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I.T.B


By Gwyn Joy

Ian the Bastard. That’s what I sometimes call him or I.T.B for short. Not a bastard like William the Conqueror was formally William the Bastard, but a bastard in the same manner Pat Sajak might be considered a bastard when irate winners come back to the show with armloads of dysfunctional brand-new crap and he tells them to fuck off. Now that’s a bastard. Tell everyone to have their pets neutered, big smile, now fuck off. Or was that the other one? Whatever. If it were up to me I.T.B would be neutered, or rather his parents and it would be done by Sajak, too, smiling his bastard smile as White clapped lamely and waited for her career to turn over with the letters. She got what she wanted.

I.T.B with his super-thick, heavy-rimmed glasses, and his cool short-and-spiky haircut that says, I’m new and I’m modern and I’m Ian and I insult peoples paintings. Do people choose professions based on name? Ian. Art Critic. I think he just woke up and said, “My name is Ian. This validates my opinion on art.” His head would have been too large to reflect in his tiny bastard coffee beverage that morning so he might have looked in the window for the definitive decision. “Yes, I wear thick glasses and have a precious little spiky hairstyle that people enjoy, I definitely should be an art critic.”

Yeah, well, I’ve seen his work. I took classes with him. Classes with glasses, big thick rimmed ones. Great. He was trying to be a sculptor of some sort, always bending wire into one thing or another, cocking his head from side to side, causing everyone to give him the confidence he himself never had. My work was strong. I know that. I’m objective, too, and can see where I go wrong and help myself before being forced to make a big production out of it and have to flip my head from side to side and murmur and dally-dance around with an undeserving group of admirers and always saying things like, “But I don’t knooooow…” and laughing about it. Hah hah hah cause art is funny and quirky and we’re all in it together so let’s just pile on top of the kiln and screw and call it a “piece” or a “happening” and after Ian the Bastard can put on his nice retro-sixties thick-rimmed glasses and hammer out a stiff and block like article on how super it was and thanks to everyone who helped. I’m not saying this because I think my work is so great. I would just rather have it written up by someone who has a little more intellect and a little less Spring Fashion Show 2000 Paris than Ian.

My show was a hit. I think so. Everyone I knew showed up. Karl came and he never comes to gallery openings. I think he realized it was my first and maybe I needed the support. True, we hadn’t spoken in years, but he definitely warmed me up by saying, “You’ve been busy.” and I agreed indeed I had. The show was spectacular. The gallery had the look of Value Village, the feeling of Greenwich Village (though I’ve never been) and the sound of….the Village People?… personally I’ve never listened to them but they had style and so did my show. I.T.B thought different but I didn’t care. The kudos came rolling in. My friend Claire offered to buy the painting she’d spilled her pinkish drink on. It was a $200 painting. An accident. No one makes $200 “accidents.” I begged her off but then relented, and put a red dot on the corner. So many people had packed themselves into the gallery I couldn’t even see some of my paintings at times. During the day the gallery also doubles as a place someone could get a cup of coffee and a bagel, and at one point I stood on the counter to give my thanks. In the back was I.T.B, hovering about. He had placed a red dot on his forehead to show he was “sold” to someone or other. This was very unoriginal. Virtually everyone that had been drinking had red dots stuck to their asses, not mention anything else they could think of. One of my paintings actually had five dots strategically placed on the subject, a man, which though humorous on a sophomoric level was not appropriate I felt. I tried hard to ignore Ian as I thanked everyone who had supported me in my first gallery opening but I could feel his eyes judging my artwork and me hatefully. Perhaps he was jealous. Perhaps he was perplexed at how far I’d come so fast, how I’d developed into a new talent worth watching who stood now as a potential ring-leader of a new school of West coast art. I’ve been thinking of calling it the “Neo-Formalists School,” but we’ll see. When I finished taking my bows I snapped a cold but smiling look in his direction only to realize he’d gone outside for a cigarette with some friends. Well, he might have missed the whole speech but that didn’t stop snippy Ian from writing an entirely scathing article about my show.

The article was written for “Downtown” and was relegated, due to editorial leanings more than for content, I feel, to the back section of the paper, practically stuffed into the classifieds. In it, he railed on my paintings calling them, “a strange mix of Nouveau Realism and solid technical skill in the manner of Dean Osmond.” Dean Osmond! What? Dean Osmond paints nude women! And if I am not mistaken, the only nude I had in the show was a man who remained so only until the red dots appeared. I.T.B went even further however, and included a cutting slight only myself and those close to us would feel when he said, “Malcom’s dramatic improvement, though no surprise to me, will be a nice surprise to the coffee house scene.” Apparently, galleries that sell coffee are immediately confined to a “coffeehouse” stature and apparently those inside will enjoy their simple coffee’s much more with my simple paintings. Where the hell is Pat Sajak when you need him besides slow early evenings and backwater cable. I wanted to trap him about his baleful and trite commentary but he was smarter than I anticipated and when I approached him and his now flat retro comb over hair on Madison and 10th he craftily said, “Oh hi Malcom, great show! I wrote it up and really liked it, good luck!” He said this in chirpy, delighted tone as though I.T.B, passive-aggressive bastard Ian, was simply too busy to considerer that perhaps I’d read it. Dean Osmond. He paints nude women. I was embarrassed for him though, for his comb over hair, and simply said, “thanks” and walked into The Pastry Chef though I didn’t actually need to go in. I bought a pain aux raisins for effect.

Yesterday I started to work again on my painting. A super famous painter once said, “If I were an artist, I would not paint.” I can’t remember his name but I think about it all the time. It is a great saying, and I actually used it at my show- it was the first thing I’d said as I began to thank everyone. I forgot to mention who said it but I’m sure most people attributed it to me as I usually am the one in a group who says similar things. Of course I.T.B did not put it in the article, opting instead to compare me to a nude realist painter.

One would think that with world events coming into crisis the public would need something more nourishing than a collection of dull wooden blocks with metal wire protruding from various angles with an assortment of the artists personal mementos each more horrid than the next in person taste and style underneath. Apparently this is exactly what Ian thought the world needed, and in his show just two weeks after mine he gave everyone a strong dose of his art, which, I will say, gave more the impression of syrup of Ipecac. I’m not sure why so many decided to show up, or how he got into the Savine Gallery, but I was fairly sure everyone had come for the drinks. I had.

I also had come with my friend Sasha who for reasons of failing health even at her young age (cigarettes), a tumultuous adolescence (the junk), and a rocky ongoing relationship with a “poet” (right) has a hard time picking out good from bad. In this case she screeched and announced she had seen some of “this wire kinetic sculpture before and really loved it.” Poor Sasha. I blame the poet. Later in the evening he arrived and apologized to Sasha about some fight or other they had just had. He then splashed his mouth like a poorly trained seal with a Spanish coffee. I might have given him a napkin but he would have written something on it. Meanwhile Ian seemed to be the whirlwind of gossip and drama that he has a knack for. I watched him from across the gallery. He would laugh as though something just said was hysterical and clutch his heart to keep it from bursting out then cock his head to the side in rapt attention to the next delicious comment. Nod nod, nod, and then “I knoooooow!….” and back to the head snapping. I watched someone’s sweater catch a piece of his “kinetic wire” and fray it.

Near the end of his opening I was intoxicated, and why not? It was all I could do to survive the combination of Sasha’s loud and embarrassing announcements on what she thought Ian was “saying” with his big wire blocks and the large number of red dots on the nameplates of the works. It became painfully obvious the general public had little idea what good art really was. Perhaps I should have worn large thick-rimmed glasses to my show. Perhaps I should have done my hair in a retro fashionable comb over or put it into layers of precious spikes. Perhaps I should start writing cutting and snappy articles on fellow artists and make asinine correlations between two completely different styles of painting. Maybe I could write an article on Claire who still had not paid me for the painting she had purchased nor picked it up.

I’m not sure what really happened near the end. Sara Mitchfield claimed to have seen me putting red stickers on a “sculpture.” Truthfully I can’t remember seeing one sculpture the whole night but I guess wire shoved into wooden blocks and placed on crap trinkets is sculpture. Mitchfield went further in saying that I then knocked one over “on purpose.” Let me just point out that Sara Mitchfield has a hard time constructing sentences when she is excited, and for that matter rational thought, and so what she was actually saying at that time could be construed many ways. At any rate I was pushed in the back after that happened, and this momentum caused me to hit the second project, Fast track, and we both (Fast Track and I) went to the floor. I am still amazed that the person who pushed me in the back was himself not thrown out of the show but when I was able to stand up albeit on the top of Fast Track many people were beginning to shower accusations at me and I don’t think anyone noticed the wire cuts I had sustained to my hands. Ian had a look of pity on his face when he saw the two projects on the ground. I think that was the real problem near the end. I did apologize for the mishap, but everyone was making a big deal about the fact I would not say the word ‘sculpture” and used “projects” as a more suitable term. What’s the big deal? We all have a very subjective way of looking at the world and my version of sculpture is very different from many other kinds of people and their respective opinions. Rambo made a lot of money at the box office, let’s remember, and is regarded as “cinema.” I’m sorry, but tell that to the poor people who lived in those countries on which the action was based and they might think differently about it. In the end nobody seemed to be in the mood to harbor an open mind that night, and when I told Ian his series of projects were putting me on the Fast Track to fame as a simple means of using humor to alleviate a volatile situation I was asked to leave.

Frankly, however, I was glad to go. In fact, I.T.B should have thanked me, the knocking over of his two projects made the opening the art world buzz for some time and he subsequently, due almost fully I’m sure to my help, sold all of his work. Great. Meanwhile Portland’s most spineless business Kafka’s Koffee decided I had to take my work down before the allotted month was up due to the fact that they had “underestimated the impact my artwork would have on the clientele.” The counter help at the Kafka’s Koffee, mind you, is not exactly on private commission for the New York Times Art Review. They are easily swayed by few customer comments here and there and like lemmings follow whatever the buzz of the day happens to be. They seemed to think along with some clients that my work was “uneventful.” Right. Most of the help here comes from basic over used gene pools in the gin making areas of the state. They are hardy, smile ridden stock, who wander into the city with Dads logging wood chips still stuck to their boots after having been run out of town for the blue crazy streak down the middle of their hair. Black painted nails may hide the engine grease underneath them, but the fact that my art work did not have an elk or a fishing boat smattered across the front spelled doom for its future in Kafka’s Koffee and I promised them in all sincerity as I walked out of the door that the muffins they made tasted very similar to ass. It is always frustrating, as well, when you want somebody to believe the insult but they think you are just doing it out of spite for a current conflict. I could tell they did not believe me but it is true: Kafka’s Koffee muffins taste like ass. I wasn’t even mad at them! I just want to go back and say, “Look, I’m not mad about my art work coming down. That’s okay. I like you guys and “Kafka’s Koffee.” But seriously, the muffins here at Kafka’s Koffee taste like ass.:”

Anyways, right now I’m working on some new stuff, a couple of sculptures actually. I’m using wire but not in a distracted and demoralizing way like I.T.B’s projects. My work, I think, will allow people to enjoy and understand it without the necessity of taking Ian’s approach, purchasing the equivalent of a vineyards yearly output and making sure it is filtered through everyone’s spleen or whatever. It is hard finding someone to take my work right now, but I feel the market is wide open for my kind of medium and execution and its only a matter of time before I am picked up. Not that I trust this city’s taste at all. I simply hope to make it smell a little less like diesel fuel and sawed cedar. But that won’t happen now that I think about it. Not with clever Ian the Bastard writing his punchy commentaries on art while squinting thoughtfully behind five pounds of black plastic surrounding his glasses. No, I think Ian, apostle bastard of backwater, is here to stay sadly enough, being spiky and witty, humorous yet so markedly complex and interesting. Yeah, well Sajak its time for you to come for your bastard progeny. Time to reclaim all the Bastards of this world. Tie them to your wheel and spin them dizzy. Dizzy until their precious spikes fall down, and people see the I.T.Bs for what they are. Give their computers away as gifts, hand out their art to prize winning smoke faced smelters who need more metal for the fire. Let White turn them over with the letters. Give the real artists a chance.