Forrest Gist and the Waning of Art
There was this really good potter I used to know in Lubbock. Forrest Gist was his name, or Forest Gist, I don’t remember which so I’ll call him Forrest because I like that name better.
I had purchased one of his bowls from a store and gave it to my wife for her birthday. She liked it so much I thought it might be nice to get her another one for Christmas. (I hate that her birthday and Christmas are just 38 days apart).
So I went to see Forrest at a time when I knew he was firing about 30 pottery vessels in a large outdoor kiln. I arrived just in time to see him remove a still hot jar with a stick, look at it for a few seconds, then throw it on a cement sidewalk where it splattered. What th…?
I approached Forrest cautiously, not completely cognizant of his mindset, and remembering he had a hot stick in his hand. “Whatcha doin’, Forrest?” I asked respectively. He didn’t answer, but instead, threw another hot jar on the pavement. This went on a couple of more times before I decided to be rude to my friend.
“Stop, you idiot! I’ll buy some of those things from you.” He turned to me and politely said, “Look Forrest, I’m experimenting with a new glaze here, and that’s why I didn’t sign the pots in this firing. I want quality to be my signature, and if they don’t measure up to my standards I don’t want my name on them.” Gee, and I thought they were really good.
I helped Forrest clean up the mess caused by the demise of one kiln-worth of fired clay “Junkers.” And I had to admit that Forrest was the consummate artist. Although I didn’t agree completely with his quality control methods, I respected his philosophy.
What he had done prayed on my mind for a few days. I had already decided to be a world class bronze sculptor, and was sure my first two efforts were excellent platforms from which to launch my career.
What I lacked in talent could be compensated for in other ways. For instance, since I couldn’t get the hooves on my buffalo just right, I solved the problem by having him stand in mud. And my pilot self-portrait, well surely my talent would improve over time, maybe over a long time.
Going to Forrest Gist’s pot firings ruined my promising art career, so I decided to be an art dealer instead. The two bronzes remain in my collection to remind me to not to ever try that again.
Quality matters, and although no one should be allowed to set a standard for art, common-sense propriety must come into play at some point. My gallery purchased a drawing from a Yahoo artist for $15 because he wanted to buy a sandwich.
Over the next several years no one wanted to buy that sad sketch from us at any price. One day Mr. Yahoo saw it in a storage drawer with a price of $15, and he became irate. He didn’t think we should be offering his early work because he had gotten better since then, and that sketch embarrassed him. When I offered to sell it back at my cost, he wasn’t interested. I’m sure he knew non-quality when he saw it. He should have thrown it in the fire years ago instead of bringing it to me.
My first impression of The Scream was that it should have been thrown in a spewing volcano. Never mind that not too long ago a pastel on cardboard version of it sold for about $120,000,000.00. Guess I don’t know as much about art values as I thought I did. f