ve described this process compared to me throwing a stone into a body of water and as that wave from that stone reaches others around the Carolina visual art community they throw a stone which reaches others who repeat the process. It’s a process where many waves are heading in all directions. Those waves are most active in the first ten days of the month. Sometimes a few stones are thrown later in the month and a few might get tossed near the end of the month. But, the bulk of the downloads each month come in the first ten days of the month.

I want to thank all those folks who are part of that process and hope they keep it up each month. Because of you I can report that in the first nine days of April there have been 90,126 downloads of the April 2012 issue of Carolina Arts – amazing!!! I couldn’t wait for the results of day ten to tell you this news.

Up to this point our largest number of downloads for an issue came is Jan. 2012 with 84,244 downloads. I was thinking that with that number coming in January we could slowly climb higher and higher by May and June, but February and March saw a slight dip – still over 80,000, but not climbing.

Out of the blue, our April issue became our largest issue to date with 79 pages and we made the decision to go back and rerun an article about an exhibit by Colin Quashie that we included in our March issue, but this time feature his works on our cover and a few pages inside the paper – at a larger size than usual. We can’t tell if it was the bigger issue or Quashie’s images that drew so much more attention to the paper, but we’re very glad to see these numbers. But, it’s my guess that the images had a lot to do with it.

Plantation Monopoly (Entire Game) by Colin Quashie, 20” x 20”, Print on Masonite Board. Photo by Rick Rhodes.
There’s no telling what the end of the month will bring. The downloads could drop like a lead brick or go somewhere we have only dreamed of seeing. But we thought you might like to know this info and frankly I was dying to tell you.

If for some reason you haven’t downloaded this issue the link is ( And if you would like to throw some stones of your own in the water – use that same link. You could be part of something historic.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Redux Mural almost done

Still have some finishing touches to put on it but we're getting there. Thanks to all the Redux interns from the College of Charleston who have lent a helping hand and much priase to my adopted sister Dana Campbell for all her hard work! Love ya, my dear!. I seriously doubt that i will have it completely finished before the opening but viewers will get the point. Besides, it's going to be up until September.

Carolina Arts love

Tom Starland's Carolina Arts monthly arts newspaper is chocked full of news and articles about gallery and museum opening across the Carolina's. He decided to put me on the cover and also add a couple pages in the middle showcasing some of the works in the exhibition. Thank you, sir!