Just about a year ago, I was packing all my earthly show possessions into my car and preparing to head down to southern California for an art show- The Beverly Hills Art! Show, to be more precise. Fancy! Prestigious! I sure was thinking so, anyway.
I have been attending and showing at art and craft shows for over a decade, but when I applied to the BH show in December of 2018, I had never participated in a juried fine art exhibition, as opposed to a show that includes "crafts". I would be taking no jewelry, just paintings. 2-D Mixed Media pieces, to be specific. The fine art world gets pretty particular about what they consider to be a craft vs. fine art, which I learned when the La Quinta jury eviscerated my application for their show-another story for another time, but I digress!
I was truly shocked when I was accepted into the show in February 2019, because I was so green in Fine Art World. My juried photos with the gradient background (required!) were last minute, and the body of work that I submitted wasn't cohesive (v. important!) but not only was I accepted, I was selected as a Featured Artist in their Spring show theme, Garden Party. This "Feature" earned me a highlighted booth spot in their program that was distributed to the 40,000 show attendees, and they used my artwork in their press releases. I was contacted by Southwest Art magazine for a write up, and also received press in Los Angeles news publications ; it was a flurry of great feedback from people deemed important in the industry.
In May 2019 I trotted down to the 90210 with my prettiest pictures and sparkliest converse. My booth was filled to the brim with all of my works (learned my lesson there, don't worry!) and situated in Beverly Gardens Park on Rodeo Drive. The streets were blocked off for the artists to load in and out, and while we did, literal groups of Lamborghini's and Ferrari's sped by the blockades in driving packs of six or more. Surreal.
You can take the girl out of Humboldt, but you can't take the Humboldt out of the girl, and be careful when you put the girl on a strange planet.
Surreal is probably the best way to describe the entirety of the show, from my perspective. A lot of sincere and falsified monetary wealth paraded in and out of my booth that weekend, in addition to Bravo TV's cameras that filmed my art for part of one of their reality shows; The client was shopping for modern art for her new home, and perused the show. She didn't buy my work, and the art she did buy had to be "purchased" four times for the perfect dramatic TV effect.) A local news anchor used my booth to take selfies with about a dozen women who recognized him and wanted to meet him-He told me that my art was bright and sparkly and made a good background. Oh-kay. (I declined when he offered to let me selfie with him, too.)
While my booth was highlighted and mentioned in the programs, it was located at the end of the walkway that lead to the bathrooms, a typical first year spot. The bathroom spot was nice for me personally, not having to go very far-But not great for interested patron traffic. Those on the way to the john generally have more pressing business to attend to than art! I was also right next to the lily pond and a magnificent monster tree that a perfect picnic and selfie area, so I was the background subject for many a photo that day. I did sell a few pieces of my art, and met a couple of very genuine people who connected with my work and who I spoke with at length about why I paint what I do. One of the best things about shows as opposed to selling online is making a connection with someone, and understanding how your art impacts them, where it forges a bond between the two of you. During that 90210 weekend, I learned new lessons and was reminded of old ones, like that my art will always be too expensive and too cheap for someone-but never the person it's painted for, even if I don't know who they are. Valuing myself and my time is always important, and was especially crucial for grounding in a time when I was being haggled with by a woman who ended up making her art purchase with a Black American Express card.
During a weekend full of talking and networking with patrons, there wasn't a lot of time to visit with neighboring artists, but I made a few attempts to socialize on my walks around the grounds before the show opened each day. Again, my Humboldt-nature was apparent and illuminating while I said hello and handed out sincere compliments. Cold up and down looks, can't be bothered shrugs and straight snubs- I was reminded of my jewelry trade show days at convention centers, where if a vendor saw that you too had a vendor badge, you weren't even worth a smile or a hello, because you were there to sell and not shop.
Over the show, at least two dozen people chastised me for not having prints of my work, harshly enough that I started to forget why I didn't, and only felt bad about myself that I was losing potential customers. Until I remembered that I like to paint. I like to make original art. I like it so much that I prefer to do it all the time, as opposed to spending time doing the marketing and 'business' that goes into merchandising and making prints. I like it so much that I prefer to sell my originals for less that my contemporaries so that everyone can afford a piece of original art, and I don't have to fold myself into an origami shape of a business person I don't want to be.
Silly me for designing my own life.
I was invited back to participate this year, and while it was a heady compliment for a minute, I declined. As it happened, because of the global pandemic, the show has now been cancelled. In fact, all art shows around the nation have been canceled or put on hold indefinitely, waiting to see how guidelines will impact the gatherings of people in groups, with the potential of no shows for the rest of the year. I was supposed to be participating in two different shows this May locally that were both canceled, with no future dates planned. I'm incredibly grateful for the lessons I learned, crow I had to eat, press I received, mistakes I made and the connections I was given during the 2019 Spring Beverly Hills Art show. It shaped my career immeasurably by showing me the environment I wasn't interested in immersing myself in for the sake of "success", and reminded me that that the way to my goals was only going to be achieved by being authentically myself. It's been working just fine.