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Patronage

My cousin, Peggy Weis, had an art opening last Friday night at the Fairfield Arts Center. I’d watched her collect objects as we walked on the dirt road in Martha’s Vineyard last spring and some of these objects had been transformed into a “Road Kill” series and a “Portals” series. I asked her what she was collecting and she said, “fragments.” I wanted to help so she told me what to look for but I didn’t see what she saw so that was a useless exercise for both of us. But we kept on walking and talking about the creative process. Visual artists—their work and their statements about their work—always inspire me. Here’s Peggy’s (eloquent) statement about this show which is called “Back and Forth” :

“The art in this show reflects the movement Back and Forth of my ideas in concrete form—from one medium to another. From that, my creative process begins, deciding what format the work should take, be it work on paper, mixed media or sculpture. I am a walker and I frequently pick up objects while, at the same time, noticing the patterns of the cracks on the sidewalk or road. I have also experienced the deaths of friends and family members during the last few years and thoughts of life’s paths and portals to another realm started to preoccupy my work.”

Like writers, artists don’t sell a lot of work these days but that doesn’t mean they stop working. Peggy works all the time as do the two artists I talked to at the show who had stopped by to see the art but haven’t had a show in a very long time. Is this discouraging? Yes and no. Once back in the studio, they both agreed, the joy of creating new work and working the work takes over. Where the next meal is coming from is another matter; artists become easily lost in their process and find it difficult to surface into “reality.” Others, more commercially minded and self-promoting—Andy Warhol was quoted more than once that evening—find a way to make money from their art. Peggy, who has had numerous job jobs over the years, now has a patron—her husband—which makes her more fortunate than most, but doesn’t diminish her hard work or achievement.

The opening lasted for two hours and held a crowd. There were chocolate-dipped strawberries on the table, dips, crudities. Wine and sparkling water in blue bottles was served in the obligatory plastic cups. There were corporate sponsors in suits, the curator of the show, friends and family, board members of the Fairfield Arts Center. After a while, I wanted to pay attention to the art—a joint show with Roxanne Faber Savage—so I took one of the guide sheets and walked around slowly. A thirteen-year-old visiting from Cincinnati came with me. I tried to talk to her about the work but she was texting six friends back home all the time and had no language left for conversation with me much less description of what was in front of her. I thought this a terrible shame and also worrying. If we are never alone with our thoughts how can we experience art?

I talked to Peggy’s patron—her husband—for a while and we both said how happy we were that Peggy now has an opportunity to “do” her art full-time and is receiving well-deserved recognition from other artists. Artists have always supported one another with encouragement, suggestions, and attendance at openings. With or without financial aid, with or without sales, that’s the nature of real patronage: support, encouragement, suggestions, and admiration.
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