The fleeting prestige that comes with being an older and unsuccessful artist.

When I was younger, ambitious and stupidier I attended many art openings in an effort to be seen and network (That was the closest thing we had to LinkedIn in those days).

At these art openings, also know as a vernissage, I would be typical of the majority demographic – mid twenties, scruffy and knew most of the people around me. There would be some thirty somethings, and they were usually the directors or curators of that particular space. Then there were middle aged and seniors folk: too well fed, too clean for an arts worker and dressed way too nice for a real art opening, and thus were easily identifiable as family of the artist(s).

Then there were the scruffy middle aged attendees. They were childless, and their body language and ease of socializing demonstrated a blasé attitude about being there. They  tended to look at the art for a little longer, and tended to ask questions to the artists/ curator that were a bit more personal and pertinent. They actually read the artist statement. If they lingered, it was a good metric that the exhibit was interesting. If they only briefly attended the event, then that was a good metric that the show was lacking somehow. They might know other people at the opening, but didn’t seem to particularly care.

I was fascinated by them.  In my mind, they were famous artists (sometimes they were) or important curators (also not uncommon, but usually overvalued) or perhaps the mythical art collector looking to acquire new work from hot young artists (almost never).  I would watch them like a hawk, trying to not be obvious that I was watching them, as I noted where they were looking and for how long.  What was their art like? What fabulous people in fantastic places did they know? What secrets did they know to be successful in the art industry? Maybe they sat on those juries that awarded grants to artists. Back in those days, even if you talked to these people and they were artists, curators or collectors (aka have a “real” job that pays well because it is outside the arts) they could tell you whatever they wanted and you would have no idea if it was true or bullshit, and even if was true whether is was simply shit. Or maybe they were simply downplaying their importance. Like I mentioned above, there was no LinkedIn or Facebook and Canadian Art magazine was still as limited in scope and expensive as it is today.

Twenty years later I am older, not as ambitious and still stupid. However, I realize now that I am now one those people – often the oldest person in the room, an object of mild professional curiosity and even sometimes assumed to be wise or influential. Suckers. In many ways, the age difference does not matter among the artist community but sometimes it takes some younger artists awhile to figure this out.  Until they arrive at the truth of the meaninglessness of their own ambitions, they can pretty much check whether you can help their careers instantly.

It’s a fleeting prestige being an older and unsuccessful artist at an art opening.

Older and younger mysterious me.

Which version of me looks more interesting – the older or younger? Or just creepier?

(Please note I do not actually think I am “unsuccessful”, I am very excited about my work and opportunities, but the POV is from the younger me who had a different idea about these things.)

mountain path – the movie

Christopher Healey
From Feb 13, 2013 in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

This is a work I am experimenting with by presenting it as an “Online Exhibit”. Though there is nothing new or experimental by having an exhibit of digital works on the web, I wanted to show the work in many different forms (i.e. photos, slideshow, collage, movie) on many different platforms (Blog, YouTube, physical gallery space) throughout 2013.

Process notes:

It is important to note that this work is entirely captured, rendered and output through a mobile device and on location during one session.

Artist Statement:

For me, there are several classical and contemporary themes in the work, such as: the supernatural; a formal approach to landscape; a questioning of political / social issues involving digital topographical mapping; a spiritual journey reflecting on death. There are many other contemplations that are evoked for me when I engage the work, and hopefully there will be for the viewer as well.

I enjoy the compositions of the shadows and the rocks, as well as the idea of a digital shadow cast on real objects through a challenging process of documentation for both the tools and the artist. The stresses of this effort on the image and the human traces archived in the process are a very important part of the production philosophy for me. I welcome comments and questions in the discussion field below where this conversation can continue.

You can see the original posting with the work as a series of photos and a collage at:

https://chrishealey.me/2013/02/10/online-exhibit-mountain-path-2013/

[Video + Podcast #8] Christopher Healey interviewed about exhibit Mexico ii, by Hamilton Artists Inc.

You listen to the Audio Only Podcast or watch the video below:

Raw audio + finished video  from a 20 minute interview on June 29th, 2013 of Christopher Healey. Conducted by Hamilton Artists Inc’s Curatorial Assistant Caitlin Sutherland, and Gallery Assistant Samantha Roketta, about my exhibit Mexico ii featuring paintings by my mother Beverly Healey and digital collages by me.

I’m the first artist for this video interview series for the Inc, and was glad to help out this way. I really appreciated being able to articulate more of about the show and the process, and yet still feel like I forgot to mention a couple of key points – of course. That is, essentially, my work is about death and the “thinness” of our existence – which is one of the reasons I used the sunlight and the materials I did, such as the skull and white plastic. My Mom’s oil painting portrait work is about life, and the richness of an individual’s character and immortalizing it.

More information at my original post about the show here: https://chrishealey.me/2013/05/26/mexico-ii-an-exhibit-of-paintings-digital-collages/

One of great things I enjoy about the culture of the Inc is involvement with some young graffiti artists – one in particular has been very involved. He got very excited telling me about the impression my Mom’s work made on him during the member’s exhibit “Oh my god it was so good – no offence, but it was the best work in the gallery… it’s like a 17th century painting by on old master… no one else came close to it – no offence to your work or anything – it was totally sick. If she gave me her one of her paintings, I would walk out of the gallery and never do graffiti art again.. I’m serious!..”

This was awesome feedback for my Mom 🙂 Especially since we live in an age where street artists usually end up as the new art stars.

I’ll update this post when the video is available. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of the exhibit below:

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Christopher Healey & Beverly Healey – photo by Joanna St. Jacques

Mountain Path

Mountain Path

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Pop-Up gallery exhibit one for the books

Open Book Group Exhibit at 21 Rebecca Street.

Hamilton purportedly has a DIY culture and attitude and that reputation has attracted many arty types like myself to this quirky rust belt city. Sometimes, the perception is not really the reality and many of us have been yearning for empty buildings downtown to be bought and turned into impromptu exhibit spaces – and only three years later, have I finally seen this happen the way many of us have been daydreaming it should happen.

Welcome to the neighbourhood, Book Club Gallery.

Located on Rebecca, just off of James Street North and in the shadow of the Jackson Square monstrosity, the Book Club Gallery was never a Book Store. It was a wool broker office, and a print shop, and a hair salon – it is currently a pleasant austere space with art by some of Hamilton’s best artists. At least for the next few weeks – who knows what the owner, Cameron, will do with the space next but having a pop-up exhibit is such a great way to fill the space in the meantime. There are a lot of empty storefronts in Hamilton, and their owners could learn a thing or two about fostering community from people like Cameron.

(Unfortunately, Hamilton has many empty storefronts because of their owners are slumlords who don’t want the “expense” of the space being used for anything. They just want to flip the property at some point in the future after people like us creative class types put in all the hard work to improve the community and thus the real estate value. The City councilors here are, in turn, kinda meta-slum lords because the home crowd in this small city all know each other and look out for their “buddies”. But things are changing because there are so many new people arriving , and we’ve see that things are better elsewhere and so things will change here. This is a kind of hostile cultural takeover. But enough of this issue at the moment..)

Back to the show – the participating artists in this exhibit, one of the best so far of 2013, are Donna Akrey, Sarah Beattie, Andrea Carvalho, Margaret Flood and Svava Thordis Juliusson.

There was a small amount of people who attended the opening, but it’s slightly off the Art Crawl beaten path. A couple of sandwich boards would address this problem nicely. Such a good show – Cameron, please consider keeping it open for the next art crawl!

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Donna Akrey’s work is sprawling and subtle. Go ahead and try to find this bear. You’ll be glad you did.

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Donna Akrey

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Andrea Carvalho – this work really takes advantage of the space, I think. These sculptural installations look like “Office Ghosts” to me. Love this.

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Margaret Flood is making some multiples of the HOV lane on the highway – the car pool lane. She’s communing to work in Toronto and making art about it. Like I did when I was commuting. This is a very real part of the landscape. Maybe there should be a group exhibit of commute art…

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Donna Akrey’s secret storage space…

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Donna Akrey

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Donna Akrey

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Donna Akrey

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Svava Thordis Juliusson – Toronto’s loss, Hamilton’s gain.

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Svava Thordis Juliusson

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Donna Akrey

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Andrea Carvalho, Margaret Flood and Svava Thordis Juliusson

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Svava Thordis Juliusson

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Svava Thordis Juliusson

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Donna Akrey

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Andrea Carvalho, Margaret Flood

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Mexico ii: An Exhibit of Paintings & Digital Collages

mexico ii

Beverly Healey & Christopher Healey

June 13 – July 6

opening reception is Thursday June 13th from 7-9pm-ish. Art Crawl is June 14th.

Two generations of Canadian artists, mother and son, present two different visions of the same place.

As tourists from outside of the culture, this is not really Mexico but rather alternate versions of Mexico framed within particular contemporary and modernist biases. Hence Mexico ii.

The artists wish to thank Paul Elia, Inspyder Software & Tom’s Bar.

@ Hamilton Artists Inc.
155 James Street North, Hamilton ON (at the north west corner of James and Cannon Streets)

still life with cow skull

Sneak peek of #Hamont exhibit @ The Inc, June 13 – July 6 w/ Cow Skull

still life with cow skull

I have an upcoming exhibit, sharing a space with my Mom, Beverly Healey, at Hamilton Artists Inc. The opening reception is Thursday June 13th from 7-9pm-ish. Art Crawl is June 14th.

It’s called “Mexico ii” and features work done from my parent’s residence in the town of Ajijic, Mexico – just south of Guadalajara. My Mom is a painter and a very different artist than myself so it will be an interesting show of contrasts and similarities. Of course, her being an artist has been central to my development and its a dream come true to have a show together like this. I know she’s looking forward to it as well. 

I’ll post more work and info next week. As usual, these works I am posting here now probably won’t be in the final exhibit but are part of the same series.

 

 

Who watches the opacity? Art & activism in the shadow of big industry

I thought I was alone these last couple of years watching in awe the monstrous, billowing, sky creatures of Hamilton’s industrial sector.

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Oh, I know Hamilton is and has long been an area of fascination for artists both casual and professional. Most of what I’ve seen (and much of my own work) is based on the ground up i.e structures and landscapes. But just above that is another landscape entirely – and I’ve been referring to the airspace above the industrial sector as “landscape” because what is going on up there is far too solid and far too much a permanent fixture to be called anything else.

I look for the flames when I cross into Hamilton from work, and I’ll always glance to the air above the architecture to see what is billowing where … and just marvel at how large and, literally, “opaque” these are. Night and day, though wind and rain, I would explore vantage points and study these shapes. I started to take pictures, then time lapse pictures, then movies, then collages… and now, thousands of photos later my first exhibit with this series of work opens tomorrow at 173 James Street North. Both formal and a flight of fancy influenced by a healthy dose of local activism and politics, I started to anthropomorphise the emissions as kind of creatures of mythology. (Is “anthropomorphise” the right word? I’m not sure as technically I am ascribing qualities of non-humans, greek gods, to non-human emissions… )

The relationship, for me, drew similarities to what I assume living among titans and gods would of been like. Huge and obvious, dominating and affecting the landscape yet uncaring and oblivious to gnats like me frittering away at the edges. Sure, I can indirectly communicate with the people operating this machinery, but that is also a claim of priests and oracles at any temple. There are always prophecies of doom and of hope flying about in classical mythology, as there are in Hamilton council and on the local chorus – twitter. I could go on, but that’s basically how my mind always keeps connecting things on me and then I tend to go “deep into the rabbit hole” with work and research. And that’s how I arrived at this collection of digital prints, my first solo exhibit in many years. It’s called “Uranus of Hamilton” – and yes, I know. The name has a few different stories to it, though it is the correct name as this 7 work exhibit refers to the creation mythology of Ancient Greece.

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Anyways, so I thought I was alone out there watching for industrial emissions because of their visual qualities. But I was not alone – here’s a recent CBC Hamilton news article about Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, who was out there around the same period “documenting and photographing the emissions for months”.  I didn’t know there were laws on the opacity of industrial emissions, and it’s neat to think that what I saw as formally fascinating yet rationally horrifying was kinda validated by this unfolding environmental story.

I am very impressed with Lukasik and local residents for their work on this, and very grateful. It’s a real effort, I think, to break out of our accustomed blind-spots that build up over time and prevent us from seeing some of the absurdity right in front of our eyes. These titans of industry are no slouches – they know what they are doing and they know how to minimize the perception of their presence. For example, I can’t get anywhere inside the industrial sector – I once got in trouble by three security guards for standing on patch of corporate lawn to take a picture of a statue. Public parking is also non-existent in that area and they spend a lot of time and money doing marketing and PR based on charities and the arts.

As thick and opaque as Dafasco’s industrial emissions, this kind of practice shields their activities from most citizens by associating what we are seeing with warm and fuzzy feelings about community and jobs and things like that. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they are spending millions on marketing while receiving millions to keep the plants open. They are also not spending the millions government is spending to clean up toxic areas such as Randal’s Reef.

This asymmetrical scale of priorities and responsibilities is a neat trick of smoke and mirrors. I learned it takes full time dedication from patient and perceptive locals to see through it and be able to change the titan’s behaviour. I, on the other hand, was only observing the titan behaviour.

Some more work from that series is in this post, but not of the works in the exhibit though. You’ll have to show up sometime with April 12th to May 6th to see those.


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Bonus: I’ve included a sort of “hidden” work in the gallery that is based on the below raw footage of Tartarus.