Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you want to know the truth, don't lose Alexa Hoyer's piece

When Poetry Scores first began hosting art invitationals, the artist Robert Goetz was on our board. Robert is a brilliant, versatile, experienced artist, and at the time he also made a living preparing installations at the world-class Laumeier Sculpture Park. He brought a professionalism to the project that was in direct conflict with my amateur approach.

Any number of things that seemed fine by me were a violation of a professional code that Robert held dear. I still remember one that I have thought a lot about lately.

When you have a large number of local artists making work for a show, it is quite a trick to get it all in time. As Robert worked out art drop-off at the gallery for our first art invitational, I blithely suggested people also could just get their work to me when it was finished, and I could drop it off when the time was right. Right?

Wrong. Robert said something like, "So, is Poetry Scores getting into art storage now? Art moving?" He didn't like it at all. There are professional standards for storing, moving, and handling somebody else's art. It wasn't something you just jumped into.

Robert moved on from Poetry Scores after a few invitationals, having professionalized our curatorial techniques dramatically for the better. Some time after Robert moved on, I went back to collecting art early for the annual invitational and holding onto it untilofficial drop-off time. For the Jack Ruby's America Art Invitational this Friday, Nov. 12 at Mad Art Gallery, for example, I accepted an early mailing of Alexa Hoyer's submission, "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask".

Alexa is an artist of European nativity currently based in New York, who spent some time here in St. Louis and left some vivid, positive impressions here. Another former Poetry Scores board member, the artist Jenna Bauer, brought Alexa into our fols, and last year at the Sydney Highrise Variations Art Invitational, I spent all night accounting to people who asked about her what little I knew.

So, Alexa is in. Cool. That's one piece I don't have to worry about now, I thought, when I received it at work. And then I put it ...

I put it ...

On my desk? ... No.

On the counter at home? ... No.

In The Skuntry Museum, Archive & Prop Shop (my basement)? ... No.

Left it in my VW's hatchback? ... No.

Where the hell was it? It was time to hang the show!

Sure it wasn't on my desk? On the counter at home? In the museum in my basement? Buried in my hatchback?

No, no, no, no.

I was depressed. Really depressed. It was a print she could have duplicated, but at hassle and expense, especially with short-notice mail fees. And I was anyway a rat to have lost it. The spectre of Robert Goetz haunted me.

"So, is Poetry Scores doing art storage now?" Goetz's spectre said. "Art moving?"

I moped around, a demoralized curator.

Then, I was moving stuff around in my hatchback to make room for the art I had taken in early that I had not lost and there it was, the package Alexa Hoyer had thoughtfully sent early from New York, nested in the papers buried in my hatchback, where I guess it always had been (despite the fact that I had sifted through those exact papers looking for it 749 times).

Tonight, as we prepare for the show tomorrow, "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask" by Alexa Hoyer is displayed on the wall at Mad Art Gallery. Her title is from the part of David Clewell's poem Jack Ruby's America with perhaps the biggest WOW factor, "Jack Ruby Talks Business with the New Girl," where Clewell ventriloquizes Ruby laying down the rules of engagement to a dancer who was new to his burlesque club.

In a Poetry Scores art invitational, 50 (or so) artists make work to the same poem we are scoring, they title their work after a verbatim piece of language from the poem, and then we hang the work depending on where in the flow of the poem the language used for the title appears.

It so happens Alexa's piece hangs next to a real novelty item. Back in September, Poetry Scores produced a live jazz burlesque score of Clewell's poem that features Lola van Ella dancing a burlesque routine to the Dave Stone Trio, immediately following Clewell's performance of "Jack Ruby Talks Business to the New Girl". (John Eiler videotaped the reading and the burlesque act and has edited them both into a slightly bowlderized version.)

For her routine, Lola choregraphed a cowgirl act in homage to Candy Barr, who worked the burlesque scene in the Dallas of Ruby's era and knew the man. Lola worked with Becky Simmons, who does her costumes, to craft a cow-girl get-up, with the understanding that they would later title it after a piece of Clewell's poem and let us auction off the costume at the art invitational.

And, thus, due to the flow of the poem and the titles these women chose for their work, Alexa Hoyer's print hangs beside a dress form adorned with a work of costume art titled "And you dance. With class." At our urging, Lola did not launder the costume after taking it off in her act. The piece even includes the gold star pasties that obscured her nipples during her act, because when she tore them off and threw them into the crowd, they landed at my feet and I kept them for the show!


Image is "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask" by Alexa Hoyer.

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