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Art & Culture

various essays on, well, art and culture

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession


ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my

Personal Essays

No matter where you go . . .
So I wander into this nuclear
        reactor . . .

Thoughts on This Day
The Power to Forget
Announcing:  Alwyn!
Martyr Complex
The Call
The Reality of the Situation
Comforting Presence
Guilt & Redemption


Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?


observations on the human condition


take a trip with me

Published in Legacy Online, April 2004

The Reality of the Situation

Last week, as we were hanging the new show and re-arranging the rest of the gallery, I did something that really drove home the reality of our impending closure:  I took down a couple of sections of the hanging rail system we've used since the start.

I designed this system to give us flexibility in displaying work, without the need to be perforating the walls with nails every month.  It wasn't ideal, since artwork tended to hang slightly askew, but it meant that over the long haul we wouldn't need to rehab the walls every couple of years.  It's the sort of compromise you make.

But once we decided that we were going to close the gallery, we were freed from having to use the hanging-rail system.  Simply, we werenít going to cause much damage to the walls in the few remaining months.  So, when we were hanging things last week, there were a couple of places where the rail was impinging on the displays, and I took it down.  This tangible dismantling was powerfully symbolic for me.

Like the hanging rail system, I've been playing a part which is coming to a close.  By nature, I am very much a private person, an introvert who prefers to be left to my own work.  But for about 50 hours a week for the last eight years I've had to play a very public role, interacting with people in an outgoing and friendly manner, hosting monthly parties for our opening receptions, talking with tour groups and classes, even participating in the artificial chumminess of Chamber of Commerce functions from time to time.

I've been able to accomplish this because I've got very good "extrovert batteries," which allow me to perform this role, then recover in the peace and quiet of home.  But even the best rechargeable batteries need to be replaced now and again, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to complete this performance and rediscover what it's like to not be a public persona.

Unlike the hanging rail system, though, I have to keep the public persona in place for the time being.  More or less.  I've discovered that I have less tolerance for playing the part when dealing with obnoxious or offensive people, the sort who have never purchased anything from us, yet feel confirmed in their right to whine about our closing or inquire into my private plans post-gallery.  I have yet to resort to replying to their rudeness with my own, and usually just smile and let it pass, finding an excuse to go busy myself with something else which needs to be done.  And, after all, there's only a few more weeks to go.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-2006
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-2006
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