Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Art in the Dark

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 The road to our house after Hurricane Irene

I live in southern Connecticut and was hit rather hard by recent Hurricane Irene.  While our home faired well, the road I live on had many downed trees that took out the power lines.  It took over a week for the power to be restored.  I realize that it is a rather minor inconvenience in comparison to the standard of living most people on the planet are forced to endure.  Still, it was enough time for me to reflect on the practice and process of artists in other times or other circumstances; the times before instant worldwide communication via the Internet, before phones, or places where light at night means flickering candlelight.  The work I usually do on the computer ceased.  There was no video editing, no blogging, no photo editing, no submissions for grants.  This was all replaced with the realization that as an artist I was in the dark, seemingly invisible or at least handicapped in efforts to have my work seen.  It was an event that I had plenty of time to prepare for since I could see the storm’s track updated and predicted by excited weathermen.  The dire warnings were in place, so about three days out I went to stock up on the recommended batteries and cell phone chargers and of course there were none to be had….anywhere.  I’m not quite sure when this happened, but note to self: you have to start very early to beat the survivalist crowd….very early!  

 My preparations were a bit more naïve.  Do all art requiring electricity STAT!  Make sure that everything I had agreed to print for my Belgian friend Ria Vanden Eynde was finished in time for the F**K the Big C exhibition in Florida.  Make sure that the editions for our Kali Folios were printed and complete in time to be signed in NYC the next week.  Nail down various hotel and airline reservations.   And then the storm hit. Not huge by hurricane standards but big enough to knock out the power to most of Connecticut.  So art could still be done during the day, but nothing requiring power.  Want to wash a brush?  Haul up some pond water.  Frankly, forced camping isn’t as much fun as a planned camping trip but I did get a chance to focus on some basics.  I printed from a woodblock, made the folio cases to house our editions and spend several evenings gilding by flashlight and an oil lamp.   

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From a friends house I checked up on the artworld and discovered that art critic Jerry Saltz who was vacationing had announced several days before that all was well because power was back on in Connecticut. Ha, I thought, perhaps just in the sections that count.  Jerry’s comments on his popular Facebook page were very tongue in cheek concerning the trials and tribulations faced in that section of the state (running low on supplies of pate de foie gras etc)  Now that I am sitting with a laptop, water on tap, a running refrigerator and all the comforts of the first world I’m thanking lucky stars that this was not worse.  I’ve also had enough dark nights to reflect on the parts of the world still suffering from disasters and wonder who is sitting by firelight struggling to make art.
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