For the “New Kids on the Block” column in the “Exposed” issue, acclaimed art-world self-help author Howard Moseley, PhD, answers readers’ questions about gallery representation, the nature of creativity, and commissioned works.
Q: I am very upset by the haughty, superior attitudes of gallery owners in my area. I want to get my art into a gallery, but do I need to crawl on my knees to get someone to show my work?
A: Galleries are often difficult to approach, and their owners can be cold and even hostile to the public. This is because gallery owners are, in fact, a super-high-functioning alien race with highly evolved powers of observation. Did you know that they see three million more colors than we can? Who better to set the standards of taste than an alien that also has the power to persuade collectors with a hypnotic gaze?
So, the best approach is, as you suggested, crawling on your hands and knees. However, be careful to not be excessively ingratiating since gallery owners can also smell insincerity. They are a shrewd and wily bunch and should not be underestimated, nor should you stare them directly in the eyes. Once you’re in, it’s all about the art, am I right?!
Q: Will studying art stifle my creativity? Artists have told me that you can become subconsciously influenced by bad art, and as a result, your inner visions may be harmed by too much exposure to it.
A: I like to think of creativity as a precious egg: it’s hard on the outside and gooey on the inside. You see, our egos are the brittle shell holding our gooey creativity together. We need to be very careful how we handle our eggs. You wouldn’t want a brute like Picasso handling your precious eggs, would you? He’s liable to stomp on your eggs or, worse, soufflé them with a nice Gruyere, a pinch of nutmeg, and piment d’Espelette. This is why you need to build an enormous enclosure to keep out the would-be Picassos from stealing and breaking your precious eggs. This is why I always recommend to my followers—I mean, clients—to ignore all outside stimuli. This will prevent any and all influence, and only then can your gooey creative expression really flourish.
Q: I am trying to find a gallery to represent my work. I follow the gallery’s instructions for submitting links to my website, and I write polite notes, but I never get a response. What am I doing wrong?
A: The process for finding a gallery to represent one’s work is really quite mysterious. To counter this dearth of knowledge, I recently wrote a book on this topic: How to Make Them Understand Your Genius-ishness. The trouble is that you probably don’t stand out from all of the other artists who are vying for attention. This is why you need to do something outrageous. My suggestion is a performance tailored specifically to the gallery owner. Many of these gallery owners have a cat or dog. What you need to do is lure their beloved animal with some delicious treat. Then send them photos of their precious animal with a message telling them how much fun you’re having with “Marcel” or “Frida,” expressing just how sad the world would be without their beloved critter. Believe me, they will respond quickly! You will be surprised at how much attention you’ll get with this harmless little stunt.
Disclaimer: The questions and answers above are fictional and not intended to provide factual insights into the art world.
When he was a younger artist, Paul Gagner read self-help books and consulted a therapist. He created Dr. Howard Moseley, a fictional author of self-help texts, to probe his anxiety about being an artist. The contrived covers for Moseley’s books are the subjects of a series of paintings by Gagner. Titles such as Fortify Your Delicate Ego and Enough is Enough are humorous, but Gagner explains, “I am sincere, and the humor is a means to cope with the darkness behind the paintings.”1 Gagner views this body of work as a constructive and direct way to consider the existential questions that accompany the practice of making art.
Paul Gagner (born 1976, Wisconsin) holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, in New York, and an MFA from Brooklyn College. He has exhibited extensively in New York City and nationally. Gagner’s work is on view at Linda Warren Projects, in Chicago, and in the group show “A Series of Movements” at Driscoll Babcock’s Project Space in New York through August 2016. Gagner lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.