Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kansas City artists left to their own devices

David Gant, photo by JosephKC

Much of what makes Kansas City an atmosphere of creativity is also what makes it worrisome and frustrating for artists. Left to their own devices, artists create freely. But without a marketplace for their art, artists either seek the marketplace elsewhere or create their market. One artist is doing just that; creating their own point-of-sale.

A few artists in the Crossroads have done this. One of my friends is a jewelry designer who opens the doors to her garage-like studio space to welcome people seeking something new. This artist also writes songs and plays her music solo and in a few bands. She opens her studio, once a month, hosting a free jam session where people can also wander her spaces and view her art and the art of others.

In her east Crossroads neighborhood, near the corner of 19th and Charlotte, another artist, a painter, David Gant will, this week, begin a new project to convert some of his studio space into a gallery to showcase and sell his work. You may remember David from the media buzz this past summer. He painted portraits of Crossroads notables and enjoyed a momentous, emotional show at a major Crossroads gallery space.

I had interviewed David Gant in August and spent a few hours with him in the midst of the numerous portraits that stared at us while we discussed the process of his portrait project and the evolution of his painting technique. My two favorite portraits from this collection are his two self-portraits; one a painting that reminded me of an icon one would see in an Orthodox Christian church. The second, which he painted with his left hand, captures a portion of his bearded face with grays and whites, light vertical strokes that remind me of Chuck Close’s techniques combined with the impressionist genius of Monet.

As I was absorbing David’s words and gazing upon this collection, I thought of Andy Warhol’s 32 Campbell soup cans; Andy’s first one-man gallery exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in LA back in ’62. I also thought about Irving Blum, the person who believed in the exhibition and whom we can thank for keeping the soup cans as a collection.

Yes, I was comparing David to Andy. A stretch? Maybe. But being in the presence of this 23 year old genius, talking with him about his art, listening to his perspectives humbled me and excited me at the same time.

So, with all of the local media coverage about David’s show, I decided not to write about David and his art for the time being; choosing instead to just get to know him, learn more about his process, his palette, and catch him after the buzz of the show.

When I caught up with David recently, I found that the show did not produce any fruits to sustain his next project. This disappointment, very familiar to many area artists, has not dampened his creative spirit. He may be powering his studio thanks to the graces of a good neighbor with a long extension cord. He may be a bit behind on rent. His super dog, Mortimer, may be on a bit of a diet (although when you meet Morty, he could stand to lose a few pounds).

David has decided to carve out a third of his studio space, partition it, and open his own gallery. It’s very impressive to me to meet artists like David who have such a positive, optimistic outlook. I’m excited for him and very inspired.

Art makes you feel and what I feel often in this wonderful city of ours is the energy of people making a go of it; artist or not, painter, bus driver, sculptor, teacher, designer, office assistant, musician, retail sales specialist, graphic designer, database manager, architect, brick layer, photographer, chef, ceramics artist, waiter, dancer, delivery driver, social worker…on the move, moving on.

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