Action/reaction to a-a-art

I’m getting some interesting feedback to my January article in Tofino Time magazine, titled Art of the Soapbox (read it here). It’s a tongue-in-cheek but pointed critique of the Tofino art scene — a circle that, like many insular groups everywhere, tends to thrive on self-congratulation, mutual support, and denial. That’s my rough take, anyway; others differ.

People took it more seriously that i’d expected, and i had more email responses than i’ve ever had to a Tofino Time article. Only half a dozen or so, but for Tofino that’s a lot.

Artists in most places, but particularly here, often work in isolation, and a good discussion about the worth and quality of local art will hopefully provide a little tonic stimulation.

The following were posted with permission. Comments are also welcome on this post.

Date: Jan. 4
From: A—
Hi Greg.
Last night I was at The Common Loaf and as I sat down by myself to eat I grabbed a Tofino Time mag. Put the mag down, and looked up as I pulled off my coat and noticed an oil painting above a window. A purple-ish sunset over a beach. And I thought to myself Geez, is that all there ever fucking is around here for paintings? Tired of it.
Then I read your piece and had a good chuckle. Thanks. Hope no one throws anything larger than a brussel sprout however….
A —

Subject: B—’s challenge!
Date: Jan. 18
From: B—
B—‘s message is personal and not to be reproduced here. However, s/he brings up a very salient point about the West Coast art scene. To paraphrase:
There is room for growth here, but there is no structured outlet for it. My fellow artists are courageous people who, I feel, need an outlet for their ‘descriptions.’  I think a lot of us provide to the established venues — galleries, cafés, etc. — and the venues all want what sells. And they think Frank Island sells, so Frank Island gets painted and photographed … over and over.

Subject: A-a-art??????????
Date: Jan. 18
From: C—
Hello Greg,
My name is C— and I’m responding to your “art of the soapbox” in the Tofino Time. We don’t know each other which is probably a good thing, even though you seem to have everyone in town pegged. I actually don’t know anything about you besides what you look like, that you are an apparent writer and also quite the critic.
I had no idea we had such an authority on art and music living amongst us in this misty little town of ours. I don’t completely disagree with you about the art scene in Tofino and I like your idea of “challenging” the art community here, but your pompous delivery was disgusting. The fact that you singled out and tried to humiliate individuals by using there first name is as shameless as it gets, it’s actually fucked up. I’m guessing you might of been drunk while writing the article and that Adam and Baku just don’t give a shit anymore.
Either way, you were trying to single out and make examples of people who are honestly trying to make a living from there art instead of following the mainstream. You may not like X–‘s art, fair enough, some people might not like Abe Lincoln beards. What I see is a bitter older man living in a town full of younger people trying to incorporate art into there lives one way or another, the older, “wiser” man obviously doesn’t approve and needs some attention, whether positive or negative.
I think personal taste is what keeps art and everything else in this world interesting. Well I would love to see what you bring to the table “sweetheart” besides shitting all over it. I might add that you will find your genius theory on too many guitars is unfortunately common throughout North America. Nice work on stirring the pot but I think you missed the mark completely.

PARTIAL RESPONSE: Far from “not giving a shit,” Adam and Baku are very cognisant of what they publish in Tofino Time, and of how much the magazine both mirrors Tofino to itself and presents the town to the larger world. My piece would never have made it into a high-season issue, i feel certain, and i would not have submitted it. In the depths of winter, though, Tofino Time becomes “our” magazine. My kudos to the two of them for having the nerve to publish something controversial in a town that usually shies away from such.

Subject: artist rant
Date: Jan. 18
From: D—
Um, who the hell is X—, and since when did you care what people think? And since when did this person speak for “Tofino artists” en masse? NO, I haven’t heard anything. If I had, wouldn’t that mean you are doing something right?

Subject: To Greg: Love E—
Date: Jan. 20
From: E—
E—’s email was long and personal and heartfelt. It was good to hear from a passionate young Tofino artist, one who loves what s/he does and pursues it boldly. E— took my “attack” personally, for which i am sorry — it was not intended as such against anybody. And for the record: i am not even close to giving up on him/her.

Subject: tofino time
Date: Jan. 20
From: F—
Great piece of writing Greg! Shake it up.

Author: Greg Blee

Poster to my own blog, and others.

7 thoughts on “Action/reaction to a-a-art”

  1. I’m glad it’s you that is taking the heat. the closest i got so far was a mild second hand singe.

    my first reaction was: maybe ‘tongue in cheek’ didn’t translate well from inner voice to newsprint?

    your ‘rough take’ here however makes me wonder what that tongue is up to…



  2. Provoking conversations can be the path to change. Will never forget hearing two rants from locals about our choice of art in the cafe at the Botanical Gardens several years ago. They absolutely hated it (independently) but when asked if they had ever thought about a painting so much in their life before, they said no.

    Look forward to seeing what ppl are thinking.

  3. Oh, honeybunch… where do I start?

    Well, what is A-a-art? Where do we do it? Where do you, honeybunch, yes YOU – where do you SEE it?

    OK, galleries – but what’s in the galleries is a pretty biased representation of what is going on. Galleries will only hang what will sell.

    Mr. Soapbox asks where in west coast photography does the human face or the human story appear? I refer you to my books (honeybunch, after all these years have you not looked at my books?). I have over 300 pix in my three books…of people, of people’s stories. Many of us are doing it. But no, you’re not going to see those pix in any gallery. How many people would pay $500 for a big framed photo of a canoe-carver or a fisherman or a hippie, god forbid, to hang on their wall? They want the wolf, the eagle, the wave exploding on the rocks…

    Don’t forget… we artists have to stay true to our artistic core – but we also need to earn a buck. Accumulating a stack of photos or paintings of clearcuts or whalewatching drivers is not even going to pay the water bill, no! not these days. And finding a place in Tofino big enough (afforable enough?) to stockpile those unsaleable works? Ha! Tofino! So we can only do so much of that stuff.

    The art is there… But for those of us who try to do it fulltime, who try to survive on it rather than find a “real job”, we have to respond to the market – at least to a degree. And that doesn’t necessarily mean selling out. Face it, honeybunch – most of those same-ol’ same-ol’ landscapes are still more pleasing than most of those logged-out-scapes. Landscapes, rainforest, ocean waves… they give us pleasure. If we’re going to paint or sculpt or photograph the urban or the urbane or the urksome* issues … well, I don’t think we’d be living HERE.

    Anyway, enough said. What’re you writing about these days? Hoping to hear more about the clearcuts and barren salmon streams…

    Always enjoy the conversations, honeybunch…


    *I know. But the alliteration works.

  4. Tofino, I visited last April for the first time. I found what I was looking for. Natural beauty everywhere. Pleasant people everywhere. Great organic dining everywhere.

    Ucluelet was an developers wet-dream. Really, the penultimate eco-rape.
    Nice people, really bad choices.

    I can tolerate the postcard art. I wish there were more places like Tofino. I suppose the art reflects their values. Clean air, water, tall trees, limited deveolpment, small human footprint. In a nut-shell, not Detrioit.

    I suppose if I was born in the city of Vancouver, I would miss the diversity of expression in Tofino. But if I can avoid the horror of Ucluelet or of my town, Baltimore with postcard art, I say more of it!

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