Saturday, January 28, 2012

EDITORZILLA RETURNS! (Me take pretty cloud pictures one day.)



 “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”– Oscar Wilde

Hello Blogiteers!

Damn- when it comes right down to brass tacks, I just love being a Prophet of Snark- the hours are good, the pays alright, and the benefit package absolutely rocks. Sure, there is somewhat of a down side to always being proven correct, that being things are as bad as they seem, but I’m learning to live with it as I get older. You know… like you do. However- despite my well proven track record of calling it like it is, there are still some who doubt my ability to do so. As you might imagine, I have a pet nickname for these few and far between people:

Idiots.

Truthfully, only an imbecile could take the position that the PAS (Phoenix Art Scene) is fine and dandy as is, but it does occasionally happen, and for that, I am grateful, mainly since it gives me a metaphorical scratching post to sharpen my claws on. Speaking of things that have been previously clawed …

In our last blog, it was my fellow Artists, and it felt sooooo good to speak my mind, let me tell you. In fact, this blog was supposed to be a continuation of that rant, but a small spanner has been thrown into the works, and I am forced to take a detour yet again to swat at one of my favorite targets. Ok. Maybe “forced” isn’t the correct word to use, since my chosen victim willingly drove up to my castle, handed me several cases of ammo, cranked up the ol’ trebuchet, and then staked themselves to an anthill, after dowsing themselves in honey.

I live for these kinds of days. If I had a pitcher of ice cold milk and a case of Ding Dongs, it would be damn nigh perfect, and it simply doesn’t get better than this, in my humble opinion. So what has derailed my previous rant for this newer one? Well…

It seems that my ol’ nemesis The Phoenix New Times is rushing headlong into dredging their barrel of mediocrity yet again, kicking off the New Year with an astoundingly dubious article that strains to link the following: The Girl Scouts of America, their “Savannah Smiles” cookie, and a similarly named porn star who tragically committed suicide back in 1994.   
[Link: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bella/2012/01/suicidal_junkie_porn_star_cook.php]

I don’t know how your overall thought process works, but a long-dead porn actress is typically not the first thing that comes to my mind when I rip into a box of yummy lemon cookies- not because I don’t like blondes, it’s just that my love for sugar far outweighs my tendencies towards necrophilia. Now, the rumor is that this particular adult film actress allegedly took her porn moniker from her favorite film, 1982's mostly forgotten “Savannah Smiles” which starred a little girl named Bridgette Andersen who also grew up to be a heroin addict (but not a porn star) and took a fatal "accidental overdose" at the age of 21.

What this has to do with The Girl Scouts of America is beyond me, but leave it to NT to connect the imaginary dots and state: “It's hard to imagine the Girl Scouts growing a (metaphorical) pair and encouraging parents and leaders to explain in detail to the girls why filthy-minded people are helplessly spit-taking when they're offered a chance to stock up on Savannah Smiles cookies.” No, what’s truly hard to imagine is the meeting room where this tripe was successfully green-lighted, except to say that I’m pretty sure touching anything contained inside it with your bare hands is probably a very bad idea.

Seriously, where does NT’s enduring fascination with the Porn industry come from? Does everyone over there need to get laid like yesterday, or is the urgent necessity to bump their rapidly faltering ad revenue dictating this predilection towards becoming a paper that you can read with only one hand?
 [Further proof of NT’s Porn fixation located at: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/slideshow/adult-entertainment-expo-2012-35993488/]

As amused as I am by this newest faux story, the reality of the cookie’s name is this: GSA founder Juliette Low was from Savannah, Georgia, the half-moon-shape resembles a smile, and as far as a truly tangible connection to porn goes, there really isn’t one. But I’ll give NT some mad dog props for trying like hell to correlate the two out of ether and air. If they’re able to keep fabricating associations like this, just wait until they blow that Sesame Street Sex Slave scandal wide open. Fortunately for this Artbitch, the embarrassment of riches continued with yet another inane article to be found, this a review of the new Tilted Kilt bar and grill situated in downtown Phoenix.[Link: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bella/2012/01/on_breastaurants.php]

The Bro who composed this article wittily labeled it as a “breastaurant” due to the fact that the waitresses are a wee bit healthy in the… (ahem) personal rack department, a fact noted more than once, and annoyingly so. For example: “The owners know what they're doing in choosing these girls -- as a friend of mine used to say while motioning to his chest, "She had a GREAT personality." That right there is a classy observation, let me tell you. It reminds me of when I used to read NT’s former food critic Michelle Laudig’s past reviews where she estimated the size of the packages the waiters at FEZ seemingly had, while noting how tight their asses were.

“They were like two scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream…”

Oops, my bad… I think I may have just made that last quote up, since Michelle actually just noted down her opinion about the food, because that’s what a restaurant critic is SUPPOSED TO DO, in lieu of just sitting and ogling the staff in the manner of a fourteen year old horn-dog. But then again, it is the New Times, and when you read this article, you get the sense that the writer would’ve been more at home in a strip club, which isn’t that far of a stretch, especially when you take into consideration the dual realities of who buys advertising in this rag, and how those sales might be acquired.

On the up side, if I ever do find myself needing some advice regarding a lap-dance that comes with both a happy ending and a car stereo, I’ll at least know where to look. Ah. You think that I’m being too harsh, yet again?

Then re-read the little bon-mot that wraps the article up, and you tell me if I’m off base: “Men, guided by their caveman brains, will seek these places out like sea turtles returning to a beach, and all the restaurant has to do while the air fills with the sounds of flirtation and rising hopes is offer food that doesn't suck. Twin Peaks' beer is good, the TVs are numerous and the food isn't half bad.

Plus, you know, boobs. It should do well. “

Boobs”. The secret to a classy joint- and a classy end to this classy article. However, my cynicism was to be short-lived, for as I read on, an unforeseen miracle had taken place. Something that was so marvelous, so amazing, so stupendous, so wonderful, I just have to write it out using all capital letters….

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS OF ALL AGES… AMY SILVERMAN, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE PHOENIX NEW TIMES (AKA: “EDITORZILLA”) HAS SEEN THE ERROR OF HER WAYS AND IS NOW GOING TO PLEDGE AN ATTEMPT TO RE-ADOPT HER NEW FOUND ATTITUDE THAT SHE ATTEMPTED FOR SIX MONTHS BACK IN 2011 REGARDING AN ATTEMPT AT FORCING HERSELF TO “COME UP WITH SOMETHING TO LOVE ABOUT  PHOENIX EVERY DAY”.

GRANTED… SHE HAD ORIGINALLY PLEDGED TO DO THIS FOR A YEAR, BUT IN HER OWN WORDS: “I gave up. Hey, I made it more than half a year. I'd never come close to keeping a resolution that long. Plus, I figured, why keep going if it wasn't working? And it definitely wasn't working.”
[Link: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2012-01-19/culture/snapshots-of-a-city-and-new-found-love-for-a-hometown/]

It wasn’t “working”, she says… so nice to see that she approached her self-created project with the same commitment that she applied to that bartending class that she failed so many moons ago. As regular Blogiteers already know, I’ve frequently lambasted Amy for her 2005 article: “Phoenix Has an Inferiority Complex", in which she goes on and on about her snarky dislike for most things truly Phoenician, proudly admitting that her original reason for wanting to set out for graduate school was: [in her words] “not because I sought academic enlightenment, but because it seemed like the easiest way to get to New York.”

There’s also sad recollections of her misguided high school fashion sense, the out of the ordinary use of TV shows as a metaphorical divining rod for crucial life decisions, and her washing out of NYC before coming back to Arizona with her tail tucked firmly between her legs. All very (YAWN) compelling stuff, to be sure. But I think this new article may be her best work yet, and this comes from someone who once called her a “C***juggling Thunderc***” to her face.

Until now, I gave Amy the benefit of the doubt that she must have some brains rattling around in that massive melon on top of her squat little neck- after all, she hasn’t publicly responded to my various  slams, [that is, unless you count all the times she’s posted anonymously on the NT forums] nor has she green-lighted any “hit” pieces mocking my efforts, despite her obvious desire to do so.

Sigh.

I’m starting to think that the indescribable magic we once shared has flown the coop, and if I were to be brutally honest, that just depresses me something fierce. However, every time I think that I’m out, NT pulls me back in, using only the allure of just being themselves. Lucky for me, not so much for Amy when it gets right down to it.

The good ol’ PNT seems to be having a spot of trouble lately in regards to it’s health, and while the economy is a valid factor, it’s clearly obvious that their death spiral is being hastened along by it’s embrace of high school level journalism and Amy’s abrasive management style - something I’ve been noting for months within my collection of electronic screeds. Given NT’s long-running history of Phoenix bashing, this “new-found love” Amy claims to have rediscovered strikes me as being just a tad bit suspicious, and I have serious reservations about accepting it at face value, especially when the person overseeing it’s implementation lacks both character and dedication.

Call me cynical, but if Amy personally told me that the sky was blue, I’d still stick my head out a window and check for myself. I’m not saying she’s a liar, I’m just suggesting that she makes things up, like her infamous travel “review” of Yuma, for instance.

No, I think it’s much more accurate to state that NT’s recent enlightenment might come from the fact that their bottom line is getting hammered, both from falling ad revenue and abandonment by their readership base.  Throw in Amy’s pathological need to deride her critics on the NT forums with all the tact of a pissed off six year old, and you can easily see why their credibility among Phoenicians hovers somewhere just above nada. Like all abusive relationships, you can only take so much before you finally pack up your stuff and leave, so you’ll just have to forgive me if I doubt their overall sincerity.

As I said earlier, I just love being a Prophet of Snark, especially when the pickings are this easy. So to kick off this particular bitch-slap, I’ll deconstruct Amy’s newest work of self-pitying fiction the best way I know how, using the patented Artbitch line by line response protocol.

Damn… doesn’t it feel good to be a Gangsta? Yes. Yes it does.

ARTBITCH DISCLAIMER*:

"The following excerpts were and remain the intellectual property of Village Voice Media Inc., with all rights reserved under the applicable laws of The United States of America. Use of said excerpts are for fair use parody only, and no profit usage has been implied or intended.

[*Not valid in Narnia, OZ, Wonderland,  Neverland Ranch, or Hogwart’s.]

“Invite me to your book club meeting and tell me we're reading Ann Patchett’s latest novel, and even if I've had that book sitting on my nightstand for months — even if I'm already halfway through it — suddenly I won't be able to pick the thing up.”

And all over the Valley of the Sun, the grating call of the “contrary on purpose” brat rings clear.

“Similarly, after 45 years, I know myself all too well: If I promise myself on January 1 that I'll do the dishes every night before I go to bed, by the end of the first week of the year, you won't be able to get anywhere near my kitchen sink without risk of an avalanche.”

Note to self: no matter how gracious, turn down any dinner invitations to the Silverman home, due to the strong possibility of drug-resistant salmonella coating the banquet dishes.

“I'm just not good at following directions, even my own. Particularly my own. And so most years, I don't even bother to make a New Year's resolution, let alone keep it.”

For instance? She’s never vowed to restore journalistic competence to New Times anytime soon.

“But 2011 was different. That year marked the 20th anniversary of my return to Phoenix, a place where I was born and raised, a place I fled as soon as I was able. A place I returned to for two weeks in 1991 and — well, you can guess the rest.”

We don’t need to… we read it every week with ever-sinking hearts.

“A place I never much liked.”

S’ok. The feeling’s pretty much mutual.

“I like to tell people I have made my peace with Phoenix.”

And I like to tell them “I’m Batman!”… we all have our little quirks.

“I wrote a cover story about it for New Times ("Phoenix Has an Inferiority Complex," May 12, 2005).”

I’ve been meaning to say thank you for that, but Hallmark hasn’t made the appropriate card yet.

“I've edited the paper's "Best of Phoenix" supplement for years, and in almost two decades at the paper have written dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of "Best of" entries and, yes, I can tell you where to get the best steak or the best martini in Phoenix,”

Wait for it, because using the paragraph above as a metaphorical shiv, I will soon make a valid point.

“but the truth is that after all these years, I still had a grudge against my hometown.”

Christ… grow the f**k up and get over it already. Yes, yes… NYC dumped you and shacked up with New Jersey. It’s old news and you need to move on. Preferably the hell away from us, I’d suggest?

“Enough, I thought, as 2011 approached. I'm not going anywhere.”

Son of a b***h. You dream big, you crash big.

“I'm tired of this.”

Once again, the feeling is entirely mutual, my dear Editorzilla.

“Why, I wondered, is it that when I go to cities like Manhattan or Portland or even Tucson I step off the plane or get out of the car and immediately begin romanticizing the place? Why do I get all weak-kneed over Hotel Congress in Tucson or the Bagdad Theater in Portland when the Orpheum in downtown Phoenix is just as dreamy?”

I dunno, actually. Have you watched a lot of Lifetime movies?

“I've asked myself dozens of times and I just can't figure out why a farmers market in a mall parking lot in Denver is urban and funky when the same thing in Phoenix feels weak.”

Wait! Maybe it’s because you’ve read all the Twilight novels? Sorry.. your sparkly Chucks made me think I was talking to a very weary and dreary fourteen year old girl. My sincerest apologies.

“But what, I wondered, if I was forced to face that question every single day? What if I had to come up with something - big or small or even really insignificant - that I loved about Phoenix every day. In fact, the less significant the better, because for me it's the little things - a cross-stitch in the elevator of the Portland Ace Hotel that says "If You'd Taken the Stairs You'd Already Be There"; the way cement always seems to sparkle in the San Francisco sunlight - that make a city larger than life.”

Hmm. Let’s recap, shall we? Using Amy’s own words yet again:

“I've edited the paper's "Best of Phoenix" supplement for years, and in almost two decades at the paper have written dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of "Best of" entries and, yes, I can tell you where to get the best steak or the best martini in Phoenix”.

 But curiously, given all that, she hadn’t yet compiled a list of various things that she already loved about PHX in all those years. Um…why the heck not?  Has she ever bothered to read what she’s written, or is her self-pity so prevalent that it clouds her vision to all the good things that are inherent in this town? That is the question I’ve been asking myself lately, and coming up flummoxed.

“So nothing big. A daily affirmation of sorts.”

“Of Sorts” sums it up nicely, I think.

“Yuck. I've never been one for daily affirmations. I don't stop to smell the roses, I don't tiptoe through the tulips. The only time I ever stop to watch the sunset is once a year, during our annual family trip to the beach.”

Wow. You are one out of control bouncy superball of fun, let me tell you.

“But I didn't have any better ideas,”

Did you ever? Sorry. I’m better than that. Actually, I’m not, come to really think of it.

“thus, the I Heart Phoenix Project was born. These days it's (way too) easy to start your own blog,”

So not true. The written part is a real b***h, and don’t even get me started about the oral exam- I still have nightmares.

 “so I did. I got on WordPress, chose a template, typed in theiheartphoenixproject and wrote an "about" section that concluded: “My husband and I are raising two daughters . . . and I'd rather share the love than the hate with them, even though I do believe a healthy dose of cynicism is hardly a bad thing.”

Gotta agree. My blog is living proof of that.

“This town could use a little TLC,”

And you should use a little THC to lighten the hell up, but I digress.

“and that's what I intend to give it for the next year. Maybe not every day. I don't want to set expectations too high.”

Relax. We’ve never really expected too much from you, to be honest.

“But I do promise to cast no aspersions — not here, anyway.”

Cast? No. Do a half-ass job of it? Definitely.

“My first post was easy, a poster of a bear with a bloody heart designed by local artist Sebastien Millon, his own off-kilter tribute to the city. I didn't admit that I actually was in Los Angeles on January 1 — not the most auspicious beginning to a blog devoted to loving Phoenix.”

True, but considering your past track record Amy, we’re not really that shocked, either.

“I figured I'd write most of my posts, but around that time I discovered the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone and suddenly it was more fun — and a lot quicker — to snap a photo and write a headline.”

Faux-Hipster technology to the rescue!

“For months I kept it up, documenting my path across town (which I quickly realized was far too beaten) and forcing myself to find something every day that I love about Phoenix: the hand-drawn signs at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe; the kissing citrus mural at La Grande Orange; a fire pit at the Arizona Biltmore where you can make s'mores; Grand Avenue artist Beatrice Moore's crazy inedible wedding cakes.”

OK, my optimism is rising over here….

“The task was simple; it took no more than a few minutes a day (and some planning) but quickly became an annoying chore. I went on a walk around my neighborhood and shot several things (a mosaic water tower, a tin bird in a tree, a nearby railroad crossing) so I'd have a backlog, just in case.”

And there it goes, crashing into Amy’s high school photo class as it plummets downward.

“I included many more posts about "nature" than I'd anticipated — prickly pear cactus blooming; pansies in January; my secret love of irrigation. Even some pretty clouds on one particularly desperate day.”

This peaceful moment was brought to you by Calgon.

“By May, I was exhausted.”

From what, exactly? The attempt at achieving competence?

 “A rhinestone pin spelling out PHOENIX that I found on Etsy buoyed my spirits a bit, but sitting in the parking lot of the Celebrity Theatre, trying to grab a super-quick shot of a round entertainment venue (try that with your iPhone) and still get to work on time, I questioned the worth of this whole thing.”

I’d like to remind you at this point that it was YOUR idea, you know.

“Would anyone notice if I quit?”

Yes. As a related aside, no one likes a tease, Amy.

“If the goal was to learn to love Phoenix, it certainly wasn't working. In fact, this whole experiment was beginning to make me loathe the place in ways I'd never thought possible.”

Oh, I’m sure that isn’t entirely true, is it? Loathing is kind of your niche, to be fair.

“But I'd made it five months. I could do it. June was tough. It was hot.”

Why didn’t you reach into your soul and pull out a chunk of ice to cool off with, then?

“But I hadn't yet mentioned the sand art from the original Biltmore Fashion Park or the sprinkles section at ABC Baking. When I snapped a photo of "The Bingo Hall Where I Once Took Ballet Lessons" out my car window (I think the car was actually moving at the time), I knew I'd hit a low.”

C’mon… it wasn’t like it was your first time.

“The truth is, I was almost done. I'd taken just a few days off here and there all year, trying to schedule posts ahead when I was going to be out of town. But we were headed to San Diego for an entire week in early July, and as we were packing to leave, I realized I hadn't planned any posts, didn't have any pictures in reserve.”

GASP! You were forced to act like a real journalist? How awful that must have been for you.

“July's 8 post didn't have a photo, just "You know what I heart about Phoenix? . . . Our proximity to Southern California's beaches."

OK. I’ll have to give you a mulligan on this one, since everyone knows I have a sand fetish.

“What a cliché, quitting at the most miserable time of the year. I didn't intend to quit when I wrote that post. I figured that, at worst, I'd take the entire week off and come back refreshed, ready to finish out the second half of the year. But it was so deliciously freeing to not have to think about that goddamn blog that when I got home, I just sort of kept not thinking about it.”

True dedication to one’s work. Brought to you locally by our very own Amy Silverman.

“I gave up. Hey, I made it more than half a year. I'd never come close to keeping a resolution that long. Plus, I figured, why keep going if it wasn't working? And it definitely wasn't working.”

Funny that you should say that, since if you keep grinding down New Time’s reputation the way you have been over the last few years, eventually neither will you.

“A couple of weeks passed and, to be honest, I didn't think much about the I Heart Phoenix Project, except for an occasional sense of relief.”

Actually Amy, that was just the Alka Seltzer talking.

 “And then a funny thing happened.”

On the way to the Forum? Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

 “I was driving down McDowell Road and I noticed the U-Haul building near 24th Street and I thought about how the orange zigzag design on the side of the building looks just like rickrack and how much I love rickrack, and I reached for my phone to take a picture.”

Rick·rack: n. A flat narrow braid woven in zigzag form, used as a trimming for clothing or curtains, and as far as I’m concerned, helps speaks volumes about Amy’s sense of style and taste.

“Then I remembered: I wasn't doing the blog anymore. Don't get me wrong, I didn't care enough to actually start the thing up again.”

Wow. That really came right out of the blue, didn’t it? (Rolls eyes.) It’s exactly this kind of dogged determination that’s made NT the envy of papers you pick up for free at a Circle K.

 “But I startled myself. "Wow," I thought. "Without even trying, I found something I really love about Phoenix. And it was in that organic way that an old sign on the side of a building in Brooklyn can make you stop and stare, or how the street lights in Little Italy look like folk art. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but it was a start.”

Seriously. Would you stop with the whole NYC thing? It’s pathetic enough already.

 “And it kept happening. Every few days, sometimes more often, I'd notice something that belonged in the I Heart Phoenix Project: the fried green tomatoes at FnB; a Collin Chillag painting on the wall at Lux; Dale Chihuly’s green glass agave at the entrance to the Desert Botanical Garden; Roosevelt Row’s field of sunflowers in downtown Phoenix.”

“I had failed, but in a small way I had succeeded, too.”

No… you totally failed. Crashed and burned. In a huge way. Please, just trust me on this, would’ya?

“The new year is now well under way; I didn't make any resolutions for 2012. But last year's still lingers. The other morning, as I rushed to get my daughter to school and get to the office to write this piece, she shivered in her thin Old Navy fleece, complaining about the cold. "Don't be silly!" I said. "Think of all the people digging out of the snow in places like New York and Boston at this time of year. We're really lucky to live here!"

I got behind the wheel and thought, "Did I just say that?"

OMFG!!! I’m like, a new like, person and stuff. Totally.

“As we pulled out of the driveway and headed down the street, the sun was beginning to rise, and I noticed the sky — streaked in shades of blue and orange Crayola hasn't yet named.”

I sense a possible career move!

“Even though we were late, I couldn't help myself. I had to stop to take a picture.”

God help us if her form of iPhone hipster app journalism is ever allowed to pass for artistic expression, since Lord knows it’s already S.O.P. at New Times… and it shows.

Competence.... If only she had an app for that.

“Journalists say a thing that they know isn't true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough it will be true.” – Arnold Bennett





Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daze of Whine and Poseurs PT.4 (Artists in Candy[ass]land)



“I see myself and many artists like me as the torchbearers through these dark ages.”
- John Zorn

Hello Blogiteers!

It continues to be a simply wonderful day in the neighborhood, let me tell you, and not just because my house is well stocked with Ding Dongs and skim milk.

Granted, part of it has something to do with being asked to possibly host The Firehouse’s FFNL show in May, but my overall feeling of warm fuzzy squishy happiness comes courtesy of my last magnum blog, which chronicled the end of a three day long road trip to Yuma and the subsequent bitch-slap that I meted out to NT’s so called travel review of this charming little city.

When people have a different point of view and are willing to actually express it without hiding under the Internet’s bed, that’s when I absolutely love my Email. Intelligent and civilized debate- it does make my life rather interesting, to say the very least. This time around was no exception. After all was said and done, the total responses defending New Times or it’s Managing Editor, Amy Silverman was...  Zip. Zilch. Nada. Claire Lawton on the other hand, had close to fifteen supporters.

It seems that Claire possesses a strong and innate ability to make (and keep) actual friends, whereas Amy Silverman in contrast- seems to have no such personal knack. I’m starting to believe that the only way* she could make and then conversely keep, a friend is if she snuck up behind a total stranger with a chloroform-soaked rag, and then proceeded to imprison them in her basement...

*Allegedly, of course.
In all honesty, I don’t know for sure if she even has a basement, so I’d hate to talk out of school. But enough with the Schadenfreude for now, this blog is all for, and all about- the Artists. In two previous blogs, I gave my insiders’ advice about two crucial cogs in the PAS (PHX Art Scene), the Patrons and the Galleries. Reactions were mixed, to say the very least.

Who would have guessed that suggesting we should adopt a business model approach in regards to the PAS might be considered somewhat incendiary? Not I, naturally, mainly because it happens to be COMMON F*****G SENSE. No other industry I can think of so willingly shoots itself in the head in the manner of a suicidal cow as much as this particular scene does.

Yes, yes… I’m being a tad bit curmudgeonly, but I’m also right, and I’m pretty sure I can prove it yet again.  For instance, the last FF opening I attended was located at Willo North Gallery where they were showing new work by artist Steve Gompf and sculptor Hank Fries, and it was great.

It’s what a typical PHX Gallery could be if it decided to… you know… grow the hell up.

Oh yeah- I said it. Granted, while a facet of my career is dependent on Galleries, it’s not entirely so, and therefore, I’m not too worried about whose nose gets bent out of shape on this one. Something has to change in regard to the marketing and business aspects of the PAS, and soon- or we’re all gonna be wearing flannel shirts, living in *Portland, and making god-awful tofu shakes before you know it.
[*No offense to Portland, but this city is responsible for being the spawning ground of god-awful indie-rock audio suckfesters, The Dandy Warhols, and I just can’t forgive them for that anytime soon, nor should I really be expected to.]

But as usual, I’m getting a tad bit ahead of myself, so let’s return to Willo, where I was privileged to meet my “FB Friend” Marshall Shore in the flesh, in conjunction with making the acquaintance of the very delightful Kate Nolan, the former Managing Editor of the Phoenix New Times. Surprisingly, as Amy’s former boss, she didn’t want my head on a plate, and we had a quite pleasant chat on the subject of the newspaper and magazine industry, and best of all; I got some incredibly useful feedback regarding this blog from several keen and intelligent reader. 

It seems that I’m both funny and snarky… who knew? Apparently, I’m not dead sexy, but I’ll take what I can get. Overall, a very cool night with very cool people in a very cool space, and that’s what the PAS needs, NOT the rolling street party that FF has become- a solemn fact that was ardently stated to yours truly by more than a few people in attendance.

However, this situation is not wholly the Galleries fault- after all, they’re just a component of a much bigger system, one in which Artists have a lot more influence than they think. As I once solemnly wrote: “There is no Art Scene without Art.”, and that is why the Artists easily have the edge in taking the reins and steering this so-called scene into actual prosperity.

All they have to do is get over themselves first.

Of course, for that to happen, they would have to actually give a damn about their fellow Artists, and that’s where the Phoenix scene gets seriously screwed. If apathy were porn star hookers, the PAS alone could supply Charlie Sheen for the rest of his life, which theoretically, could be anywhere from twenty minutes to fifty years. Yes, I am aware that I’m being somewhat expansive here with the tar and feathers, and for that, I must apologize to some of you. However, to not condemn the pitiful level of indifference I’ve witnessed over the last few years among some of my fellow Creatives would smack of hypocrisy.

But before I get into some long overdue advice for my fellow tribesmen, the Artists, I’d like to introduce you to someone not affected by the malignancy that underwrites our scene and truly does put his money where his mouth is- Alexi Devillers.
Web: http://www.facebook.com/people/Fish-Liptz/100002260682386
Cel: 480-567-6666  Email: Fishliptz@Yahoo.com

I first met Alexi when my GF Ashley and I went downtown for Phoenix’s monthly Third Friday Art Walk, where he was selling Tin Can Artworks that were crafted to look like dogs, crocodiles, sharks, and my personal favorite- robot men lamps. Ok that all sounds pretty neat, you say- but it’s actually the reason behind Alexi doing what he does, that’s the really inspirational part.

In his own words: “The proceeds from the sale of my Tin Can Artworks go to purchase more food. From which I then make more Tin Can Art, so I can purchase more food for the homeless. Both of my parents are from Havana Cuba, before Castro took over. They settled in New York, but later moved to Hialeah, Florida when I was five. Being one of five kids, my mother had to stretch every dollar,  but one thing I remember is that she always had more than enough food for all of us.
 
We had great food full of flavor and you could taste the love that went into making it. As I got older and learned to cook, I started to give my extra food to the neighbors. After a while, I thought that my neighbor didn’t really need the food, started giving the extra food to the homeless.

On a Saturday, my wife and packed up all of our leftovers and went to the park near our house and fed the people who lived there. We started out with twelve meals on that Saturday, and then the next Saturday, we bought 24 frozen dinners and cooked them in our oven.

Then I thought…”I can make as twice as much food, better- and for half the price, if I make it from scratch.” So now every Saturday, my wife and I get up at 5:30 AM and cook 100 to 125 hot and fresh meals. We then pack them up into the back of my Ford Explorer and head off to the parks.

Recently, we have found a shelter on 10th Avenue and Jefferson that helps out people who are 55 and older. I try to make fun meals for them, meals that are hot and homemade.”


That right there my loyal Blogiteers, is one truly selfless Artist, which is why I’m throwing mad Artbitch props his way, and letting you know that if you want to donate to his cause, be it canned food or money, please contact him using the info posted above to do so, or go one step further and acquire one of his amazing creations just like Ashley and I did.

BTW, our Robot’s name is “Campbell”, he’s copper, he’s retro, and he’s awesome.

Just like Alexi.
But to be brutally honest, “awesome” is not how one in the know would describe the overall manner of the PAS, in regards to it’s ongoing preservation and future success. Swear to all that is holy, if I overhear one more whiny faux art poseur rant that “true Artists don’t care about money”, I’m gonna prove their theory erroneous by creating a couple thousand dollars worth of necessary dental work for them to pay off when we bump into each other again.

Obviously, I’m kidding.
Violence is not the answer, change for the positive is- although it’s sort of comforting to know that random mindless carnage can still be a fallback option just in case that whole shiny happy vibe fails to work it’s magic. Again, I’m obviously kidding… somewhat. In my 2008 blog; “Thank God it’s First Friday”, I suggested some simple guidelines for my fellow Artists to observe. Without completely rehashing, they were:

1) Quality IS job one.
2) Presentation- try it, you'll like it.
3) Professionalism is never done half ass.
[Link: http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2009/10/thank-god-its-friday-parts-one-and-two.html]

Good rules of thumb all, but there’s always room for improvement, and fortunately- I’m not alone in this belief. On my personal FaceBook page I asked my fellow creatives the following question: “I'd like to know what you think PHX Artists need to/should do in order to create a more financially stable scene to work within. Not gallery suggestions, this is for the Artists alone, thank you.” And the responses came flooding in. Some were identical to opinions I’ve been espousing for quite some time, some were approaches I honestly hadn’t even thought of.

So, in the spirit of fostering an open and civil discussion, I am turning over the floor to my fellow Creatives. I’ve also included links to their respective websites, so after you’re done reading my latest magnum opus, I’d recommend that you go check out what they’ll all about.

You’ll be glad you did.

Ryan Avery: “Art buyers shouldn’t fear spending money on art they love. Artists should be willing to sell their more expensive pieces through payment plans & installments
[http://ryan.thegoodshows.com/]

Tony Blei: “My suggestion would be to find ways to build value into your product, focus on building relationships by making people feel important. Unfortunately, people in Arizona don't give me the time of day. I’m more popular in New York, France and Germany
[http://www.tonyblei.com/]

Debra Jones: “I really don't think people in the West realize that a PORTRAIT is not always a photograph. You picture takers are all welcome to your own art, but institutions and businesses and homes and schools should work hard to find a place for the traditional art of portraiture. I have a talent not a mysterious zap from the gods! I just want to work.

I am going to be a little contra here. I produce small and affordable. I believe everyone (down to Picasso endorsing a $10 check) can produce to the market they target. I agree that it is mostly marketing. But again, it is educating the public. Most of the non-artists I know actually FEAR First Friday for the dark circus they have experienced and been scarred by ONCE.

It is not how to market some piece of art to be adopted into a home. Public needs supportive information, and artists need to not be competitive. ONE sold piece admired by a friend of the purchaser is marketing. Coops and helping each other is great, but we HAVE to move outside the ART community. I was fantasizing a day of walking around to businesses, looking quite normal, passing out portfolios and introducing myself saying "YOU now know a real artist!"

We are people who make things they need. To isolate and attempt to be flamboyant only buys into our difference. Sure, we are very unique and valuable, but we function in the same market as the plumbers and lawyers. We are small business people and need to take ourselves as seriously.

For me art is more like drugs. I really mean it. Doing art has always superseded any money (HAH) and "getting back" to it is where the ability to crawl into my studio and never come out is what tends to create more of the money problems. "If you build it, it will stay in your studio and become a fire hazard, UNLESS you tell them where to COME!"
[http://www.debrajonesart.com/]

Randy Kinkel: “I want to work and get better at it and I want to sell my work. In my experience, (and I include myself in this) most artists don't really know how to market their work or themselves, who to target, they (we) aren't thinking like business people. I think you can do that within the artistic realm and not have to sell out or sell your soul. the gallery model does not work anymore, for most of us. I would love for someone who knows how to do these things and has had success at it to give a workshop or something for interested artists".
[http://randykinkelart.blogspot.com/]

Joe Jankovsky: “I think make art affordable by producing prints. No not 'giclee' please. Woodcuts, linocuts, serigraphs, intaglio, photography. The German Expressionists did this very thing to make art more affordable to regular folks. Limit edition sizes and don't give them away either. $30 to $50 per print could work. Maybe do some co-op print press thing --find an affordable used printing press and charge artists time on it to pay for the space to house it.”
[E-mail: thesingingprint@gmail.com]

Paul Jones: “I've always liked the word "juxtaposeur." Flip through the magazine Juxtapose from 10 years ago while walking around a First Friday and pick a random painting out of the lineup and try and imagine it as a naive newborn kitten who's lost it's mother, and ends up following around a dog trying to bark, not knowing its whole life it's a fucking cat and that could serve as one possible introduction to this theory.

Any way you look at it, Phoenix is the new kid on the block, and behind 10-100 years in its art scene (depending on medium, I meant to say) compared to the rest of the big cities of the world. The sad part is, no one tells it.”
[http://smilepaul2011.blogspot.com/]

Deus Ex Machina Gallery [In response to Paul]: “There is a recognizable school of art that Phoenix has spontaneously generated, the results of decades of creative work by independent artists operating under the radar. It is not a bland repetition of the kind of the international postmodern style that has strangled art into cultural irrelevance.

We are not behind, and it's not happening 10 years from now-it has already begun. See January 2012 "A Young City in An Ancient Land," at the Trunk Space.”
[http://sites.google.com/site/improbableart/]

Luis Daniel Gutierrez: “Ok. Maybe we stop focusing on sales and get back to the love of doing. All this "woe is me stuff" is a financial killer, for sure. I think, We need to make stuff that is Badass and is stuff people can't imagine themselves living without. We are contemporary artists and as such, need to be working with the world in mind and not just our broke ass community.

The place is a breeder of new Art. Not all babies are cute but we gotta agree everybody loves a brand new baby. The possibility of new life is precious. That is what Phoenix art scene provides, a fresh new lab for creativity to grow.”
[http://www.luisdanielgutierrez.com/]

I readily admit that I truly respect all of the opinions given on the overall situation, and by and large, I agree with most of what’s been stated above, albeit with a negligible tweak or two. A positive attitude can do wonders, and that- along with a whole new approach to the business model of the PAS, might possibly arrest the current malaise that afflicts it. The one unwavering commonality I see throughout the various remarks is this: while the creative process is key, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you can’t turn a buck doing what you love to do.

GASP!!!!!! Did I just suggest that MONEY should be a consideration in how the PAS operates?!?!?

You bet’cha, bucko. It’s about time the PAS gets over this archaic art school mindset of “money is so beneath us”, and instead adopts an attitude of professionalism, like a real business would. The cold hard reality is that until we willingly do this as a whole, no one of high merit can or should, ever take us, this scene, or our innate talent seriously.
I’m not implying that we don’t have some amazing Artists here, I’m flat out saying that our business acumen is fatally abysmal. Naturally, I just might have a few suggestions regarding this unfortunate (yet fixable) situation.

In my previous writings, I’ve offered some pointed guidance in regards to how Artists ought to deal with Galleries and our so-called Patrons. This time however, my thoughts are all about how we as an artistic community should market and sell the fruit of our labors, the end result being a solid base of financial stability within the PAS. And yes, it’s going to be just as exciting as it sounds, because in my humble opinion, nothings sexier than sitting around and talking shop- especially when it’s all about making a respectable living doing what we would normally do for free. 

Woof. I’m truly tingly all over. I may actually need some alone time and a cigarette. Like I said, nothing is sexier than talking shop, so let’s get to it.

I’ve never actually bought anything at K-Mart, but I do like their pretty blue lights.

The definition of layaway: A payment plan in which a buyer reserves an article of merchandise by placing a deposit with the retailer until the balance is paid in full: I bought a suit on layaway. Given the past history of turbulence between Ryan Avery and I, it’s kind of nice that we both agree on this one. Artists really should make buying their work as easy as possible, even if the stated price range is out of a potential Patrons’ financial comfort zone. Hence, the concept of layaway, which I’ve presented as an option to my clients for the last several years.

If you want to own one of my pieces, I’m gonna find a way for you to buy it whatever it takes, and that right quick. Unless I’m trying to collect source material for a future sculptural mixed media work entitled “Dust Bunnies”, my art really doesn’t do me any favors sitting unsold in my studio.

I really don’t care how long someone takes to pay off a piece of my art, I’m just delighted that they bought it. What's more, it’s always useful to have some cash trickling in, even if it arrives in small increments. My bills don’t stop just because the commissions do, and when you factor in the cost of my daily Ding Dong habit, I really can’t afford the luxury of kicking back.

Like most overbearing stage parents, I want my kids to leave the damn nest and start sending me support checks, and if I were to be brutally honest- I’d rather all those were paid in one nice lump sum. However, understanding the fact that I work in an industry that serves a want, and not a need, I really can’t afford to be too choosy- and neither can the PAS, when you get right down to it.

Unless something has changed recently, art supplies still cost money. So does rent, food, electricity, car payments, booze, health insurance, ammunition, really good drugs, clothing, cable, internet, cell phones, and Ding Dongs. Especially Ding Dongs. Answer me this- it’s a cream filled, chocolate covered, hockey puck of sinful goodness- why the heck are they so damn pricey? Is the chocolate mixed by waterfall and then harvested by musically gifted Oompa-Loompas? A question for another time, I guess.

Getting back on point, maybe certain elements of the PAS want to starve to death for the sake of an outmoded sense of artistic nobility, but I sure as hell don’t, and neither should anyone else who’s serious about making Art their chosen career, and not just an after work hobby. Money buys opportunities. Money buys options. Money buys artistic and personal freedom. If you doubt this, just think of what famous (IE: rich) people are allowed to get away with in this society.

Being a successful anything buys you a boatload of breathing room, and just because you really like making money, it doesn’t mean for a New York minute that you’re a sellout, or that you’ve gone and bastardized your principles for the sake of making a buck.

[This of course does not apply to Thomas Kinkade or Shepard Fairey, both of whom possess the integral artistic strength of microwaved Velveeta.]

I create commercial work to fill my coffers, I craft fine Art to fill my soul, and at the end of both of these varying processes, I’m still an Artist, no more, no less. In order to pay the bills, I chose to adapt, rather than sit and whine in my darkened studio about how malicious the world is. Money greases the gears of business and life, and it always will. Money doesn’t give a damn about how talented you are, or how wondrous your artistic vision is, all it cares about is how much more you can make of it.

Yes, it’s unfair, heartless and rather narrow minded, but it’s also reality. You can become a Deus Ex Machina, using your acquired influence to force some positive changes, or you can waste vital energy attempting to chip the paint of an unrelenting juggernaut which will eventually crush you and your spirit- s
peaking from personal experience, it’s a heck of a lot easier to throw a spanner in the works from inside the machine. As an additional advantage, it’s also a much shorter distance to chuck that sucker, and that’s always a good thing, I think.

Andy Warhol once said: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Using that quote as a base for comparison, I’d have to say that the PAS is batting one out of three- we may be working, but we surely aren’t making money- and business is definitely not good. If I were in charge, and the PAS were a horse, I would have had it rendered into a case of Elmer’s Glue Sticks just so I’d possess something tangible from this scene that could be considered truly useful.

And no… I’m not going to apologize for that slam anytime soon, unless it’s to an actual horse.
[Feel free to insert your favorite Frau Bleucher joke here.]

We need to adapt, we need to explore other well-established options for making it easy and desirable to purchase our art, and we need to do all of this sooner than later. Not as random individuals, but as a united whole.
Or we can stay noble and artistically pure, follow the status quo, and slowly starve to death. You know… just like “real” artists would do.

Leggo my Ego…


Oscar Wilde once glibly stated that: “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”

This is a sentiment that I can get behind 100%, and not just because it’s cross-stitched on one of my studio couch’s throw-pillows.
What this quote has always represented for me as an Artist is quite simple: believe in yourself, even when no one else does- and you’ll eventually have the sweet satisfaction of proving them wrong. I’ve always truly believed that you should never allow yourself to publically validate any inner doubt about your talent, mainly due to the one question that will eventually arise: if you don’t trust your abilities… why  the hell should anyone else?

No one ever bets on the unconfident horse or business, and there’s a very good and logical reason why- they rarely win, because they’ve been hobbled by their own self-doubt. Being a professional Creative requires a thick skin and dogged determination, along with an ability to self-delude on a level that Sarah Palin on her best day couldn’t even begin to touch.

And those are two of the best qualities that an Artist needs to succeed, far as I see it.

To be fair, there has been many the day where my Ego far outpaces my aptitude, but that’s spot on of most people who work in this profession. The reality is that if it weren’t for my oversized sense of self, I’d be one of those sad colorless drones wearing a name tag, working in a tiny ass gray-lined cubicle poring over spreadsheets, and praying hourly for a quick and merciful death.

Speaking from the vantage point of a non-stop self promoting machine, I find that it’s imperative to continually keep the furnaces stoked as it were. If Artists want to be taken as commercially viable, then they have to do their best to keep those fires burning, and continually self-promote.

In a place like the PAS, this need to do so is crucial, due to the lack of two things: quality galleries and professional representation for Creatives. I never pass up the chance to talk about my work, or if the rare need warrants- someone else’s.
Save your cynicism. I have been known to throw someone deserving a bone every now and then, believe it or not.

Come to think of it… save your off-color jokes first, then save the cynicism.

Call me naïve, but I still find it astounding how many Artists fail to see this as an important skill to learn and/or master. Along with all the other talents that your discipline may demand, this ability to market yourself is too critical to deride as pointless Ego stroking, just because it asks you to pass out a few cards and make some small talk every now and then.

There isn’t a moment in my life when I’m not within easy reach of my digital portfolio or business cards, and theoretically… this might include the time when I’m sleeping. True opportunities are manufactured by the Machiavellian, and seized by the swift.

In other words-you snooze, you lose. And as a rule, I hate to lose at anything, especially when it comes to my own personal goals. Now, as you can imagine, this minor tendency of mine to network nonstop does sometimes get misconstrued as undiluted egotism or at worst- purely unbridled narcissism.
It’s neither, actually. Whatever you may think, it's not about ego. Really. If it was ego, I'd be telling you about my awesome... oh, never mind. Once again, what I do is more of a want, not a need, and is therefore easily dismissed when viewed as part of the much bigger picture of life.

Art and it’s numerous creators rarely get the respect they deserve from your average Joe Six-pack when it comes to the true value of such creative endeavors. If you have a talent, don’t hide it under the proverbial bushel- show it off.
If you’re so inclined to exude false modesty and remain an unknown when instead you should be strutting around like a glittered peacock and attracting the success you’ve earned, that’s your personal call, and I won’t dissuade you.

But you’ll also put aside the right to any future bitching about your lack of achievement when you’ve done nothing to bring attention to your life’s work, because I will call you on it, mercilessly- and often. Nothing aggravates me more than someone who complains about their problems, while simultaneously doing zip to affect a more positive outcome regarding their situation.

Unless you step into an errant puddle of dumb-ass luck, no one will ever know what you do unless you tell them. And in order to do that, you have to also be out and about, hence the reason why it’s pretty well known in the PAS that I’ll show up to the opening of a cereal box. 

Art openings and Gallery events are key to your possible success, because these twin events will put you in contact with the people you need to connect with, that being your fellow Creatives as well as their patrons, which is a winning prospect where a career is concerned.
No matter what, I NEVER stop trying to make vital connections.

Granted, I can be somewhat insufferable and intense regarding my chosen livelihood, but I honestly do believe that there is NO such thing as bad publicity, since whether they love me or hate me, at least they’ll be talking about me, and that’s what counts.
Taking up space in someone’s head for free- you just gotta love it, since the best hype will always come from your worst detractors. Why is that, you ask? The answer is simple: because they in turn, will never cease bitching about you. It’s sort of like having your own artsy version of the Truman show.

When you inspire that much venom and/or jealousy in others, it stirs the rest of the herd to become exceedingly curious, and that inquisitiveness is quite easily manipulated if you’re savvy enough to take control and ride the wave.
Case in point?

The “Hi, My Name is Ryan” documentary I co-starred in. The only person who’s ever seemingly profited off that thing so far is me, as the film has no distribution deal at this time. However, while I can’t even acquire a personal copy due to various ensnaring legalities, I did make damn sure to milk the experience for all it was worth when it was making the rounds of the festival circuit.|

Hell, the only reason I did the movie was for the exposure, and it paid off in buckets. I still get E-mail about it, and I was only in the damn thing for nine minutes. Everybody loves a bad guy, and thanks to that hardwired quirk of humanity, I was able to fatten my bank account for nearly a year.
I’d rather be thought of as a raving Egomaniac, rather than be labeled a talented near-miss, any day of the week.

As someone famous* once said: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it”, and after 150 shows, I’m pretty sure I’ve got that base covered, more or less.
[*I think Yogi Berra may have said this, but I didn’t have the time to check the ol’ Google. Have at it!] Opportunity seen, is opportunity seized- and to be truly successful, you must understand that it is absolutely necessary to present your best sales pitch at some point, whether you like it or not, and that's what stops people from networking effectively most of the time: the fear of failure.

However, while this is a valid concern, it doesn’t have to stop you. You can fall down ten times, provided that the number of times you get back up is at least eleven.
Keith Haring once noted on the process of creation: “When it is working, you completely go into another place, you're tapping into things that are totally universal, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That's what it's all about.” Being paid to do what you love to do simply by getting your name out there? In my modest opinion, that possible reward is worth taking the risk. You can always decide to be really humble after you’ve made it.

Woof. I don’t know about you, but I am kind of tired.
So, let’s take a break here and go get some rest. And when I come back...

Playground rules. Art Cliques. Michelle Laudig covered in honey, and the Artbitch Field Guide to spotting Critics.

“Business Art is the step that comes after Art.”- Andy Warhol