Through Coke-bottle Glasses
Two weeks before the pandemic I had a two-week show of my “Sonny Pops” paintings at Luxury Row in Waikiki. I am thankful that we didn’t schedule it for March as we had originally planned. No one expected the viral time warp that oozed into our lives. We still struggle to wake up from this real-life bogey-mania.
Covid-19 was an unexpected U-turn for everyone. For many, a stop sign.
Living on an island has its advantages. Our rates of infection are the lowest of all fifty states. Death rates too. But the local economy has been hardest hit of all the states. A tourist-based economy is no match for a pandemic. People stopped traveling and if they did venture to the islands they had to quarantine for two weeks. Waikiki has been like a ghost town, sans ghosts. Galleries were especially hard hit. Mine closed.
Working in a gallery and meeting people from around the world every day used to keep me connected. It gave the island a Continental feel. I lived vicariously and learned every day through interactions with vacationers/art lovers. People would sometimes tell me that they loved Hawaii, but couldn’t live here because they would miss the seasons. I explained that we have seasons but we just skip the crappy ones.
Since mid-March, I have not worn shoes or long pants and have spent time reflecting on the path forward. I feel guilty admitting that it has been a hideously-disguised blessing.
Because I had worked so hard putting the pre-Covid art show together, painting until the wee hours almost every day after work, I wanted to take a break. The creative bucket was running on empty. Even when you have found your own voice, you have to have something compelling to say.
The idea of a road trip really took root in my mind, but it was an impractical fantasy. If you take a long drive on an island you are driving in odd-shaped circles. A trip to the mainland was a nonstarter. So I started writing a book. A mental road trip down memory lane — the last half-century in the art business. It required tapping into a different creative channel, but the process was interesting. It morphed and changed. Art Gallery Confidential: Confessions of an Art Dealer started as a romance, Recollections of an Artful Journey, a softer focus on the art business. But the book grew teeth. Butt cracks showed.
In the last couple of weeks, I have been dreaming up some new images for the book that are less Hawaii-centric and more like global hieroglyphics. I think that emojis are cyber hieroglyphics. Generally cheap looking. The images that I am working on now are visual glyphics, pared-down stylized images of waves and birds, and colors—things that create a sense of peace. Rendered in a somewhat painterly fashion. I should get Marie Kondo as a critic. She would love the spare simplicity.
2020 bleakly Zoomed by, slo-mo style. Now, 2021, with all of our hopes draped around it, is starting to look like 2020 reaching the legal drinking age. With bodies and businesses ravaged and ruined, it is a time of pain and prolonged reflection. Patience is in short supply. We need it now more than at the beginning of this epic fiasco.
Take heart and precautions. You know what they are.
The Roaring Twenties followed the Spanish flu. Our Roaring Twenties, once Covid is suppressed, can make the 1920s look like the mouse that roared. A creative boom is what the world needs to recover.
This pandemic is a prelude. The best time for artists to inspire and reinvent is gestating, waiting to be reborn. The mental and retail landscape is morphing. You are needed more than ever—make it happen.
Do your pART!
Copyright © 2021 Steven Maier
In the last half-century, Steven Maier has been an art consultant, gallery director, gallery owner, and Hawaii’s Ambassador of Pop Art (“Sonny Pops,” his nom de brush). The feast and famine nature of the art business has kept him shapeshifting and on his toes. Over the years, he has worked with a veritable Who’s Who and Who Was of the art world. From selling Red Skelton’s Freddy the Freeloader clown paintings to an original Matisse worth millions of dollars, Maier has found it a bumpy, but beautiful, ride.