I first admired R.C. Gorman's work when I first moved to the West, to Salt Lake City. You can spot his unique work in any line-up. Walking into his gallery tucked on Ledoux Street last week, there was a particular painting, Woman in Canyon de Chelley, that struck me. Damn, I should have bought his work 12 years ago. The price tag: $65,000.
In the gallery, I flip through a cookbook (the theme: food and nudes). It's Gorman's early work. More like you might notice in any talented art student's sketchbook. If you pay attention though, you can begin to see a trace of his style, his stamp, his voice emerging.
Later that week, I see a 1903 painting by Georgia O'Keefe. It's of flowers. Of course.
In a 1971 quote, O'Keefe says she didn't know anything about ancient Japanese flower paintings. I stand before the cherry blossoms painting and I'd swear they were a Japanese reproduction. I simply came to a standstill in front of the small realistic, traditional cherry blossoms on a branch because the whole museum featured O'Keefe's work (there was a companion exhibit with some Andy Warhol's work, but that wasn't it either!) and this was like the children's game: Which one doesn't belong with the others? She clearly came into her own in the next decade.
In a New York Times piece last Friday, we learn of the growing market ($30.5 million last year) importing Chinese oil paintings. The photo shows Ye Xiaodong in her studio swimming in 200 hand-reproduced copies of a single Monet lilies piece. These painters work "from postcards or images on the Internet or, in Mr. Zhang's case, a large, dog-eared copy of an art book in English on van Gogh." There's serious money to be earned churning out Western art reproductions to Pier 1, to Bed, Bath & Beyond and more. Thus the 59 percent growth in Chinese art graduates; universities have caught on and charge twice as much for tuition for art majors as engineering majors.
China's ability to turn what has long been an individual craft into a mass production industry may affect small-scale artists from Rome's Spanish Steps to the sidewalks along Santa Monica's beach in California, as well as many galleries and art colonies in between. - "Own Original Chinese Copies of Western Art!", Keith Bradsher, New York Times, July 15, 2005
It's wild: I read the NYT article as I'm sipping my chai at The Teahouse, 821 Canyon Road (Canyon Road aka Gallery Central) in Sante Fe, the #2 art market in the U.S. I've spent the previous seven days in an art colony - Taos.
Globalization may affect painters. It ought not to affect artists.
Hard to fathom how a plein-air artist right smack in the presence of the Spanish Steps on an Italian evening can't be lost in the experience and capture that essence. And that someone across the world that's never tasted the spray from the fountain, working with an Internet photo for inspiration, is stealing your customers. Or maybe not hard to fathom: "It is the familiar that usually eludes us in life. What is before our nose is what we see last," says William Barrett.
The O'Keefe Museum was the first time I've really stopped to consider Georgia O'Keefe's work. Living in New York City at a time when giant skyscapers were being erected all around her, she felt that she would have to make the flowers huge to make people pause and pay attention and see the flower as she experienced the flower.
"[I try to capture] the unexplainable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is far beyond my understanding - to understand maybe by trying to put it into form. To find the feeling of the infinity of the horizon line." - Georgia O'Keefe
When you really take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. - Georgia O'Keefe
You stumble onto Pueblo pottery everywhere in New Mexico. After a few days, I couldn't glance at another pot.
"What do you do for an encore when your work is universally acclaimed to have redefined the vocabulary of modern Pueblo pottery?" reads the the pamphlet at the Blue Rain Gallery.
(Day 10: I'm sick of galleries by now when I walk into Blue Rain. It comes on high recommendation. A poet wrote a poem, an ode to it in my workshop: talk about word-of-mouth!) It's a signature gallery featuring what I'll call signature artists.
I enter. I note what arrests me. Tammy Garcia's work. Felix Vigil's work (see previous post). (I've never seen their work before.) Says Garcia:
I need the challenge of trying new things. I don't want to repeat the same shapes and designs all the time. Sometimes the shape of a piece changes as I'm working on it, and I have to give in to the change. Sometimes the clay speaks, and I have to listen. - Tammy Garcia (quote via a wonderful blog discovery and another Garcia fan, Right Brain, Left Field)
I look to the past for inspiration, and I am dedicated to continuing the tradition of working with clay. At the same time, I want to my work to document what's happening today. - Tammy Garcia
Tammy Garcia is obviously influenced, informed by her Pueblo heritage and its symbols and designs. But she doesn't stop there - it's merely the departure point for the artist's journey.
p.s. Yeah, this post is about branding. Today.
Tom Asacker calls it brand attitude, Alex Wipperfurth calls it brand persona, Scott Bedbury calls it genetic structure, or a brand's DNA. Also, in A New Brand World, Bedbury claims others know it as brand essence or brand mojo.
In Republic of Tea, it's personality ("I like the idea of having a personal business with a visible personality. There's something charming and wonderful about "feeling" and sensing the human character behind the business," says co-founder Bill Rosenszweig, The Republic of Tea).
In The Cluetrain Manifesto, it's voice. Whatever the name, it's the keystone.