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The Story of Burnt Toast


The Story

It seems every time I got a request for another contribution to some art benefit (it happens less frequently now) I get burned, especially if I set a minimum price. Randolph Street gallery used to kick 30 percent back to the artists, a reasonable fee for the trouble of framing and carting some piece of art.

The Ren was the worst. I donated the cookie-tin camera, with explicit instructions, but the people at the Ren let the damn thing go for $300, and never even bothered to let me know who it went to.

So with an invitation to a benefit for NAME gallery, I wanted to cover my losses. With this on my mind, Simon Cigielski and I were cleaning out the office at the GS Workshop (done once a year) when we happened upon a bunch of really nice printmaking papers which somebody had prepared with Brownprint solution, and never bothered to print. We could tell that the papers had been there for a while, cause the solution had started to turn.

The Brownprint solution application had been made with a gallant arched sweep accross the top of the papers, and more or less straight left, right, and bottom strokes. It looked like a slice of bread. My "getting ripped off as usual at art gallery benefits" problem suddenly had found a solution: give them something where my handywork would stand near zero, which had zero value, and which didn't even involve an image. Just give them the burned toast as a metaphor; burned toast is lost bread.

Simon and I cooked ("burned") the sheets of paper in a plate burner for 14 minutes, and processed them with great care. Two were framed for the NAME benefit. But there were no takers. It may have been the wrong crowd; not my crowd certainly. And at that point (in my "artistic career" -- as they say) everyone was expecting me to make machines. Rich Kelly of Tough expressed astonishment at my selection, but had no comment on my piece.

But these sheets of paper became my stock donation to subsequent benefits, and those subsequent benefits went better. At the Columbia College Art benefit one sheet of paper fetched $250. Another was donated to the Museum of Contemporary Photography after a faculty show.

There are one or two left yet. I like the non-image. But the word about my attitude must be out; I don't get asked to participate in art benefits anymore. That is what I get for releasing anecdotes about the piece.