January 13, 2013: In order to sell my buckeye/pinecone art once a month at the local Farmers' Market, I was told I must first apply for membership in ALPACA (Athens Local Professional Artists and Craftsmen Association). In the spirit of community entrepreneurship, I emailed the head guy and he told me to send in 5 photos of my work by midnight; the jury was meeting the very next day! What timing! What luck!
Then, 3 days later:
"The jury committee met and declined to offer you membership. Thank you for your interest."
The brutal civility of the message gave me pause, but it didn't bother me all that much, which I guess is one of the blessings of having no dopamine. I asked why my application was declined.
Here's the email:
I know that was hard to hear.
Your work is not complex. There doesn't seem to be a lot of thought needed to produce a piece.
Turning a bowl takes a year of drying, rough shaping, curing, final shaping then sanding and finishing.
Making fused glass objects requires the ability to cut accurately and to master the various techniques for operation of a kiln.
Jewelry is not just stringing a few beads. Our jewelers develop complex designs out of their various beads, mixing colors, textures and kinds of beads and intertwine the strands to make an even larger pattern.
Our fiber artists make original designs that are remarkable for their functionality as well as their workmanship.
I hope this encourages you to "up your game".
Exqueeze me? My work is not complex? There doesn't seem to be a lot of thought needed to produce a piece? How would you even know?
Not complex enough . . . I walked around for the next 2 weeks answering random questions like, "What's for dinner, mom?" or "What do you think about Syria?" with "Oh, it's not complex enough . . ."
Then I composed my answer:
Dear Bourgeoise Jury:
Fuck you and the aesthetic you rode in on. You know, it takes MANY years for those trees to grow, and then ONE year for those cones to form, and then to drop to the ground, and then many MORE years for me to develop enough phenomenological intentionality to even notice them, much less summon the energy to pick them up, tote them home, stare at them for awhile, and only then, appreciate their complexity. Did you know that the sweet gum balls are flowers, not seeds? And that there's an Arabic word in their Latin name?
Did you know that I employ a posse of 10-year-olds (child labor!) who roam the neighborhood (unsupervised!) looking for pinecones and buckeyes (unsanitary!)? I do temporary porch art designed to last however long it lasts. My stuff is not meant to be precious. Did you know that I use stolen paper clips (white collar crime!) to attach the different sections together so that people can add their own little complex touch: a sparkly purple cone here, an orange plastic snake there, or maybe a young girl's discarded Barbie head? Do you understand the symbolism of the black cone over Elmo's head? Is your semiotic plane of reference complex enough?
Because of the executive dysfunction typical of Parkinson's Disease, it often takes many hours -- sometimes days -- of sustained effort for me to make a decision about style, color, form, and (where the fuck are the scissors?). It can take me an hour to find the right S-ring, and then I'll change my mind 3 or 4 times about that, because it suddenly dawns on me that the cone in the windowsill is better, and the cat. I'm seriously engaged, and having tons o' fun, but sometimes at the end of the day, my workspace is cluttered and I am exhausted. All in the name of Art! What do you want me to do to "up my game"? Cut off my EAR?
(in my head)
(in my head)
And then the next day I lurched over to Whit's Cafe, where Nate Hayes, the manager, and no stranger to the arts, juried himself, pronounced that the cones were cool, and said I could display everything during the entire month of March! That's when the name hit me: Pinecones 4 Parkinson's! It was very well received and totally meant to be seen in a space like that [SEE ATHENS NEWS ARTICLE]. And I hope every one of those ALPACA people read it and wept.
By the way, this is the prelude to a video the Project will be publishing soon.