This weekend, I attended the opening receptions for 2 group exhibits that contain my paintings. Guide Ropes & Live Wires, the faculty exhibition at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and Fire & Ice, a group exhibit at Blink Gallery in Philadelphia. At both exhibitions, I stood back and watched viewers looking at my work. I purposely stood at a distance where I could observe unobtrusively and barely hear snippets of the conversation. The thought of walking up and introducing myself crossed my mind, but in the end I opted not to, as I frequently do. Although I’m not a particularly shy person, it feels invasive to me or as if I would be putting the viewers on the spot by approaching them.
I like to give people enough space to take in the work without influence. For example, I purposely keep the titles of my paintings brief and direct. I don’t want to tell the viewer what they should see because I fully believe that drawing their own conclusions is what makes art interesting. It’s visual art, it should not need an explanation to make it valid or compelling.
Also, unless I am teaching, I don’t particularly like discussing my own work. One of the questions I dread the most is “What inspired this painting?” There is no individual answer that accurately describes why I paint each painting, other than I find visual attributes of the subject (whatever it happens to be) compelling. It isn’t as if I wake up one day with this grand vision of what my next painting will be–ideas come and go, I explore those that seem the most compelling and see where they lead. Not a very interesting answer I’m afraid, but any other would not be authentic.
So, I will continue to take my spot in the background and quietly observe. I’m sure many would argue that I’m missing an opportunity to “market” myself and my work. However, I don’t view either myself or my work as a product to be branded and managed. I prefer to let viewers and collectors draw their own conclusion. It isn’t that complicated–you either like the paintings, or you don’t.
Note: Stop in at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey to view Guide Ropes & Live Wires, the faculty exhibition on display from now through March 13, 2016. For more information, visit www.artcenternj.org. Fire & Ice, a group exhibit at Blink Gallery in Philadelphia will be on display from now through February 29, 2016. To contact Blink Gallery, email John Andrulis at email@example.com.