Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Apologetic Interlude. (It pays to be nice.)



“Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered.”- Oscar Wilde

OK, I get it- I really do. Some of you out there hate me.
Really, really hate me.

And not just the ordinary kind of hate either. This is the kind of hate reserved for circus clowns. I acknowledge, understand, and to a limited degree, accept this fact.

Do I care?Of course no. Now what could I, [AKA: The Milk of Human Kindness] possibly have done to deserve any of this? Let me think…. over the last few years I’ve ruffled quite a few feathers in the PHX art scene with my written and vocalized opinions- sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not.

As always, when one tends to speak their mind bluntly, odds are there will be more than a few people who don’t see things your way, or even care to. Logic would dictate that if someone disagrees with your opinion, they should address their concerns either directly (i.e.: face to face) or indirectly (i.e.: Blogs, Snail mail, Email) with clarity and maturity. Especially maturity.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that approach is a rarity in the PHX art scene. When the “Hi, My name is Ryan” documentary started playing at film festivals, I received approximately 450 emails regarding my role in the movie, the majority of which supported my opinion of his talent.

There were a few detractors, I cheerfully admit. Twelve, to be exact. Eight were incoherent, rambling, profanity laced tirades- easily dismissed, since five of those came from the same IP address. Three were written in a Q & A type format, to which I responded quite happily- scoring a new client in the process, I might add.

The one remaining holdout? An extremely psychotic death threat. It is so nice to be the center of attention, even if, sadly- it does involve the boiling of bunnies. What was interesting (as an overview) was to see all the brave posturing, while I was attacked from a position of safely ensconced anonymity.

You’re yelling at me from under your bed while hiding in a bunker? Oh yes- I’m terrified beyond all rational belief. Now, when it comes to the “face to face” sort of response, I can honestly count the number of times someone has actually come up and done it on one gleaming Artbitch claw, which is odd- considering how often I hear “so and so said this about you” when I’m out and about hanging with my artistic peeps.

One would think that these various persons could mention their collective opinion of me in a more direct fashion during one of those numerous occasions when we all bump into each other, but they never have. These people like to run their mouth a lot, but for some unknown reason they just don’t seem able to do it when I’m in proximity, which brings to mind a quote by Curtis Rufus Quintus:

 “Canis timidus vehementius latrat quam mordet.”

That is one clearly expressed idea, if you ask me. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Completely clarifies my point of view, as far as I’m concerned. What? You don’t read Latin? My bad. In English it roughly translates to: “A cowardly cur barks more fiercely than it bites.”

And in the PHX art scene, there is a whole lot of barking going on these days. As you might imagine, I know very well who says what about me, and most of the time I really could care less. It’s hardly worth the time to worry about those whose minds are set against yours, and besides- they don’t affect my life & career one way or the other, although I’m sure they wish they could.

And whom do I regard as a cowardly cur?

Well... I do have a definitive choice in mind, but to make things interesting and shake it up just a little bit- let’s have two candidates. But just like in Highlander- in the end, there can be only one, and that someone will get a rare Artbitch apology. You heard me right. I will actually apologize to someone.

And while it might hurt like pulling a band-aid off my leg, I’m actually looking forward to it. Somewhat.So let’s rip off that sucker, and meet our unwilling contestants:

Claire Lawton of The PHX New Times, and Kara Roschi of PHX’s Practical Art. Technically, Claire is listed first, but I think we’ll save her for last- I have my reasons, but we’ll get back to those in a little while. Now for our first contestant… come on down!

Kara Roschi, PHX “performance artist”, and co-owner of Practical Art, which is located at: 5070 North Central Ave, and sells a wide and amazing variety of crafts, all created by local artisans.

[More info can be found at http://www.practical-art.com]

Kara has also had the distinction of previously serving as an Artbitch scratching post in one of my past blogs, an honor I’ve been informed that nobody truly wants. In my limited defense, I have thrown some mad Artbitch props towards Practical Art, due to its mission to feature local artists and to sell their wares- an idea I can always get behind.Sadly, since those props were given, Practical Art has lost its founder, Jane Reddin, to Leukemia.

[More info on Jane and how you can make a donation in her name can be found at: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/273536/5a17852812/1620500017/3f6ccb2a4b/  ]

I can’t imagine anything worse than dealing with than the loss of someone whom you’ve come to respect and love. Since I never had the privilege of meeting Jane, I can only offer my sincerest condolences. This is not just a loss to the family and friends of Mrs. Reddin, but a devastating loss to the PHX art community as well. We have lost an ally, a friend, and a tireless supporter of the Arts in PHX - she will be missed.

But there is the business of Snarking to be dealt with, so let’s get to it. As noted previously, I have also written a few things about Kara, which could possibly be taken as… let’s just say negative by certain persons.

Examples you want, examples I will provide. In regards to Kara and her talent, I stated that she was:

“yet another mediocre egomaniac”
“about as genuine as a Prada handbag at the PHX Park n’ Swap.”
“not cursed with brilliance of any sort.”

I also implied that her motivation for performing was:“I NEED ATTENTION ALL THE F**KING TIME AND I DON’T KNOW ANY OTHER WAY TO GET IT!!

On the up side, I did try to close with a somewhat positive compliment, stating that: “she has given me a whole new respect for pointless artistic meandering. You’re not an artist, Kara- but you are one hell of a bad example.”

Ouch. That “compliment” came with some knuckles, I think. Attached to a runaway truck. I can honestly say that if someone had written that about me, I would suck out their soul using their eye sockets as a conduit, and only after that, would I then get serious about hurting them. I’m kidding of course, but my words sometimes do come back to haunt me, albeit rarely, as the majority of my enemies are typically a bunch of candy assed whiny little poseurs, the threat of payback or retribution is almost always minimal.

But the chance does exist, and it’s always waiting for a door to be opened- which in this particular case, it was the front door at Practical Art. As I mentioned in my last blog, my friend Denise Fleisch was having a show at Practical Art, and due to my postings regarding Kara’s previous artistic endeavors- I was quite sure my presence would be somewhat disruptive.

Shockingly, when you refer to someone as “mediocre”, there exists the slightest possibility that they might take it wrong, and that could be bad, to say the very least. So let me set the scene- my GF Ashley and I went to see Denise’s paintings at Practical Art, fully expecting the store to be crowded since it was a First Friday. However when we arrived, we were the only ones there, because the show was actually opening the following Friday.

That’s right- I got the show date wrong. Oh, great goody gumdrops. We walk in, and are greeted by Kara [who obviously recognizes me] and her co-worker. And they seem nice. Exceedingly nice. Really, really, really nice. Naturally, I was suspicious. Ashley sensing this, goes into instant  “defuse the potential bomb” mode- complimenting the store, asking questions the entire time while I try my best to blend in with the wallpaper.

Now I know exactly what you’re thinking: that my subdued behavior seemed slightly out of character for someone who eats confrontation like popcorn, and normally you’d be right. But there are a few exceptions in regards to my verbal combat.

One: It’s not always personal.
Despite my hard-ass stance, I try to draw the line at making it personal, believe it or not. Just because I don’t like what you do or how you do it, doesn’t mean that I think you’re a bad person who eats puppies- this doesn’t apply to New Times Managing Editor Amy Silverman, who I’m quite certain, owns stock in a Dalmatian farm.

Two: My battle. My problem.

My personal and art lives are clearly delineated, and I prefer it that way. When I’m at home, the Artbitch coat comes off and I don’t worry about what is happening outside my domestic lair one iota.

Following that concept of domestic tranquility, I don’t drag my GF into battles that I started, due to the fact that Ashley is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and therefore shouldn’t have to deal with any venom that due to my actions, gets flung my way. When it comes to dealing with my family however, she’s right in the line of fire. I know this to be true, because I’m usually using her as a shield.

Three: I do have manners, despite what my detractors may think.

Let’s be realistic for a minute. I’m not going to start a ruckus for no good reason in a place where there are so many breakable things. Especially heavy ones that could possibly be launched at my head.

Four: I give exactly what I get.

I’m a lot like a mirror- I tend to reflect what’s in front of me. So if you’re being nice, then I’m nice.
If you’re acting like a bitch, then I will show you who the real Queen Bitch of the Universe is. A little hint? It will never be you.

And with that, my Blogiteers- we return to Practical Art. Ashley has been getting along fabulously with Kara and her co-worker for a rather tranquil half hour or so, and we are getting ready to leave, when all of a sudden- she spots a group of handmade Guatemalan handbags [created from repurposed coffee bean sacks] hanging by the store’s exit. And now I know I’m really in trouble.

In three days, Ashley and I will be celebrating our two year anniversary, and I had been flummoxed for a gift until just then. However, this means that I will have to return to Kara’s store without the girlfriend that even my most bitter enemies really like. Oh great goody freaking gumdrops once again. Yet, there was a sliver lining, or so I hoped.

When I had been in the store, Kara had been very professional towards me, and I was banking on that whole “brotherhood of the creative community” thing to get me in and out relatively unscathed.

Apparently at my core, I’m a hopeless optimist. Who knew? But optimistic outlook or not, I was going back, and I was bringing my Visa card. So the following Monday, I return to Practical Art, convinced that without the protection of my lucky girlfriend, it was gonna be on like Donkey Kong.

But there was a gift to be had, and it was going to be mine. Even if that meant losing some skin in the process. So preparing for the worst, I walked inside. And was met with an unexpected response, especially where this Artbitch is concerned.

Kara was nice. Exceedingly nice. Really, really, really nice.And not just nice, helpful as well.
This was going way too smoothly. I mean… this would have been a perfect opportunity for gouging out the proverbial pound of Artbitch flesh, and she didn’t take it. Naturally, I was suspicious, but there was gift buying to be done. Informing Kara what I was looking for, she instantly locates the handbag Ashley was gaga over, and proceeds to ring up the sale.

We make a little small talk, and I mention running into a New Times reporter at a local coffee shop earlier that day [more on this later] and getting the brush off in a rather cowardly fashion.

“Somehow, I think I might have annoyed her at some point.” I cheerfully volunteered.

Kara looks at me like I just handed her a huge bag of candy, and then replies:“Yeah… I can totally see that happening.”and with a dazzling smile, hands me the gift wrapped bag. So, as I leave with gift in hand, my pride and skin intact, I start to wonder if maybe I had been a wee bit harsh on my initial assessment of Kara. And I’m thinking the answer may be: “just a skoosh”.

Along with the bashing by blog, I’ve also taken some swipes at Kara on the PHX New Times forums- especially in regards to her First Friday Red Dress tours, which I panned as: “a ridiculous” game of self absorbed dress up.”

What can I say? I’m a people person. And this is where that whole “I’m going to apologize”  part of our blog comes into play. I don’t approve of  the medium, but I can’t argue with Kara’s message, which is all about promoting the PHX art community. And if there is one thing this art community needs- it’s serious promoting. Some serious cash wouldn’t hurt either, but let’s stay on point.

When I started writing this blog, I can honestly say that I had no idea how well it would be received, nor could I have foreseen who would eventually show support. Despite all the negative chatter that sometimes surrounds me, there does seem to be a rising groundswell for my position. Tons of emails have come from my fellow creatives, along with more than a dozen New Times insiders- which in my opinion, speaks volumes about Amy Silverman’s standing as both a boss and a human being.

She’s such a walking horror show that I almost feel bad for her some days. Almost. At the end of it all, I just want to make a living doing what I love to do, and nothing will change until everyone joins together and forces the changes that are needed. It really is that simple, but my detractors would rather debate about HOW I said something, not WHY I said it.

I’m sarcastic. I’m blunt. I’m confrontational- thank God you’re here, Captain Obvious! The message is what’s important, not the style of delivery. And here is where my apology finally starts.

I’ve been so busy mocking the messenger, I’ve totally overlooked the message- but in my defense, there was a lot to mock, as it is PHX after all, and there’s a whole mess of chaff mixed in with the wheat as far as I can see. And let’s be direct- someone has to say something, and if not me, then who?

Someone needs to be an Artbitch, and I don’t see anyone else lining up to do the job, New Times and The Arizona Republic sure as hell won’t do it, and honestly- would they even know how? And while I don’t agree with a lot of things that are happening in the PHX art scene, I also know that fellow artistic warriors are hard to come by these days, and it doesn’t make sense to burn bridges.

Even if they aren’t built yet. So for Kara….
 (Taking deep breath)

I am truly sorry if my opinion on your artistic endeavors was taken as a personal attack- I appreciate what you are currently doing with Practical Art, which is a store that PHX has needed for quite some time. Although obviously, I am not a fan of The Red Dress Tour, I cannot deny your commitment to promoting the PHX art scene, even if I don’t always agree with your method of doing so.

Anyone who pours that much effort into the attempt to lift up the art scene for the betterment of all, deserves a modicum of respect- and I should have realized that much sooner, so I apologize once again. That said, I will not be softening my personal critiques any time soon- I’m still a bastard coated bastard with an inner bastard filling, so don’t get any ideas about me going all touchy feely.

I just needed to correct a mistake. As you may have now realized, Kara is NOT the “cowardly cur” of whom I referenced earlier. That honor could only go to someone who at best- displays all the strength of microwaved Velveeta. When heat is applied, they turn into goo. So using the process of elimination, that leaves only The PHX New Time’s Claire Lawton, who now has the Artbitch’s full attention.

Lucky, lucky, her. So, I’ll be back soon to honor Claire in true Artbitch fashion. I just need to file my claws first.

 “No one will question your integrity if your integrity is not questionable.” – Nathaniel Bronner