Tag Archives: arts

In which my house almost became a landmark…

15 Mar
Photo by Deon Black: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-denim-jeans-on-the-table-6376544/

Banana hanging out of the fly of a pair of jeans as if it is a penis

One thing that attracted me to Richmond: its arts scene. VCU is just down the street from me and it’s ranked among the top 5 fine arts schools in the United States. One way this spills out into the community is through murals. I’m not sure what the official count is, but the downtown development district alone boasts at least 150.

So imagine my excitement when, after only a few weeks in my house, someone slid an envelope through my mail-slot, asking if I’d have any interest in letting an artist put a mural on the side of my row house. (I’m on the end of the block and have a good-sized two-story brick surface.) The artist organizing this project was actually not looking to do the work himself, but is trying to create something of an exchange program with foreign artists – bringing them here to diversify our arts scene, and in turn creating opportunities for Richmond artists to leave their mark abroad. Cool, right?

I was really impressed by the thought the organizer has given the project. In the initial letter he presented three different options for supporting the project: 1) Offering up your wall as a venue; 2) Offering your wall + $2k to cover the cost of materials and a lift; 3) Sponsoring the artist with $10k so they would be compensated for their efforts. I responded by letting him know that I’d be open to having a mural on the side of my house and I’d be willing to cover costs, but I was not at a full sponsorship level of patronage because I’m, uh, a bit broke after buying a house. He was cool with that and excited that I was up for a mural.

I’m a planner, so I asked, “What’s the process for reviewing/approving the design? Would I get to suggest themes or choose from artists, or how does this work?” He explained that you only get those privileges at the $10k sponsorship level (fair enough – he’s found a meaningful incentive for full sponsorship).

I followed up by asking if I would at least get to see/approve the image before it goes on my house. In my mind, I was imagining someone having free rein and painting an enormous penis on my house, but I didn’t tell him that because I didn’t want to seed any ideas. PERHAPS, he offered. It would depend on the artist. The artist might be someone who is inspired by the act of painting itself and changes designs on the fly, so I couldn’t necessarily count on it.

That prompted me to pause and consider: as a big-time control freak, might it be sort of a bucket-list item to cede control over something this big? To just give someone carte blanche to paint on the side of my house – as long as I generally liked their portfolio? When I shared this with Alan, his answer was immediate. “Absolutely not.” He looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s your HOUSE. You’re not going to let someone just paint whatever they want on your HOUSE. You won’t even let someone other than you caulk your bathtub. Are you serious?”

Fair point. But I was enjoying the idea of being Alison 2.0 who supported the arts and let someone indulge their muse… until the organizer emailed me with good news. “I’ve got an artist coming to town and we think your house would be perfect for him. He’s in NYC now, but will be here within a week. Are you still interested?”

Gulp. I was excited and nervous. Who was the artist? What did he want to paint? Any chance it would be something related to a cause I’m passionate about – like reproductive rights, BLM, the environment, banned books? The organizer wasn’t sure, but he provided me with a link to the artist’s previous work in Europe so I could get a sense of his style and prior projects. I checked him out and was intrigued. His style was interesting. The subject matter didn’t necessarily resonate for me (oversized people doing different things) but it was still cool. There were one or two abstract images that could possibly be interpreted as being a wee bit phallic, however, so I decided that I wouldn’t feel comfortable moving forward without seeing a sketch.

“I mean, it’s not as permanent as a tattoo, but it’s also a lot more expensive than a haircut, so if I don’t like it, I won’t have to live with it forever, but it will be up there long enough that my house could become a landmark known as ‘The Big Dick’ or something,” I explained to a friend.

“You’re being ridiculous,” she laughed.

I waited on pins and needles for a few days, hoping the artist would be able to provide a sketch. Finally, Sunday evening, he came through. I’d like to post a copy of the image, but I don’t want to violate his copyright, so I’ll do my best to describe it:

Imagine a cartoon man with his back to you, arms and legs out as if mid-jumping jack. He is up against what appears to be an open window. His face is turned to the side, mouth open as if – just speculating here – orgasmic. Oh, and he is completely naked, with a small but very obvious penis pointing down between his legs right in the middle of the frame. I mean, there was nothing ABSTRACT about it. The penis even had a SHADOW.

TLDR: It would like two-story naked cartoon man humping my house.

I imagined my neighbors’ reactions as they watched it going up. I haven’t even had a chance to meet all of them yet, and I’m pretty sure this would NOT be a friend-maker. More like a slow-motion smile turning to horror as they realized I’ve conscripted our entire block to a terrible nickname. “What’s next?” I imagined them asking, “Is she going to add a ‘Tiny Dick Alley’ street sign to the side of her carport?”

I forwarded the image to Alan, whose response was, “Seriously? Are they roasting you? This can’t be real, right?” (To his credit, he didn’t use this as an “I told you so moment.”)

I responded to the project coordinator and said, “Thanks, but I’m going to pass. Hope you find a home for this guy in the Fan because I think it would be fun to have a ‘humping man’ somewhere in Richmond.”

To which he corrected me. “He’s not humping. More like skydiving on an empty picture frame.”

TomAto, ToMahto. There would still be a very visible, embarrassingly small cartoon penis on my house. I’m excited to be part of this neighborhood, but I don’t need my house to become an unfortunate landmark.

“Well look on the bright side,” my friend offered, still trying to get me to make a very bad decision, “It would be easy to give people directions to your house – they wouldn’t even need to know your house number!”

Warning: This post contains (a lot of) adult language.

6 Mar

Yes, I made this. Are you convinced of my talent yet?

This fall I started taking pottery classes at a studio about four blocks from my home. I loved it, but I didn’t really feel like I was getting much instruction from the teacher. Alan – who arrived early to walk me home one night – summed it up best when he said, “I don’t really see her teaching people. She just tells them what they did wrong after they’ve already ruined something.”

I resumed classes three weeks ago, but I switched to the Saturday afternoon session. It’s made a world of difference. Jill, the owner of the studio is there on Saturdays demonstrating different techniques, and she’s awesome. Not only is she a great potter, but she’s probably my mom’s age and uses the F-bomb without flinching.

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