Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Hanging At Town Square

(Originally published on September 15, 2007).

This weekend is the Annual Show of an art organization I belong to, the one that exhibits all visual art media in its shows.

A group of five of us showed up at a cruely early hour on Friday morning. LimaB, FergieJ, NightieR, MembieK and yours truly. Interestingly enough, we are all very active members on my main art society (the one of which I'm president). We greeted each other with yawns, bracing ourselves towards the next several hours.

(It might worth mentioning that as soon as I arrived, I had to run back home... I promised LimaB that I will photograph the award winning artworks, and - as I was beyond tired the whole week, with our floors being installed, I forgot to bring LumiB with me).

For those of you who do not bear the scars caused by the corners of metal frames; whose hands never collected splinters from wooden frames and fingers did not get pinched by stretched wires; you without sore muscles and aching feet from carrying paintings around for hours; if you have never found yourselves sitting down on the floor and bursting into a hysterical laughter that verges on insane despair, sorrounded by dozens of unmatching paintings. For you, I should mention that hanging a show is a major undertaking.

It starts off as one big chaos, mission impossible. It then proceeds towards more chaos, characterized by countless iterations and trial-and-error. Everything needs to work together, color-wise and style-wise. Naturally, it has a lot to do with personal taste, and when 5 different artists are involved - you can imagine the clash of opinions.

All of the above is true for hanging any show. When it comes to an exhibition that involves different media, the challenge gets much, much bigger. We had over 100 artworks to hang: watercolors, photographs, oils, acrylics, collages, even one framed sculpture, with a wide spectrum of styles.

'Daunting' was an understatement for this task!

Gradually, you get exhausted from carrying framed paintings back and forth all over the place, hanging and removing and relocating and hanging again. You become snappy, and you lose any remnant of patience you ever had in you. From time to time, you stop and make a solemn oath that you will never, ever, volunteer to do that again.

And, since everyone gets into their most edgy state-of-being, it is crucial to have a good hanging team. This is not the place for touchy souls to get offended and retreat to pout.

We started in a slow pace, working non-stop for a couple of hours. After successfully reaching the fed-up stage, we made a short coffee break, and reluctantly crawled back to work, admiring the areas that started to work together, and approaching the problematic ones with refreshed energy.

At some point things started falling into place, some sections actually making sense. Eventually, even the most impossible areas got resolved. Pretty much like creating a painting - a very complicated one. Then came that glorious moment when we looked at the show as a whole - and the sense of achievement was so extreme, that we knew we'll be there to do it next time. It looked so damn good - and WE did it!

Once we were done, dead tired and sweaty, I still had to put on my other cap and run to do some errands for "my" art organization. Had to pay
HaffeyM for the workshop, and go to the hotel where he stayed to pay his bill. On the way back, I grabbed some finger-food from Trader Joe's for the reception. It was 4:30pm when I finally got home, and the reception was to start at 7pm. I managed to catnap for 15 minutes, took a long shower, put on some artsy outfit, and tried my best to look refreshed and rosy-cheeked for the event.

It was funny to see the hanging group again, all red-eyed like me. The JohnnyB even took a break from devouring the mini-samosas that were served at the reception, in order to announce to FergieJ that the fact w'all still speak to each other means we really are a good team!

Based on
past experience, I had pretty much zero expectations for those I invited to attend. The only one who shows up on such occasions is DaskieM, but as her parents are visiting, I figured she won't be able to make it.

"So, why do you keep sending invitations to the others?", you wonder.
Hmm, good question. Excellent, even. I dunno, but I still do it. Call it incurable optimism.

Looking at the silver lining, the beauty in having no expectations is that you can really enjoy the moment. I hung out with The JohnnyB, mingled with the crowd, and was thrilled to meet friends from my main art society. VallieM was there, exhibiting 3 of her breathtaking paintings, and had two friends visit her, HallieH and PrevieJ, whom I adopted as my guests as well. I believe in sharing.

There I was, listening to the speeches by the mayor of the town (oh yes!) and the head of the local Rotary (whom I have almost kicked out of the exhibit hall that very morning, reprimanding him that we are hanging the show and no spectators are allowed... LimaB rushed to his rescue, and I used all my charm to apologize profusely... well, how was I to know?).

I glanced back for a second, and - - - among the many faces, I see the grin of TexieD! He came with his better 95%, and also dragged MistyP and MistyA with him, as well as their lovely daughter, MistyN.

It felt superbly great that they came; hard to explain or describe. They all live about 40 minutes drive, which made their appearance even more special. Apparently, The JohnnyB had a hunch they will show up, as TexieD mentioned the reception to him at work, but he decided to keep it to himself, so in case they do come, it'll be a surprise. And a wonderful surprise it was!!

The talking ended, and then - finally - came the awards ceremony.

I am excited to share with y'all that I got my very first ribbon!!

A nice, yellow ribbon, given to me (yes, with a cheque) as the 3rd place award in the Photography category, for this photo. I took it in Sydney, Australia. Of all the incredible places we've been to during the two months we spent in that fascinating continent three years ago, this alley (whose name is "Nurses Walk") is one of the more memorable locations for me. It was right opposite our hotel in Sydney, and to me, it was the gateway to Australia, as going down these stairs was our way to get to the main street that led to the Opera House and all the other wonders. The judge's commented that 'the descending stairs into the vacant darkness make me think of empty memories' (whaddayamean empty?!??), and that 'it's a poetic photograph'.

Y'know, The JohnnyB kept complaining about me taking so many photographs during that trip (OK, 11,000 might be a bit much, but hey - we saw so many things!!!). And yet - voila! at least one of these photos is now justified, eh?.

In addition, I received the Creative Catalyst Productions award (a company that makes the best art videos and DVDs) for my Global Warming watercolor. This is the second time I am getting an award on a painting done as part of a "Beyond The Obvious" 20-paintings series. Hmm... can it be that MikeyB was right, after all?

Funny thing, awards. I admit I had hopes for the photograph, but I thought that if any of my works would win anything, it would be my self-portrait
collage. I guess we always feel this way whenever we do something new and want it to be recognized.
Still, having two artworks out of the three I have entered getting awards - you can imagine I did not need wine to be intoxicated that evening.

After some blinding moments in front of the flashing cameras (Ah, sweet fame...) and some chats with visitors and the other artists, I was dragged out by the very hungry The JohnnyB and TexieD, who have had it. There is only so much art one can handle, I suppose.

"We want to have dinner with an award winning artist", they tried to excuse their chanting bellies.

We went to a fabulous dinner at
Gochi, a Japanese Fusion Tapas place, which offered exquisite service and some creative fun dishes. If they only used salt, it would have been even better.

Still, it was a perfect evening, spend with true friends.

Around 11pm, as we were hugging our goodbyes, MistyP did not seem to overcome his devastation that I insisted on paying for dinner.

"But I wanted to do it", he protested.
"How can I pay you back now?".

"Ah, buy one of my paintings", I joyfully suggested.

He didn't even blink. "I'll buy your dinner next time!".

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