Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Treeo Grows in Phoenix. (The Consonant Gardner)



"Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke."- Benjamin Disraeli

Hello my loyal Blogiteers!

It has been a rough couple of weeks, let me tell you. My previous screed wrapped up a six part story arc regarding my hospitalization back in 2009 from the complications of diabetic ketoacidosis while simultaneously celebrating Artbitch "turning" fifty.

Middle age never read so good, in my humble opinion. To be honest, writing it was both emotionally exhausting and spiritually cathartic, all within the same moment. Finally getting the tale out of my psyche is something I've wanted to do for quite some time, but I needed to find myself in a good frame of mind to be able to adequately spin the story of my near death experience into something palatable- something I truly believe was accomplished in the end.

Oh, the sweet sweet irony- see, for the last few months, I've been under some incredible personal pressure, mostly in regards to helming various artistic projects as well as my day gig, and it finally blew one of my health gaskets in a major fashion. This in turn, landed me back at John C. Lincoln  Hospital as an unexpected guest of the ICU... again.

With an elevated blood sugar and brain swelling. Again. Furthermore, despite all my valid attempts to avoid tangoing with my old nemesis [AKA: the Tube Snake Razor, or Catheter for short] I was coerced back into an unholy four day partnership... again.

Let me set in stone right now, for eternity, and for all to understand and hear, this simple, yet direct statement: if there ever arises a need for me to have one of these inserted into my body ever again, please do the following: just buy a bulk of Deluxe Sham-Wows and lay me on top of them. And if those are unavailable, feel free to substitute a case of NERF footballs.

Either or.
I tend not to be too picky when I'm in a medically induced coma, so have at it.

Obviously, I'm on the medical mend, albeit slower than I'd like to be, but that's always been one of my major issues- I can be a truly unrealistic son of a bitch when it comes to achieving personal goals, and if truth be known, the list of what I want to do is monumental.

Setting aside that whole whipped cream weekend I want to get into with Milla Jovovich and my girlfriend, most of them are actually obtainable, if only I had six lives and didn't have to sleep in any of them.

Near and dear to my heart [after my personal artistic endeavors] is the unceasing promotion of the good ol' 602, an action that thank God, I am not alone in attempting to accomplish.

While some tend to strut their hour upon the stage as full on unicorn-glitter-fueled cheerleaders, I've always fallen into the role of a curmudgeonly (and somewhat jaded) distant uncle of sorts who tends to speak his mind, much to the chagrin of certain thin-skinned detractors, the largest part of whom feel that sniping anonymously online or behind one's back is what constitutes a direct approach.

In regards to said cheerleaders, my respect for them varies depending on their effectiveness and the purity of their approach. This translates directly into what they truly represent- are they in the game for the betterment of the Phoenix Art Scene, or are they really just here for the plaques and random scrapbook clippings?

I've always been of the mindset that the pep squad needs the quarterback more than he needs them, but they do serve a purpose nonetheless, even if it's just to remind everyone as to who really wins the game.

Fortunately, my viewpoint on what the not so subtle differences are between a true cultural warrior and an ego-polishing artsy succubus is well enough known that I rarely have to go about restating it, which as you might surmise- saves a boatload of personal time and energy.

Now before you think I'm engaging in rampant cynicism, let me defend my perspective by saying that I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic- an outlook that seems sadly lacking within the arts community, and one that needs to be adjusted to the veracity of the particular issues that the PAS faces on a daily basis.

I've waxed poetic many a time and at considerable length in regards to what the PAS needs to do in order to become a stable and profitable entity, and sometimes I get to feeling that all my efforts are for naught- when you are constantly banging your head against the wall to no end, it does have the tendency to shatter your resolve, regardless of the strength of your will or the clarity of your vision.

Factor in the element of human speed bumps [a consistent plague within the PAS] and one could easily surmise that the path for Phoenix becoming a world-class art destination is going to be dark and difficult at best. Personally, I've always felt that something given has no value- if you want respect you have to earn it, and that applies to both people and the cutthroat world of business, which when it comes right down to it, is easier said then done.

To paraphrase John Wooden: "Character is what you do when no one is watching." At the end of the day, all you really own is yourself and the perception that people have of you. Despite my vitriolic and acidic take on the PAS, I find that within the community itself, I'm generally respected for taking a definitive stand and staking out my territory as candidly as possible.

In other words, my reputation for skin-stripping honesty by and large usually arrives before I do.

Sure, I spin a good yarn every now and then, but the truth is paramount above all. Luckily, on those atypical occasions when I do wander into the ether of the realm of artistic license, it's glaringly easy to separate the lone dishonest cow from the rest of the noble herd. For instance, if my tale starts off with Motley Crue and I in the back of a limousine full of strippers, odds are pretty good that I might be stretching the truth just a tad.

A wee bit, mind you.

Conversely, if my saga involves the PAS, it's always dead on in it's accounting of whatever situation I found myself in. There's an old maxim that there's three sides to every story- yours, theirs, and the truth, which is usually somewhere in-between. Granted, the crux of my writing has always come from my perspective alone, but even so- I'm a stickler for accuracy when it comes to documenting my interactions within the community.

As you might imagine, having a well-defined set of opinions is not a popular accessory within the PAS these days, and despite the support that I do receive, there are times where my presence at a show can be mildly divisive at best. In general, I tend to avoid those events where my arrival can cause the natives to break out the pitchforks and flaming torches, but on the whole, Phoenix is a small town in relation to it's art scene, and you can't watch every step, no matter how much you try.

By way of example, my recent interactions with a passive-aggressive twit known as Joe Brklacich underscores this point succinctly. Joe has had a massive mad-on for me the last few weeks in regards to a piece I had written about SMoCA and to a lesser degree, it's outgoing PR flack Lesley Oliver, and apparently has decided that he's the one who's going to try and settle my acidic hash.

That's my special talent. Making friends and leaving an impression.

When it comes to my detractors, Joe stands alone- mainly due to the fact that he actually got in my face physically, something that if hadn't come on the heels of a threatened assault I could have actually respected. It does take stones to tell someone to go f**k themselves eye to eye, and if it had stopped there, I probably wouldn't think as little of him as I do now.

See, it's fairly transparent that Joe wants nothing more than to goad me into throwing the first punch, thereby allowing him the freedom to mete out what more than a few in the PAS would regard as overdue karma, but that's just not going to happen. I'm 45, and I'm not going to get in a brawl over what amounts to a difference in artistic opinions like some drunken 22 year old.

Granted, someday maybe there will be someone who beats my face flat over something I've written, leaving me a battered heap, my teeth scattered on the ground like Chiclets, but that day is not today, and Joe will never be that person. In retrospect, he strikes me as almost a caricature- his anger is so out of proportion to the situation at hand that it's almost laughable.

And while I do try to give the proper amount of respect due to each personal interaction my writing sometimes brings to the surface, I just can't this time.

In fact, I pretty much giggle every time I hear his last name, for as God as my witness, it reminds me of the minor Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk, whom like Joe, has a moniker that he apparently bought at a used consonant sale. Never mind saying it, I literally have to look it up every time I type it out, and disregard using spell-check, it just says "screw you" and then shuts down.

I know, I know, I'm a terrible human being, but seriously- can you spell "Brklacich" off the top of your head? I didn't think so. You're all brilliant, and even you couldn't do it. It's bad enough that I have to peripherally deal with this twit, who's akin to a mosquito in a sealed tent, but you'd think that I'd eventually luck out and acquire a stalker whose name I could actually write out on a restraining order.

Sigh... down the road, I guess. A boy can dream.

As I said earlier, at the end of the day, your character and reputation are all that you truly own, so I've always strived to make mine as clean as possible. While I may have the rep for being an arrogant son of a bitch, it's also a general opinion that I'm also pathologically honest when it gets right down to the brass tacks.

What can I say? I prefer an uncomplicated life. Why is this a topic I'm focusing on, you ask? Well, despite my penchant for sporting a chipped shoulder, there are actually very few things that can get under my skin faster than having my integrity questioned- especially when it's done by persons of lesser and flawed character.

But I already mentioned my good buddy Joe, so let me give you the context. Surprisingly, it's folded inside something that as a proponent of the 602's development, I can support fully, without any of my characteristically inherent sarcasm or cynicism implied.

One of the exceedingly important facets in the 602's future success that's sometimes overlooked is the proliferation of local small businesses. This in turn, helps build a financially stable and attractive community. I've often said that if you want people to come Downtown, you have to give them the following: a place to sit, a place to eat, a place to drink, and a place to take the family, if applicable.

So anytime a new business opens up in the Downtown area, it's a cause for celebration, no matter what it happens to be. Granted, I'm not too thrilled when it involves pretentious baristas, but that's only because I loathe hipsters, and besides- those damn kids wouldn't know good music if it bit them on their wool caps.

All partial joking aside, I completely support a majority of the economic development that's been happening and look forward to seeing how the PAS will fit in over time. To be frank, I do have a few misgivings in relation to how some of it has been handled, but I'm trying to maintain an optimistic and forward-thinking outlook, despite my typically pessimistic nature.

And you thought I couldn't be all upbeat? That just hurts.

Getting back on track, the newest business to open it's doors in the bubbling stew that is the 602 goes by the name of Treeo. Located inside a reconverted house at 906 North Sixth Street, it is home to the offices of Harder Development, FenSource & Champion PR and Consulting. The space plans to host monthly art exhibits and community events alongside it's normal day to day commerce.

The persons involved with the running of Treeo are real estate agent Ashley Harder, public relations guru/community organizer extraordinaire Stacey Champion, and my former FaceBook friend, Joe Brkkal... Brllckkk... Brakkxla... oh screw it- I'm just gonna call him Joey Consonants from now on.

Let's be real for a moment, shall we? It sounds cooler, and it's way easier to pronounce.

Besides, if I have to be the one who has to put with his passive-aggressive yet wholly ineffectual chest-thumping, then I get to be the one who names him. It's only fair.

When it comes to Joe's partners in this, his newest business venture, I can honestly say that I know zilch about Ms. Harder [whom I've heard is quite successful from various sources] but when it comes to Ms. Champion, I do know a little bit more.

Stacey is one of those 602 cheerleaders I mentioned earlier, and she is probably one of the most effective. Between organizing events, and shining a light in regards to issues ranging from the feminist struggle to AZ's inbred legislature, Stacey is a PR juggernaut, no doubt about it. If any facet of Treeo will do exceedingly well, my money would be on her branch, hands down.

I've previously openly wondered what it was that Joey Consonants did to make ends meet, since as far as I could tell, it wasn't his "art" that paid the bills. After all, his website hadn't been updated since 2012, and I couldn't recall ever seeing his work at any local show.

Ever.

More telling was the fact that every time I walked into the Lodge, the studio he shares with fellow artists Abbey Messmer and Rafael Navarro, all I ever did see of his work were the same three pencil sketches that have hung there for the last ten years.

Heck, I haven't had a full-blown show since 2008, but even still- you walk into my work-space, and you're going to see something different every time. Not always good, but different. So when I heard that Joey was part of Treeo, my curiosity was piqued as to what exactly he was bringing to the proverbial table, and it this: fenestration.

Now I know what you're thinking, and all I have to say is the following: shame on you for thinking such impure thoughts. Despite what it sounds like, fenestration is not some bizarre sexual kink involving ferrets and latex, but is defined by Webster's as the arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in a building, which is ironic, since that's three things I'd like to toss Joey's candy-ass out of.

As the son of a contractor, I'm pretty familiar with this industry, albeit on a minor level, so my first thought was that no wonder Joey can get to play at being an artist, he's part of an industry that's fairly lucrative in nature. If the tables were reversed, I probably wouldn't try either if I had a bankroll to peel my life off ot.

Mind you that's not jealousy. After all, I knew he had to do something, since it's obvious he isn't an actual working artist. I just wouldn't have pegged him to be a guy who designs windows. Washing windows, yes. Designing them? Not so much. Fortunately for my fragile ego, I was half-right. Turns out that Joey is actually a recruiter for the industry, and his company matches top fenestration talent with top-level clientele.
[Feel free to insert your own frenestration joke here.]


So how do I know this factoid? The internet.

In researching this screed, I happened upon Joey's website* for his business, also known as FenSource, and was immediately impressed by it's clean and efficient design. Most companies would typically bore you with a navigation menu and actual things to see, but not Joey- he's a maverick.

Go ahead. Take a look. I guarantee it'll only take a second.
*[http://fensource.com/]

I'm no web designer, but even I know that page looks awful. Speaking as someone who's entire life revolves around self-promotion, I can say that if I were a potential client who came across this, I'd keep on surfing until I found someone whose online pitch appeared to actually give a damn.

All that aside, lasting 25 years in any industry is impressive (I'm coming up on 23 myself) and given that his field is so specialized, I can't really see him having a lot of competition here in Downtown Phoenix, so one could assume he'll be able to continue having success for years to come, so long as his prospective clientele doesn't have access to the world wide web, and that his predilection for passive-aggressive behavior doesn't get in the way.

More on that in a bit.

As I said earlier, anytime a new business opens up in the Downtown Phoenix area, it's a cause for celebration, no matter what it happens to be, and Treeo was no exception. It's grand opening was going to feature an exhibition by an artist I'm friends with and whose work I really like, so I was stoked for it on many different levels.

Good art + colleagues + new white collar business opening + free wine = happy Artbitch.

Having been invited by the artist and Stacey Champion herself, I assumed that even though Joey had an issue with me, he would act professionally at the very least, since the event was not only going to be packed with colleagues, there were possibly potential clients as well, a reality which I
felt would curb any possible hostilities if I made an appearance.

Believe it or not, I did take into account that things could go south if Joey decided they should, so I had a rough game plan: show up, find my artsy friend, get a quick guided tour of the art, compliment Stacey on the space, and then vamoose. In/out ten minutes, tops.

I figured if I showed up relatively early, my plan would work with nary a hitch, banking on the number of people present and social pressure to keep Joey in line with what is considered mature adult behavior.

Remind me one day to tell you about my sense of unfounded optimism- that bitch ain't bright.

So, dressed in my Artbitch finest- crucifix t-shirt, black jeans, motorcycle boots, and a complement of silver jewelry, I jumped in my graffiti-painted Isuzu Amigo, and headed out. Parking behind Lotus Contemporary, I walked the half-block to Treeo, and as I crossed into it's front courtyard, caught a glimpse of a solitary figure to my right, half hidden in the twilight shadows.

The one and only Joey Consonants. [See? I told you it sounds cooler.]
And he looked gleeful.

Now for the record, there are many shades of the emotion known as glee. There's the type where one comes across a friendly kitten that wants to play, and the day is made better for it. There's the one where your girlfriend goes and buys you the KISS Compendium, a collection of all the KISS comics ever published, which just goes to prove that Gene Simmons will literally put his face on anything, and then there's the abomination that takes great rock songs and turns them into choreographed sackless wonders.

All perfectly acceptable, if that's what you're into.

And then there's the kind that you only see on two faces: those of used car salesmen, and axe murderers who've just spotted a lone prostitute on a dark corner. Granted, I was tarted up a bit, but even so, no one should ever look that happy when they see me arrive somewhere. What struck me as odd was that he was just standing there, not talking to anyone, not smoking a cigarette, not having a drink, just hanging out in the shadows... waiting.

I wonder for who.

As I head towards the front door, he quickly pulls up alongside and sarcastically asks if I want a tour, an act of selflessness that I refuse as politely as possible. Undeterred, he follows me in, and as I find my artist friend, stands on my right side two inches from my face, saying that "he's already talked to Stacey" and that if I make him feel uncomfortable, he can have me thrown out, despite the fact that both Stacey and the artist showing invited me there in the first place.

And here I was, thinking I had juice. I guess my rugged good looks can only carry me so far.

He rambles on, muttering about how I "came for him and should just admit it" and that I'm there "to start trouble", an assertation that I found laughable, considering that in the 20+ years that I've been working as an artist in Phoenix, I've never thrown a scene at a show, nor have I ever been thrown out of one either.

As the old saying goes, there's a first time for everything, I guess.

Now, most people would have turned and punched him in the face for breathing down their neck, but I'm not most people, and to be honest- I was more curious as to whether he was going to give me a shoulder rub or dry-hump my leg, given his proximity. Ignoring him, I continue talking to my friend and his female companion as Joey continues to grumble passive-aggressive nothings in my ear.

As I introduce myself to her, atypically using only my first name rather than my full name, Joey cuts across my outstretched hand stating: "He normally goes by Wayne Michael Reich" and while she seems a little freaked out by his aggressiveness, all I could think was how successful my viral marketing actually was.

You know you've done good when your detractors do the name-dropping for you.

At last having my fill, I turn to my friend and say that I'd like to stay longer, but Joey was chasing me out, to which he replies: "You know what? You and I have never had a picture together." and throws his arm around me. Puzzled, as I have about half a dozen pictures of us together, it takes me a full minute to realize what was really going on.

Smiling widely, I respond by saying that he was right- we never had taken a picture together, and that we needed to rectify that unfortunate happenstance now by finding someone to take it for us. As we walk away from Joey, he grouses that I always say I'm nice in person, but that he doesn't see it.

Retorting over my shoulder, I respond by saying that it depends on both the context and the person I'm dealing with. Ducking into a back room, my friend's companion and I have a brief discussion as to why Joey has such an axe to grind with me, much to my delight.

Finally taking the obligatory pic with my artist buddy, I decide that it's time to take the 12:15 out of Yuma. As I walk out, Joey bird-dogs me every step of the way, obviously concerned that I may trip and fall. I pause briefly at the door to tell Stacey that the space is lovely, and the moment is marred only by Joey's sputtering out yet another veiled utterance.

Walking through the small courtyard as I make a beeline to Mon Orchid, the phrase "what a jackass" may have escaped my lips more than once, but overall, I found the whole thing to be humorously pathetic. In my humble opinion, what I witnessed was a supreme embarrassment- not only to the business itself, but the artist showing there, and in the end, Joey's business partners as well.

Not too surprisingly, some didn't see it that way. That's one of the many quirks in regards to the PAS- you can always find a rationalization to justify behavior that would be considered highly unprofessional anywhere else. In this case, the very next day someone close to Treeo's operating structure cynically implied online that I had in fact, engineered the whole situation with Joey as to cause a deliberate scene, so that I would have something and I quote, "to write about".

Let that sink in for a moment. After five years, over 210,000.00 words, fifty stand-alone pieces of writing, and establishing myself as the PAS's go-to snark, I all of a sudden, out of the blue, have run out of things to talk about in regards to artists, ego, business, and the ongoing struggle for Phoenix to be taken seriously as an art destination, not a pit stop on the way to a better and brighter one.

If I had the opportunity to talk to this narcissist, I'd have to ask the question that I'm sure regular readers are also thinking of, and that is this: how high were you when you posted that?

Seriously. Break out and pass around whatever you've been taking, cause that stuff makes cocaine look like a cheese danish. At the time of this screed, I have an idea list as long as my arm that I'm currently staring at, and to be fair, not all of them will make the cut. Some fail because there's not enough gas in the tank to carry them over the line, others because they're too specific to be truly interesting to a wider audience.

But all of them typically will have a nugget or two I can glean for other stories. That's the beauty of the PAS, it's pretty much a self-sustaining entity. And if I were to engage on a more personal note with this obviously confused individual, I'd point out that if I were to make a scene, something that I've never done publicly* in the 20+ years I've been involved with the PAS, that people would have heard me in Jakarta, since I ain't exactly the silent type.
*[Go ahead. Check. I double dog-dare ya.]

I often get accused of yelling when I'm whispering, so it's a pretty safe bet that if I were pitching a fit, there'd be a lot more witnesses than the one guy who's got a mad-on for me. In fact, I did tell my cynical critic to ask my artsy buddy (who has no dog in this fight) what happened, which is not something I would have done had I been in the wrong, but as far as I can tell, that suggestion was ignored in favor of their pre-formed and erroneous opinion.

In all fairness, it's his business (partially) and he can do what he wants in relation to how he handles interlopers he has issues with, but there's a mature way to deal with it, and then there's Joey's way, which apparently involves tactics that I personally left behind when I graduated kindergarten.

As one of my fellow artists [and one of Joey's friends to boot] said to me as I made my artistic rounds later that night: "He's mad at you? For something you just did, or for something you did ten years ago?" which to be quite frank, strikes me as both hilarious and sad all at the same time. I've been known to hold a grudge or two, but at least I don't store them like Box from Logan's Run*.
*[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiyPqbyHXIg]

Whenever I can make a reference to a dystopian 70's sci-fi movie filmed almost completely inside a shopping mall, you just know it's been a good day. That said, Treeo's potential success will depend on both the economy and the cooperation of it's partners, and that's where I see a possible issue.

Given Joey's general hot-headness, the question arises: keeping in mind that he's pissed at me for what amounts to a minor literary trifle, what would happen if a client Joey doesn't really like walks through the doors?

Feud for thought, as it were. Personally, I hope that Treeo has a long and prosperous future, and I say this with all due sincerity. Nothing would make me happier than seeing a white-collar business succeed where so many have failed.

However, it just wouldn't be true to form if I didn't have at least one semi-related thing to kvetch about, and the topic that I've chosen to sink my admantium claws into this time is the idea of yet another "art-space" in the 602. For the record, I'm not singling out Treeo, but what the concept of an art space overall entails.

As an artist myself, I've benefited from several different versions of the art-space business model, so it'd be hypocritical (at best) to advocate that they have no merit whatsoever. But even so, I've never been entirely comfortable with them in general principle. At my core, I tend to be a capitalist. For me, once the art's been made, it's all about selling it.

But how does one do that in a town where the running joke is that yogurt has more culture thanthis city? Simple answer: alternative art-spaces, which can be found everywhere: bars, cafes, book stores, hair salons, retail shops, restaurants and the like- the list is virtually endless. If it's an established business, odds are good that art can be shown there.

Granted, not every business is suited for the display of artistic works- Circle K's for instance, would be a terrible location for high-end paintings, but if your niche was custom-decorated coffee cups, you may just have found a new home base. Typically, first exposure for an up and coming artist is usually to be found in places like these, but many established artists use them too, especially in a city like Phoenix, where professional galleries are not exactly commonplace.

While the diversity of such places adds to the opportunities of artists, it can also hurt those chances sometimes too. What a lot of struggling artists tend to forget is this: the majority of art-spaces do not exist to sell the art they display. Whatever type of business they specialize in is where their priorities are placed, as it should be.

Personally, I've always looked upon the concept of hanging art in one of these spaces as providing interior decorating services for free, but that's just my cynicism talking. What really counts is what caste their clients fall into- are they serious art buyers with a budget, or scenesters who think it's perfectly okay to snap a shot of your work with their I-phone and use it as their screensaver?

In my experience, it's usually the latter, more often than not.

It doesn't matter how many people see your work if they don't buy it, and as a rule, someone popping in and grabbing a latte to go isn't generally focused on adding to their personal art collection. There are exceptions to this of course, but in order to move your art in such a venue,you need to hit the nail on the head in two places: impact and price. I'll explain.

Impact means that your work has to grab a hold of your potential buyer almost immediately, and make them want to take said work home, no matter how awkward or inconvenient it might be to do so. Price is pretty much self-explanatory, but I'll clarify my point nonetheless.

In order to coax anyone into opening their wallet or purse, you need to make sure that just like your work, your asking price for it is just as attractive. Knowing what to charge is a skill refined over time, but it is crucial- too low, and you hurt yourself, too high, and you discourage sales.

But here's the rub- most buyers of art like to have a personal connection with the artist, something that most art-spaces cannot provide on the spot. Unlike galleries, art-spaces are open all times of the day or night, so your odds of being there to encourage sales and make introductions is dim at best. You'll literally have to hope that your work speaks for itself.

And speaking of your work, what will it turn out to be in the end? Will it be a true statement of artistic expression, or will you have truncated it to fit the policies of whatever retail vanity gallery you've decided to hang in? The freedom that one typically finds in a gallery setting does not as a rule,
carry over into most art-spaces.

If your work is fairly benign, then freedom of expression won't be
an issue, but what if it isn't?

Easy. You're screwed.

There's nothing worse than self-censoring, but if you expect to show in most art-spaces, you'd better get used to it. The majority of patrons who frequent these places prefer art that isn't threatening, so if your work has a dark edge, anticipate having to lighten it up a little.

And like most things that you do frequently, eventually it becomes a habit. I can't think of a better kiss of Death to an artist's vision than having to tailor it to popular taste. Think about being Thomas Kinkade for a moment, and you'll understand where I'm going with this.

Like it or not, in order for the PAS to succeed, it's going to need a much more professional face, and that's where the real art galleries come in. If we want to be taken seriously, then we need to be just as equally serious about how we present our talent. Picasso, by way of example, was not discovered in a coffeehouse.

If I were to use yet another of my famous analogies, I'd liken the difference between art galleries and art-spaces to chocolate milk and my other serious addiction, Yoo-Hoo. Both are yummy. Both have essential vitamins. Both come in easy to pour packaging. Both taste like chocolate. Sort of.

But only one has to be labeled as a "drink" by law, and it isn't the one that's from a cow.

Why the need for art spaces in Phoenix is great, I would also argue that the need for professionally managed art galleries is even greater. For every Pela Contemporary we have, there's six amateurs groping blindly in the metaphorical dark. Let me be clear, there's nothing wrong with being truly passionate about running a gallery, but if you don't have a cohesive and practical business plan, you're going to find yourself coming up short in the end.

So, what's the solution?

Given the nature of the problem, the answer is going to require a multi-level approach. Other than the economy approving, I would opine that what's needed is more promotion of the art events downtown, and maybe even some city funding as it relates to economic development- I'm thinking of possible and expansive subsidies that could kick-start a new wave of artistic re-growth in the arts community.

Roosevelt Row was recently named as one of the top ten art districts in the United States, it's about time the rest of the arts district looked like it.

So with that, I think it's time for a break. In future blogs I'm going to attempt to address these issues a little more in depth, and hopefully offer some viable solutions. And if that fails, I can always fall back on the snark.

And as for my good buddy Joey Consonants... he's cordially invited to go fenestrate himself.

"If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him."- John F. Kennedy





















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Thursday, November 6, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 6 (Nifty Fifty)



“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”- Virginia Woolf

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

“When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "One word at a time," and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That's all. One stone at a time. But I've read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”- Stephen King

Hello Blogiteers!

Today marks a milestone here at the Lair of Snarkitude, and I couldn't be happier about it. In fact, I'm in such a good mood that I even let the minions take out the Snarkcopter for a joyride. Sure, gas is expensive and those surface to air missiles don't replace themselves, but sometimes ya just got to party like it's 1999. Minus the purple satin jackets, of course. I do have some standards, after all.

Oh, what the hell, it's a party- free satin purple jackets with matching headbands for everybody!

Tell you what- I'll even throw in a chance to play with the giant Death Ray Laser as well, but only if you pinky-swear not to blow up New York. Glendale, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable to use as a target, so long as you promise me that the first shot takes out my Mom's house.

Come to think of it, hit that sucker twice. She's a lot tougher than she looks.
So, what grand event are we celebrating, exactly?

Well, Artbitch officially "turns fifty", with this being the milestone blog. Since I started writing these here screeds back in 2009, the very nature of the truth I like to think I tell has added up to a heckuva lot of text. Minus this piece, the word count for my previous scrawls stands at 207,975. To give you some perspective, opinions vary wildly on what an average blogs' word count should be, but most of them (on the face of it) concur that it's commonly around 500. When it comes to short stories,1500 words is seemingly the base standard, and 50,000 is the typical count for a novel.

What this basically means is that at this point, I've written four books already.

Oof. No wonder why I curse so much. I've apparently used up most of my accessible lexicon. The breakdown by year is also kind of interesting when I see it with the benefit of hindsight, as it shows exactly when I was most ticked off.

It is as follows:

2009: 5.625
2010: 38,477
2011: 61,374
2012: 27,187
2013: 46,735
2014: 34,202 (thus far)

Obviously, I was really fired up in 2011, that being the year where both my public drubbing of The Phoenix New Times and a whole slew of craven and usually anonymous online detractors was firing on all cylinders- this led to my cranking out fifteen blogs like clockwork, a rate that fell to one third the next year, due to my then feeling of being totally burned out.

When you take into account all that I have written and you do all the math that's required for a true dissection of the last five years, it comes out to an average of 10.4 blogs per year, an integer I can live with, considering my normal word count per blog is 4077.94 bits of linguistic fiery finery.

And you thought I talked too much.

In comparison, it seems my hands are keeping a pace to beat the Devil, but the really funny thing in regards to this blog is that it was never supposed to happen like this in the first place. My success, if I were to give it a name, is primarily due to two unforeseen things- the first being illness, and the second being the direct involvement of the Phoenix New Times, via the personage of it's Mangling Editor, Amy Silverman.

In retrospect, they're the flipped sides of the same coin, but I'll digress for the sake of moving our story along, and the fact that at this time, there is no vaccine for the willfully petty ignorance that she inflicts upon others. Sure, being smarter and more refined does help, but that's the organic route, and it's way more expensive in the long run than just taking a swig (or six) of Tequila.

While I don't recommend being drunk when you have to deal with her directly, it certainly couldn't hurt, and theoretically- it just might make her seem far more interesting to talk to, what with your diminished capacity and all. Hey, if it works in regards to ordering from the late-night menu at Jack in the Box, it may be just crazy enough to be implemented as a rule of thumb.

But I'll get back to Editorzilla in a moment, as my getting sick back in 2009 is what really started the whole razorball of snark rolling. Since I "gave away" the ending in my last missive, there's really no point to play coy with what happened, despite the fact that I'll be finishing up the story arc in this blog nonetheless.

Think of it as a flashback, even though it comes after the story ends. That's me- screwing with the laws of verse and spacing. I'm like Captain Kirk, except I come with a sleek laptop rather than a warp engine and a Scottish engineer who sleeps with green women- not that there's anything wrong with doing that, mind you.

Feel free to taste the rainbow, if that's your thing. I won't judge.

The Cliff Notes: after I left the hospital, I was in physical recovery for about five weeks. Thirty-eight days. A month and a week. With nothing but healing and trying not to die as the two main priorities on my day to day "to do" list. Until this happened, I didn't really think that there was such a thing as watching too many zombie movies.

Trust me here. THERE IS.

I had previously been dabbling on MySpace with the writing thing prior to 2009, and it was okay, but ultimately read like an eternal whine of "woe is my life" as I was going through a highly public break up at the time, and apparently had no way of dealing with it other than unloading on the community.

Good times.

It did however, allow me to get comfortable with the practice of being honest on a routine basis, which is one of the things I'm proudest about in relation to my writing- I don't pull punches, and I don't hide, either. One of the great unforeseen things about forcibly accruing several weeks of personal introspection is this: it allows you the opportunity to make changes, whether for the better or for the worse, and I like to think I've taken full advantage of this particular quirk in the end.

So, after becoming sated on zombies and daytime TV, while being unable to read due to corneal distension, I started putting my thoughts to pixels regarding something I did know about- that being the travails of a working artist in Phoenix.

Originally designed as a quasi-sort of journal entry for me and weekend reading for the six of my friends who followed it, Artbitch blew up after some of my pieces tweaked off a few of the so-called "journalists" at the good ol' Phoenix New Times (AKA: "The Pennysaver with Porn") and they mewled their discontent to the failed bartender who runs the place, a walking horror show* who goes by the name of Amy Silverman.
[*Allegedly]

Her petty response was to publish a soulless online "hit" piece about yours truly, which led to a major increase in both my readership and artistic street cred, which, let's be honest- I already had in buckets. The street cred, that is. Readers? Eh. Not so much.

However, her attempted bitch slap failed miserably, as all she succeeded in doing was inadvertently embarrassing herself, her position, and the lap-dog milquetoast she sent to dispatch me. With any luck, that particular person has gone on to greener and hopefully more professional pastures, where they don't allow their journalists to write their articles in crayon. After several pro-me comments were posted on New Time's website, Amy, flying under the guise of "extending the dialogue", suggested that we meet, and the rest as they say, is Artbitch history.

Which you can read all about using the archives.

Seriously. If you haven't, you're missing out on some comically epic carnage. If there's one thing I truly enjoy, it's metaphorically slicing up insufferable cretins with my switchblade tongue. Especially when they willingly provide the pre-sharpened cutlery for me to do so.

Sadly, the number of willfully ignorant people seems to be rising in this country, much in the manner of an unstoppable plague which is slowly leading to the detriment of culture overall. When it comes to the Phoenix Art Scene, there are a limited (but dedicated) number who stand as artistic bulwarks to protect what the PAS is attempting to build.

In my own snarkerific way, I'm trying to be a force that helps stem the tide of this inanity, and bars the door against those who would impugn our talent and craft.  

When it comes to calling it, I'm usually pretty spot on in my observations, an opinion backed up both by email and personal interactions with my fellow Creatives. For all the judgments that have been passed upon me by my traditionally anonymous detractors [IE: I'm arrogant, overbearing, intense, condescending, over-opinionated, etc.] the two words I have yet to hear with any regularity which would stop any argument I might have in it's tracks is this:

"You're wrong".

You'd think that if I was so off-base it would be fairly easy to prove, but this particular phrase has yet to come up, regardless of what form the dialogue takes. They'll attack my tone, my ponytail, my art, my beard, [Have they no decency?] my photography, my love of clog dancing and my ongoing addiction to Ding Dongs- yet when it comes to their being able to launch an effective counter-debate, it's like I'm facing a room full of empty chairs most of the time.

Welcome to Phoenix, where talking behind one's back could be considered an Olympic sport, if it wasn't for the fact that nobody here is really any good at it. What we do have in abundance as an offset against this plethora of thin-skinned and petulant cravens, is artistic talent.

Raw, gritty, largely undiscovered talent. And it's long overdue that we get our collective s**t together and let the rest of the planet know what the f**k we're about. In a perfect and just world, Phoenix would be on the same level as NYC or LA- and while I will give a nod to the fact that RoRo was recently named one of the 10 best art districts in the United States, it's all for naught if we don't know how to effectively market what we do.

But that's a rant for another time I think, as today is all about celebrating what has changed for the better since I started screaming from this humble little soapbox. To begin with, there's more arts coverage, and even though it's still uniformly terrible, at least it exists. There's more appreciation for public art, thanks to our pro-art and more importantly, pro-Phoenix mayor, not to mention a whole slew of independent stores, cafes, and restaurants, which have invigorated Downtown Phoenix.

And let's not forget all these new galleries and art spaces that when it gets right down to it, seem to be trying really hard. Granted, truly effectual marketing, standards of presentation, and a coherent business plan are seemingly abstract concepts to the majority of them, but at least they're making an effort... two nights a month.

Gah. Sorry. Even when I'm celebrating I can't enjoy myself. But at this moment, I'm not gonna be a negative Nancy, heck no- today I'm going to be an upbeat Ulysses, or maybe even an optimistic Orville. I know, I know, that's just crazy talk, but that's how I feel.

Plus, I have a tale to finish, let us not forget that, so I think I'll just sum up my feelings on the first fifty thusly- I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them, and I hope that in some way, they've at least furthered the dialogue as to what we need to do to in order to make the PAS a world-class artistic entity.

If you're one of the people I've given props to, I hope it helped. And if you're one of the chosen who for whatever reason landed within the reach of my swift and terrible admantium claws, I hope you'll be comforted by this heartfelt sentiment as to why you were singled out for my special, if not focused, attention: it was something that you and you alone did, that got you what you deserved, and if you were offended, that's just too damn bad.

Want to stay off the radar? Then don't be an unethical talentless twit. Easy as that. And if you're upset about my opinion, take to the Internet and bitch freely- it's worked out pretty good for me, and it can work out well for you too. Maybe that's what recent Artbitch scratching post Joe Too Many Consonants In His Name really needs to fuel his inner calm- having access to a keyboard and possibly a puppy.

Come to think of it, that seems like a really cruel thing to do to the puppy.

Speaking your mind typically won't win you any friends, but it will get you the right ones, and that's what really counts. When all the chits are totaled, if the worst thing they can say about you is that you're a truly honest (if sometimes disliked) son of a bitch, consider it a win, and move forward.

I know I do.

And with that, lets get on to the end of my tale, before I start weeping like Jude Law in The Holliday*.
*[Netflix. Rent it. Seriously, it's a freaking adorable movie, and Cameron Diaz is funny as hell in it.]

Where were we? Lemme hit the bullet points. Let's see...

- In the hospital ICU after a near-death experience? Check.
- Mother showed up for five minutes and hasn't been heard from since? Check.
- Watched enough about Gangsters on TV to easily write the script for Goodfellas 2? Check.
- Discovered why catheters will not be the new fashion must? Check.
- Watched enough Michael Jackson videos to front a Jackson 5 cover band? Check.

Nice. We're all up to speed.

At this point, despite the fact that I was bouncing back with an almost Wolverine-like velocity, I was still in the ICU, due to complications from the original infection that landed me there- in other words, they were having difficulty finding the source, and were extremely concerned that I would pick up a secondary infection by remaining where I was.

If you're not familiar with basic hospital protocol, I'll share this: bacteria in a sterile environment morphs into some seriously weird and lethal combinations. Thus, the decision was made to transfer me to a semi-private room as soon as possible in order to avoid my experiencing directly just how strange those unholy partnerships could get.

As I'm being transferred out, my day nurse Eric says the following: "It's been a pleasure, I hope to never see you here again." Aw... I guess that underneath all that sadism thinly disguised with cartoon scrubs, beats the heart of a really decent person. Mind you, this really decent person was the one who pulled out my catheter on the count of "two" and not on the agreed count of "three", which sort of negates that whole warm fuzzy feeling I should have had in regards to this moment.

Settling in, I take stock of my new surroundings: a window view of rooftops, a flat screen tv tuned to Cartoon Network (sweet!) and a heavily tatted young Latino guy sleeping in the bed next to mine.

Embarrassingly, I don't remember his name, so for the sake of our story, let's just call him Jaime.  

And I'm not stereotyping here, his name certainly wasn't white-bread, like Tom, or Bill, or anything like that, so no need for angry e-mails or burning pitchforks, ok?

As I was still weak as a kitten (but improving) I almost immediately doze off, and wake up to a very sweet looking, somewhat elderly woman wearing a stylish black turtle neck and a huge crucifix around her neck sitting next to my bed. I'm talking a 1984 Like a Virgin Madonna cross here, the kind that you could use to stop a mugging, if you wielded it like a bat.

And in the lingo of the rough upper middle-class streets that I hail I'm from, that screams "Nun".

Fairly quickly, the realization that I, the lapsed Catholic, am currently in the presence of a totally dedicated God Squad member hits home, and I start sweating bullets, because nothing on God's green Earth is scarier than a nun.

Especially one that has a keen sense of fashion.
Who also wants to chat. With me.
Gulp, I say. Gulp.

This is so not good, as I am a very bad Catholic, even by the modern standards of the day. My past trip to New Orleans in 1994 alone could (and most likely will) send me straight to H E double hockey sticks, so as you might surmise, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the idea of conversing with one of God's ticket takers, no matter how stylish she was.

But since I'm also not a rude vulgarian by any measure, I did open our dialogue by politely letting  her know that while yes, I had been thrown for a loop spiritually, I was also not open to the idea of discussing my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, which at that particular moment, could have been Pierce Brosnan for all I knew, given my somewhat frazzled mental state.

Barry Gibb, by the way could also be considered, due to his awesome hair and love of super tight pants. It's almost like we're brothers.

We did however, have a brief (but pleasant) discussion about art, and talked about the continuing media frenzy over the King of Pop fizzing out, and as she leaves, she ends our discourse with the statement that if I do need to talk to someone, her metaphorical door is always open.

After a few minutes of contemplative silence, my bunk-mate finally introduces himself and inquires as to what I was "in" for. I explain about how my jaw infection led to my kedoacidosis, which in turn, has led to my laying in this hard as a rock bed in this lovely post 1970's room with two IV lines in my arms. After acknowledgement of how "rough" my situation is, I casually ask him why he's there, and given the detail that the majority of his tattoos are seemingly of prison quality, [a fact he admits to later] I assumed it had to have been a fight or something of that nature that had landed him here.

In fact, nothing could have been farther from the truth. What had really dropped this former gang banger (found Jesus, had a kid, cleaned up his act) was far more insidious, the knowledge of which led me to regard my health issues in a much better light: kidney stones.

What are kidney stones? Well, I'm no doctor, but I have seen my share of the white coat brigade, so here's the info you seek: "Kidney stones (AKA: renal lithiasis) are small, hard deposits that form inside your kidneys. The stones are made of mineral and acid salts. Kidney stones have many causes and can affect any part of your urinary tract — from your kidneys to your bladder.

Often, stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallize and stick together."

Now, I know what you're thinking, and that thought is mother-f***ing yeouch.

The pain issue alone is bad enough, but the way you purge the stones is to pass their pulverized remnants through your faithful spam dagger. That is just so wrong on so many levels, and I won't even touch on the fact that unlike women in the process of giving birth, our unassuming manhole doesn't have that amazing ability to elongate like a freaking Stretch Armstrong doll.

But despite his obvious pain, I still felt that I had the sympathy vote all wrapped up- after all, I had just come from the ICU, survived a near-death experience, chatted with a nun, and suffered the indignity of a catheter. As far as I was concerned, the empathy jackpot was mine and mine alone to wallow in as I saw fit.

Kidney stones?
Oh bitch, please- I gave Death a metaphorical wedgie, and survived. I am badass, hear me roar.

Clearly, I was having a Lifetime Television moment, but I was still going to suck it dry as if I were Paris Hilton working a DJ gig in Ibiza. After all, I'd cheated Death, taken his prize, and while I had come out physically and mentally weakened, I was alive, and that's what counted. Clearly, his ailment couldn't possibly compete with my touching of the Bunny Slippers of Death.

Or so I thought. See... managing one's Ego is a tricky and slippery business- once you think you've got it all figured out, your Ego throws you a curve ball.

That's moving at Mach 1. Towards your face. While on fire.

Snug in my personal kingdom of self-importance, I ask "Jaime" how he's coping with his obvious pain, and he responds by telling me that overall, he's okay, but that it's his other issue that's really killing him. Naturally, I inquire about his other issue, and instantly come to regret it.

Not because I'm a jerk, oh heck no- it's that I had just asked one of those questions you really don't want the answer to, no matter how curious you might be. Come to think of it, some of my more sensitive male readers may actually want to skip a bit ahead, cause what's coming up isn't pretty, and I really don't want to ruin your lunch.

That's one of the great things about hitting rock bottom- it always has a sub-basement filled with rats. In retrospect, I should have just stayed on the topic of kidney stones, as it can be fascinating.

Did you know you can actually make jewelry out of those things? I didn't, and I like to believe that I'm a master when it comes to the field of arcane knowledge, no matter what the subject is about. See, normally, I'm one of those people who like to know a little (if not a lot) about pretty much almost anything that exists.

Normally.

That is, anything except the newly introduced topic I was on the verge of learning about, that being the medical condition known as "Testicular Torsion". Some of you just went green guessing what that might be, and if you're off, I guarantee it's not by much.

To be technical, it's usually described as such:

"Testicular torsion occurs when a testicle rotates on the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle. As a result, the flow of blood is stopped causing sudden, often severe pain and swelling. Prolonged testicular torsion will result in the death of the testicle and surrounding tissues.

Generally, testicular torsion requires emergency surgery. If treated within a few hours, the testicle can usually be saved. However, waiting longer for treatment can cause permanent damage and may affect the ability to father children. When blood flow has been cut off for too long, a testicle may become so badly damaged it has to be removed.

Testicular torsion is most common in males 10 to 25 years old, but it can occur at any age. About 65 percent of cases occur in adolescents between 12 to 18 years of age. It occurs in about 1 of 4,000 males before the age of 25."

There... don't you all feel better now?

I'll bet dollars to donuts that no matter what is going wrong in your life right now, given that perspective, it just became all excellent across the board. As he was describing his unimaginable pain to me, all I could think was this:

"You know what? I'm good. Perfect, in fact. Top notch. A-ok. Feelin' fine. Okeley-dokely, for lack of a better word.
Come to think of it, I've never felt this good, and in retrospect- nothing in my life up to this point could truly be counted as a solemn hardship."

And I was dead serious. Sure, I was flat on my back, barely able to walk, and couldn't stay awake for more than a few hours at a time, not to mention the roughly 12 feet of IV line I had running out of my arms, but at least my boys were still in their right place, tucked under the ol' love silo, where nature intended them to be. And with that, moving day ends, and I fall asleep.

The next morning, after Jaime has his successful surgery, a small but steady flow of visitors arrives to see me, my mother not being one of them, as that would involve her having to actually fake interest, and she's so not about that.

However, the first two friends who do show up bring me a specially requested illicit gift: Taco Bell.
I'll explain why that was so.

If you've ever been hospitalized, you're aware that most hospital food traditionally lacks a few things- taste being paramount above all. At the time of my stay, everything I was eating tasted like wet cardboard, which I attributed to the theory expressed above. So when my friends announced that they were coming, I asked them to smuggle in some "food" as a saving grace against the hospital's kitchen.

Mmm... wet cardboard topped with weak hot sauce and tasteless cheese. Perfect. And I'll get to be reprimanded later by my day nurse for casually spiking my blood sugar by eating non-documented carbohydrates? Super sweet. However, the hospital did have one thing that rocked my mouth, and that was the most amazing vanilla pudding that I have ever had in my life.

It was as Aphrodite herself came off Mount Olympus. and decreed that I alone should experience what was essentially a joy-gasm of vanilla. Sorry if you're visualizing that right now, but on the upside, you can always substitute your favorite celebrity instead of me, so it's all good.

I'd recommend Milla Jovovich, but that's just my fondness for zombie killing chicks talking.

Believe you me, that stuff was amazing, and it was literally the only thing I could taste. As it turned out, the lack of flavor in my meals wasn't because of anything the hospital kitchen had done, it was due to the amount of antibiotics the medical staff had used while battling my infection- it had suppressed my ability to actually taste anything that wasn't super sweet, spicy or salty, and I was later casually informed by my doctor that this condition could possibly be permanent.

Gee, Doc... I didn't get you anything. Boy, is my face red, or what?

Fortunately, this effect only lasted for a few weeks after my being discharged, which led to the incorporation of chocolate chip mint ice cream, pretzels and jambalaya as main-stays in my diet for a brief period of time. While this may sound unhealthy, it did help me put back on the thirty pounds I had lost, so there is that.

But on top of the frustration in regards to my taste buds, I also had to deal with an awkward social situation as well- two of my friends had recently broken up with each other, so I had to schedule their visits so that there wouldn't be any conflict betwixt them, or more specifically, the one who couldn't act like a grown up for ten minutes.

Spoiler: it wasn't the girl. It never ceases to amaze me how petty people can get when they're no longer the main flavor for someone. Here's some gentle advice- if you're aware that you haven't brought anything to the table, you don't get to act surprised when your partner pushes their chair back and walks away from you.

And let's face it, if there ever was a moment for me to act completely self-absorbed without guilt, this would be the one. After all, you're visiting someone in the hospital who nearly died, so your drama I'm sorry to say, needs to be shelved for the duration of your visit without question.

Yes, at that moment, it literally was all about me, and for the first time in my life, it was completely justified beyond reproach. Despite all this potential aggravation, the rest of the visits go off without a hitch, and I spend the rest of my day alternately napping and watching TV. Sadly, Michael Jackson remained dead, and according to the news, "Thriller" was still the only album he had ever recorded.

Does no one remember "Off the Wall"? Because that album rocked.
Question for another time, I guess.

Mid-afternoon of the next day, a doctor I've never seen before comes into my room and asks me if I want to go home, as they're still worried about my catching a post-infection, and they collectively think that I'm far enough along to be discharged safely. Naturally, I say yes, and naturally, he later bills my insurance company $150.00 for his "consultation".

Which by the way, I'm happy to announce he never got to pocket, as I eventually get it cleared from the final bill, which originally stood at $118,000.00. For the record, if you're going to charge me $150.00 for answering a simple question, there had better be soft music and candlelight involved beforehand. Just saying.

And if you can't do either, I'd better be seeing a case of chilled Ding Dongs come my way, and that right quick. So, after waiting a few hours to clear all the medical paperwork hurdles, I'm officially discharged, looking like a meth camp reject- bruised, pale, wobbly as a drunken aardvark, and extremely sensitive to sunlight.

And here I was, thinking it could only get better. But as I stated earlier, I was on the mend and that's what really counted in the long run. Granted, the next five weeks were transforming in their own way, but here's where our story stops for now, I think.

Looking back, I can honestly say I'm very grateful to be alive, and even more so now that I get to opine on the PAS with such brutal transparency after years of playing it quiet. I can't even begin to tell you the sensation of freedom that comes with openly and plainly stating where you stand on something, albeit it about art, politics, or your fellow human beings.

People may not like what I say/write, but they know exactly what I believe in, and no matter how many anonymous internet cravens pop up spewing venom or threats of implied violence, I'm not going to be varying my approach anytime soon.

If I'm partially responsible for changing some attitudes within the PAS, that's for others to decide, as I've got bigger fish to fry. When it gets right down to brass tacks, if someone's nose gets bent out of joint, so be it- it's on them, as I'm only accountable for what I say, not how it's interpreted.

At the end of the day, if I can get a few people to discuss openly what most needs to be discussed, I'll consider that victory enough, and I move on to the next issue at hand. What truly matters is the end goal, where the PAS is fostered into becoming an economically viable and stable art market, where galleries and their artists can not only make a living, but also get the respect that their talent is worthy of.

So in closing, my sincerest thanks to those who've read, those who've complained, and even those who've spent their free time hissing at me from under the Internet's bed- you've all helped make the last five years of my life creating this body of work some of the best.

And when we come back with number 51....

A Treeo grows in Phoenix, I attend a laughably passive-aggressive art opening, theorize about a possible new Superman villain, explain why an "art-space" isn't the same as an art gallery using an analogy involving chocolate milk, and cast a critical eye on the fair weather that blows within the PAS.

"No legacy is as rich as honesty" - William Shakespeare