Luv Doc Recommends: East Austin Studio Tour
East Austin, Saturday, November 19, 2011
Any artist who can afford a studio in East Austin must be doing pretty well, right? Those digs ain't cheap. If you're doing the EASTside shuffle this weekend, don't expect kegs of PBR and Cheez Whiz on saltines – well, unless it's being served ironically, which is difficult to prove without seeming like a huge dick. More than likely you'll be treated to a variety of tasty independent craft brews too thick to suck through a beer bong, gluten-free hors d'oeuvres (Seriously: No one gives a shit about glutens or even knows what they are, and if they do they're probably so neurotic about their health that they're going to die of an aneurysm anyway), and, of course, the staple of art openings: cheap but serviceable wines. Sometimes they're wines from places and vintners you've never heard of (What? You've never had Pirate Pete's Pinot Grigio? It's one of the finest wines in all of Somalia!), and sometimes they're quasi-ghetto wines cleverly redecanted. Then there are the boxed wines. Boxed wines are fair game as long as you get jiggy with it. Just plopping a Bota Box down on a rented folding table is too low rent even for East Austin … even if you're doing it ironically. True artists know it's not what's in the box that matters; it's how the box looks on the outside. Imagine the Gallo brothers on the label, but with Rollie Fingers-style Movember mustaches and Tyrolean alpine hats Sharpied onto their heads. The cool thing about making art is that you can never be too over the top. Wait a minute … OK, if you're going to start making masks out of human skin like Leatherface … well … granted … envelope pushed … broken … shat on. On the other hand, if you want wrap a cluster of islands in 600,000 square meters of pink polypropylene or photograph yourself with a bullwhip shoved up your ass, have at it. There is really no bad art, only art stupid people don't understand. If you've ever found yourself staring intently at a Pollock painting thinking, "What the fucking fuck? I could duct-tape a paintbrush to a Chihuahua's head and do better than this," don't get your panties in a wad. It just means you don't have an art history degree from Bryn Mawr. Some art is done for art's sake. That means that it's completely useless for anything other than being a piece of art. Ironically enough, a lot of art for art's sake ends up being pressed into uses completely unintended and unimagined by the artist. More often than not that use is as a drink coaster or paperweight, but it can involve other things like boat anchors, oil-drip pans, dartboards … really the list is nearly as endless as artistic possibility. Then, of course, there are those pieces of art with similar characteristics that sell for millions of dollars. If this keeps you awake at night, it shouldn't. Yes, there are generally agreed upon rules and standards in art. For instance: Who doesn't love a fleece blanket with the airbrushed image of Elvis on it? Crazy people, that's who. Mostly, however, the value of art is highly subjective and determined by rank emotion and caprice – just like an episode of American Idol. Trying to determine the value of a piece of art is risky business – like betting money on a quarterback named Manning or barebacking a South African prostitute. Buying art should always be done with the same sense of resignation you use to justify an expensive trip to Vegas: You're probably going to lose money on the deal, but at least the drinks are free. Who knows, you may hit the jackpot and take home the next Picasso or Warhol or Schneider, or Fontenot, or you might just take home an interesting little dalliance that reminds you of the time you got blotto on complimentary boxed wine and wandered around formerly sketchy neighborhoods looking at art on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. How much is that worth? Priceless. If you're looking to look at some art, you can't pick a better time than this weekend, which is the last weekend of the East Austin Studio Tour, a chance to get to know more than 100 local artists and studios as well as familiarize yourself with the streets and neighborhoods of East Austin. All you have to do to get started is pick up an EAST catalog at one of the Austin Public Libraries, or go online to the EAST website and download a PDF map of the tour. Go ahead, get your art on.