“Artists? They ain’t artists,” said Mrs. Bullock explosively. “I know artists. I’ve ‘ad ‘em staying here. Quiet tidy little fellows—fussy about their victuals. I don’t know what your aunt’s got hold of—Bolsheviks, I shouldn’t wonder. (Look to the Lady, Margery Allingham)
Last week I met up with a friend. “You look like an artist,” she said, “and I look like a software developer.” That surprised me. I think of myself as mostly looking like a Wal-Mart shopper.
Anyhow, I have a programmer in the house. His uniform is flannel and jeans. My lithe and slender pal was wearing a black turtleneck and trousers. With her blonde pageboy, she could have passed as a beat-generation poet.
At most openings, you’ll see at least one woman in a serape-patterned silk handkerchief dress. Every appendage is wrapped in handmade jewelry, her reading glasses dangle from a chain made of sea-glass, and she is wrapped in a simple silk velvet shawl that draws all eyes involuntarily to her. I like beautiful things as much as the next woman. However, that woman is probably not the artist. Her shawl cost more than my car.
There’s also usually a woman in the far corner wearing a completely ordinary corduroy skirt and heels, smartened up with a hand-dyed, hand-stitched scarf. That’s not actually your kid’s kindergarten teacher; that’s the artist you drove fifty miles to meet. She also just drove fifty miles to be here, direct from the day job she works to support her art.
This, by the way, transcends gender. The young men in the tailored linen suits and Gaziano & Girling boots whom you see in Chelsea are actually earning $9 an hour picking up empty wine glasses. The real artist currently taking New York by storm is that guy who looks like he does the books for the canal commission.
No, this isn’t reverse snobbery on my part. We need and love people who dress well in this world. When they’re interested in aesthetics, they’re also willing to support art. So why did I bring this up? I guess it’s just an apology on my part for accidentally looking arty. Once.