Sunday, June 25, 2017

On and On...

I have been working on the new studio for the last couple of weeks. Here are some more photos:

I have been cutting down a lot of weed trees and buckthorn that has been growing along the fence line and around the house. This is less than half the original pile. It took four trips to the compost site... and there is still more to cut down. 

The inside is messy, but coming along. 

This is where the bathroom sink used to be. After doing renovations and repairs on four houses, I've gotten pretty good with a hammer and pry bar. 

 This used to be the kitchen. Well, it never was much of a kitchen, just a sink a a couple of cabinets.

And the end result, all of the debris fitting neatly in a 10 yard dumpster. 

Now to removing the tub and pulling up the flooring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Controversy at My Latest Exhibit

I know that people are very passionate about their food. Food is a very personal aspect of what we say about ourselves. That is why I paint about food. Edibility, my current exhibit at Reverie Cafe and Bar is a collection of paintings that talk about what we eat and why it is considered food or not food. This can be a simple pun on the word "nuts" to a more complex relationship between cooked food, uncooked food, objects we ingest that are not considered food, and objects that obviously are not food but relate to the food in the painting in some fashion. I figured a restaurant with a vegan menu is a great place to discuss the qualities of food and what we eat.

One of the paintings is of a couple of rainbow trout on a plate, titled Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Other paintings, like the one below, include eggshells.

Sinkside Compost #3

One patron complained about the paintings in this manner: "I find some of the art offensive as a vegan, I do not want to eat somewhere that has pictures of fish on a plate, or egg shells, or any dead animal flesh, no matter what the reason, it's unpleasant to look at while eating, especially at a vegan restaurant. I will not be in until the art is taken down." 

Another had this complaint: "Thank you for taking down the fish, but many of your vegan supporters will likely not visit Reverie until the artwork is vegan (no eggshells)."

Another patron had this comment: "The important message is that animals should not be considered food in order to sustain life since that's in fact taking life away, which this artwork does not seem to convey."

I went out of town on vacation for ten days the day after hanging the show and was not immediately aware of the situation.  One of the owners removed the trout painting while defending the overall statement I am making with my art.  I appreciate that gesture, especially without being able to consult with me.

You Are Smart About These Things
Most people who visit Reverie Cafe and Bar are not vegans. I'm sure all the staff and ownership are not vegan. Some patrons don't care about the sourcing of the food and the work done to make sure the menu is vegan. Some just like the location and the taste and the music. But, the owners are passionate about food and have chosen to express that through this restaurant. They do a good job of it. They are also good business people who know a profitable niche when they see one. They also are not judgemental toward any patron because of their chosen diet. Vegans, like the owners and myself, are also passionate about food and its impact on the environment. They understand the negative impact of food choices and work hard to align their practice with their beliefs. If you are a vegan, congratulations, you are not consuming food blindly or willing to kill animals in order to survive.

We Are Merchants of Death
Yes, we do take away an animal's life when we eat it.  We also take away a plant's life when we eat it. When we die, and sometimes before, microscopic animals (or larger) eat us. There is life everywhere. There is death everywhere.  Simply because someone is a vegan, that does not mean they inflict less death - you just eat fewer mammals, birds and fish. If you want to suggest that plants are not as sentient as animals, I would protest that plants are sentient - we simply do not understand plant life as well as we do animal life. More studies are coming out about the sentient nature of plants. Sometimes vegans use their chosen lifestyle to deny the amount of death they are creating. I get that. I don't want to acknowledge the amount of death I create. Every time I drive my car I am adding to the global hell-hole that we are creating.  Every time I pull a weed, kill a weed tree in my yard, or trap a mouse in my house I am denying the power that is Life.  Every time I create or use anything - the mere act of translating raw materials into useful objects - is killing something. We are all merchants of death, even vegans. We cannot run from the death we create.

The Arctic Apple
Is the lack of animal products the only concern of vegans?  The painting Arctic Apple is hanging along the roadside wall of the restaurant. The Arctic Apple is the first FDA approved GMO apple for sale.  I find that painting more insidious and revolting than Rainbow Trout. The insidious part is that we cannot tell, visually, the difference between a GMO apple or a non-GMO apple. People are consuming these apples without knowing they are GMO.  These apples do not brown, so they are often used in situations where sliced apples have to be on display for extended periods of time. More research is coming out about the negative effects of GMO food. But again, you can't tell its a painting of a GMO food product by how it looks, so it doesn't receive complaints. 

Should Art About the Hard Issues of Food be on Display at a Vegan Restaurant?
That ultimately is the question.  Many of these works will be on display at Banfill-Locke Art Center in September where no one will complain about the rainbow trout or the egg shells. Although I hope many do, I doubt most people who visit Reverie dwell on the art work and its deeper meaning. In fact, the people who did complain about the paintings didn't bother to read the Artist's Statement that is posted on the same wall as the offensive pieces. They went to my website to find my statement about this body of work (thanks for visiting my website - I hope you looked at my botanical and landscape paintings and read the illustrated short stories in The Book of Bartholomew many of which are about a young man and his friends trying to figure out their own relationship with food). 

I do not look at food from the lens of a vegan.  If that is the only lens through which you wish to view art at a vegan restaurant, then I am not your artist. Although, I can safely say that many of the egg shells are from free-range and organic chickens raised by a co-worker in her yard.  I do not support or condone the mistreatment of animals and feel that the taking of a life in order for my survival should be acknowledged and not taken for granted - that goes for animals as well as plants. Although I come from a different perspective than a vegan, I am not unaware or precocious about the issues around food. I certainly am not an artist looking for controversy. Compared to the recent Walker dust-up, this ranks about a .001 on a scale of 10.  But I do have a valid and timely message about food to share. If you, as a viewer, are not able to see deeper into the work beyond your veganism, there is little I can do about it. If you are not able to appreciate the pieces that you do not find offensive, again, there is little I can do about it.  Although, I would hope that you are a grounded enough of a person to consider the entire body of work presented instead of being blinded by just a piece or two. In the end, I have a sensibility to share. I do not expect each viewer to share or even appreciate the sensibility that I am sharing. I hope that there are many who do and am happy to engage in discussion with them through my words and my art. I will be at Reverie Cafe and Bar on June 22 from 5pm - 8pm and again on July 25 if people would like to talk about the art and the issues it raises. 

After consulting with me, as a business decision, Reverie has determined to take down the offending pieces. I am fine with that. They are not an art gallery but a restaurant, they must do what they feel is best for their business.

I have learned much through these complaints and value this situation. Should this art be hanging in a vegan restaurant? I say yes. Others say no.  If I had walked out of every coffee shop that hung art that offended me I would be independently wealthy instead of ten pounds overweight.  Reverie Cafe and Bar is a good restaurant with a good staff and I think people should keep supporting it, no matter their thoughts on the art. But, that is for others to decide for themselves.