… your friends die.
Not in that sudden, unexpected way that your friends die in your teens or twenties, where someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time, or suicidal, or being stupid. But, like, they die of diseases. Like grownups die.
They die of heart attacks or cancer, or other prolonged illnesses that had hints along the way that were ignored. Because of course you’re going to ignore them, because what’s the alternative? Being a total weirdo who runs to the doctor for every little thing? Come on. You want to be normal and like everyone else, and to go out and have fun and be the way you’ve always have. What’s so wrong about that?
Well, nothing. Except that I’m left here, feeling old, and not really sure what to think anymore. Were you an asshole for ignoring it all, or just human? I don’t know. Judging you would make this easier, but that doesn’t seem right, either.
Dear Gallery Front Desk Person,
You probably don’t remember me, but I recently brought a group of students to see your gallery space. We were all alone in your space; in fact, I kind of suspect we were among the only people to come to your gallery that entire day, even though it was well after 3pm at the time.
My students quite liked the show that you had up. We spent a lot of time there, and at one point, several of my students got into an animated conversation about one of the pieces. Now, as a reminder, they were the only people in the gallery, and if screaming could be considered a 10, they were at most speaking at a 4. Which is to say that they were probably speaking slightly louder than one normally does in a gallery, but not at all in the vicinity of complete inappropriateness.
You might recall your reaction to this. You singled out one particular student, and made a “shushhhhhhhhhhh!!!” noise like you were a deflating balloon, and barked at him to lower his voice. I was standing across the room (maybe 15 feet away) and hadn’t noticed that anyone was speaking especially loudly, and was taken aback by your rude silencing of my student. I watched as you barked at this student, and commanded him to take his loud conversation elsewhere, despite the fact that he had been speaking about the work on the wall to his peers, and hadn’t even been doing so terribly loudly.
I wanted so desperately to walk up to you at that point and congratulate you. Good job, Gallery Desk Person: you just rudely shushed an autistic student, and embarrassed him in front of his peers. You must feel really good about yourself for having done that. This student has worked really hard to be mainstreamed in with other students his age, and I, as his instructor, have also worked hard to not single him out or draw attention to his difference. But, wow; you and your complete and total lack of acceptance for anyone deviating from even the slightest social norm…. well, hey. Way to enforce the status quo. Way to support stupid ways of being, purely for the sake of keeping things as they are. Did you realize you were going to be this much of a total conformist when you decided you wanted to go into art? Because really, you might do better (financially, at least) at a real estate firm, or perhaps an insurance company. I can see those being much more lucrative fields for you to pursue.
And not only that, you just rudely shushed a person who was genuinely interested in the work on your walls. How many people walk through your doors and actually have a reaction to the art on the walls? How many people get stirred to passionate conversation by the work that you are exhibiting? Not many, I’d assume. You should be pleased that the work elicits such a reaction, instead of shutting it down.
Ugh. You sir, completely horrify me.
Dear Super Fancy Gallery Security Guard,
After the experience detailed above, I was honestly ready to throw in the towel, and then you saved me. You saved me… like you can’t possibly ever know.
I entered into your gallery with a couple of remaining students, and encountered a show of an artist of whom I know little about. When my students asked me for clarification, I was honest with them and told them I didn’t really know. You came over, and started explaining to us. Your explanations meant the world to me. You made sense. You connected with us on a human level; you answered our questions and didn’t look at us like we were weird or stupid, and you had lots to say in terms of your own opinions of the work on view.
Your time with us was a godsend. I was reminded of why I wanted to be an artist in the first place, and why I always felt so at home at art galleries. We talked and asked questions, and then other people came over and asked you questions, too, and you so generous entertained everyone who came by. Your job, as much as I understand it, is to stand by the wall and make sure people don’t steal/harm things. And yet, you went above and beyond; you gave a shit, to the point where you demystified work that had been very opaque to us before you entered the conversation. You didn’t have to talk to us, but you did: because you’re genuinely curious and engaged with the world, and want others to be as well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You completely restored my faith in the art world. I mean this sincerely, and from the bottom of my heart. I was completely ready to pack my bags after the encounter I detailed before this one. But you saved it, and for that, I will always be grateful.