My First Trip to Youngstown

Or rather, my last. Have you ever been? God I hope not. I only spent roughly 24 hours there and in many of the outer suburbs and I can honestly say I have no desire to go back.

My husband entered the Youngstown Peace Race, a race that has been nationally known for decades. I had heard The Butler Institute of American Art was amazing, so I figured this would be a nice excuse to stay over the weekend and do those wacky, crazy, silly, quirky trips my husband and I do every so often. I thought we had learned to make any day trip fun, no matter the destination. Wrong! The Butler Institute closed at 4pm on a Saturday, so I never got a chance to visit. I then proceeded to drive around several outer suburbs where the houses were nice enough, the trees were gorgeous, and the main drags looked typical of most American cities littered with car dealerships and a Pizza Hut every so often — Pizza Hut looking the cleanest out of all the Cash for Gold stores and abandoned strip malls with weeds growing from cracks in the parking lots.

It was hard to find a nice restaurant anywhere. In fact, we couldn’t even find an Outback Steakhouse or Chili’s when desperation set in. When going online to find something with good reviews, I found a lot of recommendations for the Applebee’s. We drove downtown, all dressed up, thinking there might be something, a hidden gem, or a strip of amazing places the way Grand Rapids, Michigan, surprised us. Nothing was to be had. One brew pub seems ok until the smell hit us as we walked in. The areas we drove around were downright scary, if not completely abandoned. On occasion there would be an Italian eatery that was clearly a front for some kind of dicey operation — nothing too welcoming. Just me taking photos around the area caused a lot of weird drifter types to yell at me, “what the fuck are you doing?” and “hey girl, come here!”. Maybe I was missing something? Maybe I happened upon 4 or 5 of the worst areas of town by accident?

America is beautiful…

So my husband and I did something we had never done before. He in his black velvet blazer and nice shoes; me in my designer clothes, French perfume, and pashmina wrap. We went to an Eat ‘n Park. I never felt so glamorous as sitting there at an Eat ‘n Park getting stares as I ate whatever microwaved entree I had ordered. The food wasn’t too terrible, actually.

At least I can say our Fairfield Inn was very nice and mod. I’m glad I chose to stay there versus the Econolodge next door that looked like a brothel. Well actually, it kind of was because it was next to this truck stop…

A trucker’s paradise to be sure. I wondered what kind of quality product works at a truck stop by Youngstown, Ohio. The best!

In any event, the race was Sunday, it was all fine and good. A lot of people from around the country come to the race because of the prize money. My husband was 2nd in his age group — he’s kind of a stud. Walking around was a tad depressing, though. All of the nicer buildings that hadn’t been abandoned were all banks. All of them. One even had blood strewn across the door. A sign of the times.

Fake blood, that is…

So….yeah. If I do go again, I’ll stick to the Butler Institute and be sure to come right back home. It’s only an hour drive, after all.

Seven Years in Cleveland

This month marks 7 years since I decided I couldn’t handle L.A. anymore and moved to Cleveland. It was a mildly impulsive choice, but everything fell into place at the right time for it to happen. I never thought I would end up living in Ohio! People always seem to think I was from here originally, or had family, or had some obligation as to why I came here. Nope. I just visited a few times, knew some people and liked it. Many are still perplexed that I would move here by choice or because I felt like it.

Are there things that bother me about Cleveland? Oh hell yes, but nothing beyond the same number of complaints my husband and I had about Boston, or Orange County, or L.A. to be honest — just different complaints. The wasted potential is my main gripe. Why on earth is there still nothing cool on the waterfront?! Is anything ever gonna get built there?! And when are people gonna stop complaining about losing manufacturing jobs? Can’t there be a new industry to move on to? I don’t like the traffic cops here, and normally I don’t mind cops at all. The city government is so inept it is astounding how anything even gets done. Also, how the hell did the Rock Hall manage to screw up CMJ Fest like that? There are major music festivals in the desert, in the mountains, and in odd places yet Cleveland can’t get its shit together to host an annual one? There’s also the provincial attitudes that I find painful to endure (just watch the local news, it is so quaint!), but I’ve been good at finding the groups of people who are progressive, creative, and worldly. Selling art in Cleveland isn’t easy for instance, it does happen, but not the same volume as some places. But this is why I exhibit all over and use Cleveland as a home base. The Harvey Pekar or Drew Carey Show side of Cleveland is very much alive and well, but that is only one side.

In fact, there’s a number of transplants from major cities that I’ve met over the years; I don’t know why the national media is doing stories about New Yorkers fleeing for Cleveland in recent months, because it has been happening slowly since I’ve been here. They all moved here for the same reasons I did: better quality of life. When I say that, I mean being able to actually go out and enjoy things because you can afford to — little things and big. Just count the number of pro-Cleveland blogs, my favorite site being Cleveland Memory Project. Heck, you can even go on Twitter now and see a hashtag for #HappyinCLE. It is different for everyone I suppose. My husband and I have always had a bad case of wanderlust, so the fact that we are still here speaks volumes. Every time we think about moving somewhere, it just never seems to happen or we can’t decide on what benefits there would actually be beyond maybe nicer weather. Cold and snow don’t bother me, just the darkness in winter. I’m not opposed to moving if something awesome came up or was offered, but it would take another clusterfuck to get me to sell everything and drive cross-country again in the hurry we did when we came here. I guess it is good we stayed, if I hadn’t been near Cleveland Clinic this year I don’t know what I would have done. Truthfully, I’d probably be dead by spring.

I’d probably still really like L.A. if I were rich and had a house in the hills or somewhere away from people where I didn’t have to drive. I tell you, I had the best time in L.A. when I went home for a visit. A visit, not to live. A big difference — mainly that I didn’t have to drive (except on the 405 when I got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half). I still couldn’t wait to get back to Cleveland; SoCal suburbs are just as ugly to me as snow covered rustbelt industry. So when people ask why the hell I live in Cleveland still, I can pretty much give you a short list off the top of my head:

  • My fabulous apartment in a gorgeous hood with utilities included and underground parking only just now went up to $700 a month.
  • The commute to my husband’s job downtown is 6 minutes.
  • the fact we’ve been surviving on just one of us working, or both of us working part-time.
  • I have a huge art studio for less than $100 a month.
  • I have time for my art.
  • The Cleveland Art Museum, and it’s free!
  • The Cleveland Clinic, where I had the best rock star surgeon for my type of surgery in, um, the entire world! Also I had an anesthesiologist who sorta looked like Sam Elliot once. That was nice.
  • The restaurants are amazing and I can actually afford to go to them.
  • The amount of grants for individuals and organizations.
  • Traveling distance to other cities is in close proximity. Weekends in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, DC and the like are easy.
  • The Metro Park system.
  • There’s a venue for every niche; different movie theaters,  record stores, concert venues, bars, and art galleries all serving a particular sub-culture of some sort.
  • The lack of chains. Unless you go out to the ‘burbs, everything is independently run for the most part.

As much as a complain about the things I consider stupid about this town, I’d actually be kind of bummed if it became too much of a “hipster haven” or overrun with more yuppies. I sort of like it being a well-kept secret; I like having the feeling that the city is all mine and I can run amok! Let’s face it Cleveland, you piss me off sometimes, but after 7 years I still kind of like you.

Gallery Closings

Well, moving with the trend of more art galleries closing, two that have represented me have already closed this year. A third one is shutting the doors, and although they didn’t rep. me, I was a fan of their exhibitions and surprised about the news. It is sad when people can no longer see work in person in larger cities where the rents are so high that it impedes any gains the artists or galleries make in order to continue exhibiting in the future.
In various parts of the country the rents are fabulous, people who run exhibition spaces sometimes own the building or even live in the space and they do it as a labor of love (hence many good Cleveland galleries that have survived the economic downturn), but it might not be an area where there are serious collectors or art lovers. It is a catch 22: high rents that deplete any sales or low rents but low sales to go with it. Chicago dealt with the high rent problem where by people started to have apartment galleries; it might become a further trend if the economy keeps going this way — depending on how people feel about strangers using their bathroom and combing through their medicine cabinet.

Guilty feelings about buying artwork, or collecting objects that might be considered frivolous, is unnecessary. A lot of people earn their living making art, teaching it, writing about it, and selling it, so you should never feel guilty but instead consider yourself a patron, and be proud of that fact. Many galleries are going under because they didn’t play fair, they cheated people, or had no business managing or taking anyone’s money — those I do not feel sorry for. But, despite the art market corruption and prices on some artists becoming ridiculous — or someone like Steve Wynn buying Sly Stallone’s abstracts for $40,000 each — there are plenty of people who are not Damien Hirst or Sadie Coles HQ who need all the help they can get and whose works can cost less than a flat screen TV or even an iPhone. Certainly, their work will last longer than any electronic gadget.

The Fabulous Life of an Artist

Lately I’ve been wondering “what’s the point?” because I’m definitely not one of the lucky few who actually make a living at art — I break even. If I am in the black, it is enough to get the ever slightly better frames sometimes. Everything goes back into the art; supplies, shipping costs, promo materials, studio rent, you name it. The only reason I can even do what I am doing now is because I have a husband with good job that he can’t stand, and we live in a cheap city. If we were back in Los Angeles, or Boston, I’d be neglecting my art as I was then because of having to work one or more jobs just to stay afloat; I’d be too damn tired, pissed off, or stressed to even get to it and the work suffered except for a few fortunate pieces. It is true, my art got better once I was able to do it full-time, but this, will not be a situation that lasts forever.

I’ve been wondering if I should have just done the film editor thing, real estate agent thing, joined the FBI or find something else to “do” before I get too old. The problem is I get bored so easy that I’ve never stayed at one job for more than two years, tops. The older I get the thought of jumping from office job to retail, to bartending to whatever else I’ve done depresses the hell out of me. Let’s face it, I’m not good at much except for film and art, and I don’t have a patron who will take care of me for the sake of supporting someone who contributes to culture. Think about it: an artist who sells out a show at $100,000, take away 50% for the gallery (if you are lucky enough to even be paid your half!), another chunk of change for taxes, more for supplies, and really they make about as much as an administrative assistant — without benefits. I always wondered how artists have money to travel all over the place, even for group shows. I’m going to Art Basel Miami for a whole 2 days and I really have no business doing that. Maybe there are more trust fund babies and people with rich spouses than I thought in the world? Or maybe I’m just better at not living beyond my means. Jim Shaw once complained to me about how he had to spend money flying to Paris for a museum show he was in, and that everyone except him just showed installation pieces that looked really expensive to make and they must all be rich. I didn’t understand why he was complaining about it, but now I do.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to teaching in January because maybe it will get me out of this mindset. It will also be something I’ve never done before in the way I have it set up, so it will be a little journey for me as well; there’s a big difference in teaching a class full of young girls fashion illustration, and doing one-on-one oil painting lessons with everyone from teenage boys to adults. I have no shows planned or anything going on after March (unless any galleries out there wanna offer me something?), and maybe it will be time for a break, who knows?

On a happier note, my former visiting professor at CalArts, Richard Wright, has been nominated for the Turner Prize. He was one of the few visiting artists we had who was totally awesome and not full of you-know-what. He had good taste, could actually draw, and his talks made sense. It doesn’t hurt that I totally had a crush on him too! Hey, at least I didn’t cuss him out and storm out of his class like I did with Raymond Pettibon.

Spike the gallery cat

Yesterday I was at the outdoor mall that pretends to be a city (Cracker ass Cracker Park), and there I was: Prada purse, Prada shoes, Starbucks in hand, and Sephora bag slung over my shoulder. What happened to me!? My 15 year old self would be wailing on my ass right about now. I think I need to go set some fires, graffiti up city hall and mug some junkies for fun or something, just to counteract this feeling I’m having. Ick.

By the way, no signs of a recession here kids. At least not in my little pocket of the city. Cleveland friends are getting jobs within a month of lay offs, no parking at the mall on a Friday afternoon, restaurants are packed (went to 4 tonight until I found one that didn’t have a ridiculous wait time), and people were buying art last night as I made the rounds of various exhibits. Freaky, huh? I’m sure you have read the WSJ article (which I don’t completely agree with and a lot was left out) and in comparison, we have this video. If anything, the truth is that this town is a mixed bag; I suppose it depends who you have as a tour guide.

Speaking of art, went to lay out the show opening this Friday. I was going to show some more sneaky peeks, but I though this photo of Spike the gallery cat was all I needed. He picks out what he wants when a show is going up you see. At first he went directly for the portraits of cats I will be exhibiting, but in the end, he settled on “Mrs. Turner”.

The High and the Low

I buy weird stupid “luxury” items I don’t need. I just do. Okay maybe not the wasteful kind of stupid, like an expensive car or hair extensions. But you know what I mean.

I never really did before, but because I live in a cheap city I figure get the things I want now while I’m young and can enjoy them. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, so I’m gonna get mine while I can. As I’ve discussed before, I have expensive taste and this can be a problem at times since I’m nowhere near loaded. I’m a walking contradiction; I swear like a sailor, but think it rude to not rsvp to a party promptly; I’m very picky about my wine and dinner pairing, but I’ll eat a corn dog from the gas station; I don’t care if you can see my bra strap, but chipped nail polish I’d be so embarrassed by. You know, little things like that.

So with this I started going over in my head how I balance the lowbrow with the highbrow. You know with $4 gas and a recession and all. Those little sacrifices, the choices I make in order to be fabulous, while somewhat embracing the ornery side of life. Here are just some examples:

Coffee: I was going for the fancy stuff for a long time, flavored and all. I’d go to the Westside Market to get my banana nut flavor (Mondays it is $3 off a pound you know) or I’d breakdown and buy the burnt-to-shit Starbucks stuff since there’s one by my place. Guess what baby, I’m all about Eight O’Clock now! Actually I started off with Eight O’Clock but thought I could do better. I’ll be honest, this stuff tastes than the burnt-ass Starbucks shit you get…

Underwear: Yeah I did the Hanes four-packs and the cheapo crap they have a Target (Merona might work for the boys but not for me). Guess what? Even washing by hand they still wear out faster than they should. So my little luxury is buying the stuff that lasts and doesn’t give me itchy-butt syndrome — who else but Calvin?

Household Cleanser: Kaboom is shit. Trader Joe’s all-natural is shit. Soft Scrub is shit. CLR works great on grody fixtures but should be used sparingly. No honey, there’s one cleanser that works better than all of these and you probably have it sitting there doing nothing…

Be sure to get rid of your gross sponges. Dish cloths work fine and you can reuse them after running them through the wash. Gotta clean the glass on your mirrors and windows? Use newspaper, not paper towels, it is actually better.

Alcohol: This is one area you shouldn’t skimp on if you don’t want to be ill. Guinness is my mainstay besides an assortment of micro brews. I always keep champagne on hand too, I prefer it to any white wine really. While Trader Joe’s does have some cheap choices, I prefer this Spanish one…

I know I know, technically it has to be of France in order to be called Champagne, but I find them too bitter. Of course when I’m tight on cash, here in Cleveland, we have an assortment of cheap watering holes. Fridays are $1 drinks for the ladies at 5 O’Clock Lounge and I’m a fan of happy hour $5 martinis at Pier W when you’re not in a slumming mood and want to feel fabulous — but for God’s sake don’t eat there or you’ll feel broke and hungry!

Beauty: Now here I do mix the high and the low. I do get facials, and I do buy fancy shampoo from Aveda, I do get Frederik Fekkai hair cream, I do get fancy perfume (especially after my Victoria Beckham fiasco!) but to off-set this I went back to using a face cream that I don’t know why I stopped in the first place. Maybe again, I thought I could do better. Listen ladies, unless you can afford La Mer — which is amazing from the samples I’ve tried — pretty much everything is the same no matter what anyone tells you. So do yourself a favor and just grab a tub of this baby…

might I also add that this is great for zits and stuff too…

Yeah! All you need now are some old-timey hair rollers and a shower cap and you’re set! Screw Mac, screw Nars, screw Estee Lauder, I can tell you  that Sonia’s line for Target is as good as any. And yes Vaseline is awesome.  Baby oil is awesome.  Witch Hazel is awesome. Castor oil is awesome. Gold Bond is awesome. Learn ’em and use ’em.

Entertainment: I don’t have cable, don’t need it. I get Netflix because at least I can choose the shows I want to watch. I can also get full episodes of shows on the web for free the day after they air. I have a cell phone I pre-pay for because I hate cellphones and only use it when traveling, I don’t pay for voicemail, because I don’t want you to leave me messages on it or call me on it period. Going to the movies sucks these days; after the woman who did the running commentary next to me killed the suspense in No Country For Old Men, I prefer to just got out with friends and drink at cheap watering holes or to people’s houses and movies together. I won’t go to a concert if tickets are more than $22, it’s just my own rule because I know how fast it can escalate when drinks and buying merch are thrown in. Art shows are free, and they have booze and food for free. Dance clubs are stupid, stupid for people like me because I’m too old, married and jaded to go to them. If you have a friend who is a private investigator, cab driver, or a tow truck driver; go on a ride and get some free hilarious entertainment better than any comedy club…

Travel: Traveling to San Francisco last December was an extravagance I normally don’t get to do, so for the remainder of all my “vacations” I like to go on the cheap where no one else goes, or if they do, they’re retired folks in RVs. I consider it getting to know America, and you should try it. You’ve probably seen my little travels where I could afford them. This year we had originally planned a big trip to Kentucky…yes Kentucky because it’s awesome! We also went here and here. I’ll be staying at the most awesome porn set of a Rodeway Inn motel outside Chicago this month since I couldn’t afford to be in city — but I think it looks neat in a creepy way! Since Kentucky is out, this summer we’re going to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Yes our home state of Michigan. So if you want a cheap vacation without a headache from tropical drinks, go ahead and hit some of the breweries we plan on hitting. Also why not go cheeseball instead of Club Med, who doesn’t want to stay in a themed room hotel in Kentucky? Or a super retro cheap beach town in New Jersey? If you can drive, do it, because flying bites. Also, Travelodge and Quality Inn motels are awesome no matter where you are.

Shoes: I can tell when I got a cheap pair of crap; they fall apart, are uncomfortable or look okay at a distance and then up close you can tell they kinda suck. I have one pair of shoes from Target, I bought them for work because at the time my company had a very un-stylish lot and I figured blend in. But no more! That’s one thing I won’t skimp on are my shoes. Neither will my husband, he has more than me, but his excuse is that as a runner he must swap them out in order not to get injured. Sure I never wear my fancy ones because I’m scared of ruining them, and sure my leopard heels are too high and yank at my foot arch — I don’t care, because everyone points and says “oooh I love your shoes!”. I have an arsenal. I don’t think anyone has ever seen it really. After a dream I had, I’m buying these lovelies today. I think shoes over a certain price is just stupid, it is a matter of pride sometimes dammit. While I’m sort of peeved at Prada for making $400 shoes that crack and don’t hold up well to everyday use (luckily I got them at half-price), I do love Kenneth Cole, Charles David, Stuart Weitzman, Ralph Lauren and even unknowns like Arturo Chang. Husband will be getting the last of these before they get discontinued…

and I got some sparkly expensive sandals. I needed them after all, I have three dresses hanging in my closet and have been waiting years to get the right thing to go with them. Art takes time you know. And to offset these purchases? No going out all week, and when I do go out, it will be for a $1 beer on Friday.