The Art Itself: Refusal to Show

There comes a time – or many a time – when an artist needs to decline invitations to show his work. At least that’s true for Floyd D. Tunson.

 Fans are free with their advice to “get the work out there.” They mean well; they love the art. But they don’t necessarily understand that the “there” might not be as important to the artist as the time he needs to work or even to contemplate his work.

 What does it take, you might ask, for the artist simply to prepare the work to be picked up and loaded onto a van? Easier said than done. First of all, because Tunson usually works in large scale and has hundreds of pieces in storage that have to be moved before he can even get to the desired piece, the physical labor is daunting. Theoretically, he could hire someone to help with this task, but he’s always done all aspects of his work by himself, and having someone else involved feels to him almost like a violation of privacy.

 Another reason to decline an opportunity is that the artist is uncertain about whether pieces from different periods of his career are how he was to be represented at a given time. The context, the timing might not be right.

 Then there’s the issue of whether the venue is significant enough to bring him any career benefit, whether critical or financial. If odds are that nothing important will occur, he would be wasting time, effort, and emotional energy that could be spent in the studio.  

 I’ve offended some local gallerists who have begged me to persuade Tunson to exhibit in their spaces, and I have had to decline. Over the years I’ve learned that if he doesn’t want to show his work at a certain place or at a certain time, that’s the way it’s supposed to be because only the artist himself knows what does or does not feel right. He, after all, is concerned about making the art, and he feels guilty and resentful about abandoning it even momentarily to jump on just any chance to show it.

It’s this authenticity that motivates me to assist Tunson however I can. For him, the only thing that matters is the art itself.