Oak Cliff in Dallas, Texas is inundated with stray dogs. They roam the streets, sometimes in packs of 10 or more. They kill cats, they get hit by cars, they attack joggers and they reproduce like mad. Living on the streets isn’t good for them either. They belong in homes of people who care for them.
We had the opportunity to paint a mural behind Teresa’s apartment and decided that this would be the perfect way to advocate for the animals in Oak Cliff so we designed a mural and went about speaking to the buildings property owner and the owner of the parking lot behind the building.
The mural was immediately approved by the owner of the building as well as the owner of the parking lot on which we would have to stand in order to paint the building. Here is a photo of the wall as is and a Photoshop mock-up of the mural that we had planned to create there:
Early on in the process of creating this mural Christina Rees from http://www.Glasstire.com heard about the mural and wrote about it on Glasstire. We were extremely happy to see that people were writing about it the mural since our original intention was not only to ask pet owners to take care of their pets but to bring attention to the problem.
Unfortunately, the owner of the Artisan’s Collective gathered other business owners to go to the owner of the parking lot and complain about the mural. We had already begun to prepare the wall, filling in large holes in the brick when we received the bad news that the owners had changed their minds.
Several people had seen the image of the proposed mural on Facebook and shared it with their friends and in a forum for pet lovers in Oak Cliff called FIDO Oak Cliff Community Forum and Lost and Found and pretty soon a lot of people were aware of the situation. That is how Chris Watts and Todd Fischer from The Petropolitan on Emmit and Hampton found out about the project and contacted us about doing the mural on the side of their building. The Petropolitan was still in the process of finishing the inside of the building and we were able to gather donations because of Amy Cowan and Go Oak Cliff as well as Sherwin Williams on Davis St. and Home Depot on Fort Worth in Oak Cliff which has been letting us use their scaffolding free of charge. There are really so many people to thank that we are incredibly encouraged by the support of the community. Andy Don Emmons helped us move more scaffolding from the Brian’s house (two artist friends of ours that together make up the art duo Chuck & George) who also donated a ton of paint. The MAC was in the process of moving and they also donated a good deal of paint to the project.
Sharon Grigsby at the Dallas Morning News picked up the story and wrote an article about it as well.
This was the photo that I took when we first visited the spot where the mural would be.
This was the mockup that I made very quickly after channel 11 came to the scene to film. I eventually changed it to add the dog which had inspired Chris and Todd to care for animals. As you can see, she was a disabled dog and a mix of several breeds.
Channel 11 did air the mural but only for a few seconds and twice as the story ended up being replaced by a story about a child who had drowned.
We had a grand opening/painting party to celebrate the opening of The Petropolitan and a lot of brave and hardworking people came out and climbed high scaffolding in order to help us to paint. Before the Grand Opening we had to disassemble what was on the wall and draw in the design. Unfortunately, we were not able to simply project our image onto the wall and trace it so Teresa and I were forced to draw the entire thing by hand. It was very strange to draw on that scale because of the fact that we had to do it on a small scaffold which made it very difficult to step back and gain perspective on the mural.
We also received complaints about the mural at the new location but Chris and Todd didn’t back down. They were even told that there would be protestors during the grand opening but we were fortunate to enjoy the day without protest.
The Oak Cliff Advocate wrote about it here:
Here is Teresa sitting in front of the newly sketched in mural.
DallasVoice did an article about The Petropolitan in an issue about pets and featured the photoshop mockup of the mural along with an ad for The Petropolitan.
I used to believe that the artists we respected as a culture were necessarily the ones who were the most creative, most skilled and who had created the greatest works of art. This is because it wasn’t as apparent to me as it is now just how important it is to be a salesman and to be in the right place at the right time.
If Picasso had made and sold the same art in Beijing, would we know his name? If he hadn’t been represented by a talented salesman, would he have ever escaped poverty? Picasso asked the same question.
“What would have become of us if Kahnweiler hadn't had a business sense?” –Pablo Picasso
This show aims to urge people to see beyond the hype; to assure them that over time it will be easier (to a certain extent) for people to be aware of the pretense and marketing that causes some works to be over-valued and other works to be under-valued.
Because we say that anything can be “art” in a certain sense and shown in a gallery and that therefore anyone can make “art,” we have caused the galleries to be completely inundated by work that shows little or no originality, effort or creativity and poor craftsmanship.
This contributes to a problem of largely unjustified snobbery on the part of certain artists and galleries that are focused on selling the sizzle and not the steak in an oversaturated market.
Showing at The Petropolitan Museum of Art challenges a group-think mentality which assumes that if a work of art is shown in a certain gallery or, if a certain person likes or, doesn’t like the work, it is necessarily good or bad work. And choosing “cats” as a theme makes it easy for the public to understand and enjoy fine art.
The French title “l’essence de la chat” sounds fancy but is essentially a vulgarity. “l’essence de la chat”is a widely accepted French idiom, meaning something like "the smell of pussy" or more literally “the essence of the pussy”. Native French speakers snickered when I asked about the title convincing me that the double entendre would permit me yet another swat at the "art" mindset which expects more from swarthy French titles. Touché, Pussy Cat!
By using everything from Kitty Litter to ready-made internet articles and by repeatedly taking objets-d’art and turning them into utilitarian objects and vice-versa, I experiment with the notion that any technique or material is acceptable for use in fine art.
With a deeper gaze, I think that most will see behind the feline patina that covers my work and find that “l’essence de la chat” is really a show about art and the art world. I’m actually allergic to cats.
Consider this bait-and-switch as a metaphor for the art world’s vapidity and the inability of so many people in the art world to see past “hype.” Buying into objects and styles without taking into account their shabby cores (like a used cat tower coated in bronze) is a tendency that I see in both decorative art (work primarily intended to simply decorate a home) or “conceptual minimalism” that simply screws two disparate things together for little effect. Both of these styles of art making tend to mask themselves with pompous and unintelligible artist statements with the intention of imbuing the work with a sort of deep philosophical exploration, but are really more of a disguise than anything like the skunk Pepé Le Pew, dousing himself in perfume so as to fit in among the cats.
Essentially, this art market issue of the disparity between the quality of an item and the sale price of an item seems to me to be the same in most any market. Take the stock market as an example:
People speak of two measurements of value when taking account of the value of a stock. There is a market value (which the price as what the stock is trading at on the market) and there is an intrinsic value, the value of the stock as determined by a fundamental analysis.
Economists stipulate that over time the market value will approach the intrinsic value and I think that the same things apply in the art market.
Experts can agree that a painting exhibits a high level of skill on the part of the craftsman or that it is highly original. This “fundamental analysis,” the very important job of art critics and art historians, can give us an idea of the intrinsic value of a work of art.
In other words; artwork, like an idea, should be judged on its own merits. They often aren’t. Don’t let it get you down though, because time will sort through some of these things. At least to a certain extent…