(I wrote as fast as I could, but the picture that I took at the Overture Center in Madison - above - no longer represents what is there. That said, you still have a chance to catch Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. of Kennedy Prints tomorrow, SATURDAY, during the Wisconsin Book Festival, at the Dane County Print Explosion... which in itself looks really cool, and I promise myself now that I will someday schedule the day better so that I can actually attend. I'm sure there will be some creative people and inspiring works on paper to be seen).
I'm trying to retrace my steps a bit here but the exact history is a little fuzzy. Do you ever have one of those things (artists, books, authors, exhibits) where people around you are talking about it but you're not really paying full attention, and then all of a sudden you start hearing the thing everywhere and then you get hooked just like everyone else? It happened to me with Brian Andreas' Story People - I remember seeing the covers but kind of dismissing them - for years, hearing a few people talk about them, and then, finally! actually picking up a book and totally falling in love. It happened to me with Michael Franti - several different friends raved about his music, even played it for me... and then months later I hit the tipping point.
And now Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. I believe I mentioned him in my last blog post and the infatuation has just deepened. I can't remember when he was here in Madison, but last year, maybe? Doing some printing and talking about his work. And, no, I still haven't seen the documentary, but I will. At the time, his approach to printmaking, specifically the accessibility of it, was intriguing. However, I'm not actually a printer myself. That is my sister's field, and I'm somewhat intimidated by the whole process. So perhaps I thought his visit wasn't for me? I don't know. In any event, at our weekly breakfast at Sunprint on the Square, I commented on the coffee print collection they had on the wall and learned that they were Mr. Kennedy originals acquired during his last visit. Hmph. I utterly missed that!
Then, last week, someone on Facebook posted this new fundraising campaign and as I read it, I suddenly realized that was Mr. Kennedy again, with a totally awesome plan for Detroit. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check it out and give some money if you are so inclined. I think it is a really amazing thing that he is trying to do and I hope that it succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.
And then another friend sent me an email about Mr. Kennedy coming to the Wisconsin Book Festival except the link didn't work and I started thinking that it was in reference to last year's visit which I missed. And then yesterday someone came in and said they were looking for Mr. Kennedy but all they saw across the street was a printing press. I ran over after work but there was no sign of him. But then today, a customer came into the shop carrying two prints that looked like Kennedy prints. When I asked them where he got them, he said from across the street just now.... Little did my sister know that I was going to drop everything this morning.
Now, I did talk a little about Mr. Kennedy in my last blog post - his words have really stuck with me. "It's not about being so big that you have to maintain your bigness, it's about being just big enough that your craft can maintain you." I love that. a lot. Mostly, I'm hoping that will someday be available as a print even though I don't know how he'd fit all those words on one page. So for one thing, I'm really enamored with his Detroit fundraising project and his ideas of creating a business and community partner. It speaks to my hopes for how we in this country will start to move forward in new ways.
He also has an entire coffee series and a book series, some civil rights and politics prints - including a great series printed on Wisconsin highway maps with quotations from "Fighting Bob" LaFollette. So, I'm enamored because of my newfound political awareness from this past year, which, I believe, printmaking also speaks to in terms of the way artists react to and participate in current events.
First, I went across the street with my wallet. Mr. Kennedy had a table full of stacks of prints and naturally I had to go through all of them because I kept running into a few odds n' ends. You'd think one pile was all the same series, and then there'd be something about art in the middle of the coffee pile. THEN I was going to send my sister over, but I started to think that his prints might be a great addition to the shop. So I went back and asked him. Now, in my retail/craft realm, sometimes when you talk to someone whose work you like, they are not at all ready to go into the process of selling at other people's stores. Quite frankly, most artists have their work priced rather low so they can't afford to split the cost between themselves and our shop. Mr. Kennedy was rather a dream to work with - this certainly wasn't the first time he was asked and he had clear ideas about his prices and about keeping our shop competitive with other shops (he has prints at CB2, for one); and he'll keep us updated on new prints.
So I'm also enamored because it is exciting to find a new artist for the shop and he's pretty much the perfect prospect in terms of being set up to do business. He's really all about getting his work into the hands of as many people as possible. He and my sister would get along really well (we have an ongoing argument about pricing. I still maintain that if all artists priced their work in line with the amount of effort that went into it, people would learn the actual cost of such pieces. Instead, in most cases, the amount of money you pay is way way less than you yourself would charge to do such work - which, I believe, causes us to minimize the value of work made by hands). The more I look at Mr. Kennedy's work, the more I think he is undercharging. I am in awe of all the layers and colors - as a non-printer, I can't quite wrap my head around how much went into these prints. I started with the retail price that I'd seen online, but he talked me down - I'm just telling you that so you can be enamored too by the way that he's looking out for you as a customer.
For maximum selection, I really would recommend that you go to the Print Explosion at College Library tomorrow. It's pretty cool to look through the table full of prints. I can attest to this, because I did it twice. Yes, I went back with the store checkbook and picked out some for the shop. I picked out just 20, in rather a large range that even Mr. Kennedy commented on, but I can see different customers liking different ones. There was one "You're going to hell and the devil is my bitch" which really tempted me but I held back. That might speak to some side of me that perhaps should stay in my secret life. Still, the "up yours" print has been a favorite since I first saw it so I was glad to get one for myself, and one for a present for some lucky person. For the shop, there are some coffee prints, some book prints, some political prints.. and my lingering feelings of infatuation.