“The art market surges but there is no trickle down because the people whose cash drives the market don’t care about art. Only commodities” By my good friend and fellow artist John Sevigny. Follow him on twitter here and check out his popular blog Gone City
This year I attended the SPE Annual Conference which was held in Baltimore MD. I am looking for a job in academia (Did you hear me? I’m looking for a teaching job In case anyone has any leads. Just wanted to put that out there) and the SPE Annual Conference is a great source for this! The interview sessions are great. In fact the conference is literally 3 days of job interviews.
The conference this year was outstanding with many great lectures and talks. Zoe Strauss was one if the keynote speakers. I really enjoyed her talk! She was probably my favorite. I have been Facebook friends with her for many years, but it was nice to actually see and hear her in person. I found her to be refreshingly genuine and sincere. There isn’t a pretentious bone in her body. There were so many great speakers there this year. Some of the ones that stood out for me were Susan Kae Grant, Joan Fontcuberta, Michelle Bogre, Emily Myerscough, http://malinachavez.com, Leonard Suryajaya (really loved him) and John Keedy. Many universities and colleges that offer art degrees had a presence at the conference. However I was disappointed that my alma mater; Academy of Art University had no representation this year at SPE. I have personally seen AAU at the College Art Association conferences in prior years. If anyone from the photo department at AAU is reading this please take notice.
This rant however is not a review of the conference. I really hate Baltimore. Yes I said it. There. It needed to be said. I have never really been to Baltimore as a destination before. It’s the kind of place you pass through going somewhere else. For one thing, its only about 3 hours from New York. New York City is so great that it cancels out anything within 300 miles. Yes Im a native New Yorker so excuse the arrogance. I rode the Amtrak into Baltimore’s Penn Station. When I got off the train I immediatly feared for my life. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. But it was no Disneyland. Being unemployed I decided to take Baltimore’s version of the subway into the downtown area to the Hilton. Well, their subway is more like one trolly that goes back and forth all day. Kind of like the Grand Central Shuttle but slower. The first thing that got me thinking was the the fact that the driver is totally locked and isolated in a bullet proof box. That was a bad sign I thought to myself. The train proceeded to traverse through some of the most sketchy neighborhoods I have ever seen. Im a native New Yorker mind you, so I don’t scare easily. Baltimore scared me!
The Baltimore Hilton is by far the crummiest Hilton I have ever stayed in. There was only one restaurant in the hotel; The American Grille. It was always about 20% full (another bad sign for a restaurant). My friend ordered a burger that took 50 minutes to arrive. When it finally did arrive it was raw in the center. Not rare, but ice cold-raw. He complained to the manager who did nothing but apologize but still charge him.
The next morning we had breakfast which was $22.00. So you may ask why we went there if the food was so bad. The answer is, there wasn’t any other place to eat. There is absolutly nothing in the area, with the exception of a sandwich shop. Can you believe there is not even a Starbucks within close proximity of the Hilton Baltimore? I have never been to a Hilton that didn’t have a Starbucks in the lobby. The hotel room air was terribly dry. My roommate develped a rash from the dry air and I began to have nosebleeds. The bathtub water had a strange yellow glow to it which resembled urine, and the bathroom was under-equiped with soap.
To get to anyplace decent to eat we had to walk a half-mile down Pratt Street to the harbor area. The best dinner we had was at Cheesecake Factory. I live 4 blocks from a Cheesecake Factory in NY. During that half mile walk to Cheesecake factory we were approached many times by homeless people panhandling for money. In fact, Baltimore seems to have a huge homeless population. We also spotted our fair share of crack heads, meth fiends and heroin addicts. Yes it was that bad. I truly did not want to leave the safety of the hotel. The window from my hotel room looked out upon a Holiday Inn and the famous ClockTower. By the way, the clock in the tower was broken and didn’t keep the correct time. In many ways Baltimore is similar to Detroit; A dead city with no economy and riddled with crime. Now I know I am going to get hundreds of emails from people in Baltimore about this post. Yes, it is true that I did not see the entire city in the short time I was there and yes, my initial impression is probably wrong and a little exaggerated. I am just calling it the way I see it, right or wrong.
Aside from the hotel and city, the conference was wonderful. I”m already looking forward to next years conference in Louisiana.
Oh, in case you are wondering about the title of this post; “Baltimore is alright, if you like saxophones” – Some of you may remember a west coast punk band called FEAR. They made a song called “New York’s Alright, if You Like Saxophones”. Baltimore makes me think of that song.
I like to think of myself as an artist, who happens to work with a camera. I don’t like the label “photographer”. A photographer is a person who makes photographs using cameras. A photographer is a technician, oftentimes more concerned with the technical aspects and the process, rather then the work and the concept. But with todays technology and its availability to everyone, its easy to create a “technically perfect” photograph. But thats not art!
For an artist, the tools are irrelevant. Today it may be a camera, tomorrow it may be a can of spray paint. The work is about the art and driven by concept and vision, not the process or the mechanics.
I really could care less about pixels and resolution. One of my favorite digital cameras is the HP PhotoSmart 215. Thats an early digital camera that is under 2 megapixels and sells for less then $20.00 on EBAY and makes really cool, unique looking images. That camera came out sometime around 1999. These early “vintage” low resolution digital cameras are quickly becoming the Holga’s and Diana’s of tomorrow.
The point here is that you do not need expensive gear to make art, and in fact sometimes the expensive gear just gets in the way.
I often get emails asking why I don’t update this blog often. The answer is simple; I like to communicate visually, with photographs. This blog was and will continue to be more of a venue I can use to update people about my work, exhibitions, and things relating to the art world in general. For those of you who like to see frequent updates, I highly recommend you stop by my tumblr blog. That is updated daily and sometimes even hourly (mostly photographs)
Social media is quickly becoming the plague of the internet. Let me explain; social media in concept was designed as a tool or a platform to bring people together. It was originally created as a place for classmates to interact online, but it quickly outgrew that realm and gained popularity among the masses. Almost overnight it became the platform for networking with existing friends as well and a place to make new friends. That is exactly what it was designed for, and that is exactly the reason I became active on sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Another word for this kind of interaction is networking. We are all familiar with that dirty little word. As an artist, I have used Facebook and twitter this way for years. I have made numerous friends all over the world, and I have actually built some serious relationships as a result. These relationships have given me the opportunity to show my work in galleries and museum’s worldwide. This kind of networking and relationship building is perfectly suited for Facebook and twitter.
Now here is the bad part; as a result of the massive popularity of these sites, they have subsequently become inundated with people trying to “sell you stuff”. This is the biggest turn-off in the world, as far as I’m concerned. I know I speak for hundreds of thousands if not millions when I say I don’t want to be “pitched” on your product or service when I’m on Facebook or twitter. Lets understand something, there is a very fine line between networking, and selling (a sales pitch). Unfortunately way too many people have trouble discerning that fine line and abuse their social networks by posting and tweeting all kinds of nonsense in the hopes of generating business or revenue. The simple matter is, all that does is annoy people. One of the biggest offenders are the SEO people. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people tweeting a sales pitch in one form or another in an attempt to sell you on their SEO expertise, reputation defense, reputation repair, website building, back-link sales, hosting services etc. The list goes on and on to include just about every product imaginable.
As a former award-winning real estate agent I was also guilty of this. I know quite a few Realtors who are constantly tweeting about homes for sa,e, open house calls or market statistics. I actually challenged one of these people (a former top producing agent in New York) to show me one single property he has actually sold as a result of social media. He had no answer for me. A quick look at the profile of these people will reveal that for the most part, they are following and being followed by other real estate agents! That tells the whole story. The actual clients that they are seeking are not even reading their tweets. Its nothing but a bunch of sales people pitching to each other. Don’t make the same mistake. Taking real estate agents as a prime example, I have found that they are stroking each others egos with all these tweets and wall posts. Thisnis nothing more then mental masturbation. This was the reason that I never followed other real estate agents on social media, even when I was myself a full-time agent. In fact, looking at any of my social media profiles you would have a hard time even seeing mention that I sell real estate. I recognize that my social media friends don’t care about, nor do they want to hear about my work. I don’t mean to atack Realtors here! I use the real estate agent example only because I worked in the field myself and have first hand knowledge of it. The same thing applies to consultants, SEO people, advertising reps, and on and on. Sadly big business has gotten on the bandwagon too. Why anyone on earth would want to follow Pfizer or Dow Chemical on a social media network is beyond me. Perhaps it’s the free advertising thats attracting big business.
So in summary, use social media to interact with your friends and make new friends (networking). But do not use social media to pitch your wares, sell your products, or promote your services. Doing so only creates more white noise, and quite frankly, its irritating. There are much more effective ways to target an audience, Facebook and twitter are not one of them.
This is exactly the reason why I have been moving all of my content off the so-called “public” web and onto my own privately hosted website and blog. You loose all rights when you upload a photo to Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr etc. any content you post on social media sites instantly becomes their property.
Maholy Nagy came from the Bauhaus in Europe. After World War II he came to the Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago. He hired Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Arthur Siegal. William Larson studied with them at IID. Anthony Lauro studied under Larson at Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Timothy Keating studied with Lauro at the Columbus College of Art and Design. I studied under Timothy Keating. Therefore Maholy Nagy is my great, great, great,great, great grandfather.