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"Show Us Your Gnomes."

I know a woman who works at an uptown, blue-chip-type gallery in NYC. She tells the story of a major Abstract Expressionist artist--she won't say who--that for decades had been selling nonrepresentational paintings for the big bucks. One day he invited her to his studio and said, "You know, I have this body of work I rarely show anyone that I've been doing for a few years now. It's really different from my abstract work but I'd like for you to look at it and tell me if you think it has any potential." So the woman looks at it and at this point in the telling of her story she literally screams and says "Oh, my god, it was these GNOMES! These horrid cutesy drawings of little men! Etc Etc sarcasm abuse..."

I find this story really poignant and compelling. The gnomes are probably the guy's real art, what he actually feels and cares about. But his market is this fake art that may very well have emerged from a place of sincerity 40 years ago but now is just a simulacrum he's doomed to repeat because it's his "job." So he's stuck. By not revealing the gnomes sooner, and attempting to gather support among critics and fellow artists (say, by covertly sponsoring shows with portentous titles like "Unpacking Little Men: The Content Paradox"), they're forever his dirty secret, bringing him only ridicule from the guardians of uptown taste. As the dealer's scream implies, to loose them on the world now would be a devastating career ender.

This gave me the idea for a curated exhibition called "Show Us Your Gnomes." It would consist of work artists are hiding from the public because they find themselves locked into a "signature" style or sensibility. It would essentially be a free pass for them to exhibit their gnomes, or gnome-equivalents, before it's too late. Work they care about but find embarrassing that might actually turn out to be more important than their accepted work. Talk about a minefield. (Pictures accompanying this post found by searching "gnomes" under Google/Images. For illustrative purposes only. That top one's pretty good.)

UPDATE: Edited slightly to reorder sentences and remove a gratuitous classist swipe.

UPDATE 2: This is not an actual call for work, just an idea.

- tom moody 2-25-2004 12:59 am [link]