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An art blog by Jon Coffelt on The Whole 9

Jon Coffelt, highly acclaimed artist, activist and curator, is a former gallery owner living and working in Manhattan. Coffelt decided to keep his distinctive Southern drawl.

Self Examination

We should always to pay heed to what is going on around us and how we are dealing with it. With loses and gains we are changed regardless from where they come from. Our personal lives are so much a part of us as artists. We hone and own this perspective within ourselves. It’s part and parcel of who we are. Our souls are deeply connected with who we are. We decided to be who we are before we were ever born.
What happens on the outside can sometimes have a larger effect on us than we ever think and being present we realize that we have the tools to get us through and these tools have been earned by us over each and every other event that has taken place in our lives. In other words, we are ready to handle what is right now and what comes next. Trusting oneself is the ultimate answer.


In the last couple months I have had a loss on both sides of my family. One by a car accident and the other by cancer. To say this has changed me would be an understatement. Thinking about these losses seems so overwhelming at times but I know I have the tools to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep on going.
Both of these family members were warm and gentle and full of life. They loved life and if only by example I know they want their friends and relatives to continue on in happiness. This is their gift to the rest of us. They both loved life and had a sparkle in their eyes that was undeniable.

So true…and sorry to hear about your losses.

Thoughts for you and yours. I’m sure your art will find away to honor them.

Why Do We Have To Compete?

Seems everything is a competition these days from “American Idol” to “So You Think You Can Dance.” Everyone is pitted against everyone else and competition is a given rather than an option. Voting seems to be the new way we maneuver our world these days. Sadly, art organizations and public not for profits are now having to compete one against another for funding from multinationals like Chase bank and Pepsi. When I heard on NPR, just the other day, about so many getting on the bandwagon, I knew there was some reason for it. I mean, some of these concerns got public funds just to ride out the downturn in the economy and now they are all high and mighty deeming who gets a pittance from them and who doesn’t based on popularity and nothing more. I feel there are some organizations who are very important who need the money who will not be in the running because they are not popular and are not part of the common denominator. These organizations only do this as a way for you to go in and vote to get your personal information as an advertising tool for them. This, in and of itself is a very selfish act. By pitting organizations against one another they are the only winners here and we lose once again as a society. Popularity contests are only good for some things and not for others. In this era of “us against them,” I hope we realize who is in the “win” seat here and who becomes pawns in their multinational game of chess.


When I heard one arts organization say they absolutely had to be the winner over another arts organization, my stomach churned. Is this what we have come to be?

Materialism survives on statistics. It is the lifeline. Art and Music confound the system. They defy logic and numbers. but as you have observed, our ruling structure will not be denied. We judge success by numbers. Turnstyles count the importance of artists, allocate support, and determine commercial success. There is a need for new venues far from the ticking of the machines and more in tune with the beats of the heart.

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.

These are the rules of the game. I knew them going in and I accepted them.

I chose to play the game and I don’t expect any special treatment.

I want to win just like anyone else. It’s in my blood now and forever. Without competition how else would we motivate ourselves. I don’t enjoy losing but it builds character, promotes good sportsmanship and it feeds the hunger.

And then one day…

when I cross the line and enter the winners’ circle, I can finally drink that bottle of milk, kiss that cup, hoist that trophy, point to the sky, beat my chest and I proudly say thank you~thank you~thank you~thank you…

with deep gratitude for the opportunity to prove myself.

Rosendo all is well when it comes to sports and competition but art should be more contemplative and not based on a set of numbers with winners and losers so therefore say that I see no brevity whatsoever in your response to my post today. That said, Thank you for expressing your opinion.

Athletes are not heroes They are merely athletes

Understand What Fallow Means

Being there myself a few times, I know how it is to have a physical situation that keeps one from where you mentally and physically feel that you need to be. I also understand what fallow means and sometimes we just need to let things be. Be what they are to strengthen us.

My hope is for you get back to where you want to be but in the meantime I want to give you something to think about.

I remember when I was out of physical sorts and so worried that things were just not gelling for me. I was getting behind, or so I thought, only to understand that spiritually I was getting ahead and things I could not figure out before just sort of came pouring to me when I wasn’t physically drained.

Sometimes we have to remember that we are functioning on so many levels that it take one getting off kilter for the others to kick it up a notch. To be fallow in one area only means to grow and develop in another. Let the fallow parts replenish then you are working on all cylinders, so to speak.

This is my hope for you:
Keep making that wonderful work and keep your heart intact. Be mindful of this reflection of the moment and let it carry you to your next phase. A most productive and fruitful one it will be. Keep on keeping on because over the next horizon is your city of gold.

Go make great art. You demand it of yourself but be easy too.
This is just a way for you to reconnect with what is really important to you.


Main Entry: 2fallow
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English falwe, falow, from Old English fealg — more at felly
Date: before 12th century

1 : usu. cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season
2 obsolete : plowed land
3 : the state or period of being fallow
4 : the tilling of land without sowing it for a season

Brilliant blog Jon — I think your point “being fallow only means to grow and develop in another” is so true.

The other day I was coming out of a parking lot and asked my daughter which way she wanted me to turn — left or right. She said left. When I got to the exit, I realized there was a no left turn sign. Now being a bit more careful about these things now that I’ve got more precious cargo, I followed the instructions and made a right knowing I would loop back around.

Willow asked “What are you doing Momma?” to which I replied, “Sometimes you have to go right to go left.”

Thanks, Jon. I enjoy your posts. The work I purchased at Alice continues to enrich my life and start conversations at the beach. The beach house has been a place to “lie idle” for over a decade. The beach has weathered a lot since we’ve been visiting, but nature can’t match a man-made disaster that threatens now.

I’m dealing with a tremendous mental block right now. I just keep staring at my studio. I have nothing. Honestly, it’s starting to stress me out a little bit. BUT, I’m trying to focus on other things such as exercise, friendships (been slacking on that one) and future collaborations.

So…’s probably not as bad as it’s hyped up to be.

Reluctantly Recalcitrant

We say we want to try new things but we find reasons not to. We say we want to go to distant lands more yet we hold ourselves back. What is it about us that wants to hold onto the present longer than it actually exists or, at some point, even has meaning? Sometimes what we hold onto the longest is the weight that pulls us down. The very thing that becomes our biggest obstacle, our biggest fear. Have you ever stopped to think what it would be like to make a 180 degree turn?


And wasn’t it Einstein who said, “repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity?”

So true. And while I’ve taken a number of 90 degree turns, not sure about the 180s. And you Jon…thinking about a 180?

I think I’ve made 3 already this year Lisa. Almost a whirling dervish

Change is hard but we’re all into it now. I’m not so sure about 180 though. For me, its more like 45. I basically like what i do, I just need to find ways to do it dirrerently and perhaps define/articulate it differently and more broadly.

I am heading in the 180 direction… expand, create explore, the only boundaries are the limits we place on ourselves.

Fresh As Banksy?

Well, arguably the world’s best known graffiti artist, Banksy, the renowned has struck again. This time again in New York City. Michael Skolnik of Global Grind has posted Banksy’s newest displays of affection.… Four pieces have been sited since May 1 around New York City. The pieces are the freshest thing out there. Banksy is the Brit who is just as big inside a gallery as on the raw streets. Police have been chasing him for years and collectors have broken up the concrete on sidewalks where his work appears and selling it for hundreds of thousands of dollars yet Banksy’s identity remains a mystery. Is “a shroud of mystery” the new black? Anything that stirs the heart and effects the public is what gets our attention. There are definitely things we can learn as an art community based on the covert actions of an artist like Banksy. What does one conjure up with ideas as legitimate and Illegitimate as those of the unknown Banksy?…

Street villain/Gallery/babe, Graffiti tagger/legitimate lauded artist All juxtapositions. All Banksy. Arts expectations are concurrently changing and morphing. Where do we fit in?


Wow! I’ve been thinking the exact same thing lately. There is something in me that wants to stir up the masses, be it either political or religious commentary or just creating something that makes people think. The art community in New Orleans needs a BIG jolt!!! Thanks!

I keep hearing artists saying how the environment for art has changed. Maybe its time we started changing the environment for art ourselves.

I mean, its not like the banking system or the repugs or the tea party or the green tea party care, you know?

Live or die trying!
Live out loud or die quietly

Breaking rules always gets one noticed, breaking rules with a message or a huge dose of reality, a change of perspective, social cometary ruffles feathers and makes a statement that is louder then the broken rules which I think is the allure of Banksy.

Just What Is An Opportunity?

I have asked myself this very questions so many times of late. Do we, as artists, comprehend opportunities that present themselves to us? Are we too jaded to see them? Are we blind to the fact that they are all around us? What is it that quantifies an opportunity? Are we only looking at sales to boost our bottom line? Are we only seeing the surface of things instead of digging down deeper?

Personally I see so many opportunities and for me this is much more about having the time to implement these ideas into positive change for me and my work. I sometimes feel pulled thin with wondering what to pursue. I have so many pans in the fire but this can sometimes work against me and I need clearer boundaries or I get so much in my head that I am no longer clear to make the right decisions.

We are all products of our environments in so many ways and to understand how we can take obstacles and turn them into stepping stones is very important. What quantifies an opportunity for you?


Three Things to know
1. Always look a gift horse in the mouth.
2. If it sounds too good to be true. It most likely is.
3. If vampires are involved and you’ll know them because you will have less energy after you’ve been around them, then Don’t and I repeat “Don’t get involved” for your own sake.

Good advice — sometimes it’s nice to have that reaffirmed from someone else. Just fired a client for $ reasons and realized in the interim that the ‘opportunity’ was really a vampiric drain on my energy as well as hard work on top of that. It feels great to have made that call and acted on it.

Your piece makes me think about a conversation I had recently with a friend about the term “discrimination”. Now-a-days this word has become synonymous with racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, or other negative references. Back in the early 20th century, it was a real compliment to refer to someone as being very “discriminant”. The idea was that it is a positive skill to be able to recognize the good opportunities from the bad ones (without any prejudice implied).

I think in modern times, people are afraid to be discriminant because the word has been linked to decisions based on negative prejudices; and that by not being proactively discriminant about choosing your opportunities, one takes on a passive acceptance of everything which creates a whole set of other problems.

You have to choose the life you want.

Often times, our chains are pulled by people who just like to here themselves talk and for me this is the most damaging type of person.
They talk a good game and waste lots of your time which for me is of the essence. Recently, I have been clearing my list of these people because I began to realize that I beat myself up if they come back with something as inane as I really wanted it but my husband wont let me. How is that for being in 2010? WOW!

I suppose I should feel good that someone likes my work but I really dont anymore because of people like this and because I have learned that after 29 years of being a full-time artist talk is cheap and my work is not and I dont like mixing the cheap feeling I get from the surface talk. I dont roll that way nor should you.

I feel that living in integrity is the only way an artist or anyone else for that matter, can understand the real opportunities that this big vast abundant world has to offer. I am not buying into being the victim when I can spend the very same amount of time and be the victor. My choices are sometimes my opportunities.

Coordinators: Gregory de la Haba & CJ Nye

Crazy World

The most wonderful thing about art is that it is always changing. What is new becomes old and what is old becomes new again. This pulse, if you will, is what keeps art alive and interesting. News headlines create a sense of fashion and taste and are made to sale newspapers and magazines. Media outlets need information to come in and out of fashion in order to exist. What is most fitting to me is that we have so much information coming at us at any one time and I understand that art is a way we focus and clarify what is going on around us and what is the pulse of the day.
Art is the spiritual realm of commerce. Artists are the shaman. Artists change things. Art changes attitudes. It opens doors and it certainly changes minds and mindsets. It is the artists ability to make sense of it all. We take this undulating information and absorb it and release it to the masses. Art allows us to actually live and not just exist. As an artist, if you feel that you are just existing then you are doing something wrong. Change it up. Use a new different color or chord or movement. Kick out of the old set of rules and start applying something new that bends you and makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about yourself. Be malleable and elastic and push yourself beyond the limits of what you think is you. Only then will you feel the most alive. Be the change you want to see in this crazy world.


Artists are incredible individuals and you are the only you we’ve got.

I love this post, Jon! It is beautiful and so wise! Haven’t gotten to Milledgeville yet, but “dad gum”, I’m going to!

Lisa is referring to my current solo exhibition at Georgia State College and University Museum.

“A Gathering”
April 1 through May 8, 2010

Please check this out if you get a chance.

some great advice. sometimes we need to be reminded to change it up and keep it fresh.

I’m Expecting A Miracle

I keep hearing that the economy is indeed turning around. The housing market is getting stronger and in the past this has usually meant more sales and work for architects, landscapers, furniture companies and last but not least, those of us who do artwork.

Hopefully we will begin to see more and more sales as the year progresses and we slowly climb out of this debacle.

Several of my artists friends are seeing things turn around somewhat and are feeling good about the coming art season.

I am curiously expecting a miracle. What about you?


I’m keeping a positive attitude for all the artists who are producing great work and keeping in the right frame of mind. If it is going to happen it will undoubtedly be those guys who are the beneficiaries.

Hey there! I haven’t posted/commented on here in a long time, but I am subscribed to your blog, and I still receive updates on your posts.

Just wanted to chime in and say that I, too am expecting a miracle — mostly, because I think that’s exactly what it’s going to take to turn around the decades and decades of bloated bureaucracy, capitalist greed, and poor foreign policy this country has allowed itself to become mired in.

Things will turn around, but oh the wheels of change are rusted, tired, and sssssssllllllllooooooooooowwwwwwww …

HI Jon! I read this blog and it really made me feel optimistic. I think that after what we have all been through, the arts and quality of life are going to be more important than ever. Everyone who has been quietly working away to pay the bills will slowly start to look around and begin to appreciate everything that is going on…

Miracles come only to those whose hearts are open to them. I believe that our hope keep us focused and alert so we can experience change for what it is. And as I have said before, “We are all in this together.”

I’m so glad to hear from you bmurphy. I hope you are doing well and hanging in there. You ROCK! and Julie I wish I could see the new space I can only imagine it to be awesome! You ROCK too!

The New Age Of Greed

Why cant people just do the right thing? What is so complicated about following up on what one has agreed to? It seems that people just talk to get what they want and to hear themselves talking. They say and do things that have little or nothing to do with reality or what they really feel or mean. Does this make them feel good about themselves even at the expense of others? In Michael Moore’s words, We live in the new age of greed.”
We all understand that there is always two sides to every coin so how is it that we are told one thing and what really happens is quite another? Honestly, has this economy made people crazy? Do we ever consider the consequences or if something is even ethical or not? Is this why our society has to become so litigious because of a few bad apples?  Many questions here but not many answers.
We are all guilty of a little greed at one time or another but this situation has become rampant especially the abuse in the art world and most especially among a limited few, the narcissistic gallery owners who cant pay their artists nor the people who have done all of the work for them. Yet they take all the praise and accolades without a second thought of who helped put them there. These vampires are giving all the galleries a bad name. Shame on them. One bad apple…well,  you know the story. What do you think about this mess?


I hope this is the last chapter of the negativity that goes on in the art world but you know there is always one bad apple…………

We need to rise up and have an art intervention.
Stop the Kool-Ade!

if there was just ONE bad apple it wouldn’t be so bad

I agree then we could just take it and throw it away with the garbage where it belongs.

I think we’re all in it together…meaning that we all need each other to keep the cycle going. Every relationship should be a partnership — with both partners understanding what they’re willing to commit and an understanding in place as to what each will get as a result of that commitment. I learned early on that two of the most important things in business are telling people what you’re going to do and paying people on time. I have heard far too many stories lately about galleries not paying artists — it is a sad state of affairs. But on the flip-side of that, I’ve been on the other side where artists don’t keep up their end of the bargain, i.e., they work directly with clients that found them through the gallery.

You are absolutely right however…underneath it all is greed. And it’s ugly.

So far I have been blessed to work with galleries that are truly there for the artists benefit. Sad that is not the “norm” in the art world. But “power corrupts”… & absolute power… well, absolute power lays in the hands of most Gallery owners & what they do with it comes down to their basic moral fiber.

Fancy That!

Seems things are beginning to look up or maybe we have all just decided to do something about it. Get out there! Make some new work!. Get ready to jump start this economy if you have to.

Art is still moving and people are still buying what they cannot live without. Key here is to make work that is the most valid and the best you can make. Give it your all. Paint like every piece will be in a museum one day. Thinking this way helps more than you may think. This technique opens the mind to higher possibilities.

We face the fact that so many of us had the wind knocked out of us and now its time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. Fancy that!


Just what makes that little ole ant……..

This was a great blog, I think is very true, things seem to be slowly turning around for a lot of creative people and it is so nice to see.