How To Get Into My Pants

Eight Years in the Studio, Work Pants, Acylic on cardboard, Old window, 2014, Stuart Sheldon
Eight Years in the Studio, Work Pants, Acylic and paper on cardboard, Old window, 2014, Stuart Sheldon

We all wear uniforms that hold our secrets. Your suit, scrubs, hardhat, sensible shoes, heels, sneakers define you in some subtle or overt way.

My painting clothes, the work pants and shirts ripped and spattered over a decade in the studio, bear all the marks and scars that define any artist: triumph, failure, magic, truth, dedication, doubt, sex, beauty, repulsion and perseverance.

Nice pants!

I just finished a piece for a show this weekend at Locust Projects, a venerable Miami art space focused on experimental work. I’ve been invited into this show for a number of years and take the honor quite seriously.

The pants were not my first idea for this exhibition. My original plan was a large sculpture made of Illy coffee cans I’ve been hoarding for years (much to Jodi’s chagrin). However, I’ve not yet cracked the code on how to best present these shining metal cylinders for maximum impact.  

Daddy needs coffee
Daddy needs lots of coffee

The pants were Plan B (though I’ve been thinking about how to exhibit my painting clothes for years).

Originally, I wanted to present each cherished article of work clothing separately behind glass in wooden box frames, creating elegant tension … but at $900 a frame, that was not happening.

Hanging from monofilament
Hanging from monofilament

Next, I thought to hang the pants from monofilament to create the illusion that they were standing up, as if inhabited by a ghost. That did not feel right either.  Too limp. 

Finally, as my deadline approached, with no better solution, I opted to simply tack the battered jeans to the wall of the gallery.

Tacked to the wall
Tacked to the wall

And so the show was hung, with my pants thrust against the wall like an invisible scarecrow. As I strolled the preview last week, I thought my piece looked good amidst a sea of compelling work. The following day, as I worked in my studio for another upcoming show, my phone rang.

The gallery director from Locust said, “I want to talk to you about your piece. Some people I’ve spoken with have commented that this work doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of work you’ve submitted in past years. Those works started conversations and really made you want to know more.”

A previous year's piece
A previous year’s piece

 

Another year - a crowd favorite
Another year – a crowd favorite. One vial contains my blood.

WHAT A BUZZKILL!

For two reasons (three if you count bruised ego):

1. In my mind, I was already done with that work and onto other big art and writing projects.
2. I did not have another piece teed up to fix this.

The gallerist made her case yet made no specific demands; she left the decision up to me. I hung up and thought hard about her frank assessment.

And goddammit if she wasn’t 100% right.

Fact is, the tacked-up piece was the result of my failure NOT my success in presenting this rich concept. 

When I told Jodi she said, “Yeah … I wasn’t going to say anything, but …” Jeeeez!

I called the director back and told her, “I like the pants. They have a deep narrative and I dig their aesthetic.” I explained how my original plans did not pan out. And asked how she thought the piece might be best presented.

She bounced the question back to me but not before saying basically, Don’t make it about the pants!

So often, we fail to recognize the essence of the thing we are staring at. 

Luckily, some geniuses have eyes that see further, wider and deeper than the rest of us. Moreover, they are able to activate the sight of others, gently yet precisely. That exceptionally capable gallerist did just that with her few courageous words. 

And old window meets a lonely painting
And old window meets a lonely painting

I shut my eyes … and when I reopened them I immediately dug through my studio and found an old window I’d been saving for the better part of a decade for just such a moment. And a painting I’d been stuck on for years. And together, these forlorn ingredients became a lovely new recipe, which in a few hours came hot out of the oven.

The piece with a different pair of pants
The Locust Projects piece with a different pair of pants.

“Now we are talkin’,” the gallerist said with a wink, when I showed her the revised work. It was all she needed to say.

Locust Smash & Grab 2014
Locust Smash & Grab 2014, Saturday, Oct 25, 6:30-9:30.

If you’re local, come to Locust Projects THIS SATURDAY NITE, Oct 25th. Auction starts promptly at 7:30pm. Tix $50.

Locust Projects 3852 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33127

I hope you’ll each get into my pants!

My Son Cinderella

 

Twitter exchange with one of my favorite authors last week:

Me: Last Halloween my 3yo boy rocked Cinderella. This yr its Batman. I kinda miss the gown.
Peggy Orenstein: A cape is sort of gown-esque, no?
Me: Cinderella would be stunning in a cape. Dunno if I want Batman saving me in a gown.

Peggy Orenstein’s most recent NYT best-seller, Cinderella Ate My Daughter delves into the “princess-mania” that has overtaken a new generation of little girls. Her magnificent memoir, Waiting for Daisy, captures much of the same subject matter and spirit of my upcoming book. 

Happy to say my latest hanging sculptural installation got loads of love at Locust Projects in Miami this past week.

 

Tell a Lie Enough It Becomes the Truth

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
                                                                                                                Mark Twain

 

Tell a Lie Enough It Becomes the Truth is the title of my newest hanging sculpture up now thru Oct 27th at Locust Projects in Miami. As the father of 2 young children, the notion of truth-telling is very relevant in my life. My kids do not yet lie, though my 4-yr old is beginning to play with facts. Sadly for him, his poker face sucks. He gets that from me. The idea of telling the truth at all times, some call it radical honesty, is fundamental to meaningful progress in a society, a household, a marriage. How does one make the hard choices without baseline facts? Yet, here we are swimming in a sewer of shameless falsehoods. Don’t get me started with the media. With my first book scheduled for release in 2013 (details in a later post), I should start referring to myself as New York Times bestselling author, Stuart Sheldon. The more I say it, the more you and the rest of the world will assume it to be true. It is, after all, who I intend to become. In fact, it is one of my greatest aspirations. Here’s the truth – You can help me achieve this.

The truth about publishing these days is size matters. Followers are currency and credibility. The larger my audience on day one, the more attention my book garners. So, right now, I need you to take 5-seconds and SUBSCRIBE in the top right corner of this page. Participate with me on the next phase of my journey as an artist. Indulge me. Please also follow me on Twitter. And share this and all my posts generously on FB and Twitter (see the buttons atop this post). Alright, enough shameless self promotion.

Here is what I look like when I am happy. Make me happy and subscribe right now!

Make art. Not war!
Stu

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