First Friday #19

Last night was First Friday for February at the Banana Factory and it was a very active night. It seems that the folks that run the show at the art center are finally making certain that the event is well attended. Both January and February’s events were both nicely packed and last night in particular saw some of the best crowds I’ve seen at any First Friday. I’ve been out of the studio for almost  two weeks now as my focus shifted to work at Muhlenberg College so it was nice to return to the Banana Factory with a nice turn out.

For this open house I decided to change my studio to showcase more of my older drawings while outside the studio I freshened up the walls leading up to the space with a mixture of old and new paintings. Last month a visitor who often comes to First Friday complained to me that artists don’t change the walls around the studios enough and that that was one of the reasons why crowds might have stopped coming so I though I’d do my part in changing that trend my changing thing up a bit.The crowds started early this time around with large groups roaming the halls 40 minutes before the opening. This has been happening more and more frequently which shows many of us with out pants down scurrying to set things up. I had a late lunch with Michelle Neifert so I didn’t finish hanging work in my studio until about ten minutes before the event was to start.

When I did finally open the doors one of my first visitors was Tyrone Webb. He told me about his divorce and child support proceedings which look like they’re finally and thankfully complete. I adore this man, he’s become a good friend to me and a great supporter. He told me a couple weeks back that he got a studio at the Cigar Factory – an arts space in Allentown that I had a space at for a month back in 2013. I’m very happy that he finally has a space though I wish the powers that be had allowed him to move in to the Banana with us.

Anyway Tyrone stayed for a good portion of the night and we talked about relationships and about teaching. I told him about the unique challenges of teaching at Muhlenberg, specifically how to bridge some cultural gaps with some of my foreign students and how to motivate them to draw and not trace or mimic others work. We also spoke about artwork pricing. Tyrone doesn’t feel that artwork should be more that about $500 for the area we live in given the economic condition of the the Lehigh Valley. I’d tend to agree, though it saddens me to see a work I’ve spent hours on go for a song because folks here in the valley are cheap. Apparently folks everywhere are cheap because Tyrone told me about how he recently read an article that talked about how Silicon Valley millionaires would rather buy cheap work rather than pricier pieces from named artists even if they could afford the richer work.

As people cycled in and out of my space Tyrone and his lovely daughter moved on and I continued my hosting duties. I noticed folks as they were coming in seemed to gravitate to the colorful drawings I had on display. I showed works from my 2011 series “The Lovers at the Temple” which for the past 5 years were packed away in a flat file. Here’s what they looked like in my space:

I observed that people seemed puzzled or intrigued about how the marks in the pieces were laid down. My super dense drawing method is meant to confuse a bit so I loved seeing folks step up and peer into the work

About an hour into the open house Hilary Harper, one of the administrators at the Banana Factory, came by my space with some studio-sitters which freed me up to take a walk around the building. As I have few occasions to leave my space on most First Fridays I took advantage of the sitters and for about an hour walked around the building. I visited the newest artist-in-residence at the Banana Factory, Katelyn Lau who was their with her mother and with Bethlehem House Gallery’s own Kate Hughes. Katelyn has a pristine space as we discussed the virtues of having either a working studio or what I call a storefront – a place to display works created  at a home studio. I choose a working studio approach for my space which seems increasingly rare with us artists at the Banana. Next I visited Erin Anderson and we talked all things Dubai with a ArtsQuest board member who recently traveled there on vacation. After that stopover I traveled down to the Compendium show in the Crayola Gallery on the first floor and then stopped next door to the Santa Bannon Gallery. Santa was exhibiting works by the artist Paul Harryn, whose works are colorful and delightful. They remind me of disintegrating Miro pieces. While in Santa place I met her granddaughter and we talked about our cats, and I showed her pictures of my cat Otis.

After about an hour I returned to my studio and talked with a group of Lehigh University students. I talked with them about some of the differences I see in the students at Muhlenberg verse Lehigh, since I’ve taught at both places. Lehigh is a shool dominated by fraternaties which color the social scene there making the mixture of students socially somewhat uncommon where as my Muhlenberg students seem much more willing to talk and hang out with eachother in and out of class. Anyway these Lehigh students seemed to be most interested in my painting Pilot #5 and in its story

The night ended in my space with a good conversation with Tim Higgins – a arts writer for The Morning Call – and my friend the artist Femi Johnson. We talked politics, the differences in each of our drawing styles and how we utilize our studio spaces. Later the artist Francis Beatty and her husband Michael came in and we briefly chatted about this mysterious show Francis is currently in in Easton Pa. So all in all it was a good night. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before but felt recharged and awake by the end of the evening. This revitalized First Friday seems to be a hit and I hope it continues. Now what we need is folks coming in to by some work! Here are some pic of what the studio looked like this time around:

For this First Friday I took a departure from playing mostly old school hip hop instrumental music and played some Deee-Lite instead – which is some of my favorite music lately, them and The Brand New Heavies. So here Deee-Lite’s “Call Me”

Okay that’s it for this post. Next I hope to finally have have my frame put together so I can start painting Pilot #6. Once thats done I’ll blog about it. Until then do be well!

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