Rumors Abound, Or The Bounding Rumor
In the early 1800's, the phrase "Rumor has it, there's a pig in your eye," was spoken to anyone who had recently witnessed a fat person having sex. By today's standards, a person of "generous proportion" caught in flagrante delicto would most definitely not be considered only a rumor, but probably has its own website where anyone can tune in at their leisure. For centuries, rumors have circulated, and usually they take as their subject something sordid, salacious, or politically charged, like "Did you hear Aunt Martha married a transsexual and she didn't known it until their wedding night!" or during Roman Times, "Senator Gaius was set upon by rats as he slept, and bled to death," yet the very next morning Senator Gaius is seen walking hale and hearty through the Triumphal Arches. Rumors can be funny, yet they seem to spring from a core intention of resentment, bitterness and envy.
The Art World is the perfect breeding ground for rumors, just as the Entertainment Industry or the world of politics fashion rumors like minted coins. I suppose this can be described as a "big town phenomenon," (not that small towns don't generate some of the most insidious and damaging rumors that strip a person of credibility among only a handful of people). Rumors are a mainstay for the bored and vindictive, for those whose loyalties have soured, and many times a single ugly rumor can destroy lives or level the psychological moorings of a city. Take for example the atrocities of Jack The Ripper. England in the 1880's was a hotbed for rumors, lies and deceptions of all sorts. Scotland Yard was very young, indeed law enforcement was in its infancy, and people were bored, overworked, and life for the poor was very unstable. There were few diversions available to people other than the usual drinking, gambling and prostitution, and so someone started the rumor that there was a man sporting a dark overcoat and a bowler hat terrorizing the streets of Spittlefield and Whitechapel outside of London. The semi-famed British painter Walter Sickert, who has since been proven to be the actual killer known as Jack The Ripper, heard these rumors, and decided to actualize them.
An enticingly scurrilous rumor has the shelf life of a good game of "telephone" wherein each person who hears it, recounts it according to a set of deeply personal and sometimes unconscious associations so by the time the rumor has died out, it has become something totally different or in some cases incomprehensible from its original self. So, the mother who left her husband to have an affair with an army lieutenant now has only three months to live and gave birth to several illegitimate children, all in the space of a year!
The art world can be a particularly sordid place, and the rumors that abound there are indeed boundless and sometimes seem even to bound right out the front door and into the world at large. Perhaps it's because in truth the rest of the world could care less about art or artists that we must cling that much harder to our small plot of land, or the ramshackle house sliding fast down the side of a mountain. I won't start a rumor here on the page by citing any specific examples that pertain to anyone else, but I will say, regarding my own experience, that someone started a rumor that my Chihuahua Oleander ate two pounds of marihuana, a Quaalude and half an Ecstasy in one sitting, when in truth she got into my neighbor's apartment where she quickly consumed only half a pound of pot (which is no small feat in and of itself for a twelve pound dog). Not that she would mind the exaggeration as this rumor explodes around the art world, but she is in fact only a dog, and when the rumor gets back to her, she will in all likelihood not give a damn, unless of course more pot is to be had soon (please note: Oleander, the Chihuahua is by all accounts an addict as she makes frequent trips to my neighbor's front door). This is a rumor as no other ever was or will be again, but if I wanted to, I could allow myself to be affected by this, and start a counter rumor in defense, but it's more laudable to put an end to a rumor than to spur it on.
My dog aside, rumors are mutinous, and I am not referring to the kind of mutiny practiced by the pirates or Robin Hood, but a mutiny that shatters friendships. I've come to understand that friendships are much more vital and important than any notion of art stardom. An artist friend of mine started an art collective years ago called SMAC, and we were the first artists (Mark Ditcher, Tamara Fites, Jeff and Pam Goldblum, Michael Arata, Julie Zemel, Tulsa Kinney) to show our work in UHaul trucks, park them in front of galleries and have our own openings. It was the experience of working together to create a unity between artists making good work that made the experience worthwhile and unforgettable. I wish there was more of a sense of camaraderie in the art world as there is in the theater world where people work together on a single project, becoming a strange sort of family unit, growing and learning together. With SMAC, we had that for a moment, a brief period of time in which to create individually, coming together to put up an exhibition of several artists work, not privileging one over the other. We created SMAC as an experiment since the mainstream art world did not recognize us, and through this experiment, each of us grew both as a collective and as an individual. Each artist brought a unique and strangely uncompromising sensibility to the group as a whole, and sometimes, working alone in my studio I feel the importance of what we tried to create there profoundly, and I wish I could stir up the pot of rumors, and resurrect the past.