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Posts Tagged ‘Gallery Talks’

With my annual Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d share a blog  entry from back in 2009 about a talk that was approaching then. I still have some of the same anxieties but it has gotten easier and I think a lot smoother over the years:

Gallery TalkWell, today’s my annual Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in Corning in conjunction with my show, Dispatches, which is hanging there until the end of August.  I’ve done quite a few of these talks over the years, probably 14 or 15, so I know what to expect.  But there’s always a little anxiety anytime you have to speak in front of any group of people.

My gallery talks are always pretty much off the top of my head which, when it works and the audience is receptive and interacting, is good.  When it doesn’t work, it’s pretty ugly, especially for me.  A lot of blank stares and awkward silences as I try to find a hole in which I can hide.  Luckily, that’s only happened once or twice.

The first talk I did at the West End was back in 1997 and I had put everything I wanted to get across into a short speech that I wrote out and memorized.  Well, the talk began and I reeled off my little speech.  It was pretty good, everything moving along smoothly, until I came to the end of my prepared statement and glimpsed at the clock.

It had lasted about 4 minutes and my mind was a totally blank slate.

Tom Gardner, then co-owner of the gallery and a well known painter, had told me a little trick before the talk.  He told me to always have a glass of water and when I came to a spot where I was stuck with nothing to say to simply walk back and forth in front of the audience and take a very slow sip of the water.  Look thoughtful.  I thought it was pretty good advice until I realized I would be pacing back and forth, sipping water, for 56 minutes.

That much sipping would also demand a bathroom break.

Luckily, Tom rescued me with a question and from there it snowballed with the rest of the crowd asking questions, one subject leading to another. Phew!  Over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable with the whole thing and have an assortment of anecdotes to fall back on when things start to falter.

Another reason I don’t go in with a prepared speech is that each group of people is different.  Some groups are more interested in talking technique, wanting to know how each piece is painted.  What type of paint I use and how I achieve certain aspects in the paintings.  That kind of thing.  But others are not so interested in the how but in the why.  They prefer to hear what the stories are behind the paintings.  So, there’s a moment at the beginning of each talk  when I have to gauge what approach suits this particular group best.  I really try to stay away from the technical side for the most part because sometimes, when I’m droning on about such things, I can see the non-painters’ eyes glazing over.  I try to get off the subject as soon as possible when I spot this and try to engage their interest.

It usually goes pretty well and we all have a few laughs.  I’m hoping today is no different.  If you’re in the area today, the talk takes place at noon at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY.

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Win This Painting!

I think that last paragraph definitely applies to tomorrow’s talk. I am pretty sure it’s going to go well. I’ll tell some stories, we’ll have some laughs, maybe reveal a couple of things you didn’t know before and then I give away some stuff. That’s plural, as those who have come to these talks in the past will recognize. The painting shown here is the main prize but you never know what else will show up.  So tomorrow, Saturday, August 5, I encourage you to come out to the West End Gallery at 1 PM. Maybe come a little early to claim a seat. It should be fun.

An ASL Interpreter will be on hand

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