Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Crime Doesn't Pay. Neither Does Art

My mother sometimes moans that her children "all have the souls of poets." If the qualifying factor to having "the soul of a poet" is never earning a decent living, then she is correct. It just doesn't pay.

Bill Dunlap is a painter who lives in San Francisco. I'd never heard of him until today, when we visited his house, now for sale and part of the Zephyr tour this week. The house was in district 3G, a foggy, wind-strewn blot on the western edge of The City. Bill's neighbors don't take very good care of their homes, and crime in the area is traditionally very high.

In fact, I don't make a habit of looking at houses in this area, but we stopped by today because we like the agent who had the listing. This is a rule of mine, when doing the Zephyr tour. I look at places that might fit the needs of my clients (unlikely), places that seem interesting, or places held open by agents I like and/or respect. It seems like the right thing to do.

So out we went, blowing off five of the places on our tour, to the Ocean View, district 3G, to look at Bill Dunlap's place. At the time, of course, I didn't know it was Bill Dunlap's house, just thought it was another run-down place out there, with some old guy trying to make a killing on a place he bought for $10,000 40 years ago. Not so.

Bill and his wife have done nice things to their place. Bill's art is all over the walls. I figured that, since most of the paintings looked similar, they must be the work of the owner. It turned out I was correct. "He's an artist," the agent told me. "He's had a few showings at local galleries."

Bill and his grad student wife were moving home to Virginia where, everyone assumed, they would pay $200,000 for a nice house but then -- horrors! -- they'd be living in Virginia.

Maybe, I suggested, Bill and his wife will buy an old building downtown. Upstairs will be their cool loft, and downstairs will be a gallery to show Bill's work. There is, as far as I can tell, I told them, no laws on the books in Virginia making it illegal to be cool. "They want to get away," said the agent. "He works in tech and he wants to paint."

Okay.

Living where I live, and doing what I do, I come across vast numbers of people who make a claim to being some sort of artist. Everyone is a painter, writer, photographer, actor, etc. They just do this other stuff to earn a living. I immediately put Bill Dunlap into that category and figured, that's smart; he's going to pursue this stuff and he's taking the steps necessary in his life to make it work. Way to go, Bill! Your stuff shows promise!

I'd buy one, I thought. I wonder how much he charges?

Then I came home and googled Bill Dunlap.

Bill Dunlap just won a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. That's why they're moving to Virginia. In the past 3 years, he has done 9 solo shows in San Francisco. He has been the featured artist in 3 art publications does drawings and illustrations and, just as an add, has published short stories in various literary magazines.
In short, Bill Dunlap has achieved success as an artist beyond what most of "us" could imagine. And yet, I sit here in my comfortable Glen Park home while Bill sells his one in the 'hood so he can move back to Virginia. Just as my old Seattle pal Johnny Rods can hold a crowd of hundred rapt with attention as he plays smart rock and roll, and then go home to the apartment he shares with his mother.
It's weird, though not something that surprises me. Obviously, I have made a choice at some point to not sleep on people's couches at whatever cost.
I would take my hat off to you, Bill Dunlap, except that when I was in Santa Monica, I did that and my head got sunburned. So instead, I bow to you, to Virginia and your cool folk art-influenced paintings. I wish I could sell your house, but none of my clients are brave enough to live in your neighborhood.

5 Comments:

Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i must not understand art. not one of his paintings,drawings,illustrations,scribbles,or whatever is appealing at all to me. i just don't get it.
m

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

I have NEVER been told I have the soul of a poet....

8:23 AM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

so HOW much does his stuff sell for?

9:17 AM  
Blogger Lefty said...

i totally dug his stuff. very southern folk. very howard finster. i don't know how much bill gets for his stuff.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

I'm with Bud and/or Marsi on this one. It looks like stuff you did in 7th grade.

5:19 PM  

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