So I work part time at a Chelsea gallery. Yes, I am a desk girl and yes, by the way, I will say “hello” to you when you walk in. I will probably forget to turn on all the lights though and the owner, my boss and only other employee, will run from her desk and get them. At this point I will feel terribly bad, but that’s beside the point as is the rest of this introduction.
The point is that last night was the first opening I worked in Chelsea. I have lots of opening experience. Years. Many of which I spend afterward sitting on the floor, chatting with my boss, talking about who or who came and how I hadn’t seen him or her in a while. And the success of selling that one piece (hopefully of many) or how so and so had bought something and you didn’t even approach him/her about it! Last night, all dressed in black, I should have been a greeter and I was to a point. There’s no problem with this specifically, I’ve always felt that it was an important job. Welcome people into the space, say upfront “hi, we have some genuine hospitality and manners here, you should like us and support us!”
Last night, however, I also became the smallest bouncer in high heels ever. Because my greetings didn’t matter to most people, because people coming in didn’t come to the gallery for the gallery. Its a Thursday night in Chelsea, of all the nights to go drunking for free, Thursday is that night. And because the gallery I work for is in a large tower of galleries on one of two-dozen or more blocks of galleries, very few people could tell you what gallery they were walking into (literally walking into it or into a wall). This is terribly disheartening to me.
I had just come to terms with my academic program. Its not so great. It is also disheartening, but out of a conversation with the director I had put together one single thought that had meaning. I was a community based art scene girl. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized this before. Marion had joked in undergrad that they should have a new major for me “community art.” I had taken almost every course that could be considered under this title. And somewhere that very important, very telling piece of self-truth was forgotten in the same manner that I regularly misplace my keys or end up in a room not remembering what I came there for. And in that meeting, I remembered how to say what I valued, how to make meaning of it for someone else.
There is a connection, here. When I go work at an opening in my not-really home town but adopted love of a city in Syracuse, I know those people. I know why they buy. I know that I’m the reason why some of those purchases take place and if I wasn’t there, if they didn’t know me, they may not have made that decision. Its a sense of value, a sense of community not about myself or my place in it, but that fact that those people aren’t looking for a turnover on that work. They buy because they love and I live for that love. That’s the draw of it for me. Its the running on passion part.
Now I’m sure that Chelsea has its own community of supporters. My boss has people who buy just because its her, I saw it take place the other day. But when that crowd comes into the opening and over half of them visually scan the room and head directly for the bartender and then take their glasses out or are people who have brought in their own half open whathaveyous, thats not my community. There is no connection, no passion, no love. They do not buy and would not buy solely out of love, not the people who come in. There does exist those who do buy out of love but I haven’t seen them yet. The deep pocketed people who still feel they walk the same earth as anyone else but just have the ability (more ability than I do) to make a purchase. With the economy as is, it’ll be harder to find them. And its depressing. But art is a drug. I make 600 a month max and I already know where 175 of it is going next month. I can’t help but want the art that makes me feel. And people who buy in the drugged up love sense of it, those are the people who give art value, who respond to art for all of its unexplainable possibly even spiritual essence.
And in the long run, I see those people in my small towns and small cities so much more than I see them in this big city. So, truth be told, small girl/big city is looking for a city where she fits better. small girl/small city makes things not so small.