Monday, August 19, 2013

interview with White Stone Gallery

I met Derek and Susan Hooks at the CIVA conference. They are owners of the White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When I saw that they were granting private portfolio consultations to attendees, I was the first to sign myself up. My research showed that these folks represented some very prestigious names, artists whose work I had long admired such as Makoto Fujimura, Bruce Herman, and others I am just now beginning to know.
Derek and Susan are conversant and familiar with the contemporary art world, a scene that I have virtually no introduction to. I read various art journals, and lots of blogs, puzzling to see where I might  fit in to the gallery world as it is now. Here is their press identity line: "White Stone Gallery represents contemporary content-driven fine art by artists who have drawn the attention of media including Art in America, ARTnews, Associated Press, International Herald Tribune, CNN, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and many others. In addition to the gallery's overall program, their Art & Faith program, specializing Christian content and now Judaic, has made them one of the leading commercial galleries in this genre."
Needless to say, their opinion and direction would mean a great deal to me. I prepared 10 digital images, knowing that I had a brief period of time to show them, make an impression and let them move on. They were already being most generous with this offer of portfolio time!

My concern was how I would present myself with a portfolio of flower paintings. I have not been taken seriously in encounters in the past when I show these large florals. most people they are just florals, nothing more. And flowers are loaded with preconceived prejudice! A subject that most art viewers don't "see". It is a subject such as  puppies, kittens, or babies. It has no more meaning than that. If it isn't your favorite flower or puppy, or baby, walk on by. The subject itself sucks up all possibility of meaning.
To my happy surprise, Derek and Susan immediately seemed to "get it". They did not dismiss my large flowers as just something decorative and pretty. I began to explain myself, defend my choice and reasons for exploring flowers not as a subject but as an expression of my devotion to God. The brief story I tell if I get a minute is this: "I began to paint flowers as my personal artistic expression after a Lenten silent retreat at a Catholic convent. A nun who provided me with spiritual direction counseled me to look beyond my very busy life and to use this art as my devotion to Christ."

That explanation doesn't tell even a fraction of my story but in our bit-phrase sound bite world, this is what we are expected to say, and no more than that. An interesting but brief summary that puts you-the-speaker into a convenient peg hole for the listener so that they can categorize and move on.

Derek and Susan Hooks were interested in more of the story however and urged me to keep in touch with them. They were very encouraging in their assessment of my work in terms of future gallery representation. They did stress that I need to paint a lot more, have a much bigger body of work and series to show.
The images scattered through this post are the ones I showed them They seemed most struck with the first two at the top of this page. The large red hibiscus square painting and the horizontal sunflower with the almost flat graphic red background. Those two seemed to carry a fine art sensibility that appealed to them. They used definitions like surrealistic to explain what they saw.
I heard from them soon after the conference was over and was invited to submit my work to a summer show that was soon to be launched right after they moved the gallery to a better location. Unfortunately those two prominently red paintings were sold and out of my possession so I submitted three others to the juried site. I will show the results in my next post.