The Thinking Artist: Life Is A Banquet, Part 2

By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

Like the ash dangling precipitously from Mame Dennis’ glamorously long cigarette holder, one tap and the holidays are gone.  But not without fanfare, family drama, financial calamity, or fabulous friends famous for their fidelity and flair, not to mention their far flung festivities.

Who doesn’t remember the Christmas Eve scene from Auntie Mame where Beauregard Burnside appears at Mame’s Beekman Place apartment door after “searching every last Dennis in the Manhattan directory with the meter still running” to find his “little gal with the big heart?” Rosiland Russell’s expression was the classic cap on the spirit of the holidays. With a heartfelt hug for Patrick, Nora, Ito and Agnes, she’s off and running to the banquet table of life with a sprig of hope pinned to her hat.

Some things have not changed since 1955. Just like the life of the infamous character Mame, the holidays inevitably fill us with uncertainty, hope and the occasional hangover which is worth every minute because we lived life fully. It’s no wonder we toast each other with a cup of cheer every year; we need the fortification even if it’s just to take the chill off.

Artists almost never give up hope and our glass is almost always half full even though that’s partially due to the fact that we just like to drink. Like Mame, we might be dramatically inconsolable when things go terribly wrong  but deep down we know that around the corner there just might be a Beauregard Burnside looking for us because they saw our work at a show, a fundraiser, a festival or on somebody’s wall.  So we continue to create with hope, knowing we are fully embracing the possibility of starvation or worse, being under-appreciated. Yet we are certain that we are artists for a reason: to present the unsuspecting public with things they have never seen before, and that can make it all worthwhile.

At the annual Telephone Factory Art Show and Sale last month, I saw artists both new and experienced who had some of the freshest concepts and innovative ideas I’ve ever seen. The show was well planned and full of surprises, thanks to a thoughtful Sarah Rosenberg. The enthusiasm of Jennie Juechter and Alexander Wright of Urban Attic  (urbanaticatl.com) was worthy of Mame praise. They showed me graphic transfers on wood panels with layers of paint and images that I’ve never seen combined.

There were so many great and colorful art shows and events in December, I think I fell in love about a hundred times. Kim Chesney and Debi Lamb’s powerful skills put together a night of pure imagination with “Hope for the Holidays” at The Art House (thearthouseatlanta.com), complete with a fantastic tent, music, mime and local art covering every square inch.  At King Plow, the Georgia Lawyers for the Arts (.glarts.org) held their annual fundraiser in the great room with over 40 participating artists.  In addition to their daily business of supporting the arts, they even presented awards to artist Marc Villanueva and past supporters for their contributions.  The love of art overflows there.

Some artists live by inspiration from the masters or the generosity of their supporters.  Me? I hear Mame’s words in my head like the Pied Piper when she says to her young nephew and my namesake Patrick, “Ah, my little love, I’ll show you things you never dreamed existed!”    That’s enough to keep me interested in grabbing a seat at the banquet.

Take a page from the story of Mame and let your imagination be your guide in 2012. I guarantee you’ll find that hope and art is a great combination.

Thru January 7: “Art Ancient and Modern” at Thomas Dean Fine Art.  Paintings by eight selected artists, photography, drawings and watercolors from 1750 to 2012. thomasdeans.com

Thru January 8: “Grainger McKoy” at the High Museum.  More than 30 sculptures and drawings from the master of wildlife art. high.org

January 21: “Westside Art Walk” at Atlanta’s Westside Arts District.  Brave the chill to visit galleries from Emily Amy, Kiang, Sandler Hudson and many more. wadatlanta.org

Thru February 10: “The Glass Ceiling Shattered” at Alan Avery Art Company.  Celebrating 30 years of great American Women Artists (including one of my all time faves, Louise Nevelson).  alanaveryartcompany.com

Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. He lives in Atlanta. Email him at Patrick@affps.com.

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