photo by Beth Cullom
The photo above is a view of Cullom Gallery where my first solo show is currently hanging. I spent 5 days in Seattle last week to attend a First Thursday Art Walk reception at the gallery as well as give an artist's talk on the following Saturday. All of it was surprisingly enjoyable.
I say "surprisingly" because I really wasn't sure how I would like it. I'm mostly an introvert and can be socially awkward (can't we all?), so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to relax enough to interact well with gallery visitors. Luckily, though, when I'm really enthused about something -- like moku hanga, say -- I can get past my shyness, so I had a great time talking with the people I met.
Aside from a couple of group shows, my gallery experience has been very limited, so I was keen to meet owner Beth Cullom and talk with her about the work she does. It quickly became clear to me that Beth's knowledge of Japanese printmaking runs broad and deep and her contacts in the art world are extensive. I was impressed with her attention to detail, her ability to interact with all sorts of people, her knowledge, and her professionalism. Best of all, she's also a really nice person.
In my 20+ years as an illustrator I've never had a rep. I've been very hands-on with my own commercial art business, doing everything from accounting to marketing to web site creation myself. I've been doing many of those same tasks with my woodblock work, too, but fine art is a market that I know much less about, so I'm delighted to find the support of a gallery. The show has been selling very well, and that isn't something I could have accomplished on my own. I've heard artists complain about the "gallery system" and probably there are things to complain about, but at least for this show the "system" feels like a mutually respectful partnership that benefits both me and the gallery.
As for the great city of Seattle, my partner Lynn came with me on the trip, which made it a real vacation. When we weren't at the gallery, we spent hours exploring the city -- museums, galleries, restaurants. Oddly enough, one of our favorite places was the Seattle Public Library! In this energy-efficient 10-story building designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Levels 6 to 9 are configured as a "Book Spiral." These four floors of book stacks are connected by gentle ramps where one can quite literally walk through the Dewey Decimal System. Lynn and I felt like we were strolling through the sum total of all human knowledge! Combined with the fact that libraries are one of the last great American public spaces, democracy at its best, the experience was quite moving.
We had a wonderful time in Seattle. Check out my ferry-boat smile: