Michael K. Corbin



Actors As Artists

Posted: 07/20/2008

Sometimes summer afternoons aren’t meant for lounging outdoors … they’re occasionally better spent finding artful surprises in bookstores.

Such was the case on this day, an unremarkable one until my wandering eye locked onto something of promising note.  A book.  By the way, most people would agree that they venture into bookstores seeking books.  After my experience today, I must say that I disagree.  People shop in bookstores because they crave surprises.  Yes, in all likelihood, the thing you’ve been looking for will indeed be a book, but is it the book or the thrill of surprise that has you hooked?  Hmm.  Mystery and philosophy.  Do questions never cease?

Anyway, as my gaze ventured down the frittering possibilities among the art book shelf, suddenly … a love connection.  I saw the book … “Actors As Artists.”  “Hmm,” I thought.  “Let’s take a look.”  What a nice surprise. 

First of all, “Actors As Artists” authored by actors Jim McMullan and Dick Gautier (Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc.) was first published back in 1992.  That’s not so long ago, but they could certainly give it an update.  It’s truly a remarkable book about actors, some more famous than others, who paint in their private time.  I’ve just finished flipping through and reading some of it.

It’s really everything an art book should be.  With every turn of the page, a surprise.  I knew that Anthony Quinn and Jane Seymour painted, but did you know that Zero Mostel and Claudette Colbert were artists?  I knew that Billy Dee Williams and Phyllis Diller dabbled, but what about Henry Fonda and Lionel Barrymore?  I’m sure Drew knew, but who else had a clue?  Mystery revealed.  The book is wonderfully unpretentious and it’s so clear that the actors true love may not be acting at all.  They paint because they love art.

As I’m sitting here writing and flipping through the book again, a reminder comes to mind.  There’s no law of the universe that says we MUST do one and only one thing for our entire lives.  In fact, it’s probably just the opposite.  If you listen to your creative voice, you can do many things in a single lifetime.  That’s how it should be.  After all, we’re only here once.  While actors get comebacks, no one gets to come back.  THIS IS IT.  Of course, being an actor doesn’t mean you can pick up a paintbrush and become Paul Gauguin in one stroke.  It just means that you went for it.  You heard your calling, gathered up the courage and got busy.  When you follow your creative leanings, life is full of surprises.

Oh, another thing.  Your career is what you do for a living, but what you do in your free time is who you really are.  It may not be the WHOLE you, but it’s certainly the REAL you.  It’s who you are down in your soul.  If you’re an artist down in your soul, you’ve got it goin’ on.  In a way, we’re all actors, but how long can you go on ignoring the role of your soul?  Ahh, philosophy.  What better time than on a summer afternoon?

One of my favorite passages in the book comes from actor Michael Moriarity who says, “Art is not an avocation for me.  It is more like a periodic urge to pray in a different way … My pieces exist because there was no other way to reveal what was going on within in me.”

In short, I think Michael is saying, “Who needs a Tony, Emmy and Oscar sandwich when you’ve got art feeding you?”  And let me say, “That’s quite a sandwich!”

But seriously, I’m not an art critic, but as a collector, I must say that I’d be thrilled to own anything that I’ve seen in this book.  Actor As Artists.  I’m so glad that I found this book.  You never know what surprise may be lurking around the shelf.  Little surprises are the spice of life.  One minute, you’re depressed and the next moment, you find something unexpected and you’re laughing at the foolishness of past thoughts.

John Forsythe, an artist?  Eve Plumb, who played Jan on “The Brady Bunch,” an artist?  Who knew?  One thing I know for sure … Eve probably never yells, “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” in HER free time.

Robert Rauschenberg

Posted: 05/13/2008

(May 13, 2008) - I was online earlier today and read that artist Robert Rauschenberg died yesterday of heart failure.  He was 82.  The New York Times called him a "Titan of American Art."
First off, isn't it funny how the legendary-sized compliments flow after you die?  We need to get into the habit of complimenting people while they're ALIVE.  Praising me while I'm dead does me no good, but a nice comment while I'm alive might actually get me through another day.  
Anyway, I feel the need to just sit here for a moment and talk about someone I did not know.  I'm not an expert on Mr. Rauschenberg or his work, but I DO remember the times when I saw his work for myself in places like the Fisher Landau Center which has a great Rauschenberg collection or the Museum of Modern Art or even the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
I'm smiling right now because when I think of Mr. Rauschenberg, I think about his GIANT, framed, pop, mixed-media pieces that always give me a sense of historical references, urban hipness and this feeling of rustic modernity.  I have NOT read what anyone else has said about him.  I'm just taking a moment to be
in the moment of my own memory of the man's work which I've seen with my own eyes.
My somewhat cloudy memory is giving me images of soldiers, black birds, city streets and spliced-together, sepia-toned photographs of things ... exactly what I cannot recall ... however I'm continuing to smile because I'm feeling myself standing in the presence of his work inside these museums and the word that comes to mind is ... communion.  I feel that as an uneducated observer of art, I actually GOT what he was doing.  For me, his splicing and dicing was about slicing life ... making connections of wayward things and times, perhaps with the hope of making sense of it all ... or maybe not.
Even though I never met Mr. Rauschenberg and will never own any of his work, I feel connected to him through my observations of what he leaves behind and the fact that he was a famous artist who was actually alive during my own lifetime.  I wish that I could say something profound about him that would set the world ablaze, but all I can say is that I'm still smiling as I'm typing these words.  He's gone, but his spirit is in my smile.  I can just feel it.  Communion.  A moment of silence.
From now on, whenever I happen upon a Rauschenberg during my art museum visits, I'll say, "Hey Robert!"  Then, I'll stand there and bask in the presence of a titan ... and as always, smile.    

Why The Art of Everyday Joe?

Posted: 04/21/2008

The title really gets to the heart of the matter.  I am an "Everyday Joe," I write for the "Everyday Joe" and art is FOR the "Everyday Joe." 
That's why my new book is called, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."  Before you think I'm some huckster JUST trying to hawk a book,
please hear me out.
Unfortunately, some people in the art world make things more complicated than they need to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT talking about "dumbing
down" art.  Art is expressive, multidimensional and often quite profound, but shouldn't people be free to see and feel whatever moves them?  Shouldn't we
be able to break down the most complex work to its most basic, essential concepts?
Not too long ago, an art dealer told me that many people in the art world like to keep art shrouded in mystery ... held high on a mountaintop.  Art is lofty and high-minded, but there's a big difference between profundity and pretense.  We've done the snobbery thing for so long.  Aren't we bored stiff with that? 
Let's make art TRULY accessible for people.  If we do this, we'll spark excitement and set off a renaissance.  Let's talk about it, let's open our doors, let's be nice to people who know nothing about art.  Every single person is an opportunity to expand the reach of contemporary art.  If you really think about it, this is more than just "pie in the sky."  This is down to earth practicality.  If the "Everyday Joe" thinks that art is actually available and affordable, they'll buy it ... and YOU (artists, dealers, etc.) get to eat tonight.  Plain and simple.  We don't need to complicate this.  
I wrote "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal" because I own SO MANY illustrated art books, none of which really speak to the everyday person.  They're all academic, clinical examinations of art that seem to be written for a small circle of art historians and curators.  I love these books because I love art, but I've come to realize that even art can be too, "Inside Baseball."  Pardon the sports metaphor.
People want art, they need art, they crave art, but I think many don't even realize it.  Art hasn't been made available to them because some artists, curators, dealers, writers, professors and administrators believe that art should be kept on high.  Therefore, people are intimidated by it.  However, the reality is that art is EVERYWHERE.  It's all around us.  We're living here on earth, the greatest masterpiece of all (which we're destroying unfortunately).  As art people, it's our privilege and responsibility to introduce people to the long lost love they never met.  Art.  Yes, art for the people.
While we talk politics, appeasing people and presidential campaigns, let's get art on the agenda.  Never has the art community had such an opportunity to put art
in the spotlight, but where is everyone?  Art needs support. 
I wrote "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal" because I'm an avid art collector who MUST write and talk about art.  I MUST share my experiences.  I want to bridge the gap between a person's first experience with art and their first art purchase.  Art is almost as broad as life itself.  Because art is so far-reaching, I LOVE writing about art and applying it to the things of everyday life.  Art is a slice of life ... or is life a slice of art?  I don't know.  What I do know is that if you give people art, you give them a shot at royalty.  Suddenly, a hum-drum existence becomes enlightened and illuminated ... black and white becomes technicolor and high-brow joins low-brow and creates dialogue rather than farts in your face.  We can raise the dialogue but we can keep it real too.  
Art is MUCH MORE than just a painting on a wall or a sculpture on a table.  It's an experience, a daily reality.  It's the real deal.  That's why I visit art museums and fairs and galleries.  That's why I love talking with and meeting artists and dealers and people throughout the art world ... all over the world.  Art is powerful.  Art people are powerful.  Unfortunately, I don't think their true power has been realized.  Let's take art to the people ... the masses.  Let's not be snobbish about this.  We've done that to death.
Art is for the "Everyday Joe."  Yes, I do want to sell books.  I don't apologize for that, but more importantly, I want to help our struggling artists.  I want people to know about the transforming power of art and the role that it plays in their lives and the world.  I want people to catch this benevolent disease for the benefit of us all.  It's a win-win proposition.  No, I'm not running for office, but if I were, you can bet your ass that the concerns of everyday people ... and art would be front and center.

Everyday Joe Press Release

Posted: 04/17/2008


Author: Michael K. Corbin

Email:  artmaestro@msn.com




The Accessibility of Contemporary Art

New Book Helps “Everyday Joes” Become Art Collectors

AUTHORHOUSE – Many people think they have to be rich or highly cultured to be art collectors, but that’s not true. Michael K. Corbin proves it with his brand new, color-illustrated book, The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal (published by AuthorHouse). 


Picking up where his first book, Art in King Size Beds: A Collector’s Journal, leaves off, Corbin takes readers on yet another thrilling ride through the world of contemporary art, sharing his experiences as an avid art collector.


“This book is my way of saying ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ to people who are afraid of even walking into an art gallery,” says Corbin. “There’s no need for people to be intimidated by art. We’re going to travel through the world of contemporary art together and I promise you, it’s going to be a blast!”


With his engaging and witty style, Corbin guides readers through the rewards of art collecting and introduces them to emerging artists from all over the world.


He proves that people can afford to collect art on even modest incomes. “But more than that,” says Corbin, “The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal shows readers the role that art plays in their everyday lives and they may not even know it.”


“I’m an Everyday Joe and I wrote this book for the Everyday Joe. Art enriches the lives of everyone regardless of their station in life.”


Corbin gives readers a delightfully fresh, warm and down-to-earth look at life, art, the art world, artists, collecting, people and issues of the day. It’s a story book that’s full of large, full-color photographs of works from his own home. It’s a true memoir of the dazzling power of art and the role that it plays in society. The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal is another fun trip that begins at the intersection of art and life.


Michael K. Corbin is an author, full-time broadcast journalist, yoga enthusiast and runner. He’s a New York City native who currently lives in Indianapolis and travels far and wide for art’s sake. He also writes regularly for www.absolutearts.com.


For more book information, see www.theartofeverydayjoe.com or www.artmaestrogallery.com


AuthorHouse is the premier publishing house for emerging authors and new voices in literature. For a complimentary copy of this book for review, members of the media can contact the AuthorHouse Promotional Services Department by calling 888-728-8467 or emailing pressreleases@authorhouse.com. (When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)




The Armory Show 2008

Posted: 03/31/2008

It was 11:53 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008 and there I was grazing outside Pier 94 with the rest of the art cattle.  It was yet another round-‘em-up moment as we waited in line for the opening of The Armory Show 2008.  It would be my very first Armory Show on what was a chilly spring day, but fortunately the sun was shining, reminding me that the tropics would soon take over Manhattan.

“People in line!  Please step aside so that these folks can get through!” yelled the security guard behind me.

“Those are the important people, I guess!” said the guy ahead of me in line.  It turns out that guy is New Zealand born artist James Robinson.  Robinson now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is the new hot spot for art in New York City.  While we waited in line, we chatted briefly about the art world and why events like the Armory Show have become so commercial.  Good guy, nice chat.  If he’s willing, I may write something about him in the future. 

Anyway, the wait wasn’t that long and upon entering Pier 94, I got out my pad and pen, checked my vision and hearing and got right to it.

Before I get to meat of the matter, would you like some “dish” on your art show menu?  Hmm, I thought you might.  Get off your high horse.

Early on, I spotted artist Chuck Close wandering the fair in his motorized wheelchair.  I’d seen him at another fair in the past but left him to his privacy.  Not this time.  He looked friendly enough and I certainly wasn’t going to pass up this chance to meet him so I went for it.

“Mr. Close, I’m glad to see you here!  My name is Mike,” I said, shaking his somewhat feeble hand.  “Hello,” he said.  I asked him if he had any works in the show to which he replied, “No, I hate to be in art fairs!”  “Why?” I asked.  “Does it feel like you’re in Wal-Mart or something?”  For the record, an art dealer once told me that she thinks art fairs have become like Wal-Marts.  Here, I thought, was a chance to test this theory on Close.  “I just think they’re disrespectful of art!” he replied.   With that, he politely took leave.  Chuck Close seems to be a very nice man, but I must say that I disagree with him.  More on that later, but first, a little more dish.

I also saw Calvin Klein and Bianca Jagger at the show.  I was looking at a big painting then turned around and there they were about twelve feet away peering in my direction.  She looks just as lovely in person.  Both were wearing dark sunglasses and scarves around their necks (like me … hmm).  I don’t know how they actually saw the art with those shades on.  Perhaps they were really there to add some glitz.  Surely they could’ve gotten a private preview.  Anyway, she was wearing a white pantsuit with her long orange scarf.  Mr. Klein was wearing grayish-blue jeans and a dark blazer topped off with the scarf.  These are fashionable people so surely you knew I’d mention their appearance.  After all, this WAS an art fair!  Art fairs are visual affairs.  Anyway, I must say that Calvin Klein is the thinnest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’m talking tall, stick figure.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that … I’m just saying.  Funny, because right after I caught a glimpse of them, I turned and the woman next to me was also staring at them.  Our eyes met and she had this puzzled look on her face.  I said, “Yup, that’s them!”  She replied by saying, “Oh my God!  He’s so thin!  And he looks SO old!”  In Mr. Klein’s defense, he looks great for his age … whatever that may be.  In short, Jagger and Klein were definitely turning heads and they knew it.

Now … let me give you a few quick observations about the Armory Show 2008 and then I’ll mention some of the art that grabbed me.  First, the crowd wasn’t as culturally diverse as I thought it would be … not as diverse as Art Basel Miami Beach, anyway.  Perhaps the United Nations arrived after my departure.  All I got was a three-hour snapshot.  Also, it wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be either, although the crowd did build during my time there.  Another thing … as I strolled through gallery after gallery, I kept wondering if I had seen some of these works before.  Of course I did.  That’s fine … I’m just saying.   In addition … it really seemed like female artists were well represented.  I saw so many great works by female artists.  Rock on, ladies.  Oh and another thing … what’s the deal with skulls?  It seems that SO many artists are using depictions of human skulls in their work these days.  Perhaps Damien Hirst’s $100 million diamond-encrusted skull has something to do with it?  I don’t know, but enough already.

Now, onto the cool art.  In my book, there were two stars of the show … the first was Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Tool Table 2007.”  It was such an inventive sculptural piece … two, long wooden plank-like tables that had dozens of mannequin arms standing on them with the hands holding tools like screwdrivers, wrenches and mallets.  Many of the mannequin hands also held books, some open, some closed written by authors like Henry David Thoreau and Friedrich Nietzsche.  Clever.   “This is SO twisted!  I love it!” said a young guy near me as he and a friend took photographs of Hirschhorn’s obvious hit.  Oh, the dealer told me the piece was priced at $180,000. I kicked myself for not bringing my checkbook.  Would a $200.00 down payment suffice?

The other pieces that I loved were done by Jenny Holzer.  They included “Bar 2008,” “Stave 2008” and “Thorax 2008.”  These are long, flashing, ticker-tape like LED signs mounted onto the corners of walls.  Each installation carries different messages in various colors.  I didn’t bother to ask the price.  Your power bill alone to keep those things running would have to be fairly hefty.

There were so many great pieces to see.  Mickalene Thomas’ ghetto-fabulous, rhinestone-encrusted ladies are getting more and more play at these art fairs.  Also, Norbert Bisky’s “glamour shot” boy paintings got plenty of exposure.   I saw several Julian Opie pieces that I love.  His traffic sign installations of chicks with swaying hips are so cool ... and hot.  By the way, Opie had several of those installations in my home city.  A lady actually complained about them.  She called them “suggestive.”  My guess is her hips are as tight as lockjaw.

Describing the works that I see at art fairs is difficult because there’s just no way to do the art justice in writing.   You just have to go and see for yourself.   I always just save my pennies and GO.

Which brings me back to Mr. Close and his lukewarm feelings for art fairs.  You know, I totally understand the disdain that so many artists have for them.  We needn’t rehash all of the reasons, but let me just say that art fairs are really the only way that everyday people can see available art (if you’ve got $180,000 to burn).  Needless to say, I don’t go to art fairs thinking that I’m going to buy something.  That’s not the point.  The point is that by going to art fairs you simply get to see what’s out there.  Knowledge is power.  Culture is enlightening.  Even Mr. Close acknowledged that much to me.  He’s not on such a high horse.  Commercialization and artistic integrity don’t always co-exist, but they certainly can. 

Yes, art fairs (large or small) are about commercialization and one-stop shopping, but isn’t everything these days?




The Superbowl of Art

Posted: 03/18/2008

This essay is from my first book, "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal."  I wrote it back in December 2005 during my first-ever visit at Art Basel Miami Beach.  It's a fantastic, annual art event that has grown to include about 25 separate art fairs that all take place in Miami during the first week of December.  Read on and you'll see why I dubbed the event...

The Superbowl of Art

(MIAMI BEACH) - The arena is set, the players are in place and the
spectators are speculating.

It's the pinnacle event for the National Football League. Cream of the crop
teams going head to head. The stakes are always very high.

For Art Basel Miami Beach 2005, it's the same game, different turf. Long
before I marched into the Miami Beach Convention Center for this euphoric
event, I decided that I was really going to be very alert and soak it all
up. I would be a sponge ... a fly on the wall ... a fly on a sponge?

Anyway, yes indeed, Art Basel Miami Beach 2005 was about art. In a
gargantuan way. It's too rich for my blood, but it's truly ANY art lover's
paradise. Upon entering, it became immediately clear that I would be
overwhelmed if I didn't come up with a quick game plan. So, I decided to
pass to the left and knock off one booth at a time. Perfect. I'm still not
certain that I saw all of the 2000 offerings, but some of my favorites
included: David Salle's orange-swirl, oil on canvas concoction called,
"Explorer" 2005. It's 96" by 120" and features jet planes in flight and a
fedora in the middle. In this single painting, Salle captures many of my
own thoughts about art, travel, life and why more men should wear fedoras.
He is clearly someone I could have lunch with.

I also loved Fernando Botero's still lifes. They aren't pudgy like his
people, but they're politely plump with that misty, glowing sensuality that
he has perfected. One look at "Watermelon" 2002, his 15" by 15" depiction
of two melons sitting on a table in a mellow room, makes your mouth, well,

James Rosenquist always leaves me spellbound. All I need to see is his
signature on a giant, blank canvas (has anyone tried that?) and I'm sold
(rhetorically speaking, of course). Fortunately, "Screen Test" 1978, his
gigantic oil and metallic paint on canvas makes much more of a dramatic
statement. It's a fantastic orchestration of a close-up of a sunglass
wearing, woman's eye along with a "swooshing" paintbrush, an upside-down
safety pin and upside down book with what looks like transparent container
lids and red, blue and green polka dots. I don't know what it means, but I
love it.

Also, I was dazzled by the dark drama of Israeli artist Avner Ben Gal's
untitled figurative pieces that employ heavy felt pen markings on paper.
They're jolting, black, smeary paintings that are great. The artist is from
Tel Aviv.

Despite everything I saw and loved, I had this nagging feeling that Art
Basel Miami Beach was really about what we don't always see. Then, I
witnessed it.

There were dozens of famous galleries with display booths here. I walked
into one of them, which had advertised a painting by a famous artist in one
of the art magazines. I was disappointed when I didn't see the piece. I
asked one of the people manning the booth about it and she replied, "Oh,
that sold already!" When I asked how much it went for, she said,
"$650,000!" That sounded like a high enough figure to me, but immediately,
her male colleague snapped at her and said, "No, it went for higher than
that!" He was actually angered by her response.


To the casual observer, Art Basel Miami Beach is a wonderful art fair that
has grown by leaps and bounds in only four years, but make no mistake, this
spectacle is a numbers game. It's about SCORING BIG! It's about the sale
and keeping galleries in business and for some collectors here, it's not
about keeping up with the Joneses, but rather, leaving them in the dust.
Competition amongst collectors? No!

I'm not kidding. Here are some of the things that I overheard people saying
... "She's gotta do a crapload of business just to break even!" one guy said
about a dealer. "I told you it was higher than that!" another man said
about a painting's price. "What? I can't afford that!" said one exasperated
woman. Join the club, babe.

The only thing that outnumbered the paintings were people using their
cellphones. I heard one man on his phone say ... "Buy, buy, buy! Just
buy!" One woman said, "Honey, please! You should see the light in her
hair! She's so beautiful!" She was referring to a really nice painting
that she obviously wanted, but needed spousal approval. I thought it was
nice, too. Gee, I hope she got it. I heard another guy, also on his cell
tell a woman in his presence, "Sheila just dropped over 4K!" The woman
replied, "Oh my God, what did she buy?"

It was a blast. Oh, and you know the "Power 100" rankings that the
magazines do every year about the top movers and shakers in the artworld? I
counted about a half-dozen of them here. I kept recognizing people from the
big, ArtReview November issue. Sadly, I did not see Damien Hirst. I
suppose that being Number ONE means everyone wants a piece of you.

Wondering about prices? That's why I'm here! Here are just a few of the
paintings I asked dealers about:

Jean Michel-Basquiat's Untitled diptych 1982, 60" by 120." $3.2 million. I
asked the dealer if she thought it would sell here. She didn't really
answer the question.
Pablo Picasso's "Femme Couche et Flutiste" 1967 drawing, $650,000.
Claudio Bravo's gorgeous "Green Package" 76" by 51" oil on canvas.
Also, David Salle's "Explorer" piece that I mentioned earlier had a pricetag
of 250-grand.

Don't get me wrong. There were more "affordable" works to be had. One
dealer, selling lots of small Alex Katz drawings told me they were $2,800
each. Now who can't afford that?

Shortly after, I was talking with an art dealer acquaintance who I met up
with briefly about the steep prices. I said, "I would LOVE to see someone
walk out of here with a painting!" The dealer replied, "Oh, like the
affordable art fair?" "This is the UNAFFORDABLE art fair," the dealer, who
was also a visitor, said.

The air in the exhibition hall was definitely charged with selling fervor.
It's all about money and one might ask, "Shouldn't it be?" After all, this
IS an art fair. A charming disposition will get you a free program, but
that's about it.

Finally, I still left with a nagging feeling about Art Basel Miami Beach
2005. I heard a few people talking about artists in such back-handed,
disposable ways. All of the art had taken on lives of their own. The
paintings were the unquestionable stars of this show. This fair isn't really
about artists, although I'm sure many were present. It's really about
people and their chance to get what they perceive as a hot commodity. Art
stock that they hope will rise sky-high in value. A nest egg, if you will.

To be fair, it was clear that most of the people here really do love art and
it was great to witness the excitement. However, would they still LOVE Sean
Scully's 90" by 72" beautiful, "Red Black Robe" 2004 oil on canvas if they
knew it would never increase in value?

Clearly the stakes are too high to even consider such a silly question.

Money, careers, reputations and collections are being built ... or broken.
Of course, this is nothing new. It's "Business 101." Just like the NFL.
Still, it's always stunning to see your beliefs confirmed before your very

After only a few years, Art Basel Miami Beach is the "Superbowl of Art."
Cry "penalty" if you want, but no one will hear you or even care. They're
all too busy competing for that big art trophy.


Excerpt from Everyday Joe

Posted: 03/17/2008


The following is an essay from "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."  You'll have to get the book to actually see the art, but this is a taste of what the book is all about.  Enjoy.





 Wanna save yourself a lot of frustration?  Never, I repeat, NEVER arrange a home delivery and actually expect the delivery people to make the appointment as scheduled.  It just WON'T happen.


We all know this.  Still, there's something in us that says, "They have a THREE-HOUR window.  They'll make it and I'll make my appointments later today!"




This very morning has been case in point.  I was awaiting delivery on a washing machine.  My old one basically broke down.  It won't spin in spin cycle.  It’ll spin if I lean on it and keep leaning, but who has time to lean on a cranky, old washing machine in need of constant coddling?  Isn’t that the point of machines?  You don’t serve them, they serve you!  Anyway, my head is now spinning because the delivery guys were supposed to have been here with the new one, yes, more than three hours ago! 


I called the place, a national retail chain, at around eight this morning.  "Oh, they should be there by 10," the shipping manager said.  "Fine," I said … not AT 10 a.m., but BY 10 a.m., the guy said.  "Okay, you have my cellphone number if anything goes wrong. Thanks," I said.


Of course, 10 o'clock came and went.  It's now just after NOON.  So, I called the place back and the shipping manager guy says, "Sorry for the inconvenience, Sir.  They're backed up because of the weather."  For the record, we got ONE INCH of snow last night, which has since melted (as of this writing, it's nice and sunny outside).  "Let me check to see where they are and I'll call you back," the guy said.  Fine.


I decided to use this time to take a "quick" shower.  WHY DID I DO THAT?  Just as I'm about to get into the shower, my cellphone rings.  "Mr. Corbin?"  "YEEESSSS?" I ask.  "They should be there within the hour!"  "Great," I think.  "This will give me plenty of time."  I had already postponed a haircut appointment.  So, I get into the shower and I SWEAR this happened.  I'm not in the shower for two minutes and hear this truck pull up outside my home.  I live in a townhouse and had opened an adjacent window (in the dead of winter, I might add) so that I could hear them arrive.  I jump out of the shower, look out the window and it's ... the UPS delivery guy!  "You gotta be kidding!"  So, I throw on a robe, and run downstairs. The guy is knocking on the door as I'm approaching.  "I thought you were here!" he said.  "I saw your window open!"  "Yeah," I said, dripping wet.  "As you know, your timing is always impeccable!"  He laughed.


It was an art delivery, of course ... a sculptural piece by Houston artist Andrew Brown.  It's nice and quirky ... a small box made out of wooden clothespins, painted white with a black clock, also painted on front.  On top of the box sits a plastic baby doll's head mounted onto a red, paper mache apple on the back of the head.  The box has baby doll arms, glued onto clothespins that stick out of either side.  The whole thing is mounted onto a small, recycled metal wheel, which sits on a black box.  What a great surprise.  I had forgotten that I bought it.


"A lot of my work draws its visual iconography from the area I grew up in," says Brown.  "I use pipes, gauges, worn wood and metal as reoccurring themes in my work. I also have pieces which address religious intolerance, and misuse of religion for financial and political purposes.  I generally see items, such as the paper mache apple and think, "Hey, that could work on a sculpture."  I file it away in my brain, over time, I pull certain pieces together to form the sculpture or painting," says Brown.


By the way, Brown's sculpture is called, "Birth of Technology."  I think it's a charming piece. 


Anyway, I get the package and step back into the shower.  Not two minutes later (I swear), I hear another truck.  "This is ridiculous!" I think to myself.  I step back out, check the window and it's ... Federal Express this time at the front door!  Unbelieveable.  IS THIS SOME WACKY DREAM?  So, I get back out of the shower and run downstairs.  By the time I get to the door this time, the Fed-Ex guy is heading back to his truck after having dropped off the package.  I wave him goodbye.


It was ... another art delivery, of course … this one from New Jersey artist Elijah Aaron Carey.  It's a fantastic mixed media piece on canvas.  Elijah's specialty, it seems.  It's a purple, green and red hodge-podge of tissue paper, mixed with newspaper for a layered effect, giving it the look of a wall inside a home that has seen generations of living ... or at least several layers of paint.


"You hit the nail dead on the head," says Elijah.  "Just think how amazing it would be to peel off the layers of wallpaper and paint in an 18th century Victorian home.  Now that would be great art," he says.  Art is always a pleasant surprise, but you can never be certain when it'll turn up.


But back to the whole timing thing ... Is it possible for anyone or anything to ever arrive when you expect them to?  I could sit at home for two days straight waiting for a package delivery and nothing would ever show up.  However, if I leave for ten minutes or God forbid, take a shower, THEY SHOW UP!  It's almost like they have radar.  This happens to me at work all the time.  No one returns a phone call, unless I've gone to the men's room or out to lunch.  Nightmare!


I guess everyone is so bogged down with work, work, work that they just get things done whenever they get them done.  However, I would ... just once ... like for a delivery crew to show up at their actual appointed (certainly not anointed) time.  Now, I have to scramble to try to meet other commitments today.  It's a game of catch up ... a chain reaction that will affect the schedules of other people who are waiting on me.  Needless to say, I won't get everything done today ... and I have to go back to work tomorrow.  Rats!


"Sorry, we're late!" one of the delivery guys said upon arrival (1:03 pm).  "We've been backed up today."  "That's fine," I said.  Had I complained, I would've been the bad guy.  You know how that goes.


By the way, it's now 1:54 p.m.  The delivery guys just left after hauling away my old washer and installing the brand new one.  My head is still spinning … something I’m expecting that new washer to easily do without any prodding from me.  I had that old one for almost 13 years.  Apart from my recent leaning and a gobbled-up sock here and there, it served me well … just like the delivery guys. 


Of course, while they were working, one of the guys looked around my home and asked, "Are you an artist?"  "No," I said.  "I collect art."  "Oh, I was about to say!" said the delivery guy.  "You've been mighty busy!"


Not as busy as I'm gonna be the rest of this afternoon!  Thanks Dude. 


Why Collector's Journals?

Posted: 03/16/2008


Hi!  Me again.

I wanted to take a moment to briefly chat with you about the premise behind my books.  First off, let me just say that my new book is called, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal." I'm so proud of this book because I really think that it captures what contemporary art is all about ... well, for me anyway.  Check it out.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, my first book is called, "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal."  I always address the meaning of the main titles inside the book so you'll have to get them to find out more.  However, I wanted to explain here the thought behind the subtitle, "A Collector's Journal."  It's fairly self-explanatory, but I'll shed some more light.

I think that art is more than just a painting that you hang on a wall or a sculpture that sits on an elegant table.  In my book(s), art isn't just a commodity or a thing or a noun ... art is actually a verb.  The true role of art is what it DOES ... not what it is.  Art has shaped and informed my life in so many ways.  I think that art works in YOUR life in ways that you may not even realize.  Art and life are hopelessly entwined.  Given that, I want to really capture the true function of art through my own true, down to earth experience ... hence the subtitle, "A Collector's Journal."  My books are art memoirs ... they're journals!  Plain and simple.  The subtitle will remain the same.  In essence, I've created a brand name, if you will.  Hopefully, through my experience, you'll feel free to forge your own personal relationship with art and bring creativity and artistry into your own life. 

More than anything, I want to remove the intimidation and fear that everyday people have where art is concerned.  So many people in the art world want to keep art shrouded in mystery.  That's silly.  Art is created by the common man for the common man.  Let's get real!  I'll never forget the telephone conversation that I had with a woman around the time that my first book was due to be released.  I was telling her about "Art In King Size Beds" and she said, "That sounds great because I will NOT walk into an art gallery!"  She told me that she was too intimidated by the prospect.  She felt that she would be ridiculed for her lack of knowledge about art.  That's unfortunate because educating the public is one of the functions of any good art gallery.  Don't get me wrong, I love art galleries and I'm not necessarily blaming them, but I think all art institutions need to work harder at making visitors feel comfortable.  There's a thin line between respect and intimidation.  If people feel comfortable, they'll come back and perhaps they'll make a purchase one day.  I'm hoping that my books will help everyone.

Oh, another thing.  I love nearly all genres of art and the way art moves through the world.  Because of that, I write about art in MY world ... I write about the ART world and I write about art and how it functions in the WORLD at large.  My books will always explore those three basic themes.

Also, my books are basically compilations ... essays with complementary (and complimentary) illustrations of art from my own collection.  We photograph and re-print the art with the written, happy consent of the artists.  The essays are slices of life; they're sometimes funny, serious, insightful, happy ... whatever my day brings.  However, most of all, my books take the things of everyday life and apply them to art ... or do I take the things of art and apply them to everyday life?  Hmm.  You decide.  Either way, they're collector's journals ... art and life hopelessly entwined. 

Who Is Michael K. Corbin?

Posted: 03/15/2008

I thought you might be wondering, so here's the deal in a nutshell.  I'm a full-time journalist and New York City native who loves art.  I didn't actually begin collecting art or writing about it until several years ago.

As a New York City school kid (I now live in the midwest), I remember seemingly always going on these field trips.  You know, places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, etc.  What can be more inspiring for a second-grader?  Of course, I didn't fully realize the significance of basking in the presence of Picassos or Kandinskys, but I remember being inspired nonetheless.  Looking back, I realize that it really was the beginning of dreams for me.  It was the infancy of envisioning life as you'd like it to be.  I wasn't a rich kid, but art made me wealthy.

Anyway, I got older and somehow my childish affair (is that redundant?) with art ended.  Funny thing though.  I continued to visit museums, galleries and art fairs.  Art was still inside of me.  On trips, I always felt this urge to take notes and write about my experiences, but I never did because I'm not an art critic, curator or scholar.  I figured, "What's the point?"  Even when I lived in Richmond, Virginia and served on the board of an art group, it never occurred to me that I could become a collector let alone write about art.  Like many people, I thought you had to be "rich" and "snobbish."

Then one day, I bought an original painting from a living artist from some art website.  Shortly after the painting was delivered, I remember hanging it and feeling this overwhelming sense of satisfaction and yes, creativity.  That one single painting had given true birth to my childhood dream.  I was hooked.  I also couldn't believe how AFFORDABLE ART WAS!

As I continued to collect and meet artists, I kept hearing the same stories of struggle and despair.  Artists just want to live full, independent lives doing what they were born to do.  Unfortunately, reality not to mention lack of awareness about the accessibility of contemporary art make things very difficult for living artists.  So many factors conspire to reinforce the notion that art isn't available to everyday people.

So, here I was, itching to write about art, but fearful about it ... at the same time, I was collecting art and meeting striving artists and feeling like I needed to do something.  But what?  Then ... BAM!  "Screw it!" I said.  "I'll just start writing!"

I went on art trips and wrote.  I spoke with artists and wrote.  I bought paintings and wrote.  Writing and art became a tidal wave.  The beast (so to speak) had been unleashed!  I kept writing and submitting blogs/essays to websites where the responses were pretty good.  Then, artists started saying, "Mike, you should write a book!"  Little did they know ... little did I know ... I was sitting on the book, "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal."  My new book is called, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."

For years to come, I'm devoting my free time to creating these illustrated books, using my collection and writing.  I want to help emerging artists, create more art collectors and expand the audience for contemporary art.  I want to help spark a renaissance and use art to inform humanity.  Writing about art in a fun and insightful, yet non-academic way has become my passion.  In a nutshell, that's it.

In short, dude or dudette, here's the true deal.  If you've lost touch with your dreams, delve back into your childhood, pluck them out, dust them off, summon your courage and get busy.  It's never too late.  Your dreams are YOUR contribution to this world.  It's not like you get to come back and live this life over again.  THIS IS IT!