Monday, October 12, 2009


City Water Meter Repair Co. Inc. 2008, 5.5 X 8", acrylic on paper.

The bus driver announced, as we were approaching the Albany N.Y. bus terminal on the way home to Montreal, that we’d be refueling the bus in Albany and stopping for food after another half hour on the highway.

He advised against eating at the Albany terminal saying he wouldn’t let his dog eat there. As the next food stop was scheduled to be at a McDonald’s I decided it wouldn’t kill me to go 10 hours without food.

The cajoling and herding of bus travel, the close proximity to people making odd noises and trying all manner of things to thwart the evil of deep vein thrombosis had almost completely overwhelmed the positive buzz of a few days in New York.

I thought when I moved to Montreal that I’d be in New York at least a few days a year but this was my first trip since the move. For me, it’s never hard to think of a reason why I shouldn’t do something. I finally came up with several compelling reasons to go and pulled the trigger on a trip.

My Montreal artist friend Randall Anderson was going down to de-install his latest project, a sculpture in a storage locker in Chelsea. An Internet friend, Adam Normandin, had a show of his realist work at George Billis Gallery and a far-flung group of photorealists who found me on facebook were arranging to meet for a gallery tour.

I had my doubts. I’m at a place where I’m a little confused about what I do. These mostly young photorealists appeared to be a gung-ho bunch and I was afraid of contaminating their enthusiasm with my growing distaste for the genre.

The trip however, became a lesson in refueling. It was interesting and affirming to see artists at all points in their careers becoming recharged from new ideas and the shared struggle of making art.

Recognizing each other from our tiny facebook profile pictures we greeted each other like long lost friends although our only acquaintance was from scant lines of information on the internet.

New York can be overwhelming for an artist. Chelsea is full of spectacle, the new, the novel. The soaring spaces often outshining the art.

But something always manages to touch the heart: Randall cheekily working the perimeter of the mainstream art world with his Manhattan Mini Storage installation ‘Chelsea Prototype’; My friend Jay Kelly’s obsessively created small abstract drawings at Jim Kempner; At Pavel Zoubok, John Evans’ one-a-day collages which for decades chronicled the concerns of his East Village neighbourhood through found bits and pieces.

This latter helped underline for me the importance of one’s work being about what one knows best.

For the first time in eight years of trips to New York, I came home without a single photo that I’d turn into a painting. It suddenly didn’t make any sense for me to even partially focus on the imagery of a city I know only through infrequent visits.

A week later we’re all back home and judging by the facebook postings, most are full of the excitement of new techniques to try, new art world connections, new art discovered and a few more of New York’s mysteries unfurled.

I’ve struggled through a week of post hangover, post nine hour bus trip blahs and look forward to starting a new week with at least enough gas to get me through my next painting.