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Interviewing James Michael Starr (again):
Selling, Not Selling and the Effects on Art

Interview Part One   Part Two

The Short Life of Karl Hec by James Michael Starr

"This one's not in the Conduit show, but is an example of how my assemblage pieces are slowly becoming simpler, largely in response to what I've learned doing the minimalist collages, and what I've observed in the work of Varujan Boghosian." — James Michael Starr

The Short Life of Karl Heck (2006)
11-1/4 x 16-1/2 x 5-3/4 inches
Wood box, piano wheel, book pages, squirrel skull

Editor's Note: This interview has continued over several years, and I hope it will continue further. It has been conducted almost entirely via email.

In responding to his response to one of my unperiodic mail-outs to friends to keep in touch and show something intriguing on the net (That time it was my photo of Shark Boy.), I'd asked how Jim was doing.

Doing very well. Lot's going on. Got a show opening on April 22nd in Houston, I guess I need to send you an image and some info on that. The Conduit show sold I think 6 pieces out of the 24 in the show, so 25%, a pretty good rate for me.

Later, he added.

I had my numbers wrong. Six pieces sold out of the 23 on display. A seventh piece, new but not included in the show, sold to a couple that saw it in the gallery before the opening, then bought it along with one of the other six.

I won't dump uninvited jpegs on you, but if you'd like to see small images of the ones that sold, I'm happy to send them.

On Mar 1, 2006, at 9:26 AM, J R Compton wrote:

Provision by James Michael Starr

"Here's one of the new, minimalist collages
that did not sell in the Conduit show.

Provision, 2005
10 x 8 inches
Collage of book pages and book
illustrations on stretched canvas

Is there anything you can gather about those six pieces that's not true about the ones you didn't sell?

Only that my three-dimensional work is selling better than my newer and somewhat minimalist collages. I think part of this has to do with the fact that people become more comfortable with what they see an artist producing over time, and if that artist begins to transition into something different – even a slight variation on the thing they know him for — it will take them a while to accept and embrace it.

For instance, at Stone by Stone gallery, when my work was being seen for the first time, I think the collages sold better since they were a more conventional form, being framed art that could be hung on the wall. But now that I've been showing these clunky, prickly, harder-to-display sculptures for seven years now, they've become a little more familiar to the people that have been following my work, and so they now don't seem so "off the wall."

The interesting, and encouraging, thing to me is that my most recent work, the very simple collages, which appear to represent a new stage of growth for me, are already influencing my sculptures. I feel as though I'm looking more critically at the elements I work into a piece and not just throwing things on until it looks full. My lodestar at this point is Varujan Boghosian, an eighty year-old assemblage artist who was already doing what I'm doing thirty or forty years ago, and whose work is poetic and much more minimal than Joseph Cornell's, and not tied to boxes. My point is that I'm paring things down in all my work, and it remains to be seen whether I'm throwing out the abundance of little details that may appeal the most to people.

James Michael Starr - A Life

"This is a piece that DID sell at the Conduit show, and one of the assemblages,
which I think have gained a little more acceptance among the people
following my work, at least compared to the new, minimalist collages."

Dead To The World, 2004
30 x 17 x 4-1/2 inches
Clock cabinet, cedar branch, cast metal
figurine, photographic prints, book pages

Have you sold some elsewhere you didn't sell in Dallas?

Hooks-Epstein, the gallery that represents me in Houston, is working hard for me, but the volume of sales is at this point behind Conduit Gallery in Dallas. But there are several factors at play.

First of all, the art market in Houston seems to be rebounding more slowly than in Dallas. Secondly, I think that my residing in Dallas, making acquaintance with the collectors and being accessible to them, makes a huge difference. (This is why being at the openings and otherwise visible at every opportunity can be really important for an artist.) Also, I've now had two shows at Conduit, with my second at Hooks-Epstein just now coming up next month, so that may have something to do with it.

The gallery in Norman that I'm no longer with sold a few things, but there was nothing unique about what sold there. But if you're really asking me if there might be any sort of pattern in what kind of work sells in what markets, I'm not sure I perceive it.

James Michael Starr - A Life

"For comparison, the only minimalist collage
that DID sell in the Conduit show."

A Life, 2005
10 x 8 inches
Collage of book pages and
book illustrations on canvas

I'm just hugely interested, whether what sells or doesn't sell makes any difference in what you make next?

Although I can't say that what sells has no affect on what I make next, I will tell you that I strongly resist its influence. For me, there's nothing that kills the pure energy driving a piece like having a rational reason for doing it. This is why I have such trouble doing commissions or pieces for thematic shows — the best of my work comes out only by allowing it to go wherever it will go (as determined by the elements themselves), and the worst always happens when I'm trying to make it end up in a particular place.

But then ALL of this may be simple rationalization on my part. Who knows?



All the images on this page are
Copyright 1999-2006
by James Michael Starr.

No reproduction in any form
without written permission from
James Michael Starr and JR Compton.

Additional James Michael Starr
images are on these DARts pages:

Sculptural Syncretism
DARts' Online Self — Portrait Show
Short Critiques of Dallas Artists
Critic's Choice 2001
Eat Art II

James Michael Starr's Web page

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including a new, Easy Guide to Joining this site
is on the DARts Member Page Index.