The Rilly Big Show

“It's not our art, but our heart that's on display.”
   Gary Holland

It's been a busy summer. Although I hadn't intended it, I somehow committed to having two concurrent exhibits of my work; when the last of those closed, I had another show begin a week later. The preparation for these shows was a fairly stressful experience. Expensive, too. Perhaps if I'd planned better (or earlier), the preparation would have been easier.

Ordinarily, three shows a year would not be a burden. A great many painters, photographers, sculptors, and other artists do many more shows in a year. I think what made this a challenge for me was the timing. I had to plan for all of the pictures I'd display in all three shows, and purchase the necessary frames and mats all at one time. Perhaps I'm getting lazy in my old age. True or not, I hope I've learned something from this summer's experiences.

Several years after I began exhibiting my work in galleries I wrote about the preparation and hanging of shows. Selecting the images to be printed and displayed is much like choosing the pictures for a portfolio, something I also wrote about in my article, “The Portfolio”. While the information in those articles still applies, I had a much larger task on my hands this year simply because accommodating all three shows required a larger number of pieces than I'd ever prepared at one time.

The Small Stuff

The first show to open was in a local gallery. It would run for a little over five weeks. I limited my display to only eight pictures. That was adequate, as I was just one of four featured artists in that show. All of the photos I chose for that show were made in Freezeout Lake (birds, scenics). I had a couple of large, very colorful scenics, several photos of the massive clouds of snow geese for which the area is famous, and one large black-and-white image.

Jay Cross photo in a show at the Sandpiper Art Gallery

One of my photos in the local gallery show that ran in July and August, 2012.

A week before that show ended I had the “Art Festival”, the one-day outdoor show I do each summer in Polson, MT. For that show I needed around thirty framed pieces in various sizes, plus a number of matted-and-bagged (unframed) prints. Experience has taught me to also have additional pictures on-hand (but not hung), to fill empty space when something sells, and to show to potential customers who have specific interests. Although we've made improvements to our display arrangement and materials, the basic idea is the same as shown at the end of the Art of the Show article mentioned above.

There's no way to know what will sell in a show. No way to know what sizes, or how many, in both framed and unframed pieces, will remain after a show closes. In part, this is why I limited the first gallery show to only eight pieces. Even if they all sold (never happen!) I'd still have plenty of work available for the remaining shows.

I'd placed a very large (for me) order for mats and metal frames with my usual supplier. I'd also had several pieces framed by a local framer, who makes all my wooden frames. Lead times required that I order frames and mats at one time to accommodate all three shows.

This was my fifth year in the Art Festival. Sales (dollars) were about average, but nearly all were matted-and-bagged pieces. Fortunately, the few framed pieces that sold were larger, fairly expensive pieces. Also fortunately, this left a large number of pieces available for the final show.

The Big One

About a year ago I had arranged to be the featured artist in a show at the Red Poppy Gallery in Ronan, MT. I'd have the gallery's five major wall spaces to fill, along with a smaller area on a movable wall panel.

A portion of the Jay Cross photo exhibit at the Red Poppy art gallery

A section from my 2012 photo exhibit at the Red Poppy art gallery.

For the Red Poppy show I had the left-over pieces from both the small gallery show and from the outdoor show. I also had a number of new pictures I'd set aside to frame specifically for this show. The night before hanging the show I loaded all the work, my display racks and bins, and a small easel into the car. It was tight; I couldn't have stuffed one more picture into my RAV4.

When I arrived at the gallery on hanging day, “my walls” were empty and ready for hanging. I worked alone, spending about six hours getting the framed pieces on the walls, getting the bins and easel set up, and adjusting the lighting. It was a long, tiring day, but the exhibit looked great. I'd hung 46 framed pieces. I also had about three dozen matted pieces in racks or bins. This was by far the largest show I've done.

The Red Poppy has a large classroom adjacent to the gallery space. A class was under way while I hung my show. During a break one of the students wandered through the partially hung show and bought one of the pieces. That's not a bad way to start a new show!

Opening Reception

The opening reception for the show was held on the last Sunday of August. The gallery did its usual publicity, and I had sent information to a long list of friends, other artists, and clients. The opening reception was well attended. People stayed for a long time, many asking questions about the photos, the locations, and even a little shop talk about equipment, lighting, weather conditions, etc. The gallery owners had asked me to give a presentation during the reception, so I prepared about 70 images to be projected on a large screen. The program ran for about an hour. I'm not real comfortable doing these things, but it seemed to go over well.

A portion of the Jay Cross photo exhibit at the Red Poppy art gallery

The “bird wall” section from my 2012 photo exhibit at the Red Poppy art gallery.

The show hangs through the end of November.

I now have time to tackle some projects I've put off all summer. I have a backlog of client printing jobs to complete. My wife and I will do some traveling, including a camping trip in Yellowstone and an October visit to the home folk in Ohio and Michigan. With a little luck I'll make some photographs.

August, 2012