Artists and Assholes

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Artists and Assholes

I recently had the pleasure of being in Miami for nine days to experience for the second time what is known as Art Basel Week. Galleries from all over the world descend on this tropical paradise bringing with them the best works of art they have to offer. Between the weather and the art, it’s what I imagine heaven to be.

Last year, my son, Mac, who is an artist, and I visited as many fairs as we could in the three days we were in town. This year we decided to spend more time in Miami so we could attend more fairs, spend added time at the ones we liked, swing through galleries (Mac had friends having shows), and also visit several private collections opened to the public.

I invested a lot of time and had a calendar laid out before we left to guarantee we could see it all (my husband says I can turn anything into a military campaign). The first three days went as planned then, by perchance, Mac met an artist friend. He invited Mac to assist him and his collaborator on a mural they were doing the next day.

As Mac went happily off to paint, I went happily off to the art fairs. It was a long day of painting as they had to finish, and I ended up wandering through the streets of Wynwood, a warehouse area in Miami that has been transformed into a community art gallery by artists from around the world who’ve graced it’s walls with murals.

There were a lot of artists out painting and it was fun to watch their visions take shape. Most of the time, when I passed, they were “in their zone,” and I was able to admire their work unobserved. Occasionally, if they needed a break; they’d pop out earbuds and engage me in a lovely conversation about their work.

During this time, I happened to chat with a gentleman who owned a building in Wynwood. Half joking and half serious, I told him that he should let my son paint on his building. He said no. I told him I was going to show him my son’s paintings (sue me, I’m a mom) and then he could tell me no again.

I showed him one photo that was a detail of a painting Mac had done. The owner glanced at the photo and without a second of hesitation said yes, Mac could paint a wall on his building. Still in shock, I was escorted by the owner to a wall that was, approximately sixty feet long and eighteen feet high. That’s a big wall.

After Mac wrapped work on his friends’ mural, he went by the wall. Other than a couple of markers, he had no supplies with him, we still had a lot of art to see, he really didn’t want to paint over the mural that was already there, and, like I said, the wall was big. The owner said that the mural on the wall had been up long enough. He said that either Mac could take the wall or he’d eventually give it to another artist. Mac contemplated the task ahead and finally decided to do it.

As Mac began to paint the next day, area artists began to stop by. One, needing a break from the tedium of his own project, helped paint for a bit. Another, discovering Mac had no ladders, offered up the ones he had used as he had finished his mural and no longer needed them. They chased off taggers after we left for the night and even buffed over tags. An artist from Atlanta who was in town for the fairs, spent half a day painting with Mac. They shared their work, admired his, shook hands, gave hugs and encouragement, and made sure Mac knew they had his back.

Each artist was as different and unique as their artwork. Some were quiet and reserved while others were boisterous and fun loving. Some wore clothes splattered with paint while others were crisp and paint free. While they came in all shapes and all sizes, I started to notice they had a few things in common.

They all had an intense love and respect not only for art, but also for the artist that created the work even if that work was unlike their own. They believed deeply in their artistic vision, in the work they were doing, and were proud of what they’d accomplished. In spite of this, they were incredibly and amazingly humble. Most importantly they were all about the work. They were in Miami to make art and before the fairs, the shows, the galleries, or the parties and fun happened they made sure they got the work done. They left no doubt that the work was their priority.

Others stopped by as well. There was the little French girl who theatrically threw up her arms loudly complaining for half a day that that she should have been the one painting the wall instead. There was the guy who periodically walked by and glared at Mac before returning to his mural. There were the people who roved the neighborhood with spray cans painting on and over any and everything they saw with no regard for property or the art that was already there. There were those that stopped by, telling Mac about all the parties they had attended, who they had met, and how hungover they were.

And as I watched all of this unfold, I realized there are artists and then there are assholes and it became crystal clear to me which camp I prefer.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against putting on a cute dress, eating nice food, and hanging out with interesting people. I’ve done it before and will do it again. When it’s all said and done, I hope that I’m remembered for more than just that.

I’m not an artist. But like the artists I met, I hope that I’m remembered for the love and passion I share, for the work I do, and for being the type of person who supports others on my path.

We planned that our time in Miami would be steeped in art work. Instead we spent our time steeped in artists. Steeped in the love and beauty and joy and support and respect that true artists have for themselves, their work, and others. For those of you who were part of our Miami experience, thank for reminding me what art and life are really all about. You remain in my heart.


  1. Amazing! Well said Denise, thanks for sharing your adventure.

  2. Nice to hear that the artists rose above the rest and remained true to their passion. The world is a better and more beautiful place because of it. Glad to hear you’re committed to your passionate writing, too — keep it up, Denise. Love it!

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