Friday, October 5, 2012

A Non-artist's Art Show

I have no illusions about what I do and who I am. I'm not an artist. I don't sit down at a blank canvas and make something from nothing. What I am is a finder of things, a rescuer of cast-offs, a person who can see potential and make things that already exist into much better things. I don't "create" so much as "assemble."

And I'm fine with that. 

I recognize that it's a gift not everyone has. Some people can't see beyond the dirt or scratches or broken pieces. My eyes, for whatever reason, see what could be. I love bringing pieces back to life or putting components together in interesting ways.

But that doesn't mean I think I'm an artist. So when I was asked to take part in an art show -- even a church art show -- it made me nervous. Still, I was in a bit of a rut and really needed a challenge to get me through the sweltering southern summer. Before I had time to think too much, I accepted and set to work gathering pieces that I could rescue and redo. 

After several months of collecting at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales and my own personal stash, I ended up with 15 pieces total -- a combination of distressed mirrors, repurposed chairs, old trim pieces, frames and wooden drawers -- all painted, sanded, glazed and messed with in a variety of ways. 

It felt good to know that I could actually finish that many pieces at once, but that didn't mean anyone would like them. Sleep-deprived and worried, I loaded my car and headed the few miles over to The Village Chapel, my church home, which meets in a cool old convent. I'd be sharing space in our gallery room (aka The Living Room) with my longtime friend Kim Thomas, who IS a real artist. She had done a series of abstracts for this show, and I wasn't sure how my crazy creations would mesh with her very adult artwork. 

Even through our bleary eyes, we could see that our pieces complemented each other in a way that made it seem like there was some advance planning on our part, which there wasn't. That hurdle overcome, we set about figuring out how to best display everything. It took the better part of the day, a few Chipotle burritos and several of my beloved McDonald's fountain Cokes to get everything hung (full disclosure: I mostly just supervised and made Coke runs while the talented Elizabeth Foster did her thing). In the end, it looked like this:

It actually looks like a gallery, doesn't it? I was as surprised as anyone, not that I don't have pieces that I'm proud of. I think my favorites (aside from the NYC mirror above) are these three chairs. We hung them with little wooden pulleys I found during a recent flea market outing, and I have to say they actually look like art! 

Here's a before picture of the chairs, so you can see how far they've come: 

The next day, we had a reception after each service and people said nice things and even bought a piece or two. Everything will remain on display through November, at which point I'll bring it home and the unsold pieces will migrate to my antique booth at Tennessee Antique Mall. 

I still feel a little uneasy about the whole thing, like I'm masquerading as something I'm not, but if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess art can be too.