But this ride was intended to be no mere pleasure ride; I need to tell you why I went. A month before, an artist friend informed me of a multi media activity advertised in AbsoluteArts Online. She said, "It fits you." I did not think so. It was to submit myself to a sort of screen test combined with an interview that the owner/director of the Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art held, between 11 AM and, I found out while standing with a bunch of other aspirants, 'till the line ran out.
So I took Metrolink from the downtown Riverside station to the Irvine station, pedaling the rest of the way, 13mi, to Laguna Beach. I arrived a bit late, at approx. Noon, and others trickled in after me. My route did not go smoothly, though. I mistook the gallery to be the Laguna Beach Museum of Art so I went to the Museum. God, was I wrong. I made a mild fool of myself at the institution, diplomatically wondering out loud about how I got the time, date, or both wrong and, if I was right, where was the audition which, I was thinking, clearly stated at the Museum. I tried several methods to figure out what the problem was, until I finally asked in the nicest of tones if I could use the receptionist's computer to access my email to reread the invitation. Upon rereading it -- the receptionist saw it --, it did not say the Museum but the LGOCA.
They pointed "It's down the hill about two blocks away, really near by." I thanked her and her assistant, "I appreciate that you allowed me to look at my email to resolve the problem. I would have been sorry to come all the way down here, to Laguna, without doing what I had planned." However, the address the director gave was on the other side of the street, at another gallery, apparently having nothing to do with the destination. Its director nervously or irritatingly said that I needed to go to the brick building at the corner. There was a brick building but not at the corner, but I went to the brick building and I saw a line, so I assumed it was the cattle call, and I parked myself and the bike behind it. There I was in my bicycle clothes. The line twisted around the corner of the walkway, ending at the veranda, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where the camera crew and the director were filming the aspirants.
Keeping things in order were about four clean-cut college age, student types, who wore red T-shirts labeled "SECURITY." But they were more assistants or helpers who kept us hydrated with bottled water, energy bars, and pizza. Totally unexpected. Maybe this is normal in this region. I don't know.
The wait was long. It was 3PM when my three minute turn came. Just as advertised, the production crew held the event on the veranda. It turned out that it extended from the back of the gallery building and over the cliff overlooking the beach. Surfers in the distance were waiting for useful waves; People were lounging on their blankets, some under umbrellas. A corpulent woman whose hips were about twice the width of her shoulders stood in about one foot of water, allowing a succession of waves to run up her legs carefully jiggled her way into deeper water.
A security guard had earlier allowed me to store my bike inside the art gallery after I expressed concern that parking it outside posed risk of theft. As I went up to retrieve the bike, the gallery director, set up to film a different set of artists in a kind of anteroom, asked me if I would like an interview.
••"Sure!" I liked this.
•"Would you be willing to include the bicycle in the shot?"
••"Yes, of course, but I wonder if I could walk in the bike?" I said with enthusiasm and helping him develop the scene, I realized later.
"Yes. We'll include the bicycle." He seemed to like the idea. Since he also presented himself as an artist, he must have been intreagued by this exception; It differed from that day's -- and I am guessing here -- cookie cutter interview style which was to sit an artist down on the couch, then roll the camera and do Q&As.
I took three takes to maneuver the bike around the camera cabeling and under overhead microphone, finaally managing to dock it at the far end of the couch where it rested unstably. "Let's move on," he said with resignation.
Since I had never been interviewed in depth before by a private gallery, I was surprised by the novelty of the questions. For example,
•"Do you want to become renowned in the art world?"
Pausing to give my answer some thought and looking back down from the ceiling, I said something like,
••"I don't want to be known, you know, like a celebrity is known," I was thinking, "as a personality, as much as wanting my art to be respected and, by that measure, I hope to be respected by my peers as an artist. I want to continue to lead in ideas."
His demeaner changed; Did I just portray myself as a person who is not willing to promote my work, myself, remaining a mere influencer rather than work to become a personality, a celebrity, who would attract sales by force of renown, thus help the gallery's bottom line? Did my response just eliminate me from becoming one of the three candidates chosen for the biographical short movie? Perhaps other issues and concerns run through their minds. Perhaps their plans are still in flux and the full plan can not emerge until the production crew reflects on all of the possibilities introduced by the participants in this project. Such were the thoughts running through my mind. I was completely in the dark. I truly did not know what was going on in their crew.
•"Where do you see yourself ten years from now?"
••I would like to continue to make art and to exhibit in art galleries.
What kind of an answer was that? I did not mention selling them in art galleries. From now on, I will think about sales also, the sales angle as part of the business end, something I don't normally do. I already have pure creativity down pat. No problem there at all.
Then he asked me if I brought samples of artwork and said no, but then began an account of what I intended to be a description of three of my latest completed series of works: Diaphanous Geithner, Magic Carpet Landscapes, and Sceneggiata Biers. I did not get past the Diaphanous when I said that it can be seen on the Web. Just type my name in quotes in Google and YouTube to see lots of results, images and short movies. I then described the moviettes, some political, most fine art.
He then asked me,
•"Do you really mean that if I were to type your name into Google's search for images that we could see lots of your artwork?"
••"Yes, if you put quotes around my name, you might avoid getting, well, "John Smith" or "Robert Dingler. You will just get John Dingler," I stated matter-of-factly.
His eyes seemed to sparkle a bit and the camera operator's eyes lost the glazed-over look. At around this moment in my answer, I wondered if I should be looking at the two, or at the camera always. Who knows. It's a creative field where pleasant surprises might matter.
On reflection, I suppose that he was either wondering what I was doing here since so much my work, he may have been thinking, is already on the Web, or, being that the gallery was, in my opinion, a fundamentally commercial enterprise, that the director would be spared from the thankless task of promoting me from scratch. I can only speculate.
On the way out of the room where the second interview/screen test done by Shane Townley, Director/Founder of the Laguna gallery of Contemporary art, the one by the gallery owner -- the first interview was done by a hired gun, Clayton J. Daniells, CEO & President of QOOQOO -- his camera operator asked me to fill out a questionnaire/data card asking for my contact info. You know, at this juncture, considering the questionnaire I already filled out, the curious woman who additionally interviewed some of us as we stood in line, and now this card, well, I wondered if the main goal of this project to entice new people to collect their contact for a database used to target individuals to sell them products and services? Are we being hoodwinked?
Shane Townley produced this video of his interview.
But about that curious woman. Pam Squires is the Marketing & Sales Director for LagunaART.com. One can write her at < Pam@LagunaARTgroup.com > The physical address listed on her card is 570 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. That's across the street from the location of the interview. She can be reached at 1-888-9FI-NEART. She appeared to be more business-like then the other principals. It became apparent when she stopped to chat with an artist in line two people before me. She chatter her up, as they say, in such a familiar fashion that it took me aback. I because interested enough in her demeaner that I made an effort to listen to this pubic conversation. It must have lasted about ten minutes. The artist was dressed in a kind of gown, purplish blue, that ran down to her ankles. The sleeves seemed to widen at the wrists, and then extended over her palms. She wore a hat with a wide brim of the same color, all of this giving me the impression that she dressed herself up to project an impression of the way an artist should look, as well as a person, who thinks of herself as an artist, would want to be viewed.
Her painting rested on a low retaining wall make of bricks that snaked around the curved walkway. It depicted a discarnate head of a dog, you know, cut off at the neck, or was it a cat, which dominated the center of the canvas while the rest of the canvas was filled in with a skeuomorphic design using the similar colors and technique. What impressed was the spit and polish of the paint surface and the extreme accuracy of the depiction of the eyes, nose, coat, right down to the very minutest details. The animal's facial expression was a cliche to die for. I can imagine a lover of dogs or cats being attracted to the image. Pam seemed to be coaching the artist about how framing methods and how to display it on a gallery wall, I think, stuff like how to present herself to a prospective art gallery, and her attitude about achieving success. There was no meaningful talk about the quality of the artwork itself. It was as if Pam made the lady understand that the animal picture was perfect for an unstated gallery. It was framed to be ready for a gallery reveal. I wondered if it was what the directors sought. But, by this time, I concluded that Pam probably ran a typical Laguna Beach art gallery catering to tourists and interior decorators who liked hyper-realistic beach scenes such as ocean waves breaking before a setting sun or else domestic scenes painted in a loosely representational style.
Pam then approached me.
•"Hi, and what is your name? Did you bring artwork?"
••"No. No actual arwork.
•"And how do you expect to be evaluated," an nearby artist asked.
••"I have images loaded in my camera. But, we don't know for what we are primarily being evaluated: It could be our personality, our communication ability, how we look, and perhaps especially how our personalities agree with the documentarian. Besides, I could not carry a decent representative work on my bicycle so....
•"Did you really ride all the way from Riverside?" with an enthusiastic expression while her body leaned into the other side of the counter to absorb the conversation better.
••"No, not all the way to here. I took Metrolink to Irvine then biked the rest of he way. I'll ride all the way back to Riverside, however, and hope to also forage for food as I go."
She then told me that she worries about her dad's running.
••"My dad runs for exercise, and I worry about him. I wish he would do something else."
We both agreed that running is high impact, wearing out cartilage in the knees causing premature arthritis. As I said these words, I wondered about the condition of the knees of a certain early 20th C. Olympic distance runner who, according to an interview, did nothing but run to get into condition. We had a pleasant chat about how bicycling has less of an impact.
•I enjoy biking very much," but did not say why. I always leave out this part, not being used to longer dialogues, and especially when in Right Brain mode such as then when I have to forcefully sculpt each word to prepare for its utterance, for its release into the conversation. I am aware of this mental combat which further slows down my speech. I am so self-conscious at these times.
So I left the art gallery building, careful not to brush the pedal of my bike against the glass door.
I decided to take a more understandable route on the way back: I rode NW on PCH and made a right turn onto SART. I had a chance to test my headlight after sunset.