Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wall of Death - Going Public with your Cemetery Art

Abandoned Angel, Mt. Moriah Cemetery
Having just wrapped up a big weekend showing my work at art group InLiquid’s 13th annual “Art for the Cash Poor” event here in Philadelphia, I thought I’d blog about the experience. About a hundred artists participate (both members and non-members of InLiquid), each with a two-by-six-foot table. No single item can be priced above $199 (…for the ‘cash poor,’ get it?). 

Ed Snyder's StoneAngels Art on Display (the 'Wall of Death')
I typically set up my table to display and sell my photographs, greeting cards, and books. You can see my display above, with my wife and daughter mugging to the right. At this event, hundreds  of people will walk by your table each day, increasing your odds of making a sale. Last weekend so many friends showed up, I was truly taken aback. Sometimes you sit at your table for twenty minutes without anyone stopping to look at your work, but this time, I had a steady stream of interested parties – I don’t think I shut my mouth for six hours running.

Angels in Princeton (NJ)
It’s kind of cool that I get repeat customers each year, folks who own several pieces of my work. I appreciate you all coming by, in addition to my wife and all my friends hanging out for moral support (and buying me beer!). It’s also fun to see fellow artists who I haven’t seen in a year. I generally support them by purchasing examples of their work. My wife brought our toddler daughter who referred to all the brightly colored art and displays as "toys." Which it all is, I suppose. 

While the Philadelphia area is brimming with artists talented in many art forms, I seem to have the market cornered on death. This article is accessorized with a few of the images I sold during the show, some as cards, some as prints. I really never know what will sell, so I bring everything! Therefore, the set-up and load-out can be rather daunting - so it’s good that I only do a few shows each year. After cramming it all into my convertible and hauling it back home, believe me, I’m ready for a Motrin Smoothie. 

Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore
One large print I sold was this one at right, which was left over from a solo exhibition I had a few years ago. I love it, but its just so weird - like Snow White's casket. Not something you'd hang on the wall to pull the room together. I was quite surprised that it caught another person's fancy. Who knows what others need in the way of spiritual nourishment?

"Vibrating Angels"

The only two framed images I brought (they're heavy, bulky, and I need to charge more) were the “Vibrating Angels” and “Tombstone Under the Betsy Ross Bridge." A print of the former was purchased earlier this year by Madalen Warhola, Andy Warhol’s neice. I thought that was a good conversation-starter. However, there were many more inquiries as to the story behind the Betsy Ross tombstone, which the woman running the table next to me must have gotten so sick of hearing over the course of the day!

Tombstone Under the Betsy Ross Bridge"
The idea of the headstones on the shore of the Delaware River under Philadelphia’s Betsy Ross Bridge is fresh in people minds due to two things. Last week, San Francisco made national news because tombstones seemed to be "washing up on the beach" of San Francisco Bay. And locally, many people had seen psychic Valerie Morrison's CBS news broadcast a few weeks back about the stones under the Betsy, so curiosity was piqued. One guy even offered his construction company to help move the stones!

I drank minimal beer at the event so I could count change correctly. That's usually key to turning a profit. It also allows me to be clear-headed enough to jot down important notes, e.g. where to find the preeminent private collection of post-mortem Daguerreotypes (assembled over thirty years by a Queens estate sale liquidator) to directions to three abandoned cemeteries I never knew about!

One artist who had a table at the event was an ex-girlfriend. She and her new husband came over and introduced themselves to my new wife. THAT was weird at first, but such lovely people. Everyone was, really. The event organizers were (as always) great to deal with (even when you’ve forgotten to pay your entry fee in advance!). Even my my printer friend from Philadelphia Photographics came by to see all the prints he's made for me over the past few years.

As you can see from the link below to my InLiquid artist's page, not all my work is seriously death-related − I do sprinkle some mirth and frivolity about. I usually have an assortment of non-cemetery greeting cards available, like the one below. It's one of my best-sellers!

Sock Monkey Nativity Scene

References and Further Reading:
Ed Snyder's InLiquid page 

A celebration of t...
By Ed Snyder