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FROM THIS EPISODE

The Sweat and Joy of an Artist's Life

As they say, there is no rest for the wicked. On the Fourth of July, when everyone else was doing as little as possible, I found myself working up a sweat at 6000 feet altitude. Almost a mile high above Palm Springs, there is a small town of alpine beauty called Idyllwild which, in spite of its popularity with tourists, still manages to maintain a leisurely pace and bohemian spirit. Every summer the town fills with poets, musicians and painters who come to participate in an intense two-week workshop. I was invited to be part of the "Painting's Edge" program where well-known painters and critics were giving lectures and spending time with the participating artists by reviewing their portfolios and discussing their work. So there I was. Nine in the morning on the Fourth of July, sitting on an outdoor terrace in front of an antiquated slide projector, looking at the images presented by my first artist student. The challenge was not only to grasp the strengths and weaknesses of each artist, but also to express my opinion in a constructive way that would help the artist. The problem was that in order for me to see everybody waiting in line, each session could last only 30 minutes. With just a short break for lunch, I talked to one artist after another, half an hour per meeting, all day long. Even for a person who likes talking, as much as I do, this was a lot. Yes, I was exhausted but my reward was a sense of deep satisfaction from being part of an interesting and adventurous group of people passionately committed to art. To be completely honest, I have to admit that toward the end of the day, after giving my best to each encounter with more than a dozen artists, I acquired a new sympathy for the hardworking girls of the red-light districts who give their all to each and every client. Also, I have to admit that on a few occasions, toward the end of the day, I was tempted to say something sarcastic along the lines of what Simon Cowell from American Idol would say, but ultimately I thought better of it: I love and appreciate artists too much.

The art scene is full of incredibly colorful people: inspiring, intimidating, idealistic and, on occasion, delusional. I always thought that it would make for a great reality TV show to have a bunch of aspiring young artists fighting tooth and nail for the ultimate prize--a solo exhibition in a prestigious gallery in New York or LA. And now that I'm reading in The Art Newspaper that New York dealer, Jeffrey Deitch launched an eight-part satellite TV series called Artstar, I feel slightly pissed off, as if he stole my idea. On the Dish Network, you can watch the selection of eight participants from a pool of 400. These eight artists, ranging in age from 21-67, spent a whole month living together in a studio in Soho and going through a series of intense preparation and meetings with well-known artists, museum curators, and art market experts. The winner gets the coveted trophy--a solo exhibition at Jeffrey Deitch's gallery in New York. I know what you are thinking: what a tacky idea to bring the circus atmosphere of a reality TV show into the serious world of High Art. But I see a good thing coming out of all this; a lot of people who have never been inside an art gallery or seen an artist working in their studio will be exposed, for the first time, to the hardship, sweat and joy that artists have to go through on the way to their dream of recognition and success, which will be experienced, as unfair as it sounds, by only a lucky few.

Idyllwild Arts Academy and Summer Program

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