How to degrade your scene and be a scumbag at the same time!…

7 Jun

There are many things about my fellow humans that make no sense to me.  This is one of them:

Jenny Hart’s Embroidery Artwork Stolen from Exhibit

Riddle me this…. you’re a fan of an artist.  You see that artist has taken the time and effort to make new pieces, and a local gallery has taken the time and effort to put together an exhibit to display these pieces for fans like you.  Huge efforts and expenses are taken on with displaying the work and promotion and preparation so that this event can take place- just for fans like you.  So opening night when you go to the show do you:

  • A.  Enjoy the artwork, have some free snacks, make a pleasant evening of it, and leave feeling you go to experience something fun, creative, and beautiful?
  • B.  Enjoy the artwork, have some free snacks, make a pleasant evening of it, and grab a couple of the pieces of artwork off the walls on your way out- stealing from the artist that you admire and the gallery that brought them to you?

If you chose option A, then you are a good, normal person and are liked and appreciated by the art community.  If you chose option B… then you are a complete shit-stain, and I hope your friends beat you down when they find out what you did.  Seriously… you fully suck.

Art theft happens all the time, and it makes me furious.  I’ve had it happen to me at 2 different galleries because some of my pieces are small enough to easily slip into a purse or pocket.  It’s happened to too many friends of mine who are artists or who own galleries.  What I can’t wrap my brain around is why someone would take the time to go to a gallery opening of an artist they like, and then steal from them?  Yes, art can be expensive… but I guarantee you the artist and the gallery don’t profit that much from art unless they’re dealing with the arty giants out there.  Let me break down the grown up financials to you so that you understand where the term “starving artist” comes from…

Let’s say I have a little painting in a gallery and it’s priced at $1,000.  Holy shit!  That’s a lot of money!  Who the hell am I to charge that much for 1 tiny painting?!  Let’s do the math, and then you can see just who the hell I am.  If that painting sells, the gallery get’s 50%.  Yes… 50%.  That is normal.  They promote and get the people in the door to make the sale- so that’s their cut.  I try to make it out to all my gallery shows, so let’s say my plane ticket and expenses comes to a low-ball price of $300 (this doesn’t include money lost on time off  I’d have to take from the day job to go to the show).  I’m now down to only making $200 on that $1,000 painting.  My small paintings that run around $1,000 usually take me a couple weeks each to do… so if I worked 3-4 hours a night on the piece, that’s around 50 hours of work.  If I only make $200 for that painting, I worked for $4 an hour on it.  Did you get that?  $4.00 an hour. (And that $4 an hour doesn’t even include the cost of the materials to make the piece and get it ready to present).

The gallery doesn’t do a whole lot better.  They have their overhead (rent/utilities/maintenance/insurance/etc).  They have staff to pay.  They have to pay for promotion (ads in magazines, postcards, flyers, etc).  They have the set up, all that free wine and cheese that people wolf down at the opening, they usually will provide a place for the visiting artists to stay, etc.  After all their troubles and expenses, their profit isn’t much better.

So why do we all do it?  Because we love it.  Because it makes us happy.  Because something in us makes us do it.  And even though we’re almost always taking a loss, we still make our art and bring it to you because it makes you happy.  The drive of visual communication is a powerful one, and I’ll do it without even questioning that measly $4 an hour.  So when an artist does all this work for very little financial pay off, and then the work gets stolen… that breaks hearts.  It’s like punching a toddler in the face as it runs towards you for a hug.  To say it’s discouraging is an understatement.

This doesn’t just happen in the art world, though.  It’s common in the music scene.  My husband’s band has been robbed more times than I can remember.  Once, on the 2nd night of a 3 week tour while he was on stage some stupid punk kids smashed out their tour van’s window and only had time to grab his bag… which contained all his spare cords, his laptop, all his clothing, phone/computer charger…. everything.  He was left with his guitar, his wallet and the clothes on his back.  Kids steal from the merch table.  Kids steal gear.  They steal anything that isn’t bolted down… and these are the kids that come to the shows because they are fans of the band!!!  Band’s don’t make any money anymore.  There are no longer record sales because downloading has taken over.  There is no such thing as “label tour support” anymore because the labels are broke.  They only money bands make is on tour- and after gas and vehicle rental and food and hotels and getting merch made  and time off work and then splitting any profits between all the band members and paying the techs or merch slingers… it usually averages out to the same as my painting sales.  A few bucks an hour.  Only to get robbed by the “fans”.   It’s disgusting.  And for any of you little punk kids out there who have stolen anything from any band… you’re not “punk”.  You’re a fucking tourist to the scene, and I hope your Discharge/Neurosis/Nausea shirt sets itself on fire in protest of you the next time you put it on.

In summary… artists in every field do not make art to get rich.  That is a ridiculous concept because only a handful of artists every decade ever do get rich.  They do it because they love it.  They do it because you love it.  And if you are a fan… act like one.  If you want your favorite artist to keep showing their artwork or playing their music in your town- then make sure that they aren’t fucked under when they do!  If you see someone being sketchy at a show and stealing or causing trouble- stop them!  Or rat them out.  There is no shame in ratting out shitbag behavior.  Because whether you’re an artist or an admirer of art… we’re all in “the arts” together.  And if it gets too difficult to bring the art to the people, then the only way the people will be able to see art is online or in magazines.  And that’s lame.  So let’s all participate.  Be sure and share the link above on whatever forms of social media you play around on and try to get Miss Jenny Hart her artwork back.

Thank you for enduring my long winded soap-boxing.

In appreciation of art, the most beautiful FoxyGoat Lisa made an amazing portrait of me and sent me one of her beautiful necklaces.  She is a wonderful (and amazingly witty) artist and lady… and I super love her.

Click this image of me with her necklace and portrait of me to go to her website, and be sure to check out her etsy store!!

Big love to all you bunnies, and have a great night!!  xoxox


10 Responses to “How to degrade your scene and be a scumbag at the same time!…”

  1. Stevil June 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    It’s reminiscent of Steve Albini’s piece ‘The Problem With Music’.
    But I digress.. Once again, you are a champion with words, and for a just cause. I hope Jenny gets her work back. Not much can take the wind out of a person’s sails like this.

    • Nick June 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

      I wish my art was good enough for someone to steal (ok maybe not steal but good enough that someone might want to 😛 ) I deal with people one on one when they need artwork done for merch and such and having to discuss pricing with some people is such a hassle. ” What?! you’re charging that much? Its just a simple design, will only take you 5 minutes at the most!” when in reality it takes hours and hours of concepts and revisions and research etc etc. So being an artist is a very frustrating thing. And I remember hearing about F-Minus’s van getting broken into years back. I think it was posted on their website, anyway I was able to donate some money in hopes they could replace what was lost. Fuck I miss that band. Tell your hubby it’s time for a reunion tour already!! 😉

      • Kristen Ferrell June 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

        Nick…. people don’t get it. But when someone gripes to you about that, then tell them “Well, if it’s so easy then you can do it yourself!”. When they whine that they can’t, then that should explain to them why your price stands.

        I forgot all about all the times F-Minus got robbed! I was just referring to the oodles of times L.O.C. has been robbed. If you count all the times that just the bands that Brad has been in have been stolen from… well, it really is countless. So combine that “countless” number with all the other bands we know that have all been stolen from countless times… and it starts to look like an epidemic.
        I don’t know if the F-minus’ers will ever do a reunion… but Brad has a few new projects that he’s working on right now that are pretty fantastic. When they go ‘live’ I’ll be sure to post links. 😀

        • Nick June 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

          Kristen, so true!

          When I first started I was charging between 25-50$ a shirt design. It worked out to me getting paid about 3-5$ an hour but I would spend so many hours on them because I loved doing it .That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be compensated for my time though. Not sure if its just plain stupidity on their part but if you’re buying a 50$ design and selling the shirts for 10$ a piece you need to sell only 5 to make your money back AND if there are 4-5 people in a band its like 10 bucks a person. For some though that’s just asking to much.

          I cant even imagine whats its like to be on tour and finding out your stuff has been stolen. How infuriating that must be! and to have it happen multiple times would really make me question if its worth it or not. I can imagine though that the chances of F-Minus getting back together are slim to none but its really cool that Brad is working on some new projects right now! Can’t wait to check em out!

          • Kristen Ferrell June 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

            Imagine being on tour, getting all your stuff stolen, having your primary source of income being the money you get from tour, then having to come home from that tour to your family that is now financially fucked because it costs 3X’s more money than you even made on that tour to replace all the stuff that got stolen. So you have been thrown into financial hardship…. BECAUSE OF YOUR FANS!!!!!!
            Awesome, right?

            People make me grumpy.

    • Kristen Ferrell June 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

      Oh my, how I love me some Albini! He’s such a logical dreamboat.

      I hope Ms Hart gets her work back, too. It’s shocking to me that all this stolen work is never recovered. It’s not like the thief can post it for sale online anywhere. And the art scenes that we all run in are relatively close-knit. So someone somewhere has to have seen all these stolen works at the thief’s house, or know about it! But very rarely do the artists or the galleries ever get the work back.
      Lame lame lame.
      I miss your face, Mr Stevil!!

  2. Psilomelane June 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Usually any type of gallery in my area that focuses primarily on modern or postmodern work doesn’t last long — maybe just a few years or less, before they need to close due to insufficient sales. I have a very meager budget for purchasing original art, but still I try to support local artists and galleries when I can afford it, buying pieces for my small house. I mostly get abstract paintings.

    When I mention this to acquaintances, or co-workers, there’s invariably someone once a year who exclaims, “500 bucks for THAT??!! My five year old kid (or I) could do that!” They act as if almost all local/abstract artists are some kind of egomaniacal rip-off artists. These people have little or no idea how much time and work goes into most well made art, let alone the expense of properly presenting it.

    My most recent grabs were late last year: two -very small- works by James Leonard, from an exhibit at a local gallery:

    • Kristen Ferrell June 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      Abstract art is so misunderstood. I’ve tried it. I can’t do it. I crashed and burned in my attempts with such fury that it was astounding. It is HARD to do! But unless someone has tried it, they’re going to say the “my kid could do that” nonsense. I have the highest respect for abstract artists because no matter how hard I try, I could never be one.
      I try to support local artists too. And I try to encourage my art buddies to vary what they have available in price so that people from all financial standings can own a little art (that’s why I sell all that stuff on my webstore… because everyone should be able to own arty fun). But galleries struggle horribly to stay in business…. ESPECIALLY now in our crappy economy. The art world hasn’t even begun to recover from the crash… and it won’t for a long long time. And little douchebags stealing art certainly doesn’t make things any better!!!

  3. Nicole Matheny June 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    What a horrific realization to come to. People need to be flogged.

  4. Katrin June 8, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    I guess you must absolutely HATE an artist to steal their work as it just won’t make any sense otherwise. But what’s the point of stealing something if you don’t like it? Doesn’t make any sense either.
    Also you’d never be able to share the artwork with someone, and art needs to be presented. You could just look at it secretly. How miserable is that? Plus you’d never get the chance to walk up to an artist and tell them that you owned a piece from them :-))
    And if it’s really just the money you can always ask for payment plans. I have done this before when I desperately wanted to have a piece but had not the full amount at once, and most galleries are happy to accept this.

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