A Snake Eating its Own Tail

Installation view, Jars Exhibition. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015

Installation view, Jars Exhibition. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015

Jars exhibition featuring "Preserved", center, by Lee Puffer. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015.

Jars exhibition featuring “Preserved”, center, by Lee Puffer.Ceramic and plush in glass jar. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015.

"Thank You for Your Support" by Lee Puffer. Ceramic severed ear, glass beads, pennies and text in glass jar, 2014

“Thank You for Your Support” by Lee Puffer. Ceramic severed ear, glass beads, pennies and text in glass jar, 2015

"Preserved #2" by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and plush in glass jar. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015

“Preserved #2” by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and plush in glass jar. Art Produce Gallery. Jan/Feb 2015

I was asked to participate in a fundraiser for the Sugar Museum, which involved creating new work and donating it for an exhibition and sale. The work was to be enclosed in a jar, and artists were asked to use the idea of a jar as a point of departure for the concept and content of the work. This is how the Sugar Museum describes the exhibition:

“Sugar Museum is pleased to present JARS, an installation of hundreds of jars in the storefront Art Produce Gallery. The jars of art by local artists and jars of food donated by local vendors will be displayed on shelving with “art” and “food art” coexisting. They are both beautiful commodities in this situation. Will the buyer put the art in their cupboard next to the honey or frame the honey on the living room wall? All the work will be for sale throughout the exhibit and will benefit the community educational programs of the Sugar Museum and Art Produce Gallery.”

This sounded interesting so I agreed to participate. As artists, we are asked to donate our work constantly. I know of no other profession where services are expected for free so frequently, but that is a conversation for another day. The Sugar Museum was not asking for a donation, per se, because all of the work exhibited would be for sale with 50% of the proceeds going back to the artist. The 50/50 split is typical of commercial galleries. The Sugar Museum did ask that artists create original work specific to the exhibition, rather than curating a show from an artist’s existing body of work. Most of us find this sort of challenge refreshing and fun, albeit time consuming. It was in this gift of time and effort that we support the Sugar Museum’s fundraising.

The opening for the exhibition was crowded and fun. The artwork exhibited was amusing, varied and good. The usual suspects of the San Diego art and educational community were present in person and represented by the jars. Is this a pretty small town, or does it just feel that way?

In my research I discovered that the Sugar Museum is, more than anything else, an art project. In addition to the stated cause of sweetener awareness, the Sugar Museum appears to be the brainchild and creative product of one artist. For me, asking artists to donate art (or time) in order to raise money for an artist to make art is a bit like the snake eating its own tail. The self-referential nature of the event itself further reiterated this feeling.

I wonder if we could find a way to branch out a little more as a community. We could strive grow our  influence and audience, especially with projects like the Sugar Museum, for whom outreach and education is a goal.

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