I started an Art Movement. Seriously.
I was bored and I decided that what we needed was a good, old fashion Art Movement. Having never started one I knew that I was going to have to do some research but I hate research and I’m about as patient as a hummingbird on speed so I dove right in.
The first problem was that I’m not very good at painting but I felt that painting was traditional enough to actually work so it would have to do. When I was in High School, I painted a picture of Jim Carrey and it turned out to look exactly like Billy Crystal.
Portraits were not going to be the avenue of approach. Landscapes weren’t a strong point either. If you asked me to paint a “happy little tree” it would probably end up looking like a carrot stuck to a horizontal line or Billy Crystal. Who knows.
I didn’t want to cop out and use the term “Abstract” either. It sounded too much like I couldn’t paint. Maybe I can’t paint but I love the feeling of covering the canvas with paint and I hoped that it would be enough.
I decided on dadaism. It was a lot of fun and it didn’t take 2 years of Art School for me to do. Plus, the whole concept of dada fit pretty well with my reasoning for starting an Art Movement.
At the time, I was living in Eugene, Oregon, a perfect place for a new Movement; they eat them up over there like it was Pez. I painted a few Neo-Dadaistic paintings and showed them to a friend of mine who went to college. They passed his thorough, if not slightly drunken, inspection.
The bar, across the street from my apartment, is known for showing local artists in an environment that lures the faux artsy types. With their turtle necks and red wine, they sit for hours critiquing the displays and take the occasional break to smoke some of Hombolt County’s Finest. I thought that this would work to my advantage.
I talked to Bartender Dave and he said that he would put my stuff up but that dadaism had already came and went and came and went again so it wasn’t really “neo” anymore. He said I should call it “Neo-Retro-Dadaism”; kind of a redo of a redo. I wondered if two hyphens is the limit on something like this before you have to come up with your own name. He said he didn’t know but that three would be embarrassing.
Normally the bar takes 50% of whatever sells but, since it was me, they would only take 30%. They did this because either a) I single-handedly keep them out of Irish whiskey or 2) they didn’t think anything would sell.
“Do you have enough to fill the walls,” asked Bartender Dave.
“Of course,” I lied and went home to paint.
With enough neo-retro-dada paintings to fill the bar, I could relax for a while and start concocting the other elements to a successful Art Movement. I didn’t know what they would be – I was winging it, at this point.
I needed a few believers.
My smart friend (the one who went to college) lived just down the street so I paid him another visit. His name is Neighbor Nik.
“So you need me to explain to the masses,” Neighbor Nik asked.
“Yes,” I explained, “I can’t be the one to do it, I’m the artist. I need someone else to be there as like a disciple or whatever.”
He’s the grad student.
“Grad student yes, but I majored in American History,” Neighbor Nik argued, distracted by the hockey game.
Neighbor Nik agreed but I had to buy him drinks the night of the show (if you can call it that).
My roommate said that he’d believe but I had to pay the electric bill and do the dishes. Damn sneaky friends aren’t really believers at this point but willing to talk the talk which is good enough for now. I convinced a few other people to follow me including a British regular at the bar. I figured a Brit would help it sound convincing and possibly give it an international edge.
This was really the only underhanded thing that I did. I had several clients from the bank I worked at, who had the clout to help me with this Movement - namely money. I convinced a few of them to buy the paintings and I would pay them back. They get the first few neo-retro-dada paintings and they don’t have to spend a dime. Most of these people have learned to take me with a grain of salt so they half-heartedly agree.
“What have you got to lose, you rich bastard?” I wished I had left the last part out.
“It just seems dumb.”
“It’s anything but dumb, you rich bastard.” Again, I wished I had left the last part out but, seriously, I'm the visionary here.
They all agreed so I recycled some cans and donated some plasma so that I would have some scratch to pay these rich bastards.
This time, it wasn’t out loud so I didn’t feel bad.
Night One of Neo-Retro-Dadaism:
I wasn’t nervous because I already had buyers and my believers were going to be showing up sporadically so as not to attract too much attention. Knowing that Neighbor Nik was going to be drinking top shelf liquor and that it was probably appropriate to buy a drink for a Rich Bastard after they purchased a fine piece of art, I went to donate some more plasma and used the money to buy a lottery ticket.
I did not win and felt a little light-headed.
As luck would have it, there were a lot of posh folks at the show. The most important to my cause were a few winery owners. They always show art in the tasting rooms and you’re almost guaranteed to sell something. These might even be people that I wouldn’t have to pay back.
Rich people that weren’t bastards.
Everything went off without so much as a hitch and the bar was surprised by the success of such an edgy show. I was given my cut and a whiskey on the house. They asked if I wanted to do another show at another time. I told them to call me and left so that I could pay back the rich bastards.
So far so good.
Continuing the Movement:
I asked one of the winery owners if they’d be interested in any of my work. I had a hard time keeping a straight face when I referred to my paintings as “work” but I don’t think anyone noticed. He bit and said that his wife loved this sort of thing.
“Show” number two was already on it’s way.
“How many do you have,” Mr. Winery asked, “Will there be enough to fill the walls?”
“Of course,” I lied and went home to paint some more.
This being my first Art Movement, I wondered if I was allowed to recruit. Not being one for research, again I dove right in. I went to the U of O which is in town and found the art building. It was easy because there were a bunch of drama-looking kids out front smoking cloves and every one of them had large portfolio bags under their arms.
I should have bought one of those things, it would have given me some street cred here.
“Are you lost,” asked one of the art students.
Apparently, my attire was not that of a serious artist. Maybe I should have worn a beret. I could’ve at least brought some paintbrushes along like I had just finished a “piece” as they called them here.
“I don’t have any change so just move along.”
Rough crowd. They thought I was panhandling.
Eventually I was able to talk to a few of them but they all thought that my idea was asinine.
“You don’t recruit for an Art Movement,” one of them offered.
Live and learn.
Night Two of Neo-Retro-Dadaism:
I wasn’t able to make the drive down to the vineyards. It was way the hell out in the boondocks so I went to the bar and told them of my show. Bartender Dave offered some advice.
“You don’t look like the kind of guy that would start a movement.”
Therein lies my strength.
“Maybe you should be more eccentric”
It was an interesting point and I decided to adopt some eccentricities to liven the movement up a bit. That night, when I got home from the bar, I had a message. It was from the vineyard, saying that I had sold two paintings at full price. Interesting, to say the least. I wasn’t about to quit my job and move to Southeast France leaving behind an ear or anything but it was showing a lot of promise.
I got online and typed “eccentricities” into a search engine and got a slew of crap. That wasn’t going to work. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to come up with any on my own, with all the plasma donations I was feeling a little sluggish. I didn’t want to be creative, not right in the middle of this Art Movement.
As it turned out, I made over $200 at the vineyard show and I didn’t have to pay anyone back which was a nice break from the plasma donating. I decided to take a break and see if anything new arose.
Nothing new arose.
Taking the Movement on the Road:
I moved to Denver. This was not really a part of the neo-retro-dada movement but it still happened. I had been in Eugene for long enough and a buddy of mine, that I knew from Chicago had bought a house out there and wanted me to help him with the mortgage payments. It sounded like a good idea.
“Move out here,” Sam recommended.
“Okay,” I replied after dinner one evening.
And that’s how I ended up taking the Movement to a new location. I’ve been out here for about two months now and I just finished a few paintings. Since I don’t know any place to show them they are hanging in my room with the hope that, one day, an artsy person will visit and ask about them.