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ART SCAM, The beginning, a deep sea

IN A VAST, DEEP SEA.

POST IMAGE: “Say What?!…” Selfie 2020 
OUTFIT: Nirvana “Nevermind” Graphic Shirt, vintage, cut by JWJ
ACCESSORIES: Black Magnetic Ear Plugs

As an artist navigating the internet in 2020 and beyond, I feel like a plane crash survivor alone in the vast expanse of what feels like the universe between myself and civilization. Adrift at sea with the wreckage, without signs of any rescue to be seen, the feeling of small is almost too large to breathe.

But I breathe, look around, and breathe some more. Assess the situation for what it’s worth. Am I overreacting? Could the shore just be beyond that crest? But it’s getting cold…

In grade school, I was taught life-preserving techniques at the local indoor pool during gym class. I grew up in a sailing capital on at the mouth of a bay. I imagine schools in other parts of the country may not have had such learning experiences in their curriculum, but I’m grateful for learning how to swim while fully clothed and wearing shoes, as though you found yourself swept into the ocean by a hurricane or another natural disaster.

I already knew how to swim and loved doing so very much, but this class was for learning basic life rescue techniques. I pray I will never have to invoke upon the skill of treading water for days upon eternity. But recounting that day and that feeling of the deep abyss below, slowly wrapping its weight around your ankles as though it were sizing you for cement slippers, gives me goose flesh all over.

selfie Justin W John

ABOVE IMAGE: Quarantine Selfie 2020
OUTFIT: Pancho’s Happy Bottom Riding Club Shirt, vintage, cut by JWJ
ACCESSORIES: POP ART! Talk Bubble Hat by Trevor Wayne
Blue Bandana, vintage, Artist’s personal collection

Sometimes that feeling grabs at me while I’m sitting patiently in the comfort of my single serving continental aisle seat on an economy Airbus passenger jet 1000. Outside, the ground plummeting below, inside, my stomach somewhere near my toe; I lean back two degrees and fall asleep with my headphones barely muffling the airplane turbulence and attendant chatter.

I’ve lost Wilson, and the waves are getting bigger. Right back to that spec-in-the-universe night terror, that used to wake me up in cold sweats as a child. I would see the vast expanse of all the dust and stars and know somewhere amongst the noise was me. So tiny. The thought of all too much insignificance can drive a person mad.

But to every Yang there is a Ying. And down the river it goes. And just like that, flip the switch.

Art scams are vile. They’ve been around forever, and as long as there are art and money, there will always be someone peddling some type of art scam. 

As artists, we wear pretty much all the hats we can. Detective and sleuth, or just a basic bullshit sniffer cap, should be part of your regular uniform. There isn’t a day that goes by that, I find myself weeding through the garden of trailing lies and buried deceit, complete with its thorny parts and covered patches full of suckers and sweet talkers.

RULE NO. 1:
THE FOOL

Like great showmen, they put on their show and dazzle you with their promises of fame and fortunes beyond your wildest dreams. But when anyone promises you that, stop just there. Red flag one, man down, man overboard, call a medic, strike you’re out!

You’re going to have to develop these skills over time and even I myself have not fully developed all the necessary ones. First and foremost, never let someone take you for a fool. 

call, “bullshit.”
It’s that simple.

RULE NO. 2:
STARRY EYED SURPRISE

The most essential part of overcoming the swindlers is to learn their language, know how they talk, what they promise, and figure out their lies. They play them off as fact, but first, you have to recognize the lies that they package as destiny.

Now, one thing I know for sure, no man can predict your future. You are in control of your future, so take that heart. The second you fall for his fallacies you relinquish control and you may as well just turn out your pockets now.

No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day. If anyone promises these things to you, without the caveat of it as an unguaranteed potential, then call, “bullshit.” It’s that simple.

These men and women prey upon the hopes and dreams of the dreamers. And we as the dreamers can easily get lost in our thoughts and mistake them for reality before we’ve put in the work.

RULE NO. 3:
RESEARCH

Do your homework. Use the internet, that’s what it’s for. It takes very little effort to do a google search and find information on people these days. But with that, make sure the sources are reputable and not solely written by the very people you are researching.

I’m going to start sharing all of the emails and offerings that come my way here on my blog. It will serve for several purposes. The very first purpose is mostly to get them out of my system and not let the idea or potential for glamouring the notion fester inside my head. To keep me smart and head in the game.

The second reason is to help other artists that might be currently dealing with the same or have previously done so. It’s a way to vent, but let it not all be for NOT. To hopefully spark conversation in the arts community and have each other’s backs.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.

The Department of Homeland Security

Well, I see lots of somethings, so I’m going to be better at doing my part. I’m going to just copy-and-paste the emails I receive. I think this way it will serve to make them easier to search out on the internet and also stay utterly transparent about everything. If there are any personal details regarding sensitive information, they will be omitted.

RULE NO. 4:
more to come

I’ll be honest, I’ve nearly fallen for these scams and often let them make me feel special, or like there was a chance. But I’m way over that, and frankly, I don’t think anyone should have to waste their time over such matters. So for all the time that they’ve wasted of mine, now there will be something to come of it. An art project in and of itself. THE ART SCAM PROJECT.

I’ll just leave it as a working title. But I’m starting it as my repository and index of the scams that have come across my way. It’ll be easier for me to reference this way as well as to make such information public and open to the internet to let others know such information in making their choices as well. Maybe this is a bad idea, or possibly this already exists, and I haven’t found it yet. Either way, I’m over it.

I’m over the number of emails I receive and people trying to sell me their fake promises to try to earn a buck off me. I’ve been too nice for too long in my life, just how I was raised. Well, I’m over being the nice guy and just letting people off for being bullshit people with bullshit standards for operating and bullshit ways of earning money off innocent people. 

So stay tuned for my first profile I will bring up for this collection of scammers.

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Notes from Quarantine, from an Artist

Camo Pink

As we collectively quarantine and practice social distancing by signing on to our Zoom room meetings or cast our Instagram Live, it makes us feel like we’re a little bit closer to each other. It gives us a sense of security and keeps us a little bit saner to see we are not alone in this scary time.

However, it makes me wonder if the habits we are creating now aren’t going to radically change the trajectory of the way we approach social media. How much or often are we going to be expected to be available for the world to see? Are we going to morph into a society expected to be in front of a screen and camera at all times?

I could get really conspiracy theory on this and wonder at what end does the tracking of every human citizen serve aside from the way the virus spreads? Is that all that’s being tracked? But all this is a side track to my initial point in writing this post. This post is about what it means to be an artist today and how much of ourselves must we expose in the process of making our art. 

 

...what it means to be an artist today and how much of ourselves must we expose...

The Shadows

T: The New York Times Style Magazine

by Megan O’Grady
April 13, 2020

These days, artists of all kinds are expected to be available for public consumption. But a small and highly influential group of them has chosen to disappear from society in favor of letting their work speak for itself. For those of us old enough to remember an era when we didn’t account for our existence on social media, when we could attend a dinner party without being tagged like a shot deer on someone’s Instagram story, when privacy was respected and deeper meanings had room to quietly take root and bloom, this comes as no surprise.

Facebook post trying to separate from the dopamine destroyer.

Art, as Susan Sontag wrote in a 1967 essay, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” has acquired a spiritual quality in secular culture, becoming a place to reckon with and question the human project and, perhaps, even transcend it. To create, in other words, isn’t only about self-expression; it is also a realm of mystification, satisfying our “craving for the cloud of unknowing beyond knowledge and for the silence beyond speech,” as she puts it. Silence, then, is an essential part of the creative process, opening a space for contemplation. “So far as he is serious, the artist is continually tempted to sever the dialogue he has with an audience,” she goes on. To withdraw from the public is “the artist’s ultimate otherworldly gesture: by silence, he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, consumer, antagonist, arbiter and distorter of his work.”

Like love, this experience of art is rare and real and wonderful and ultimately unpin-downable; like love, it is privately felt and personal in origin yet publicly affirmed by our culture. And so we seek to know more, to maybe even find ourselves in the artist’s story and become part of its mystery. It’s worth the risk, we think, of actually solving it.
Megan O’Grady
writer at large for T Magazine
The Family
1918
Egon Schiele

“Even those of us who tend naturally toward solitary endeavors find ourselves running low on interiority these days.”

Not long after, I think it was really right after to be honest, posting that Facebook post [see above] about taking some “me time” was it that I received a few Times articles, pushed to me via my phone’s notifications, (reminder to self, adjust notifications).
 
Quickly, feeling as though I was finding myself among a collective conscience, I began inhaling the words. Then knee jerk systematic response, posted links to My Artrepreneur Program private group page without any explanation or reason for posting. Too often I tend to be of the mindset that people will just “get it” and I forget that context and warming people up or selling it is best practice policy to get any attention. Not that I was looking for attention, just sharing.   
 
I began to reply after the weekend had passed to my posting of the two different, yet to me, intertwined articles by Megan O’Grady. My post went on and on, so then began this blog article. I know everyone has an attention span sensitivity when it comes to what one is expecting to read on facebook versus diving into a blog post. 
Sorry for just now replying, I started…
while my intent was just to share interesting reads, I’ll now put more reason to my action. The second article [Pandemic] I took more as a historical account of how artists lived and died in similar times of pestilence.
 
A big fan of Egon Schiele’s work, I had forgotten about his untimely death (just three days after that of his wife and unborn child) at the young age of 28, succumbing to the Spanish Flu of 1918. His mentor Gustav Klimt died of pneumonia earlier that year. Edvard Munch survived the Spanish Flu, going on to paint several self-portraits while he was in its grips.
The other article [quoted previously, from the NYT T Magazine Series “We Are Family.”] is a bit more existential? (or maybe I’m reading too much into it.) I haven’t read the whole series yet but this chapter brings up the question of the artist process and how (once) there was a great deal of privacy around it. But how today with social media and what have you, artists are now expected to be on and available, exposing and demystifying the process of art for public consumption. 
 
The article then recounts some of history’s most notable Artists who defied that system, like Lee Lozano and her “Dropout Piece” c. 1970 to which she completely cut off communication first to women, then to the art scene in 1982 by moving from NY to Texas until her death in 1999 from cancer.
 
The term Artist of course used to speak of any creative field or vocation, goes on to speak of such pioneers as David Bowie and Martin Margiela. At which point the article begins tip toeing around the rabbit hole of fame and all it’s dark sides. Just before we fall in, we’re brought back to question…

How much do we really need to know about the person creating the work?

Resort Camouflage in Pink Swan
2020
Justin W John

As I become increasingly too self-conscious of my own work and the outside world's perception of it, I wonder if my inclinations toward my obsession with camouflage and the act of making it the exact of opposite have anything do with my own desire of wanting to be different without being ostracized?

We as a society are enamored with the bleeding heart artist and their ability to see this world through unique vision and foresight. We love a good backstory-biopic-worthy tale to accompany the work, to wrap up everything together so tightly in hopes it might give us a glimpse behind the current, into figuring this life out. But is the life and times of the artist contingent on the work having merit or can the work stand alone?
 
Then I think of such greats as Pablo Picasso, he was a terrible human being, a misogynist, he sacrificed the lives of those close to him for his own needs, for his art. While these are documented and spoken of, they don’t erase the name of Picasso from the history books. The art lives on, higher than the human vessel. Many an artist led a tormented life, struggling between self and external forces. Outwardly available with such stories had Facebook been around to publicize the daily lives of artists like Francis Bacon, or Mark Rothko, or… whomever, would their work have suffered or flourished? Who’s to say?…
 

(This is now going more into my take-aways and personal, and of course jaded, feelings on today’s “see me” culture.)

Sometimes these days it feels like pouring your severed cancerous heart out is never enough, they’ve seen that and it’s all blasé, “so last week,” or worse so, it’s a symphony of crickets. You’re not even given the credit of anyone’s time or discourse. Just left in a volatile internet sea of void.

Thoughts of “its all been done before” and that it was done bigger and better or what’s the use in trying quickly fill the canvas. But I digress… because this is the anxiety of creation, the thought of the after before the now, time spent worrying instead of doing.

This is the space between insta-tumbl-book-tok-tweet-pin-snaps, the crushing feeling of desperate dopamine dependence based on the color of your soul. The giving in to trying to please everyone first, to being everybody’s everything, before something for oneself. 

O’Grady comes off as a romantic to me, how could she not, wrapping the piece with likening the act of creating art with love.  The mysteries of the heart and what some might be so bold as to say the meaning of life (or something to that extent) are just that, mysteries. There’s one on every corner.
 
So where do we, the artists of the 21st century, stow such secrets? Or do we all just sell-out for the fame (if that’s even possible)? These questions don’t have answers, at least not unilaterally, they are up to each individual mind to make up for itself.
 
We are molded by time and space. Things happen to us, we process, react, then produce and potentially repeat several times over. In that process, we become ourselves. Most importantly by the act of defining ourselves through ourselves and not through the lens of someone else’s iPhone screen. 

Citations + Related Articles

O’Grady, Megan. “The Shadows.” T Magazine Presents We Are Family. Ch. 3: Legends, Pioneers, and Survivors, April 13, 2020. 
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/13/t-magazine/artist-recluse.html

O’Grady, Megan. “What Can We Learn From the Art of Pandemics Past?” New York Times, April 8, 2020. 
https://nyti.ms/2x2r4cF

Siegel, Katy. “Making Waves: The Legacy of Lee Lozano.” Artforum, Oct. 2001. 
https://www.artforum.com/print/200108/making-waves-the-legacy-of-lee-lozano-1701

Sontag, Susan. “The Aesthetics of Silence.” Styles of Radical Will. 1969.

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Art Keeps Going

abstract painting

Art Keeps Going…. This piece has a working title of GONZO (Hunter, not Muppet). This is just another small corner. I’m in the place where the painting I anticipated creating has become its own being (much the way I assume parents look at their children who have grown up, I imagine.) I had an entire base painted out, had sketches of what I had intended and practiced the technique I was going to implement. I put more effort into the prepping and planning stages than my usual routine because I’m trying to be more deliberate and harness some of the swirling around my brain that goes on and focus. Now those are basically out the window and I’m trying to keep up with myself. Much like the curve ball Mother Nature has thrown us, life is often times about adaptability and being able to roll with the punches, right? We have to think fast on our feet and be willing to let go of what we thought we knew and were expecting and be able to be resilient and persevere through the rough parts. It can’t all be ice cream sundaes and bubblegum drops. So with that, every new day brings new challenges and the only thing I know for 100% certain won’t change is that change is inevitable.

GONZOArt Keeps Going

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#artkeepsgoing #trusttheprocess #2020 #change #changeyourmindset #abstractart #art #artist #gayartist #artistoninstagram #artgallery #originalartwork #artsanity #acrylic #liquitex #studio #studiolife #artstudio #abstract #gonzo #instamood #instaartoftheday #artofthedays #myartwork #modernart #contemporaryart #expressionistart #instaartwork #wipart #wip

www.facebook.com/1715739025398546/posts/2281881758784267/

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Hana Moore, Loop 101 | Lustre Contemporary

HANA MOORE

LOOP 101
Acrylic on panel. (triptych)
36 x 54 x 1 1/2 in
91.4 x 137.2 x 3.8 cm

I have my eyes set out for this artist. For those that know me or any of my previous design work, I’ll think you understand why. But for those that need a refresher, see evidence below.


Abstract artist Hana Moore works with both paint and paper as primary mediums to create her dynamic works. Featuring the recurring elements of lines, circles and vibrant color her work explores visual juxtapositions through the contrast of geometric versus organic and straight versus round. A key theme that runs throughout…

— Read on lustre.art/artists/30-hana-moore/works/40-hana-moore-loop-101/

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Hard Truths: Art World Advice Column on Handling Overinflated Egos | ARTnews.com

Rumors

Art world ethicists Chen & Lampert advise on how to deal with egotistical artists and working beyond commercial art galleries.

— Read on www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/hard-truths-art-world-advice-column-overinflated-ego-1202676814/


I have an artist friend who’s smart, witty, and overall very fun, despite being a total narcissist. To be honest, his work is pretty terrible, and, what’s worse, he continually talks about all his “masterpieces.” I am OK with art people being brash and egotistical if it’s an intentional attack on bourgeois taste, but my friend is clueless and overconfident. I write art criticism, and he’s always fishing for compliments. I avoid talking about his art, but feel like a hypocrite. How long can I sustain our friendship if I can’t tell him what I really think? Can I even be his friend?

MY RESPONSE

YES! 100% you are being a huge hypocrite. Are you worried that your friendship hinges on your approval of his work? If so, I’d take another look at the basis of your friendship. I never expect my friends or family to like my work, if they do that’s awesome, if not, so what? That’s not why we are friends in the first place.

Furthermore, of course your friend has probably been, as you put it, “fishing for compliments.” Obviously he knows you do it professionally and most likely fully respects your opinion. It’s actually a compliment if you could get off your own high horse for a minute and see it. But it sounds like you’ve already placed this “friend” in a certain box and written him off as never achieving more.

So why should you bother to lend him your actual opinion? To get real, be honest, and offer some constructive criticism. Heaven forbid perhaps maybe your opinion might actually help him to improve his work! Because then, who knows? Maybe he may actually create something you actually like. But no, we can’t have that. Then he wins.

Instead you‘d rather hold your opinion hostage. An unspoken ransom is set as he blindly pleas for your acknowledgment. Obviously you don’t think he‘s worth the sincerity, honesty, or even time of day. You’d rather watch him naively make a fool of himself. And then of course by that logic, why would you even want to keep him as a friend?

Real friends are honest with each other. That’s the definition of friendship. Sounds more like frenemies to me.

If you see something, say something!

Take solace in knowing that you aren’t the only hypocrite at your friend’s opening. We all have close buddies who we support in life despite feeling deeply embarrassed by their art. Pained by their formal choices and easy gestures, the aesthetes among us are quick to denigrate their work as only worthy of hospital cafeterias and Panera Breads. One need not be a critical theorist to be made irate by your chum’s mental laziness and yucky art-dude vibe.    

Or wait, let me guess, you see his ego is so fragile and precious that he’ll fall to pieces of you say anything in a negative light about his work. His ego is a priceless bejeweledFabergé egg that you must handle with kid gloves.

Honestly, if you don’t tell your him your opinion, you’re only bringing this upon yourself. Either you tell him your opinion and say you do crush his spirit, my guess is he probably won’t ask you again. There problem solved again.

Or am I being irrational? Is it really that difficult these days to be honest and forthcoming? Am I so gullible as to believe that people actually mean what they say? I think I must be, or else the alternative is to only think that everyone is bold faced lying every time they open their mouth.