Friday, March 23, 2007


You may think this is a picture of a blank canvas, but actually this piece is called “blank on canvas”. Or maybe this one is called “it’s fun reading titles”. Unless this one is “I double-dare you to buy this.” In December of 2002, a moronic narcissist of an artist had a show at our gallery. And a lot of the titles, although you couldn’t tell from the picture (they were all simply gesso on canvas), were ridiculously inappropriate and offensive.

I cleaned out my files and came across my file on “The Jass”. I won’t use his real name, but he preferred to be called “The Jass” anyway. Or, he would answer to “”. I hated this guy, but the whole experience was priceless, so this file is definitely a keeper.

Back in the day, we didn’t have a competitive application process to exhibit at the Rio Gallery. Lila was in charge of the gallery and this guy’s college professor asked Lila to give him a show. So he brought down some pretty pictures of landscapes and Lila said “why not.”

But his show at our gallery was months away, which gave him plenty of time to slop some gesso on some canvases, but mostly it gave him time to create his personal image. This guy thought he was a rock star. He was a Meier and Frank cashier by day, but when he went “out” at night his hair was streaked red and purple, his sunglasses came on and his entourage strutted behind.

I didn’t buy it for a second. But we were contracted to give him a show. Sometime during the year, the Rio Gallery was handed over to me as my responsibility. I didn’t know anything about this guy’s artwork, all I knew was that his show was called I.M.O.K.R.U.O.K. When I asked Lila what his work was like, she said he showed her pictures of flowers and trees. But the more I talked to this guy and the more he told me about how big this show was going to be, the more suspicious I became.

Long story short, he brought his work to the gallery ten minutes before we closed, the night before the opening. Seventeen blank canvases. He said he’d bring me the titles the next day. I was beside myself.

The next day he brought me his list of titles. I asked, “Which titles go to which piece?” and he told me it’s my job as the curator to assign the titles to each piece. I wanted to punch him in the face. “I am not the curator of this show,” I told him. That’s the last thing I wanted people to think, that I had any more association with this show than the fact that it’s hanging in the gallery I work at. What made him think the concept of a blank canvas was his idea? It had been done. YEARS and YEARS ago. Once the concept is broken, you can’t do it again. The novelty is gone, the intrigue is lost.

All I wanted to do was throw him and his canvases out the door, but unfortunately we had a show to hang, and the board of directors advised us to make the best of what we had, and there’s nothing we could have done. Yeah, we were duped, but we’ll take precautions to never let it happen again.

There’s so much more to this story: the advertising I had to do for this guy, his joke of an artist statement, how we had to scramble to take the show down for a day and hang another one in it’s place so it would be appropriate for the governor and legislators to attend our director’s retirement party there, etc. But the best part of the story was a few weeks after it was hung.

One of my co-workers came up to me when I got into work and said, “Did you see what happened out in the gallery?” I walked out there with him and he showed me three pieces that had been stabbed by a pocketknife.

My first instinct was that “the Jass” did it himself or had one of his toadies do it. And I still stick to that theory of mine. C’mon, who really cares enough to do something like that? No one. This artist wanted a controversy. He told me he wanted news media at his opening and he wanted write-ups in the paper. He wanted an enraged public. But guess what? No one cared. I think that disappointed him so he was going to stir up some more trouble to see if the papers would write about it now that he was a victim of vandalism. Too bad he damaged his own “artwork” for nothing. The only thing that came out of this was an angry postcard mailed to the gallery, which I think he wrote himself – he used the same Andy Warhol stamp he used to mail out the exhibit announcements.

This card kills me every time I read it. I blocked out some bad words for your protection. But my favorite part is how he calls himself “The Jasshole.”

So when nothing came out of this, he sent us an invoice itemizing his damages. The invoice totaled about $1300, including transportation costs, overhead, and his “time”.

In conclusion, we gave him $200, he moved to New York to be even less visible and we haven’t heard from or about him since. And with the assistance of an attorney, I created a new exhibition contract, twice as complicated, with all sorts of regulations and disclaimers.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!"

I bought an iPod nano over the weekend and I finally used it yesterday. I wanted to have music to listen to while I walked to and from work. But at the same time, I was worried that not being able to hear the city sounds around me would ruin the walking experience (and maybe result in me getting hit by a car). I know I probably sound really lame because people have been walking around with iPods (and before that walkmans) for years, but it’s a new thing for me. And I have to say, it was really fun.

I kind of felt like I was in a movie or TV show and I was listening to the soundtrack of my life. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was listening to my TV theme songs album (it's the only CD I had at my computer). “Welcome Back, Kotter” and “Laverne and Shirley” made me smile. And then it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t wearing a hat while I listened to the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”.

Side note: I walk exactly at the same pace as the theme song to Dallas.

So I enjoyed my iPod yesterday. Imogen Heap sponsored my walk home, which made the time fly by. I was home before I knew it. I was a little mad at myself for running late this morning because that meant I had to drive rather than walk. Which meant no iPod.

Speaking of yesterday, I finally cleaned my desk. I basically work in a fish bowl. My office is what used to be the ticket office for the Rio Grande Train Station, so everyone who walks through the lobby (now gallery) can see inside the windows that line my office. Since my workspace has been a mess, I’ve been keeping my blinds closed. Yesterday morning, I opened my blinds and went to work on my workspace. I cleaned out files, threw away old junk, rearranged all my books, binders, cards, DVDs, CDs, etc. I even broke out the 409 and industrial glass cleaner.

When I got back from our afternoon board meeting, I noticed that Fletcher, while arranging the walls for our next exhibit, pushed a wall right up to my windows. So now I can’t even see out my newly opened blinds, and no one can see my immaculate workspace from the windows. Oh well. I can see my immaculate workspace. That’s what’s important. Fletcher laughed at me this morning because I gave him a dirty look when he dumped some junk on my desk.

On to the next subject: the next exhibit. Yes, tomorrow night is Gallery Stroll! I have no idea what it’s going to look like because we’re nowhere near being ready. We’ve been waiting on the video artists to get all their stuff together. Hopefully we’ll get most of it done today.

This exhibit features Mark England, Jacqui Larsen, Amy Caron and Kaiti Slater. All four of these artists received a $10,000 Fellowship from the Utah Arts Council to prepare work for this show. I really like Mark and Jacqui’s work. I haven’t formed an opinion on Kaiti’s yet and Amy’s is video art, which I’m still learning to understand. Fortunately, there’s an article written on her in this month’s edition of 15 Bytes called Amy Caron: Theory of Mind. So if you want to read about her beforehand, please do. There’s also a little video clip of her work that you can watch. You can find the article here.

As always, it should be a good time. The artists are all really nice and of course we’ll have food. Any requests on the food? I’m probably going to Costco again. If you let me know by tomorrow, I’ll take your suggestions into consideration. I have my heart set on brownies though, ever since I took Clint's "What dessert are you?" test.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Poetry Out Loud

Thank you Blaine, Bradley, Heidi, Amanda, Grace, Jazzmin, Chelsea, Madison, Sarah, Marin, Stephanie and Lauren for making my job entertaining Friday night (I listed all those names from memory, isn't that impressive? Of course, that means I could have spelled your name wrong. Oops, I did. Sorry, Jazzmine). The drawings on the white board were done by the lovely Stephanie White from Jordan High School. These are some of the most responsible and respectful high schoolers I've ever met. You can bet that you'll see a lot of these kids winning more awards and accolades in the years to come. They're all bound for greatness.

This was my first Poetry Out Loud and I had a blast! It was the second annual here in Utah. I wish we had this when I was in high school. Not that I would have been brave enough to recite a poem in front of a huge crowd. You have to have a knack for drama. As soon as Blaine (the first contestant) stood up and recited "A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General" in a British accent, I knew I was in for a good time.

I have to say, I was glad that after the first round, the judges narrowed it down to six instead of four. I tried to pick who I thought would be in the final four, but it was really hard. Here's a picture of the judges deliberating over their difficult decisions.

I was in the "Green Room" most of the time with the students when they weren't onstage. Here is some video of them after the first round. I asked them how they think they did.

They started to stress too much about all the things they did wrong so I had them play some Pictionary on the board while we waited for the judges' decision. I wish I had a photo of one of the kids' rendition of a "hobo". It was pretty awesome.

I have to say, I predicted the final three. It was kind of funny, when the final three were announced after the second round, my brother (the videographer) and I were both in the back watching. As soon as Margaret said "Amanda Fujiki" Carter and I both made a little "yes" fist. I really wanted her to make it to the final round. I guess Carter did too. For some reason, the poem she recited in Round 2 had me captivated like none of the others. It was called "Scary Movies" by Kim Addonizio, and you can read it by clicking here. Of course it's not the same as having Amanda recite it. I was rooting for Madison too and of course Grace who could really command the stage (she's the one in the video who says she has the voice of a 34 year-old man). Amanda had a quieter presence, but there was something subtle and intriguing about her performances.

A blonde man stood in the back by me while we waited for the judges to announce the final three. He leaned over to me and asked who I thought was going to make it. I said it was really hard to say, but I really liked Amanda in the second round. He replied, "I'm glad you said that, because she's mine. Well, she's not my kid, she's my student." And when Margaret said, "Our state finalist is Amanda Fujiki" that guy was the proudest teacher I had ever seen. He had his hand over his mouth and kept repeating, "I can't believe it. I can't believe it." He was proud beyond belief. He kept thanking me for giving them this opportunity and how great this is for students to stimulate their interest in poetry.

Of course, I had very little to do with Friday night, but I loved my job that day. Congratulations Amanda! She's on the far right in the group photo at the top by the way. You really were great. You did Meridian School proud. Good luck in Washington, D.C.!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"On the next Studio 5"

Ever since 40 became the new 30, the trend around town is to create special programs and events geared for the unique culture that 20-40 year-olds demand. Especially when it comes to the arts. The arts community is scared to death that their audience is dying out, so they’ve hired some young, hip professionals to develop new audiences.

One of the first programs that popped up about a year ago was Vivace, sponsored by the Utah Symphony. “Vivace" means in a lively or vivacious manner. It’s actually wildly successful. They go to the same symphony performances as the 50-60 and 70 somethings, only Vivace has an after party and special program notes written by their 20-something coordinator. Sometimes they’ll have special late-night performances and lectures by the performers. They even have a myspace page.

Ballet West and RDT have started Studio D which is similar to Vivace – just a specialized group of younger people that get together to share their common interest in dance. It’s all free, but you have to fall in the younger age-range.

The Salt Lake Tribune, is even trying something. Hardly anyone reads the Trib anymore when you can read it online or pick up a City Weekly for free. So they came up with “IN” Utah. A poor attempt to cut into City Weekly’s audience. It has the same look, format and price. Only the writing is really bad.

So this brings me to KSL and their stab at being young and hip: “Studio 5”. I remember KSL's marketing director did a workshop for the Utah Arts Council and he talked about Studio 5 and how it's going to attract a younger audience to KSL. Someone should tell the execs most of the "young and hip" audience is at work at 11 AM and can't watch their show. Has anyone seen this? I have not, but I’ve seen the morning teasers all week. I want to know what kind of surveys or focus groups resulted in this morning show. And who did the hiring for their hosts?

I’m sure Brooke and Darin are very nice people, and they actually look all right in this picture, but they’re not exactly what I would call hip. The promos have Brooke’s hair all big and teased and every day this week they’ve put Darin in a girly sweater. Which brings me to the reason I even bring this up. I’m going to list the teasers from this week and you tell me why they even have a guy co-hosting this show:

Brooke: Make your own bath salts!
Darin: On the next Studio 5

Brooke: Home decorating tips!
Darin: On the next Studio 5

Brooke: How to host a girlfriend party!
Darin: On the next Studio 5

I'm not exaggerating. At least they have the girl saying the first line. Poor Darin. If KSL wanted to look younger, they’re failing miserably. This pair doesn’t look like 2007; they look like 1955. And if they wanted to talk about country crafts and slumber parties, all they needed to do was look to ABC’s Good Things Utah for ideas. Don’t even get me started on Good Things Utah. I don’t know how that show exists. They basically regurgitate everything that was covered on the national morning shows earlier in the day, only without the celebrity guests. The show's very name is a Martha Stewart ripoff. I remember watching it once and the brunette actually took out a newspaper and read the headlines. Well, I guess if no one is reading the Tribune anymore…

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Choose Something Like a Star"

I have nothing to say on my own really, so I think it’s time again for a poem by somebody else. Just like last month’s poem by Mary Queen of Scots, I first heard this poem as a song. I was at a fundraiser for the Utah Chamber Artists a couple years ago and Barlow Bradford (the artistic director) read it to us at a dinner before the concert at the Cathedral of the Madeline. I remember he cried at the end of the eleventh line. Barlow can be emotional like that.

I kept the program from the concert that night because I liked the poem so much. I don’t remember the melody of the song, which is strange. Usually for me, the music is more memorable than the lyrics. But I studied the poem over and over again. I even hung a star above my bed. I can be corny like that.

Choose Something Like a Star

by Robert Frost

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud --
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

Speaking of poetry…if anyone wants something different to do and free of charge, you should come to the Poetry Out Loud competition at Westminster College on Friday, March 9th. Ten students from ten high schools in Utah will each recite a 1-3 minute poem. There will be a panel of judges and the winner will be forwarded to Washington, D.C. for the national competition. Word has it these students really brought down the house at their schools during the finals, so I’m excited. Utah Arts Council staff will be working the event. I’m the “contestant handler”. I’ll be backstage and in the green room giving pep talks and making sure everyone walks in the right direction. It sounds like a documentary like “Spellbound” doesn’t it? Maybe someday it will be –my brother Carter will be filming the event.