The great challenge of all creatives is to marry heaven and earth. Making ideals work in the grit of the daily slog.
When I first had the idea to open an art gallery the vision for it came gushing in a wave of glory. I was driving across the state of Florida to help my Dad who’d recently had a stroke. You’d think the idea had been borne on the wings of angels I was so enthralled.
I leapt out of my van in a podunk town south of the Lake Okeechobee to call Ann from a pay phone. Yep, it was that long ago. It was late, possibly midnight, possibly later. I was breathless to get the idea out.
“I’m going to open an art gallery!”
Ann, despite only having been dating me for a month or two — this round, we’d dated in college, 15 years earlier — got swept up too.
“I’m in! I’m doing it with you.”
At that mid of night moment we had only the rush of heightened blood flow coursing through our brains. The idea seemed lofty, inevitable. As though the resplendent glow from its halo would part the world’s waters for us.
Six or seven months later, Studio E Gallery opened for business in a small coastal town. Or, as a local called it, the town of the newly wed and the nearly dead. The typical homes there were so small that only retirees and young couples sought them out.
No idea births on this planet without labor pains.
In that half year we got frenetic. We hustled our way into a space, we hustled our way into artists’ minds.
An artist we convinced to be among the six featured artists at our opening has sold well over a million dollars of artwork through our gallery in the ensuing twenty years. But no one could have predicted its success. Most galleries curl up and die a few months or a few years later.
What I mean by hustling our way into an artist’s mind is this: We were nothing — a non-entity — the gallery didn’t even exist when I spoke with artists. It didn’t even have a name.
We had to implant the likelihood of success into their heads! No easy feat when we came without experience, without credentials, without even art degrees. We had to galvanize each artist in the early days. We had to get them to believe it was worth their sweaty effort to produce their best work for us — and fast.
Because the clock was ticking, the opening was right around the corner.
Every idea gets earthbound fast. You either love the process or you don’t. If you’re not excited with the path there then that idea isn’t for you.
Or wait until you alight upon a path that intrigues you as much as the end point.
When we weren’t running around to art fairs to find artists we loved, we were in the thick of the hunt for space. And after we had the space we were dawn till way past dusk ripping up everything in that space that didn’t work for an art gallery and carting it to the dumpster. Which was most everything.
Art galleries are lean clean spaces. This space was not that. Not at the beginning. But at the end it was.
It took weeks of demolition and scouring and scrubbing and painting to convert that space. This of course was after months of research and paperwork and running around.
And yet — this was not work. It was exhilarating exhausting creation. When you are creating something from scratch you deplete yourself scrabbling the components together. It’s as though you mine the earth for the raw materials with your bare brain and your bare hands. And then you assemble them into the closest Frankenstein monster of a similarity to your idea you can.
You dreamed of a diaphanous water nymph; you end up with a clunky manbot cobbled together from rusted parts. Instead of gliding across the surface it stomps in the shallows shoreside. But it moves! It’s alive in its own manner!
And you brought this thing to life with sweat and cunning.
Creation at its core is the hardest nonwork you’ll ever do. Eventually, with refinement, you’ll see that water nymph emerge . . . It took us ten or eleven years before we stood in the gallery of our dreams. Each year, each iteration, each near-death event that we survived brought us closer . . .
The only way to your dream is mano a mano with whatever materials you can scrounge. All creation is like this. You work it like a pro. All in. Fingers in the dirt, working your environment with all you’ve got, till you unearth what you need. Piece by piece.
When at last you stand up and gaze at your creation, damn!
You did it.
You created like a god, taking a wispy idea from the thought-o-sphere and wrestling it all the way to Earth. It’s here on this planet now because of you. Your labors brought it forth. It’s not work. It’s a love child. It’s an offering to the divine. It’s something you fucking created from nothing.
Take a bow.
Excerpted from a bookito in progress: The Way Of The Creative
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