hung up

Sunday night I was slated to go to Burlington to hang up my Mixed Media Assemblages for the First Friday Art Walk that takes place this coming Friday. I've decided to cast aside my fear of showing you all how incompetent I am and share with you how that all played out.

Let me start by sharing how my other few experiences in hanging art have gone. The first show I ever did was an Art Fair and I had a such and such sq. footage (like 5 x 12) to display. I borrowed some faux wall things to hang my work and brought a table. I didn't bring any lighting and was saved at the last minute by a worker who loaned me two clamp lights. All in all it looked fine considering the rural setting.

The next show was a huge art thing in Burlington and each artist was matched up with a business. I got a place where the owner said hang whatever you want wherever and even had a hammer for me to bang my own holes in the walls which is exactly what I did. That was easy enough.

I did that show again the next year but was matched elsewhere and this time things were not so good. They supplied the hanging material, which wasn't wire, but instead some stretchy strange string like material. My Puzzle Assemblages were large and on the heavy side and the guy helped Tod and I since we had no clue. The next morning one of my pieces had fallen (this was in a public building) and no one bothered with it, it lay there like a smashed toy. The art was hanging by this cheap stuff from way up high on pipes.

Then I did a show in NY last Winter and was told hammer away just patch the hole when you leave. That was easy too.

So, this latest gig, I wasn't told to bring any hanging supplies. As part of the First Friday thing the businesses don't take commission, they handle the mailing lists, and even some food and wine. Basically you bring the work and I've even heard they hang it for you or at least help you. I was told I would have help but at the last minute emailed that I should bring someone since she didn't we could hang it ourselves from those pipes. Tod and I haul the pieces there and then find out I'm responsible for the wire. The pipes were way up to the ceiling and I was supposed to string wire through them and have it hang all the way down to my work. I felt sick. This woman worked there, it was after hours, and I suddenly felt like an ass for not knowing I should bring wire and other hanging paraphernalia. She called her friend, who happened to be the last artist who showed there and begged him to bring some of the heavy gauged wire he had. He said he would. When he showed up I felt instantly idiotic. He was like ' do you have wire cutters?'...no. 'did you bring a leveler?'...uh, no. Next thing I know he is showing me how he cuts two wires about three feet each and was twisting them this way and that way on the back of my work making perfect hanging mechanisms. Then he was up on the ladder methodically reaching and getting the wires looped around the thin pipe and spending about 10 minutes getting it level with his little leveler and readjusting the wires. My neck hurt just looking up at him. I felt like an idiot. I was getting panicky, being trapped in this little stuffy clothing place with strangers. The woman would go outside to smoke and lock us in. She locked me and Tod in when we were waiting for the guy to show up. I wanted to just run screaming down the street.

Suffice to say, he realized we were incompetent. For $20 he was willing to hang up my work as long as Tod and I cut the wires in advance and got them onto the other pieces. Tod did that because my eyeballs were still twitching from observing the guy deftly finagling his tools around. I skittered around, placing my labels under the pieces and writing out the price list. They had itunes playing funky music and he brought his tiny little child, so we were all busy entertaining her and getting my work up. I have to say this guy saved my ass. He was calm and blind to my near wigging out. I don't do so well in public, let alone when I have to perform some feat that I am not really sure of.

My back started hurting and my head throbbing. One of Tod's fingers was bleeding, hopefully the art isn't marked with it. The girl who worked at the shop kept sighing and occasionally laying down on the sofa. I was mortified.

Friday is the opening thing. Basically people walk here and there according to the art map and look at the art. It helps if you know people and invite people. I don't know anyone, I'm not going to insist my few friends who live 40 or more mi. away come, so basically it will be me and tod and the girl who works there standing around looking at racks of clothes and seven pieces of art. I wonder why I am doing this. I'm already dreading having to go there and take that stuff down. It occurred to me last night how artists really have to stuff their heads with all kinds of knowledge and skills. I'm impressed with those artists who get out there and make big things happen for themselves.


Daphne said...

Hey Paula.

I didn't bring nails the first time I had to hang my own work. I hadn't wired anything either but it was easier because they were paintings. I think my husband had brought a hammer.

I hadn't written out prices or titles ahead of time. I didn't even know how to price it. I guessed. I undercharged for it all.

I now own wire, eye hooks, and know where the wire cutters are in the basement.

Pricing is still difficult and I would love it if people who are more experienced in this stuff would help clue me in. But THAT seems to be a no no. Maybe they're afraid that they'll insult me...

Bob Johnson said...

Paula, your stuff is awesome, thats all you need to know, believe it, good luck Friday. Having galleries in the mall I work at, I have a little experience, your stuff is priced right and would do well, shows are funny, sometimes you sell other times you don't, it all depends whether the right person comes along or not, but you probably know that already. I had my pics in one of the galleries and sold one of my solar pics to someone visiting from Africa, how cool is that, you just never know.

Penny said...

Fortunately I don't have to hang anything with my work, but I do insist on seeing the area where the work will be displayed ahead of time. Sometimes we, as artists, are so happy to have our art on display that we will accept anything -- I think we should stand up for ourselves and 'tell' the venue how our work will be displayed. That might (notice I say might) eliminate things like flimsy hangers that allow the art to end up on the floor. Being a book artist I won't display anywhere that doesn't have a/c (in the summer) or any place that is too damp. Why do we the artists end up feeling so incompetent and usually we're made to feel that way by people who aren't artists --just shopkeepers when you think about it!

self taught artist said...

daphne, funny the pricing thing is the easy part in comparrison!
bob, i love that you sold to that person! thanks for the good thoughts. (i'm still trying to comprehend galleries in malls...)
penny, i agree. i always check too, just never think far enough ahead to ask. i don't DIY much, thankfully, maybe that is why i never remember these things.
no one makes me feel incompetent moreso than my own self. whatever, it's a new experience and just makes me more thankful for the gallery i am in FT.

JAXTER said...

Hanging sucks - no which way around it - even when you are prepared. And they should have told you what the deal was - I am not sure how you are supposed to know what the hanging arrangement is if there is no communication. - That kind of stuff is what makes me hate showing/openings/talking to people... but it sounds like you have an angel hanging around to help you when you need it and that is good.

Shelby said...

I'm with jaxter- sounds like you did have an angel to help when needed..

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

What great artwork!!! It would be fun asking viewers what they are feeling as they gaze at your fantastic creations. :D Everyone would have a different take on it. That's the beauty of art.

Hugs, JJ