Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shell Game: An Art Show About the Financial Meltdown

Great American Bubble Machine.  The first painting in the Shell Game series

Last fall, Occupy Wall Street happened outside my window. 

I'd spent the last few years making my living drawing for ferociously swank nightclubs, while watching the world crumble and people from Tahrir Square to Athens to London take to the streets. "Americans are too apathetic for that," everyone said. But they weren't.

People's librarian with my art during Occupy Wall Street demonstration

I’d  wanted for some time to make art that dealt with politics. But I was afraid of being hypocritical, propagandistic or boring. 2011 taught me that political art was anything but, and it freed me to do the best work of my career. Drawings I made then turned up as protest signs around the country. 

Now I want to make something bigger. I want to make big, fancy, impressive art, about the ways in which big, fancy, impressive entities have profoundly screwed us up.

Great American Bubble Machine.  Detail

Shell Game is an art show about the world financial collapse, and the people who have risen up in protest against it. I'll create nine giant paintings about the different parts of the collapse and the global movement fighting back (including Goldman Sachs, Greece, and Occupy Wall Street), but filter them through my lens of burlesque, surrealism, satire, and symbolic animals. Then, I'm going to rent a storefront in New York city, rig it out like a gambling parlor, and invite the city and the Internet to check it out for a week.

Great American Bubble Machine.  Detail

It doesn’t seem right to make an art show about the way financial elites screwed us up and only sell things that financial elites can afford. So I’m turning to you to create an art show that anyone can be a part of. Your support in this project will help me cover the cost of creating spectacular art that’s meant for everyone to enjoy. And help me do it without asking the permission of rich people. 

Because art is awesome. And big, splashy, gold encrusted, glittering things are awesome. But so is populism. I want to see how they look together.  

Great American Bubble Machine.  Detail

What Will The Money Go Towards?

Each painting in Shell Game takes, from study to final glaze, a month to complete, including 100 hours in front of the easel. I'm asking for your help to afford creating the work, renting a New York storefront, paying for supplies, staffing, gambling chips, girls to bathe in bathtubs of fake money, and six-foot-tall panels to paint. 

In return, you can get access to every aspect of making these giant paintings.  

While I'm making Shell Game, I want you with me. I'll be keeping a backers-only blog, and livestreaming my painting sessions. Kickstarter rewards include prints, studies, watercolor drawings and concept doodles -- plus fake money, prints, cameos, poker chips, brushes, studio visits, and a VIP opening to experience the art with a select cast of my favorite reprobates.

What will the art and other rewards look like? 

When I do a big painting, I start off with a rough thumbnail.  Then I do a tighter compositional study, and a finished watercolour pen and ink drawing that I'll project onto a primed panel. Finally, I paint the damn thing. Each of these stages is being offered as a Kickstarter reward. I finished the first Shell Game painting, Great American Bubble Machine. Here it is, along with the steps it took to get there.

Great American Bubble Machine. Acrylic on Wood painting. 6 feet x 4 feet

Ink and watercolour study for Great American Bubble Machine.

Black and white, 8.5 x 11 study for Great American Bubble Machine

5" x 7" thumbnail for Great American Bubble Machine

Molly Crabapple Poker Chip

Molly Crabapple Million Dollar Bill (design by Chris Lowrance)

Other Questions

How will the $8000 paintings be distributed?  If I donate $8000, when can I choose my painting? Is "The Great American Bubble Machine still available?

When I finish all 9 giant paintings, I'm going to email the $8000 backers with images of all of them, and ask them to choose which one they want.  Paintings will be available on a first-come first serve basis. 

The Great American Bubble Machine has been snapped up by early backers.  Sorry.  But everything else will be of a similar aesthetic (large central figure, scampering crowd of surrealist animals, stage, hyper-detail, the same size, and the same quality

Why aren't you doing Shell Game in a gallery?

Because I want to do giant paintings, and not have to depend on a few rich people to buy them.

The thing with galleries is that they sell one-off objects at prices most people can't afford. So a large fan-base doesn't necessarily mean much, because most people can't afford to drop thousands of dollars on non-necessities. But with giant works of art, there are so many steps and pieces that go into it that there’s plenty to go around for those who can’t buy the whole thing. 

Shell Game is my attempt to see if there's a way to fund big, time-consuming art without depending on rich collectors. I want to flip the model. That's why I'm relying on small donors buying sketches, prints, and studies to fund the making of the work. Medici is the crowd.  

Is Shell Game dirty commie pinko propaganda?

Maybe a little. But you'll find the same scampering fat cats, tentacles, and surreal details that are always in my work. So my fans who could care less about world affairs should still like it.

What's a "projection transparency"?

A projection transparency is a drawing printed onto clear acetate that I'll use to project my studies on my 6 foot x 4 foot wood panels. I always thought they were pretty, kind of like black lace.

When will Shell Game take place?

Early 2013, New York City

What mediums will you work in?

For each painting, I do rough doodles in my sketchbook, a pen and ink study on white paper, and a larger watercolor study before moving on to a 6 foot x 4 foot l acrylic painting on wood panel. I'll be doing nine of these paintings for the show.

How often will you livestream?

Hopefully weekly, but at least every other week, for the months during which I create the show. Plus the opening.

What does "shipping fees will be required" mean on the $2000, $6000 and $8000 rewards?

Since I'm creating paintings on wood panel, they get heavy. Shipping domestically and internationally can be pricey. If you're interested in these rewards and concerned about shipping costs, message me with your location and preferred shipping method, and I'll figure out a rough price estimate.

You say the prints will be signed and numbered.  How many prints will be in an edition?

I'll only be selling Shell Game prints as part of this Kickstarter. So if 100 people back Shell Game, get prints as rewards, and choose the same print, that print will be an edition of 100.

Is the VIP show only accessible to me or can I bring a +1? What if I can't be in NYC for it?

You are welcome to bring a +1. If you will not be in NYC for the opening (the exact date will be announced later in the year, when I've secured a location and date) you are welcome to transfer your invite and +1 to a local friend.

How do I give you my information for delivery? What if I move?

I won't be able to send out the rewards for several months. Once the paintings are complete, I will send out a survey via Kickstarter to obtain shipping information. If, between sending out the survey & the announcement that rewards are going out, you move/go on vacation/find yourself in an alternate dimension please send me a note as soon as you know so I can make changes. I'll keep everyone up to date via Backers Only updates & announcements on the website.

Song "New York City" by Kim Boekbinder.  Thank you to Matt Taibbi for coining the term Great American Bubble Machine in his article on Goldman Sachs. Videography by Brainwomb. Photos courtesy of Bill Wadman and Steve Prue.

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