Sunday, January 1, 2012

Untitled 200

Pastel on UArt, approx. 3" x 5".

Art purchase inquiries: please email me at: jalapfaff [at] jalapfaff [dot com].
Still can't find a place to live or do art. Still looking. I have probably a few more weeks to look.
I took down my art show at Ozo Cafe East last night. No sales, unfortunately. Someone even scribbled something hurtful (on one of my business cards/price signs under one of my paintings) about my work not being worth anything. Lovely, huh? 

No sales at Trident Cafe yet so far either. The other day I went there to hang out (not because my work is there right now, but because it's my favorite cafe in Boulder) and it felt strange to be surrounded by my own works. It felt weirdly familiar, as if I were still at home, or in my own studio, where I am always surrounded by the same works. As I sat there, I worried I might overhear patrons talking derogatorily (I'm sensitive, yes) about my art on the walls. I needn't have worried--sadly, in two hours, I didn't see a single person out of perhaps 100 people even glance at the art on the walls. Sigh.

In my experience at least, it is hard to sell art. Especially abstract art. (Although Open Studios has been successful for me. I'm guessing that's because many people that go to Open Studios are going with the intent of actually buying something for their homes, and also many of them decide ahead of time to go see, e.g., only abstract artists during those two weekends in October.)

In museums, in cafes, in shows, I have often overheard attendees deriding abstract art, laughing about how their "four-year-old kid could do that;" "why would I pay money for just scribbles and blobs of color;" "I could do that myself without even trying;" etc. (They're partly right--kid art can be fantastic, thanks to the combination of lack of self-criticism, absence of self-consciousness, spontaneity, purity of intention, lack of preconceptions, etc. See Loriann Signori's utterly delightful recent post about teaching kids!)

It's hard to hear those things--whether heard about my own work or overheard in front of a Twombly at MOMA--though it seems to be a common sentiment. I've had people even at my Open Studios see my realism work and exclaim that they can't believe I'd wanted to stop doing that and instead do what I am doing (and passionate about) now.

I always wish, when I overhear these types of comments, I were able to take those people right at that moment, sit them at a table with some art supplies, and say, "Fine, go for it, let's see if you can indeed produce a simple abstract painting that's interesting, compelling, emotional, lovely, exciting, 'without even trying.'"

It's hard to stay true to what one cares most about, art-wise. I myself have had plenty of times when I wondered if I were going down the wrong artistic path. I suppose in terms of selling art, I have. Other than on a million-dollar (Rothko, Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Frankenthaler, Brice Marden, Josef Albers, etc.) scale in the investment art world--other than on that scale of famousness, well, realism and even semi-abstract always outsell abstract by a huge margin (i.e., in local shows, non-famous-NY-artists shows). 

I've found it's often even hard to get an abstract work juried into a show. One of my art teachers at the classical art school told me she thinks it's because many people, including some other artists and art jurors, don't understand how they're "supposed to" react to, or judge, or "understand" abstract art. And so out of fear of seeming ignorant, they simply reject it automatically and move on to art they're more comfortable with. For me (as long as something is competently executed in terms of, say, materials), it's just a pure matter of instinctual response to any given abstract painting. I might love it, hate it, or just shrug out of boredom. I think many people think they are supposed to "figure out" what an abstract painting "means." They think there is some kind of hidden message and they're worried they'll be exposed as not intelligent if they don't "get" it. There may be some abstract paintings like that out there, but frankly, I think those paintings are a minority. Mostly I want to just assure people that any reaction they have is appropriate. Gut reactions are the best reactions. You don't want to think about it. (In my perhaps crazy opinion, the best abstract paintings are the ones that stop your conscious thoughts. You should emerge from viewing them feeling slightly dazed in a pleasant way, as the chatter of your left brain was finally silenced even if just for a few moments.)

It is true that sometimes abstract paintings can be better appreciated by learning about the context [social, technique, materials, etc.] in which they were created--but I maintain the perhaps radical opinion that what matters is just your own gut reaction to a piece. Does it fascinate/repel/surprise/compel/bore you? How long do you spend staring at it? How much of that time spent staring at it is just feeling, as opposed to thinking analytically about how and why the artist made it?

The way I finally figured out what I really wanted to do in art (for the moment--this of course can and will naturally morph!) was by asking myself two questions: 1) when I'm in a museum or a show or looking at art books, what am I most drawn to and feel most excited about looking at? and 2) if I knew I only had a year to live, would I choose to paint realism or abstract? ...and suddenly the answer is perfectly clear to me. I don't know why gazing upon, say, two blocks of color in a rectangle should give me goosebumps, but when it is well done, it simply does.
I love my skeptical Moji. He'd tell those art critics a thing or two.

 From the archives: baby Gadjo!


In Hyderabad, India.

More art on my website:


bicocacolors said...

Happy New Year Jala......✫¸.•°*”˜˜”*°•.✫ ✫

and that all your dreams come true!

A big hug,

loriann signori said...

Hi Jala,
Wow, you have certainly given us a lot to think about today.
First I want to say, your work is gorgeous and anyone who can't see that is an idiot. Why is it that the most ignorant of people can be the most out-spoken? Absence of any real thinking possibly.
hmmm. So don't listen to them...just reading about it made me sooooo mad. Don't listen. All the greats heard such trash so you are in good company. Ignore it and paint on. You ARE AWESOME.
I wish you the best 2012 ever. This year it will all begin to fall together. Manifest it.
warmly, your friend, Loriann
PS I almost forgot...thank you for the kind mention.

Sonya Johnson said...

Sorry to hear of your unfortunate experience in the cafe, Jala, although I'm not terribly surprised nothing sold there - I don't think cafes and other non-art venues are a good place to expect sales of ANY kind of art.

We've had the discussion before re abstracts and how surprisingly difficult it is to do *good* abstract art. Interestingly, this coming Friday is the reception for a local juried show called "Abstract Views", which was open to all media. I was pleased to have of my water abstract photos accepted into it (because I can't paint abstracts!).

The show curator asked each artist to write a brief statement about his/her art and basically what the artist wishes the viewer to take from abstract art. The purpose of this is to help those who don't "get" abstract art to help understand it better, I think, and addresses what you say in your 3rd to last paragraph.

Good luck with the relocation/divorce unpleasantness, btw. I hope 2012 will be a kinder year for you.

Sarah Bachhuber Peroutka said...

Thank you for expressing your thoughts and feelings/emotions so candidly. It's always easier for people to criticize than to make an effort to understand. Perhaps you could begin a campaign of gradual public education by summarizing what you just told us and including it in your artist's statement at the next exhibit. Wishing you all the best of luck in 2012.

Caroline said...

Have you seen the beautiful blog of the artist Rebecca Crowell. She is a wonderful abstract artist, she wrote lately about her successes last year. I do have to agree with Sonya about cafe's being not the right venue. You need to aim high and be confident about your painting. OK it is not easy to sell abstract art but there is a market for it. Take some time out to do some market research on this. It really is worth doing. I know some abstract artists who sell their work to large corporate companies. Also many modern homes are a perfect place for abstract art to look it's best. I don't know what kind of area you live it but if it is a traditional kind of place they will probably not be able to appreciate abstract art. Visit Rebecca's site and have faith in your vision and your art. Also find some smart looking galleries that sell contemporary art, they do take a lot of commission but you will need to increase your prices to cover that. Many artists have to box up their paintings and send them to the galleries that truely appreciate and love the artists work. Good luck and wishing you a Happy New Year. Be brave wee soul.

Sheila Vaughan said...

Jala, yes you are right. You have said it yourself. It is hard to sell art. Unless you are prepared to produce and market exactly what the punters think they “like” – which lets face it is mostly realism stuff. The only other way is to get “famous” – once you are a “name” in the art world then you can paint whatever you like and people will buy it because then the “investors” take over from the ones who buy the painting to match the sofa. One of the ways to become a name is to enter national competitions but mostly to struggle on for years with your head down, getting your stuff into local galleries and having a separate income stream in the meantime I’m afraid.
As to your work, for me it is a release, a relief, just to be able to sink into the simple shapes and allow the wonderful colour combinations to seep in to my consciousness. Your choices don’t often work for me but more often than not they do. Why not try bigger pieces along the same lines? Or test out a different medium? Never mind if you think someone has done that before. Someone has done everything before, LOL. We are all products of other people’s imaginations as well as our own. Keep developing from the point where you are to where it takes you. It's a journey don't forget.
Well Jala, if you say a lot in a blog post then you can only expect a lot back. All the best to you. I sincerely hope things turn the corner for you in a positive way in 2012 and the more you plan for that, the more it will happen despite all the difficulties ahead. A new year, a new beginning!!

suzanneberry said...

jala, hearing comments like that can hurt so much, but only if one respects the ones making them. if say those comments came from abstract painters you respected then one might me moved to reconsider, but absent that painting what moves you is what counts. at this very sad time it's easy to feel defeated but there is a light that shines inside of you that no one can snuff out. unkind remarks or harsh breakups mean nothing to a strong woman like you. you will rise from the flames victorious and joyful. keep those incredible works coming..PLEASE!! all will be well if you believe it will. hang in. i'm thinking of you!

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

Methinks you need to listen harder to the wisdom of Moji and less to the nitwits. Your work has soul and you should be very proud of it.

I wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful and creative 2012. Best wishes for a great year ahead.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I searched back for this post because it upsets me that people will anonymously, of course, leave hurtful comments about anyone's creations no matter what.
I agree with the comments and moji.
Still, you are hurting and it's just one more knock.
I love your work. I'm a color girl.