Monday, September 18, 2006

Gallery of the absurd

We all have our little passions; the gallery scene is definitely one of mine. I've been painting since I was about fourteen; I dabble in photography too, especially when I travel. I've had my work displayed in a couple of small galleries back east - nothing major, but it's fun to get feedback from people who don't know me, who bring their own perspectives to my work. It's a thrill when I sell something, too; it's cool to see a piece of myself become part of somebody else's life and home. I'm a restless chick, but something about being in a gallery slows my pulse a bit, makes me calmer, makes me breathe more deeply. Of course, I don't love every painting and photo that I sees. I think that there's a lot of crap in galleries today, you know? There are certain genres that I just don't appreciate, despite my art history nerd tendencies. Overall, though, I love to stare at a painting or photo and allow myself to be transported into the piece of the artist's mind that's framed on the wall.

Last year, when my friend Stephanie asked me to go to a charity photography auction with her, I jumped at the invitation. The gallery where the auction was being held was in Venice, home to the (in)famous Venice Beach. For those of you who've never visited Venice, this little beach town pulsates with the zany energy of a community that never quite left the '60s behind. The street performers and vendors that line the ocean front walk are a trip; whenever a friend visits from out of state, I always take them to Venice for the day, so they can personally experience the freak show, fun shops, and food.

I've forgotten the name of the gallery that we were going to, but it was only about a block from the beach. We headed down to Venice around 8pm, and parked in one of the open beachfront lots. It was late spring; the air was cool and slightly humid. The gallery had only been open since 7:30, and was still pretty empty. There were only about a dozen people around besides Stephanie and myself.

We each got a glass of wine from the open bar and started to mingle, checking out the photos that were up for auction. A good number of the shots were taken by celebrity photographers; there was a portrait of Jenna Jameson on the far wall, and a portrait of Selma Blair near the entrance. In the middle of the right side wall was a portrait of Viggo Mortensen in a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Indian Runner. Readers, I love me some Viggo. Those cheekbones...that this photo, he sat on a barstool with his back to the viewer, in character as Frank; cigarette curled in one hand, looking off into the distance with a thousand-mile stare. I would have loved to add that portrait to my personal collection (let's face it, it's the only way I'd ever be able to take El Mortensen home with me!), but bidding was already fast and furious. Sadly, Viggo wound up being too rich for my blood.

Stephanie, on the other hand, was determined to make a purchase. She had her eye on a gorgeous shot that was hanging on the gallery's back wall; it was a photo of an old car buried in the sand on a beach at sunset. We both paced the area, periodically checking the bids that were being placed on the piece.

As we sipped our wine and watched other scribbling bidders, we were approached by a classic Venice character. This dude was definitely a local, in his mid-50s, dressed in a black leather jacket and paisley silk shirt. He was a white haired white guy, but not in a cute Steve Martin way. He was mostly bald in front, with a ponytail almost halfway down his back. My bepenised readers, I ask you: why is it that some of you feel the need to sport ponytails after you lose your hair? Baldness is very "in" right now; embrace it. Chop that ponytail and give yourself a Patrick Stewart. Captain Picard is sexy; ponytailed half-bald mulletude is not.

Captain Ponytail made a beeline for us. "How are you ladies doin' tonight?" He was already a little crocked, with a drunken leer locked and loaded. Steph and I made nice, trying to have a polite conversation while keeping an eye on the car photo. Ponytail was persistent, and getting pervy.

"So," he drawled, "are you ladies with anybody?"

Stephanie decided to have a little fun with him. "Actually, we're together," she said, putting her right hand on my left shoulder. Captain Ponytail's eyes lit up. I smiled sweetly back at him as I slipped my arm around her tiny waist. The Lesbian Cock Block was just a ruse, of course; we were very obviously playing with him. Steph and I like each other, but not that much.

Captain Ponytail was willing to run with it, though. "Hey, I love lesbians!" he threw his arms up in exclamation, nearly spilling his beer. "Can I be a lesbian too?" Readers, I swooned from the smoothness. Not. Alas, Monsieur Obvious's threesome fantasy would not be taking place that night. Or ever. Bummer for him.

We escaped the Captain by going for drink refills. Coming back from the bar, we noticed Maggie Grace and Ian Somerhalder (former cast members of LOST) wandering around the gallery, placing bids. La Maggie is really quite gorgeous and tall; she was sporting slight bitchface, á la Shannon. Ian is skinny and extremely pretty. Those eyes of his are gigantic. He was hand-feeding little pastries to Maggie. Cute! This sighting was absolutely huge for devoted LOST fans like Stephanie and myself. We caught them being all snuggly before their PR people publicly acknowledged their couplehood. Go us!

Not long afterwards, Steph found herself in a bidding war with the boyfriend of the gallery director. The guy was obviously being a prick, placing bids in the final few minutes just to drive prices up. He could tell that Stephanie really wanted that photo, so everytime she placed a bid, he would too. She was getting exasperated, and the picture was going to wind up out of her price range. "Go stand on the other side of the gallery," I said. "Act like you've given up. I'll stand here and place the final bid right as the auction closes."

That's just what I did; as the gallery director announced the end of the auction, I quickly placed a new bid in Stephanie's name. She was thrilled, but not for long. Prick Boyfriend noticed what I had done, and outbid me after the bidding sheets had already been collected. I'm not Wonder Businesswoman, but I'm sure that can't be ethical. We put up a stink, getting in an argument with the gallery director, who snidely informed us that the auction hadn't been closed yet. Um, I heard you announce the closing yourself, beeyotch. It's not okay to take advantage of people who've gotten so attached to a piece that they're willing to part with their hard-earned cash to get it. I felt so bad for Stephanie, who was rightfully upset. Director Beeyotch finally decided to "allow" Steph to buy the photo if she was willing to pay an additional $200. I'm sure that was the scheme she was running with Prick Boyfriend all along. Assholes! Stephanie wound up paying more than she would have liked, but at that point, she was emotionally invested in the piece, which now looks really lovely in her dining room.

Anyhow. After the auction was finally over, the winning bidders had to fill out paperwork and pay for the artwork they had bought. It was going to take a while, so Steph and I hung out by the bar, finishing our drinks. A man came over and started to chat. He was tall, with shoulder-length black hair and a goatee, slightly Dalí-esque. He wore a long black coat. He said he was a painter, and gave us each a flyer that advertised one of his upcoming gallery shows.

Here's where it gets weird. Wannabe Dalí and Stephanie were engaged in conversation about his upcoming gallery show; I was not talking at all. I was tired and bored, and this dude had immediately given me the heebies; my freak radar was on full tilt. I just wanted him to go away, so I wasn't being very friendly. So Dalí kept talking to Steph, but wasn't making eye contact with her at all; he was eyeing me up and down the whole time. Now, I'm not hideous, dear readers, but Stephanie is just gorgeous. Picture Victoria Beckham if she were about 5'1", with more feminine features and hair halfway down her back. I've mentioned before that I think bi-racial people are stunning; Steph is half Pakistani, half white. Her boyfriend is half Irish, half Japanese; they make a ridiculously attractive couple, and my 100% Irishness looks positively boring by comparison. My point is that Stephanie was the hottie in the room; she was the one with a cute, form fitting outfit on; she was the one radiating energy. I wasn't unwashed, but I was yawning, bundled up and getting listless. What exactly did he find so interesting?

I digress. Wannabe Dalí was freaking us both out, his eyes burning a hole in my (covered) chest while he addressed Stephanie. I was standing between him, Stephanie and a wall - I had nowhere to go. I occasionally gave Dalí the stinkeye, and shot a few "help me" glances at Steph, who was completely thrown for a loop, gamely trying to handle this insanity without appearing rude. Finally, the paperwork line moved forward and we were able to get away from him.

"What the hell was that?" Steph laughed as we walked to the car afterwards. "It really looked like he wanted to rape you and was trying to figure out whether I would get in the way."

You know what, I'll give that a pass. "This only happens to you," said Steph. We threw Dalí's gallery show fliers in the trash before driving away.

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Blogger Linnaeus said...

Sometimes, Ging, after reading these stories, I wonder if my boring-by-comparison life really isn't so bad after all. :P

1:09 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Bwahaha. And I worry about being bored all the time - I'm sure that's one of the reasons I get into trouble.

Linnaeus, wherefore hast thou been?

1:17 PM  
Blogger Linnaeus said...

Oh, I've been busy...getting ready for a conference and such.

And I *do* get bored. All the time. Maybe I should start getting into more trouble. ;)

2:29 PM  
Blogger Linnaeus said...

Hmmm...maybe you were being rhetorical there.

Sorry...I'm a bit slow on the uptake as of late. :P

2:47 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Well, you'd been absentee for a while (of course, I've been gone for a week myself). Welcome back!

Trust me, you don't want the kind of excitement I get...

2:57 PM  
Blogger Linnaeus said...

It's good to be back, Ginger!

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess Wannabe-Dali wanted what he coudn't see since you were covered up....and I love Captain Ponytail! ha ha ha

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it that Viggo's full frontal in the Indian Runner has no influence on your love for that movie.

Kidding. It's a great movie, although I'm more of a David Morse girl myself.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

It sure didn't hurt ; )

7:07 PM  
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