We've all seen the TV commercials advertising the "starving-artist liquidation sale," with the sofa-size paintings priced from $19.99. Like most advertising, the commercial is easy to ignore. But if you actually think about what's being advertised, this is the most callous commercial produced since Dan Akroyd's pitch for the Bass-O-Matic and that one was a joke. An individual's life's work is being marked down to the price of an oil change, thereby driving the person to the point of starvation, all so you can save a few bucks. Is this how a supposedly civilized nation treats its artists? Maybe we're just overly sensitive (perhaps because of the number of artists we count as friends), but this phenomenon seems criminal.
But maybe it's a crime of ignorance: How do artists actually live their lives? Is "starving" their preferred state? Does an artist who suffers make great art? Does great art come from suffering? Can great art be purchased for less than the price of an oil change? And isn't the guy who changes your oil something of an artist? The answers are, in order, "find out today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," "no," "that's what they want you to believe," "strangely more often than you think, yes," "only if you're sleeping with the artist" and "sometimes, but only if the guy has a little flair." But of those answers, really only the first one is germane to the City Wide Open Studio Tour organized by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard). All day today, dozens of St. Louis' working artists open their studios to a curious public and answer questions about what they do and how they do it. Perhaps you'll also find out why they do it, but that's an esoteric question and the answer is often uninteresting. You will discover that the majority of them prefer to eat regularly, and that if you buy something while you're visiting, that'd be much appreciated. Maps to the participating studios are available at the Contemporary's Web site (www.contemporarystl.org).
And speaking of not starving, after you've met a few artists, why not eat with them? The Contemporary hosts a Starving Artist Barbecue from 4 to 8 p.m., where a reservation (call 314-535-0770, extension 215) and $10 gets you into the courtyard for al fresco dining with your new friends. If you arrive prior to 5 p.m., you can experience artists at work, too; William Pope.L's Black Factory is parked out front from 1 to 5 p.m., addressing issues of race and community by creating art from everyday objects. It's a full day of art, from conception to creation to digestion. Say it with us, now: With God as your witness, you'll never buy a sofa-size oil painting again.
Sat., July 8