Blog / 2022 / How To Have a Successful Unconventional Art Show

November 10, 2022

Lambertville art opening for Gwenn Seemel’s portraits
photo by David Vanadia

They were standing on the sidewalk in front of a window filled with my paintings, eating a celebratory cookie that I’d made for the reception that was going on right around them, and they asked me: “Where can we see art in town?”

When I gestured to the window, they responded: “No. Where are the real art galleries? The indoor ones?”

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It shouldn’t surprise me that my DIY art exhibit of Friend Request didn’t register with these random tourists or with many other people. Humans tend to depend on conventions to understand the world, and, in this case, they were looking for the approval of the indoors.

A traditional gallery setting is code for money. When paintings are inside an established art space, people know they’re allowed to like the work because someone has spent lots of cash on the set-up and that makes viewers who aren’t sure of their taste feel secure about appreciating the art.

Lambertville art opening for Gwenn Seemel’s portraits
photo by David Vanadia

I rarely turn down the opportunity to display my work in the orthodox way. In fact, I have art up indoors as well right now—Baby Sees ABCs is at the Lambertville Free Public Library—but that doesn’t mean that I think inside art is better.

For one thing, when my paintings are displayed in a window, it means that everybody gets to see the work, whether or not they feel comfortable going to an art gallery, which can be an intimidating space. For another, outdoor art exhibits are safer these days, when COVID cases are unreported and maddeningly undercounted.

SiriOm Singh painting by Lambertville artist Gwenn Seemel
painting process

Unfortunately, the virus hung over the celebration last Saturday, like a spiky cloud of doom. I learned that at least one person in attendance tested positive later that day, and that’s just the one who felt cruddy, stuck a swab up their nose, and told me about it. What about all the potentially asymptomatic people who came without knowing that they have COVID?

This was my first in-person event to celebrate my art since this unpleasant coronadventure started two and half hears ago, and I am relieved that I opted for an outside celebration.

Ayala Shimelman painting by Lambertville artist Gwenn Seemel
painting process

While it’s true that showing your art indoors matters to how your work is seen, it’s also a reality that galleries aren’t the only way to gain credibility. If you send out press releases that outlets pick up on, it automatically makes your work look more impressive. And that’s something I managed with TAPinto Princeton, the New Hope-Lambertville Patch, New Jersey Stage, and the Bucks County Herald.

Also, I’m totally okay with people self-selecting out of my audience because my art exhibits don’t look legit to them. Not everyone is going to like what I do. And the people who truly see my work—no matter where it’s displayed—can feel good about themselves for not being unnecessarily conventional, because unconventional people make make the world a better place!

acrylic paintings of SiriOm Singh and Ayala Shimelman, painted by Lambertville artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
SiriOm and Ayala
2022
acrylic on paper
7 x 10 inches (combined dimensions)

Learn more about SiriOm and Ayala, two of my requested friends who are fellow artists, on their site—they own an indoor gallery that I was happy to be able to send those tourists to last Saturday. Their portraits along with the rest of Friend Request are on display in Winifred Weiss’ studio window in Lambertville through the end of the month!

Winifred’s studio window
17 Church Street
(at the intersection with George)
Lambertville, NJ 08530

Open: now through November 30th
Hours: whenever (you can look in from the street)


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