Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Art of Craigslist

Followers of this blog know that we rely heavily on Craigslist to find items we need to fix up our old house. One of the pleasantly surprising aspects of going this route is meeting interesting artists working/living in Oakland and Emeryville.

Yesterday, I saw this post:
"Today only, Swarm Gallery is giving away free soil and other landscaping materials straight from the American river valley. Call it karma, call it a lucky day, call it whatever you want- just come down Wednesday (that's today) from 12 to 5pm, 2nd and Clay in Jack London Square. You must bring a way to move and transport the materials. This is going down as a first come-first serve program so come early to get a prime cut. In picking up this organic matter, you will be part of the deinstallation of artist Colin Christy's month long art-eco-experiment "Wild and Scenic".

On the menu

1.5 yards of rich American River soil - perfect for native plants
1 yard of Decomposed Granite/DG -paving mix
5-6 bails worth of loose hay (chickens anyone?)
2 bails of hay
small bags of sand, rocks, gravel
3 25 foot hay waddles
an assortment rare native plant species from gold country

This gallery is about 2 miles from us so I drove over to see if there was anything we could use for the garden. I met the artist, Colin Christy, and we talked about his installation. It was an exhibition that recreated how the river banks looked around the time of the Gold Rush. Andrea and I have been fascinated by this era and I quickly learned about how the artist lived in the gold country for a few months, studying the environment. He brought it over to Oakland and was now making the material available to whomever came by. I selected about 4 native plants and several banks of premium river soil. I took it home and tried to recreate a bit of the gold country riverbed in a shady area of the backyard. I placed some rocks in the center and hope to add gold paint flecks for effect. I also grabbed about 2 big bags of hay for mulching in our veggie garden. All for the cost of 5 lemons from our tree.

But that isn't what this post is about. It's more about the giving nature of artists. Being one myself, it's imperative for me to give of myself to others through my artwork or through my life experiences as someone who as operated in the art world for over 15 years. In talking with Colin, I was reminded of the talks I had with dozens of artists from my time at the NPA, SomArts and other art experiences. I was also reminded of the artist who gave Andrea and me their brand new kitchen cabinets at the beginning of the year and the few other artists I've met while hunting down for Craigslist treasures to furnish our house. The thing that strikes me most about the artists who I meet this way, is there sense of sharing something for the betterment of community. You can tell that money isn't their driving force bur rather a sense of giving of themselves in the belief that what they do is "good karma". More importantly, when these artists talk about their work, they are excited, alert and passionate about sharing their ideas or spirit with the strangers who answer their ads. Turn on the TV or walk into a big store and one gets the feeling that life is all about "making money" or scamming people. What passes for art in our culture is really just celebrity garbage and pop gibberish geared towards obtaining some sort of unrealistic wealth and celebrity.

It just feels "real" to talk to an artist. Real, like churning the soil and planting seeds or cutting wood and it reminds me that their are more genuine people trying to do somethiing creative and positive than their are trying to screw up things for people.

Anyway, if you meet an artist, via Craigslist, take the time to ask them about their work and what they do. You may find some common ground or learn something new. And, if you are able, give something back to them to show that you enjoy sharing as well.

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