Monday, August 10, 2009

Turning the corner.

One never knows what’s lurking around a corner. Literally, at every turn, there exists the possibility of encountering a life altering experience. As humans, “meaning making machines,” our nature is to label and define these experiences, attempting to make sense out of them. Oftentimes, labels of good or bad are applied to such occurrences. In this, we tend to carry around a running tab of the good vs. the bad. Constantly weighing, falling short, we struggle to stay in the good zone.

Different than many, steering clear of such declarations, I reconcile my “corner turning” experiences as gifts and miracles from our Creator. Actually, I’ve come to expect these gifts of opportunities as a way of living. An integral part of my diet, I believe miracles have nutritional and life sustaining value. Speaking scientifically, there is an extra battery source stored way down deep within us, so deep that only a few people, doctors and scientists know of its existence. Recharging of this battery occurs only with the specific energy released amidst another miracle. Timing is everything. Consequently, few people ever experience the full affect of being plugged in.

In my reality, the words possibility and potential do not co-exist. Hear me out! I’m substantiating my use of the word miracle. Potential is based solely on an ability or capacity for something coming into being. For potential to exist, something else must first exist. Possibility requires nothing. My job here at Knapp is a result of possibility rather than potential, i.e. I met Barclay and Rebecca Knapp, owners of The Knapp Gallery, first as a carpenter in their home. Over time, conversation and golf, my position here in Old City was developed. I digress; this was not my intended destination. I have bigger fish to fry. I want to talk about a mind set and the power we appropriate with a change in perspective.

It can be as simple as “think it and it’s done.” My sister Lisa says I have the remarkable skill of thinking things into reality. To a degree she is correct; it’s a lot more than that. It may have begun when I was a child. Walking on a beach one day, I filled two pockets with smooth and colorful pebbles that I had found. Throughout the day I told everyone that would listen “these pebbles are going to turn into money.” I truly believed it. Later that night, I placed my pile of stones on my night stand and went to sleep. In the morning, I awoke to a pile of pennies, nickels and dimes. I ran through the house reminding everyone of my declaration. “I told you this was going to happen!” My brother Michael was livid. “He went out into the street and found a big ugly rock. Returning he said, “This rock is gonna turn into a dollar.” Needless to say, he was not successful in this endeavor. He lacked conviction.

Miracles can be remarkably personal and tailor made to the recipients needs. To these miracles, acts of intimacy, I ascribe greater value as they are demonstrative of the Creator’s love. Here is an account of one such miracle:

Liam Dean, a young red headed and energetic Philadelphian painter has been after me about going to see his art hanging at the Blink Gallery, a solid space about 8 blocks away. Liam had come here to the gallery a few times that week. We talked a lot about his work; we went online and looked at a few artists I was bringing on. He was excited about me seeing his work hang across the way. He had put in the shoe leather, I felt obliged to go. From what I had seen, he was aggressive, searching and “being” at the same time. He was hungry, talking about what it’s like out on Rittenhouse square trying to make something happen. This is what I hear and see down on 3rd. Street. At ground level, folk want in. And it’s already crowded in the pool. His show had come at a bad time for me. Work had been tough, with long hours. Sales had been few. I spent my days marketing: Offering a fair commission, I’ve been hard selling Private Art Dealers, Art Consultants and Interior Designers to buy from our inventory. On top of that, I was planning an upcoming event. I was tired -worn out.

Anyway, it is the end of the week, I’m exhausted wanting only to go home and sleep. Instead of taking the easy way out, I opt to make my way to Chestnut Street and climb the stairs to the Blink Gallery, Tor Chaikin’s fourth floor gallery space. Liam’s work hangs well, and I agree to purchase a piece titled “Underwater Cave;” a small piece for my own collection, a 24” square aggressive abstraction. I snack, talk a bit and head home. Down on the street I follow the sounds of a muted trumpet located at 3rd and Chestnut. I put some coins in the box and ask the musician to play me some Miles. I lean against the corner of the building close my eyes and get lost in the wafting notes. The trumpet stops and the guy says “I knew a guy looked just like you.” He blew a few more notes and paused, “his name was Karl” …few more notes, “he lived in Morristown, NJ. …few more notes “he had a girlfriend named Susan McDonald” ...notes “his father was a politician.” … How do you know me I blurted out? “Don’t you know me Karl, I’m Clint, you never forget the people that you love.”

Thirty-one years ago I did live in Morristown, NJ, my girlfriend was Susan McDonald, and to a degree, dad, a law Professor at Rutgers Law School, was involved in politics. Clint was a guy I met and knew through Susan. It is a miracle to me that in the middle of a Friday night in Philadelphia, on the busy corner of 3rd and Chestnut, a guy that I knew Thirty-one years earlier as a commercial “floor-Waxer” could pick me out of the crowd. And, I had hair back then. Back in Motown, Clint would sit under an over pass by the train station and blow his trumpet into the wee hours of the morning. The miracle of my meeting up with Clint is dramatically compounded in that just two weeks prior, I had told my son a story about Clint and his Clarke floor waxing machine. That wicked machine all but killed me one afternoon. Like in a cartoon gone bad, Clint’s Clarke dragged me around like I was a ragdoll puppet. Clint yelling from the distance just let go! Just let go! Eventually I did, leaving a wake of destruction.

Recently, I’ve had Clint come by and play at few events, including this past First Friday. On a different occasion, Clint played here during a live painting performance by Jon Eckel. .

All things are possible. Miracles keep it interesting. With great anticipation I go through my days turning over rocks, looking to see what treasures will be unveiled. I expect “out of the ordinary” to show up. I’m rarely disappointed. In this, I am well acquainted with success.

Without clearly defined parameters, measuring success can be a difficult thing. While success is already achieved by someone reading these words, know that I want so much more. I want remarkable and measurable change to occur within the Philadelphia Art Community. I want Philadelphia painters to make money on a painting. I want a greater acknowledgement of Philadelphia artists. I want the sustainable Philadelphia Art Community conversation to get much louder. I want the Philadelphia art scene to step into the light, out from the darkness of New York City’s shadow. I want the quality of Philadelphia art to climb higher and soar. Remember, I believe in miracles. Hey, I am all about the underdog. Truthfully, I do believe this to be a dynamic time. Considering the variables, I’m expecting dramatic things to occur.

It makes no sense. There is no money anywhere and Art schools continue to fill classes. “A” plus “B” does not equal “C.” and all that notwithstanding, young people are still enrolling in the art militia. With a promise of only “a hot and a cot” they still line up in droves to join the ranks. Economically, it seems impossible that we continue to create enough demand to support this level of supply.

Despite an unstable and slumbering economy, we continue to invest in a commodity with seemingly limited returns. Delving into art isn’t for the short distance runner. Faith and conviction are requisite in this religion. We are a peculiar people, those of us who are sustained by miracles. Based on present economic variables, strictly by the numbers, the Philadelphia Art Market struggles to survive with limited future growth potential. Thank goodness for the limitlessness of possibility. Hey, I know, it’s not enough just to count on the miracle, like Liam Dean, we have to apply the shoe leather principle, due diligence and self promote.

Oh, back to my pebble story. Much later on, I found out it was my mother that changed my pebbles for the coins. If my mom blessed me so wonderfully with coins, I believe for greater and more abundant things from my Creator. Now, I have a significant cache of remarkable paintings and I’m saying to everyone that will listen. These paintings are going to turn into relationships! One relationship and painting at a time.

Doug Webster, newest member of the Knapp Gallery Family has recently purchased “Red and Black” painted by Petros Pappalas. Petros is a young Philadelphia painter. I introduced Doug to Petros a while back when Petros first started the painting. Doug was smitten long before this painting was complete. Doug is a friend and an awesome guitarist. He loves art and is a modest collector, his collection including a few paintings by yours truly. I’ve known him for years. It was wonderful thing being able to fit him with the Pappalas painting.