Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How it is going

There has been no sun seen in Whangarei for eight days (although it did stop raining for a few thrilling hours in the middle of Monday). I spent the first five of those wet, grey days pretty much confined to my 'bed' with an unpleasant and exhausting stomach virus, while my flatmates filled the house with paint fumes and chainsawed down trees in the garden. On day 4 I was extra sorry for myself because it was my birthday and I could still only eat plain white rice and tinned fruit, and not even those with impunity.

There was one glorious highlight in the middle of that almost relentlessly miserable period: my exhibition received an astute, positive, full page review in the Northern Advocate, Whangarei's local daily newspaper on 6 December.

Many people over the past few weeks have asked me, 'How's the exhibition going?', a question that puzzled me when I took it literally: the exhibition is pretty static, it doesn't really go anywhere, it just is. 'It's going fine, thanks. Nothing's fallen apart or been broken'*.

But my naive responses generally lead them to unpack the question and reveal it as a delicate probe into the economics of the exhibition, specifically 'have you sold much?' And when I answer that questions with 'Zero, zip, zilch', there is an almost embarrassed sidestep into 'but have many people come through?' (I don't really know because no one keeps track of the numbers) and 'have you had good feedback?'

At last, a question that I can say an emphatic 'YES' to. The visitor's book is full with comments that move me with the heartfelt appreciations expressed. Most people who talk to me about the show are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. A sister artist wrote me a beautiful, bilingual poem about it. A busy working mother told me about the effort it took to find the time to attend, the calm that descended on her as she walked through, and the cleansing tears that overcame her inside the privacy of You are Beautiful. People seem to enjoy trying to decide which is their favourite piece, and often fail to choose only one. Several visitors have returned more than once, either to bring friends through or to have time there alone. It is lovely to read and hear this kind of feedback, especially as it greatly outweighs the ambivalent, 'I don't get it', minority.

I didn't really expect to sell much, if anything, and my low expectation no doubt helped create that reality. But, I consider Whangarei simply too small, too poor and too far from an urban sophisticated art market where my work might attract buyers -although enormous, fragile, installation pieces must be hard to sell anywhere. I would have been thrilled to make a sale or even sell out, but I didn't do it to make money.

For me, it was almost enough to simply succeed in putting on a well conceived and well executed exhibition and have plenty of people come through and be moved and stimulated by it. The one other thing that I really wanted was a substantive, thoughtful review: as an external record and, especially, as an objective critique.

Lawrence Clark's review made some gentle, pertinent, criticism of a couple of pieces that I am least satisfied with. He 'got' the pilgrimage narrative. His responses to each book suggested that he found them thought-provoking, and in general, satisfying. Reading his write-up felt like getting a pretty solid 'A' for my work.


*Unlike my friend, Kim Cohen, whose beautiful, eerie installation at the Old Library last month had to be closed after one day because of vandalism.


rachlovestheweb said...

kol ha kavod!! how cool to have a whole page about YOUR EXHIBITION!

Tim Jones said...

That's a really good review - it must be lovely to have that much careful attention paid to your work! I hope that you're better now.