An artist prepares for an opening reception like most prepare for a job interview. It's necessary work and part of the job but once you get there can be a little uncomfortable. Especially for a show you've never been involved with before. I mean the over-arching concept behind the art show is twofold....1) to get your name out there and 2) to sell your work. Or at least to help the gallery sell your work. So after the paintings are dry and the last nail goes into the frame and the signing and gentle handling and delivering is done you put on your business and marketing hats and help the gallery promote the show. Especially since the Memorial Art Gallery marketing folks kindly used one of my paintings to promote the Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition on their website and then watched as this same painting was picked up by every local newspaper as well as their online counterparts for two or three weeks leading up to the event. So goal # 1) getting my name out there? Check!
At the opening reception there were a few road blocks but this was good news for the gallery as they had an enormous turn out (over 1,700 people!) which carried with it such a high energy level that you could feel the positive buzz running rampant throughout the buildings. But for some of the artists, especially those from out of town, it was difficult to introduce ourselves to other artists and do the usual meet and greet with the patrons and members and next to impossible to stand by your work and so you do the smart thing, relax and enjoy yourself! So after we had a chance to see the rest of the work in the show we soon made a bee line for the drinks table and went off to explore the rest of the gallery since it was my first time visiting this old and large expanse of quality architecture filled with an impressive collection of art. "Five centuries of world art," that is.
We were enjoying the wandering nature that the layout promotes and worked our way to the other end of the building and impressed to find a remarkably large, historic, theater-style ball room with cathedral ceilings made of wood, a band playing up on a grand old stage and below them people were actually... dancing! I was told this used to be the student union of the University of Rochester "back in the day" and that now it was part of the gallery and used to hold weddings and other grand functions. Amazing. Then I was pulled aside to meet someone - the Gallery Director, Grant Holcomb! I was impressed how he quickly connected my name to my art and he was trying to tell me something about one of my paintings yet the music was loud and I thought I heard the words sold and boat painting but I politely nodded my head, shook his hand and off he went. After which we quickly huddled and decided to head for the Gallery Store to see if we could learn if indeed any of my work had sold.
And yes, the Gallery Store was also crowded but the people were eagerly waiting to see the show price list and did seem to be in a buying mood. At first glance my two paintings were still on the wall and neither had the universal gallery sold sign: the red dot. Then I ran into the store manager, who I met the day I dropped off the work, and asked what Grant may have been referring to and she said yes, the small pink boat painting, "Race Point" sold! So goal # 2) to sell your work? Check! Check!
You can't ask for a better ending to an opening night. Great job and a big thanks to everyone involved at the Memorial Art Gallery. But now, and between us, you must know that I head home not with the after-glow of an art show opening but instead with the thought, "I just want and need to keep working and allow the paint to show me what's next." Brush On!
P.S. There was a wonderful example of a Fairfield Porter landscape at the gallery. As well as a number of great 20th Century American pieces including a Hoffman, Frankenthaler, Albers and others. If you are able to visit the "MAG," as the local Roc folks call it, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, here's a link to their site: Memorial Art Gallery - Rochester, NY