Friday, June 19, 2009

Glass Groupie

Maker's Mark on the rocks, karaoke at the Cheerful Tortoise for my music. As amazing as it may seem, this is my first exposure to live karaoke (I say "live" as opposed to the karaoke in, say, the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding"). I am almost ready to get up and sing. Is that sad? Is it sad to be alone in a pub/bar having a bite, imbibing a wee drop, and finally finishing the post of the day alone? Nah. I was a glass groupie earlier, chatting with Clifford Rainey, Howard Ben Tré and his wife Wendy, Janet Koplos, and Chick Butcher in the Hotel Modera bar. It's a far cry from the way I began the day...


Nothing to drink, the hum of the dorm room refrigerator and the tapping of the laptop keyboard for music. I have just under an hour to fully wake up, answer the east coast emails, and get dressed and off to meet friends for breakfast before BECon Day 2. I meant to post first thing this morning, but I got sidetracked by the loss of my camera (left at the Bullseye Gallery last night during the opening reception after three lovely mango, pomegranate mojitos). The camera has been found and will be back in my possession in time to put a pic from the reception up in this post. In the meantime, Haunt Rama (shown at left) has very kindly lent me his Nikon digital SLR to keep up my photographic essay of BECon 2009. Unfortunately he has also inadvertently shown me in graphic detail just how much I have forgotten about SLR cameras in the past 30 years--every one of the pictures I shot with it this morning came out a bit out of focus.

The conference so far (the morning sessions of the first full day are over), confirms my initial intuition that whoever put the presenter schedule together is a master of Machiavellian manipulation with a keen understanding of human attention thresholds. Either that or (s)he is the beneficiary of serendipitous karma as the roster so far has been great. In the interest of a manageable post, I am just going to cover yesterday here--today will be covered in tomorrow morning's post.

Yesterday afternoon at 2:00 pm Lani McGregor opened the conference with a calm and moderate presentation of the Bullseye staff, warm welcomes to the attendees and presenters, and no indication of the provocative personalities and viewpoints to follow. After the BECon intros, there were only two presentations before the opening reception at the gallery. But quantity is not everything as the size of the presenter's personalities would have rendered any additional presentations ineffectual--there's only so much free-spirited drama one can absorb in a sitting.

The first presentation--educator, kilncaster and artist Richard Whitely of the Canberra School of Art interviewing artist, kilncaster, and educator Clifford Rainey (currently of the California College of the Arts), was a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of an artist who came of age in the 60's, and who has freely created, partied and lived ever since. Neither his appearance nor his persona indicate that he is in his sixties. But his no-prisoners approach in communicating his views on art, contemporary art, his art and his life leave no doubt that he is a man who has done it all--what he wanted, when he wanted, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. The presentation was a perfect, voyeuristic slice into the life of an artist--warts and all. It sucked us all (especially the women in the audience) in with the photo of the young, bare-chested artist and his friends on holiday in Greece shown right up on the big screen, equal in importance and weight with the photos of his oeuvre. I just wish I had a copy of the photo from Greece to include here...

After Clifford and Richard, with barely enough time to pause for technical changeover in the presentation, we were treated to Janet Koplos and the keynote address for the conference. She propounded great, idiosyncratic views on the evolution of modern art glass and it's shortcomings. She lamented the intense focus on "art" rather than on decorative art or studio craft that she believes obsesses the majority of the people working in glass. And she finished with a long, forceful discourse covering examples of current glass work that she finds artistically good or that she believes rely too much on the intrinsic characteristics of glass as a medium to create interest and attraction in the audience. The entire presentation was unabashedly refreshing and rich. She ended up with a resounding comment that she would NOT be taking questions. I thought she was wonderful.

Much as I loved it, her presentation was a valuable reminder to me that we can all hear the same thing, but we hear what we want to hear. While other people I spoke to at the reception later that evening took exception to her valuation of some work paired with her casual dismissal of other work, I was completely focused on the the first quarter of her presentation. When it came right down to it, I really didn't care if she presented a potential contradiction with her critical evaluation of one artist's work as "heavy" and her warm approbation of another, purportedly similar, artist's work. Not knowing much of anything about any of the work presented and critiqued, I really couldn't work up the enthusiasm to decide if she was consistent or logical in her tastes. What mattered to me was that she put craft and the craftsperson on a par with art and the artist. As a studio artist/craftsperson dedicated to creating a high volume of aesthetic, balanced, visually appealing and tactile work accessible to the masses in terms of both price and volume (and devoid of "meaning"), I was *thrilled* to hear an educated member of the art community espousing the virtues of the contemporary "craft" scene. And I made sure to tell her so.

After the great opening day, we all went to the Bullseye gallery for the opening reception. Yummy food, incredible conversation, the "Bam" game, and little to-go boxes replete with salmon, noodles and vegetables and complete with chopsticks--what more could one want? A pic from the reception shown above.

Tomorrow: Day 2, cricket on the tennis court, and the maiden, the mother and the crone--the unintentional and yet powerful artistic message from this year's BECon. I am sure there are typos, grammatical inconsistencies, and faux pas in this post, but right now I just want to get it up and am too tired to care anymore about mistakes. Tomorrow will be soon enough to fix them.


Licha Ochoa Nicholson said...

Hi Brenda, I'm so glad you're having a wonderful time @ BeCon! Is this your 1st BeCon? You will surely walk away from the conference feeling so pumped, inspired and full of respect for your fellow artisans! The few BeCon conferences I attended left me in awe!


Anonymous said...

My experience decades ago of Clifford was that he was a pompous sexist ass. Other than that, no opinion.


Bill said...

My sister is one of those artists who denigrates "craft" versus "art", so I'm with you there. Oh, and when she emotes on the subject, I find her pompous and trite.