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June 21, 2010

The Tale of Two Art Events

It's interesting to go to two events on island and experience such a different tone. On Friday night I went to ArtCraft Mahon Hall and then ArtSpring to take in the opening night of the Masterpiece weekend. Essentially, each Salt Spring gallery picks an artist or two and they create one very special piece for the exhibit.

John Bateman's kids were playing on his work. A big round rusted metal ring with two drum sticks attached that his kids were beating from each side. It was loud and fun.
There is some beautiful work at Mahon Hall and at ArtSpring. As always, amazingly talented individuals; their souls on display. I didn't study it. I didn't have to write about it and when I don't have to write something, I tend to just do a cursory glance at those openings and then go back when it's empty to really have a good look at the pieces.

But, this post  isn't about the art. It's about ways of being. I've had the experience a fair amount here on Salt Spring of having written about someone - which means spent time with them in person talking to them, sometimes in their homes for more than an hour and yet, when I see them on the street, I could be looking right at them and I don't get a smile or a hello.

Is it that I'm a female nearing 50 and therefore unmemorable? Is it that they are snobs? Is it that they hated what I wrote? Or, is it that they are incredibly insecure? Which is it?  Because, none of them are very good reasons in the end.  And, I'm not the only person who has said this. The lady beside me last night mentioned the same thing. She went to the opening of Gallery 8 and was meeting someone there who didn't show. "Not a single person spoke to me," she said. "They looked at me. They gave me that look - up and down - and they went back to their conversations." She was dressed stylishly, she's relatively new to the island and she just wants to be social. C'mon people. If you're going to put your art on display, how about putting your manners on display as well.

And, now, to be fair, it could be that they don't recognize me or that they're thinking the same about me except the difference is, if you approach me on the street or anywhere else, and I recognize you, I normally am open enough - unless I'm totally lost in thought - to acknowledge you if I want to or if I recognize you. But, then again, I don't paint, dahling! And, yes, I could approach them and say Hello, if they'd let me. But, there's something about these people that make it almost impossible to acknowledge them in these venues. I can't explain it. It's like they don't want you to talk to them.

Contrast that with Mona Fertig's events related to her publishing venture Mother Tonge Publishing. I really like Mona because she's open, she's friendly, she's genuine and most of all I admire her because she did something that nobody thought was a good idea and she didn't care because it mattered to her. She decided to do it anyway and now, less than two years after saying she was going to do it, she's done it. Bravo!

Less than two years ago in Aqua, I wrote about her grand scheme to publish some non-fiction books about the "Unheralded Artists of B.C." including her own father - George Fertig - and now she has done it. The books  are really interesting and they add an additional layer to B.C. Art history that wasn't there previously. Financially, I have no doubt that it wasn't a good decision, but I'm sure that personally, and as a tribute to some of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of artists in B.C. who toiled in the 30s, 40s and 50s, with creativity and talent never recognized, it has been an unqualified success if we must label it that way at all.

Last night she held an evening on Salt Spring as part of a series of launches. This one was dedicated to her father, George Fertig. A retrospective of his work, that she organized, is now taking place at the Burnaby Art Gallery to July 11th. She said it took her 14 years - with the silences in between of raising two kids - to do the research on her father's past and connections to make this happen. She spent a lot of time in the Vancouver Archives and came across some amazing finds including an invitation to one of his shows that had hung in their house when she was growing up. She had forgotten all about it until she uncovered it in a plastic folder hidden away in the archives.  The Burnaby Art Gallery had two of his paintings hidden away in the basement. She doesn't know how they got there but they were there, in the basement, the frames almost crumbling in her hands.

When you go to one of Mona's events, everyone is welcome. There's no snobbery there and I haven't heard her say things to me about others, that I've heard some other people say who, for example, think just because their poetry has been published that they now have the right to be the critic of all poets. I can't stand that. For me, all that matters is that people are trying to engage in some form of creativity. Yes, some people have passion and talent and some people just have the passion. Some people's work resonates and is exquisite and is commonly accepted to be of a quality that is easy to agree on. But who cares. Really. Because, when it comes to creativity, it really is about the journey. Ask J.K. Rowling. I don't think she'd say it's about the fact that she's famous and rich. Not that that isn't fabulous as well. Fame can never trump the creative process.

It seems to me that the signs of a true professional (with grace) are to acknowledge those who are farther behind you on the path. I think Mona does that really well.

Is there someone you've met recently whom you really admire? Pass your admiration forward. You can even do it here by leaving a comment!

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