June 23, 2009

Smack Mellon relying on young painters for fundraising?

Julian Kreimer, "Barred Arcade," oil on linen, 13 x 13 inches.

To raise money for Smack Mellon, artists Kristopher Benedict, David Goodman, Julian Kreimer, Andy Lane, Amy Lincoln, Rebecca Litt, Jason Mones and Helena Wurzel have agreed to paint portraits for an evening at Michael Steinberg Fine Art. According to the invitation, each sitting will last about 30 minutes, and by the end of the evening the paintings, which cost $250 each, will be packed and ready to go. "Eight contemporary artists, all graduates of noted MFA programs, will paint the subject of your choice from life."

Don't get me wrong, I love Smack Mellon as much as the next guy, but isn't it a little ironic for an organization that cleaves toward site specific installations, and has little interest in contemporary painting, to rely on painters for fundraising? Please, tell me I'm wrong.

UPDATE: Here's a note I just received from Andrea Reynosa, Smack Mellon's founder:

I appreciate your Twitter comment that was forwarded to me by Christina Ray at Glowlab….as the founder of Smack Mellon, I have the honor of bringing it to your attention that Smack Mellon was allowed to thrive in the early years due to two well established feminist painters, Harmony Hammond and Joan Snyder respectively. If it hadn’t been for their gifted work and valuable support, we would not have been able to keep our dedicated space back in the late 90s from a skeptical benefactor yet eager developer, David Walentas…Harmony nor Joan were young painters but I’m sure great mentors, nonetheless, of the young painters that are trying to help support our what used to be a shoe string non-profit stay alive in hard times….
Andrea is missing my point. Asking young painters for help and support in dire financial times, and then giving nothing (i.e. few opportunities for shows or studio space) in return, is at best insensitive and unfair. I urge Smack Mellon to consider opening up their exhibition/studio programs to include more opportunities for painters.

8 comments:

Christina needs to explain it to Andrea again.

Hey there Sharon,

I appreciate your sincere interest in not seeing emerging painters be exploited.

Just so its clear, Michael Steinberg who shows a ton of painters, organized the event. Since he is on the board of Smack Mellon he generously decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Smack Mellon, a non profit that has been affected by the recession and that has supported emerging artists for over a decade. Also the emerging artists that are doing the paintings are getting HALF of the $250 so I dont think they feel like they are being taken advantage of.

We have shown many painters and have had painters in the studio program every year. Our space (especially our 24 foot high wall) is unique and doesnt lend itself particularly well to the average sized painting. Maybe we dont show as much painting as you would like but we definitely do provide opportunities for painters.


Best,
Suzanne Kim
Director of Exhibitions
Smack Mellon

Sharon, AMEN.

What on earth is an 'average sized painting'? Often painters need residencies so that they can paint as big as they'd like to; a 24 foot high wall doesn't seem an obstacle to that, nor would any worthwhile painting be intimidated or overshadowed by such a wall, even if it were only three inches square.

When I've visited the Smack Mellon studio residency exhibitions, it's hard to escape the observation that the studios aren't often being used as studios--i.e., places where painters can work their craft without making toxic messes in their own homes--but rather where people who don't really NEED studios--i.e., artists who work with computers, or statistics, or textiles, or video, or who put staples in the walls in textured patterns--get exhibition space, and a resume boost, and a chance to fulfill some committee's political agenda.

The problem isn't that there are NO painters at Smack Mellon (a painter every season? How radical!) but that the proportion of residency recipients is enormously skewed toward non-painters, even though there are vastly more painters out there than, say, statisticians. That would seem to indicate a strong anti-painter bias on the part of the institution.

Do the statistics.

So each painter is getting half of $250, or $125 for a portrait. That's less than my average sale per painting on Etsy, the online 'handmade' retailer.

This is why so many artists refuse the gallery system.

Q: Why don't they hold a conceptual art benefit where for $250 you could go home with a concept?
A: Cuz aint nobody buying that.

Hi, I am one of the painters in the show. Just to make a correction: We only received $100 for each portrait. This information was delivered to us at the end of the night. And, like it was said earlier, this was paid in full by Michael Steinberg.
One other thing: I wouldn't blame Smack Mellon for using "painters" as fund raisers. If you pay attention to the current trends, painting has maintained a steady influence and there is no need for Smack Mellon to feel like they are turning their heads on undeserved attention. I hope we are at a point in the contemporary art scene (21st century), where all mediums are considered to have equal tooth. It's mainly what the artist does with that material. True that nobody has even glanced at my work yet, but there are millions of artists out there struggling to get attention-whether they use toothpaste and scanners, or oil paint.
best,

Jason Mones

ok, getting back to art or Art, ie. painting et al., we should remember that Smack Mellon is a product of the efforts of grass roots development on a level that doesn't exist in Dumbo today. Ten years ago, we rolled up our sleeves, with no budget but tons of sweat equity, and created a very amazing institution without any money at all in our pockets but the sheer will of the collective spirit of artists in mind...let's not forget that, please!

sincerely,

Andrea Reynosa
Sculptor/Farmer/Curator
www.skydogprojects.com

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