Wednesday, October 4, 2006

My Visit to Hudson



Barn in Early Morning, 2006, Oil on Panel, 30x30









After painting seriously for almost a year, I thought it was time that I try to get a show in a gallery. Sounds pretty naive in retrospect, (you know, to just go out and get a gallery, no problem!) but at the time it seemed like the thing to do. By that time I had had two shows, both in local non-profit galleries, one being an arts center and the other a seasonal (summer) gallery, so I knew I'd have to find a gallery outside my immediate area if I ever wanted to actually get a career going. A number of artists whose work I liked had shown or were represented by the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, NY, so I thought that would be a good place to start. In early September, 2004, I took a day and drove down to Hudson with a batch of my info packets and a few of my paintings in the back seat.

By doing this I was breaking all of the rules in trying to get a gallery. I knew that it wasn't really a good idea to walk into a gallery, talk with the director and give them my info right there on the spot. I totally understand how annoying that must be for galleries. But I couldn't help myself. I wanted to visit the gallery in person, as well as a few others in the area, and since I am a total narcissist I was pretty sure that I would end up talking about myself and the fact that I was looking for opportunities to show my work. I wanted to be prepared in case someone would be so taken with my sparkling personality that they would want to see my work instantly. Uh, right. I visited about four galleries that day, all located on Warren Street which is where all of the cute little shops and galleries are located in Hudson. One gallery was not right for me at all. The next gallery was definitely right for my work. I chatted with the owner for awhile about some of the artists that he was showing and when I mentioned that I was an artist he started to clam up. I left my info with him despite the fact that he was looking at me as if I were something he found on the bottom of his shoe (I emailed him after a few days to follow up and he never responded). I spent quite a bit of time with another gallery director, and he was even interested in seeing my paintings. He said that he would like to visit my studio and would call me to set up a time. While I was pretty encouraged about that, I also didn't think it was the right place for my work either (I was right about that, he never did contact me). The last place I visited was the Carrie Haddad Gallery. Carrie was just opening for the day and was busy with setting things up so I had a chance to look around at the current show. Finally, despite knowing it was a bad idea, I told her that I was a artist, and then I began to really babble and told her the whole freaking story, that I had taken years off to have kids but was painting again and was looking for the chance to show my work, yada, yada, yada. She nodded and smiled and was very nice but I could tell it was really bad to handle it that way. Cursing myself, I handed her my folder and practically ran out the door.

I had a bit more time so I decided to head up to Woodstock, as I had never been there and of course was interested in checking it out. I walked around the main street area, marveling at the whole retro sixties thing and visiting the art galleries. I felt like an idiot about what had happened in Hudson so I kept my mouth shut and just looked at the art. I also decided that day that I loved Woodstock and that that was where we should have moved to. Anyway, on the drive home there was the most amazing light and so I took many photos of the area. Later I did a whole batch of paintings based on those photos and they were the first ones that I did where I finally hit the right color layer combinations after having experimented for nearly a year. You know how there are days that are turning points in your life? Well, this was one of those days for me, though it sure didn't seem like it at the time. Ain't that the way.

How did I end up working with Carrie? I think I'll finish this super fascinating story tomorrow....

18 comments:

S.L. Peterson said...

Aw, come on! You're really going to make me wait til tomorrow to hear the outcome of the story?

Seriously though, I think that this is one of the most annoying aspects of being an artist - the "etiquette" of approaching galleries, because it differs from gallery to gallery and you never know what will get the attention of a specific place.

I know they have a gazillion artists approach them every week, and I know that 95% of those artists are probably hobbyists that wouldn't sell, but it still irks me that galleries clam up when you tell them you're an artist. My husband and I like to buy art, and visit a lot of galleries for the purpose of just looking, and nothing annoys me more than a gallerist who looks like a deer in the headlights when I say I'm an artist (especially considering I'm not even in there to get representation). I won't buy art from a dealer who won't treat me just as well as anyone else who walks into the gallery, and I wouldn't want them to sell my art either!

Okay, sorry - rant over... =)

Tracy said...

Torture, I know:-)

I decided to finish it tomorrow because the entry was getting long and I wanted to get to my studio!

I wanted to rant about this in the post, but I was trying to keep it short, so thanks for doing it for me. I TOTALLY agree with you about the attitude that gallery employees get when they find out I am an artist. I completely get attitude at some of my favorite galleries in NYC and it really pains me. Because it means I probably won't want to buy anything from them and I could if I wanted to. Well at least a small piece, anyway. I do buy art and I am in favor of buying it through galleries in order to support their efforts, but I hate that snotty mentality that seems so common.

James Wolanin said...

what's even worse than walking into a gallery unannounced and wanting to show them your work is approaching them at a major Art Fair like the Armory Show. I made that mistake a few years back. I thought, hey, all these galleries are all in one spot, what a great opportunity to drop off some promotional postcards and chat it up. What a mistake! The gallery owners or directors that I approached basically shot daggers out of their eyes and turned their backs on me. After getting this response from the first two galleries that I approached, I quickly abandoned my plan. The funny thing is, I knew better, but decided to do it anyway. What was I thinking?!

Tracy said...

Probably the same thing I was thinking, Jim! It just seems so much more practical to eliminate all of those middle dance steps and just get right down to looking at the work.

I do imagine though, that they get all kinds of people who want to show them their art, and it's hard to determine whether it's going to be really good or chipmunks painted on saw blades, and no one wants to waste time finding out.

I would have done the same thing if I were let loose at an art fair.

Bart said...

....but I can't help noticing that you were apparently very inspired, felt good in Woodstock (your favorite town) and took a bunch of useful pictures and gathered inspiration on your way home.
So good/stupid or not, sounds like it was the right thing for you to do at that moment...say....you will continue this story... won't you??

Tracy said...

Bart, it was definitely a good day, but I still cringe a bit at my nerve/stupidity. I'll finish it up tomorrow, though it's really not all that exciting:-) Just lucky.

Anonymous said...

Hey....
wait a minute....
I just did that.
Doh!
I went to an art fair and handed out cards with a link to the blog. No slides really. Passive-aggressive promotion I guess. I took some pictures and then sent a follow up e-mail. Seed planting. I then plan to go to some openings, drop some names, yadda yadda, but
now I feel pretty stoopid.

Angela Ferreira said...

Hey Tracy do you ever paint the sides of your canvas or leave them blank? I would love to hear your opinion about this. I just posted in my blog a thread about it so you kindly give me your opinion about it? I really would appreciate it…

Tracy said...

Hi Steve, I think it all depends on the reaction you get. I felt stupid because it was clearly inappropriate at the places I went to and I didn't read the signals properly. And I am just self-conscious enough not to try it again.

I imagine though, that if you had a good response (did you?), then you probably handled the whole thing better than I did.

Angela, I don't paint the sides of my paintings for two reasons. 1. It would be a technical nightmare, waiting for them to dry, not being able to handle them and move them to the drying rails, I am getting a headache just thinking about how difficult it would be. 2. I don't usually like how it looks. However, that is a preference based on nothing really other than personal taste and I hope no one is offended. I have seen paintings that I don't mind that the paintings continue on to the side, but for the most part I don't really like the look. I paint my cradles (sides) black and save all of the action for the front surface.

James said...

I'm just wondering why you feel you 'need' gallery representation in the first place when this new age of showing and selling your art via the internet is already having a huge impact on artists lives around the world.
I'm so excited about collecting art from Europe, America and everywhere else! I have to say, I think I'm over the whole gallery thing.
I was recently in a well known gallery seriously considering buying a painting, when I realised I couldn't stand the whole gallery process. It was like dealing with a used car dealer! I could almost feel my Visa card crying out to buy direct from the artist - across the web!!! Needless to say I walked out thinking I should find out if the artist had a website...
Here's the thing, you only need a handful of devoted fans to 'make a living' and trust me, they're out there...

Tracy said...

Hi James, You make very good points, and I have briefly discussed this issue previously (I'd link the post, but can't recall when it was). Anyway, I think I will discuss my opinion it on this in a post, maybe for Friday. Thanks for the blog topic idea, always can use one of those!!

meno said...

I can't help but think about how brave you were to put yourself out like that. I would not be able to do something where people would have the opportunity to treat me like that.
I am not an artist, so it's interesting to know that some galleries are snots, although i can often tell anyway just as a looker wandering in.

meno said...

oh, and where is the rest of the story young lady?

Tracy said...

Hi Meno, Not sure if I feel brave. I think it's more of a combination of naivete, confidence and possibly stupidity.

Just put up the next post.

Susan Constanse said...

That's a partcularly beautiful painting, Tracy. Really strong

Lauren said...

Hey Tracey, I am interested in hearing what you think the best way to approach a gallery is now that you have learned what you have learned. I've got two galleries and both approached me (miracle I know) I am about to start looking for a third but was wondering the best way to go about it. I really hate the idea of sending in a package and would like to avoid that if possible. Thanks in advance!

Tracy said...

Thanks Susan!

Lauren, good question. I probably should have just visited the gallery, gone home and then mailed in my info. I suspect it would have worked out the same way since she thinks that's what happened anyway:-) I have not approached a gallery like that again. It's great that you have already been approached by galleries, that is definitely the best! But if you want another gallery, you may have to send work out, which is hard I know, but you are in a pretty good position now. And sometimes an initial no can turn into a yes if you keep them updated.

Lauren said...

Thanks Tracey. :-)