Summer is always rough. It's soul sedating humidity and not enough tourists and locals bullshitting about one or the other of these topics. Every summer I feel a scramble and I SCHEME. One year I went up to Burlington Vermont to sell on the street there. One year I went out to CA to trim. This year I went to Virginia for 2 weeks to visit my family. To commemorate my mothers 60 years on this planet I compromised my artistic-metaphysical pretensions and painted a simple bowl of fruit that MATCHED HER KITCHEN. (This is a service I offer ONLY to the person who birthed, bathed, read to me at night & cleaned my boogers off the wall.)
This is actually a painting of FAKE fruit in her kitchen. (see? metaphysics always creeps in...) This was a fascinating thought, albeit a morbid one on my mothers birthday...thinking that this painting doesn't necessarily give away it's plastic immortality.. once we're all dead and gone and this painting makes the rounds of Colonial Beach yard sales who's to ever know that these apples & pears never really did LIVE? No birth, no growth, no rot, no grounds for an empire of fruit fly hell.
To paint it I actually mixed water color patched and held them up against the coloring of her wall (which is yellow). I warmed the yellows so they'd come 'at' you. I snatched little brick a bracks from her shelves to match the reds, though they still ended up a bit purpley (but purple is complimentary to yellow sooo.....) All of this effort should indeed secure my position as most beloved child. (That I live so far away and cannot pop in to do my laundry also probably secures this position.)
Back home in New Orleans I immediately implemented my most recent SCHEME. I sublet a friends space in the Quarter and tried to turn it into a temporary art space.
Ah...NEXT summer...the ultimate SCHEME. Until then, I'll just do this:
Yesterday Oh Yesterday
I didn't get any sleep, stayed up working on a big painting. Around 6 AM I figured, it's the Royal Street Food & Wine Fest- there's gonna be people, the artists are gonna be quick! I may as well get out there now to get my spot.
Turned out the street was totally empty. For hours I was the only one set up. It was a day of minor physical mishaps. My pants ripped on the ride down, once arriving I realized I'd forgotten the clothes pins I use to hang my work with. A kindly, talkative canadian lady watched my stuff while I went to Rouses. All they had were obnoxious pink/purple/blue plastic clothespins. Ah well..the canadian lady bought me some coffee & I drank it blinking, trying to stay conscious.
Another artist showed up, she told me about her other job as a waitress. Said she loved the place, the entertainment factors were high, about a wild day last week involving guns & bath salts. (New band name anyone?)
A guy walked by with a cartoon hand grenade tattoo. I stopped him and asked, "Why would you get that tattoo?"
He stopped and looked surprised. With an enthusiastic gesture he said,
"What do you mean...internally you identify as a cartoon hand grenade with eyes?"
"No! It's ME! I'm the giant hand grenade down the street!"
A lady who works at a gallery near by came over & bought this piece:
And even left me with a gift of their own work:
This crowd stayed in their 'designated' area. They hardly wandered over. At one point I asked a guy walking by, "Don't you want to engage with us at all?" He said, "No, I don't engage anything." And hurried off in a little bubble. So, yeah.
To which my sentiments are: Ya'll Hella Boring.
Then I packed up & rode home and SLEPT & SLEPT & SLEPT.
What makes Life nice.
It's been rainy, so I'm not out. It's kind of nice to have the excuse to have the day off, plus I gotta re-build my rickshaw since the original is made out of cardboard & it is currently 'out of service'.
My boyfriend is helping me (really pretty much building it for me) & we've got a pile of wood and bolts set aside to build one that will hopefully last much longer.
The last day I was out these folks walked by and a woman caught her eye on a piece and said, "Oh, that's like me when I'm worried.." She seemed taken by it, but there's plenty to see in the French Quarter & so they walked on.
A block down her husband turned around and ran back. Quickly & quietly he bought it for her and very covertly we put it in his bag. They strolled back by about a half hour later and the women looked for the piece.
I caught on and got up and acted like I wasn't sure which one and then said reluctantly, "oh..that one is gone.."
It was hard to keep it up because she looked so disappointed, but her husband was trying to hide this wild grin and it made me want to be there later on when he surprised her with it.
I think about things like this...that I wouldn't have gotten to see this part of the exchange if I were selling through a gallery. As useful as paying the rent is, it's just as much a necessity of living to see demonstrations of love & care. She initially identified with it as herself worrying, for me, him buying this painting for her said, "I love you, and I'm with you- even when you're worrying."
I didn't get their info because of how 'sly' we were being to surprise her, but hopefully they will contact me & I can thank them for sharing the moment with me.
Another pleasant random act of kindness was Richard, a friend from around the Quarter, who appeared with tiny cupcakes.
Are You Okay with This?
I thought that THIS was going to be my biggest frustration today:
New Orleans doesn't have four seasons that lead into one another gracefully. We have bug seasons. Now it's catepillar time & these guys fall out of the trees..and if they fall on you they sting you with their terrifying primordial spikes & it feels like fiber glass under your skin.
*If this ever befalls you empty a cigarette into some water, tobacco juice relieves the sting.
What could be more disturbing than this???
Geez, he looks like a nice guy.
I have no idea why- but for some reason John sent an order for myself & other street artists (with legal permits) to NOT display our work on 'the states' fence during French Quarter Fest.
Why a Supreme Court Clerk of Court would send a private security team, and finally NOPD to run off local artists, with threat of arrest & confiscation of our art is entirely beyond my mental reference.
Here is what I've already written to explain the situation:
More frustration for New Orleans 'creative class' (that is supposed to be experiencing some kind of renaissance in the form of studio lofts priced for lawyers & poor city communications?):
Look at it. Live with it.
Today was a long meandering day that encapsulates the absurdity & randomness & contradiction of such an occupation. Maybe I got a whole 2 or 3 hours of sleep, after I
Yes, thats a Bose Cinemate series II
drunkenly went to Kinkos in the AM to make prints (I don't recommend doing this.) I wanted to try getting that prime real estate on the front of the fence & I wanted to bring out some bigger paintings.
A friend had given me this hook up with wheels for the back of my bike, so I found a big cardboard box & jimmy rigged it into a make-shift rikshaw. I believe this is referred to as 'Cajun engineering'. I was damn proud of my construction and it got me to the quarter with plenty of paintings around 7 AM.
On the ride I FOUND a canvas, resting by itself on a street lamp. Ground score! The world is workin with me!
Unfortunately I didn't get a front spot & pirates ally was already filling up, but I heard the front was already claimed around 4 am, so at least I got a little bit of needed sleep.
Mostly the day consists of sitting, and finding alternate methods of keeping oneself stimulated. Usually I bring books & drawing materials, fetch coffee & smoke a lot of cigarettes. Watching the world jostle around me. Often enough I get to witness some truly random shit, like this:
People seemed really over-stimulated by French Quarter Fest so by the time they came by me they couldn't focus well. I also got a lot of people that didn't seem to 'get' my work at all...one women stopped, asked if I took commisions & when I said, "Maybe, it depends what the image is." said, "Can you paint a picture of my dog?" Geez...I've got a whole fence convered in paintings of people, no, I do not want to paint your pet portrait. I also decided I'm going to start writing down the best little bits of eavesdropping. For April 12th they were...(dun dun dun)
"...Yeah, I got him a picture of Lafittes...after The Katrina..."
"And I watched, I mean, I saw the guy doing it! On You Tube! It was amazing! He has this spray paint...and the picture just formed everything..like the twin towers and..."
I got traumatized while walking to the Bourbon Orleans to use their bathroom. A silver guy screamed some compliment to me, followed by something about licking my thighs, ugh, I do not need such menatl imagery & hollered back that there's some thoughts better kept to oneself. Finally at the only bathroom the bourbon orleans has not effectly key-card locked I got trapped behind a bachlorette party. They giggled like a flock of hens while performing for themselves with a 2 ft inflatible penis (with a face nonetheless) in the bathroom mirrors, while I blinked trying to stay awake & eager to get back to my spot.
All day long, and this has been happening a lot lately, people side stepped all my other work to ask about this cluster of 4 paintings of the same girl:
Everyone wants a fascinating story about the mystery girl...why..oh why would I paint her 4 times if she didn't have some extrodinary signifigance? Well, actually I've painted her about 7 times...and I don't know who she is.
I was doing it for a technical study to see how one flesh palette would contrast against differently colored grounds. I learned that my answer was: Not very much. It took me a long time doing all these studies & was mostly pretty frustrating. If you're gonna paint from reference don't use a dual light source. That is was this image means to me.
Finally, a little while before I was about to pack it up, some really vibrant sweet folks stopped. They got a little cigarette box picture book and somehow made me more enlivened by their presence. Tim & Kathy, who pilgrim down here every french Quarter fest also came by, like an island of sanity, a relief from the parade of huge-ass-beer swillers and non-stop tourists who treat me like a convenient information office, asking,
"Is this the St. Louis Cathedral?" and "Where is Bourbon street?" They went home with this piece, that I think is really beautiful, and some others.
Somehow I managed to pack it up and get to R Bar to hit the last crawfish boil of the day. I rolled up particlarly self-satisfied with my carboard rik-shaw & parked it on the side. I met a remarkable young man (and so i remark on it) who told me that he paints too..and I don't know had some kind of natural politeness, some kind of grace in his character that I much admired. He asked to see my work but it was all packed up & the only one I had easy access to were...the dreaded 4 paintings of the girl that everyone gets stuck up on. I pulled them out and as he was looking at them, someone came over & said,
"Who is that girl?"
"I don't know," He shrugged, "I just like it."
I can't say how sleep deprived my joy was to hear that! I wanted him to have it. He asked how much they were...$400 for all 4, or 200 a piece...but hell, Whats really the point of all this!?!?
I asked him to do whatever he could, so he gave me $20 and a high life. And now he's got this piece:
But really, he gave me far more! He broke the pattern for me!!!! God, I can not speak my relief...because I was about to take these home & give them bizarre facial tattoos..just so that people might stop asking me for the back story. It's a painting. Look at it. Live with it.
Tell it Like it Is
For all the bullshit of so many days, being back out on the street in the daytime keeps me curious about life which seems a prerequisite to maintain something resembling sanity. I can't mention all the numerous little quirks of humanity I take in through out the day, but I did want to take a minute to try and list some of them.
-Humanity in swarm, out on Saturday, dressed nice and looking wholesomely ready for Easter sunday..
The artists in the ally, out since the morning, becoming unraveled. An impromptu dance party started where we all jerked our bodies around in all manner of interpretive movements to what sounded like game show music spouted from a boombox. If you were to come upon this scene so inconspiciously playing itself in the alley we made wild gestures to you, swinging arabesque hand sweeps to get folks to come look..though not many did.
The music relaxed, best of Aaron Neville, I danced by myself to "Tell it like it is." In good natured humour I danced up on a group passing by, wherein a middle aged woman took my hand and danced with me through the ally, singing along knowing all the words. Mid way through she leaned in and said,
"My son died a year ago today, he was 40." Then she looked into my eyes and said,
"Life is too short to have sorrow, you may be here today and gone tomorrow
You might as well get what you want, So go on and live, baby go on and live, tell it like it is."
It took me a minute to realize she was reciting the song to me, and then she was gone done the ally. Moments like these balance off the cruder displays of humanity, like a few days ago a middle aged man stopped some 3 feet from me and only looking at me through the screen started to take my picture.
"Hey!" I said, "What're you doin?" Without a word he jumped up and ran around the corner. Running after him he spun around and clutched the camera like a swaddled baby.
"Don't you touch me! Get away! Don't you dare attack me!" I had to talk him down like a skiddish dog, that I wasn't about to attack him, I just would appreciate some interaction if your gonna take my damned picture.
He let me look through the pictures, all taken candid and papparazzi style, he was going home with pictures of my neighbors, but they weren't pictures of people- they were pictures of:
'The pimp yelling at the ho'
'the fat man in a tutu'
'The street musicians who aren't getting dollar for having their picture taken'
If he actually pulls through sending my photo of me flustered in mid sentence, astonished that a grown man would act in such a way, I'll post it up here.
Some days I sell no art, I make no money and nobody rudely takes my picture. But some days someone decides to act as my personal angel, (I like the idea of an Angel named Bill.) And offers to fix my busted bike, and then I get a smooth ride when I haul all my pieces of wood and canvas down through the potholed streets to hang out and greet folks probably not so different from yourself.