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The tale of THE FLOW

Everything that could possibly go wrong did.

I Facebooked that they should rename Murphy’s Law for me in honor of the tribulations I suffered getting the show together. Like 12 trips to the printer’s and each time the prints weren’t ready yet – he’d had some kind of Murphy’s Law happen to him, whether it was a freakish ink shortage or paper delivery issue. Miscommunication about the glass I needed – 2 pieces instead of 4, and then one measured a bit short by accident. The gallery owner having the busiest week of his life and when I went in the day before the show to check out the space, the previous show was still up, and a previous event’s equipment hadn’t yet been picked up. My own busy life getting in the way so I was framing things last-minute. My sister had another thing to go to that same day and wasn’t sure if she was coming. Just one thing after another. At noon on Friday I felt like yelling at the sky, “DIDN’T HURT! WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?”

Thursday was my most stressful day. Screamed in the car. Screamed in the kitchen. Friday I knew I could devote pretty much the entire day to work on the show – before we had a wedding to go to, that is. So “pretty much the entire day” meant four straight hours of “I don’t care if I eat, if I’ve cut my fingers twice, if I’m sweating in the studio – no time to chew on something or get an official band-aid or open a window. This show MUST GO ON.” Anyone I talked to on Thursday or Friday got the mile-a-minute frantic lowdown of all the craziness and how I didn’t have time to do whatever it was they were asking me to do.

I think the Murphy’s Law bit of the past few days is just payback for all the lucky things in my life. Especially the lucky thing that is called Cory The SuperHusband. He was right alongside me, framing, running around, measuring, packaging. You know how people say they wished they could clone themselves to get more done? Cory’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to that. And I couldn’t have done it without him. I’ll gladly suffer a few mishaps and some stress if that’s how my being married to him balances out in the karma arena.

So we toiled. We somehow, magically, banged out framing an entire show – that’s 25 pieces, less the eight canvas ones – in only a few hours. We went to the wedding. We had a great time.

Saturday morning I popped out of bed like it was my birthday and I was eight years old. Saturday was MY day. It was going to be fantastic! (Turns out that feeling was right on.) So we zoomed to the studio and finished framing. We finally had the prints! We had the glass in all the right quantities and size! The gallery was a blank slate – the owner and some friends had labored into the wee hours of the morning to get it ready for me! My parents and in-laws were taking care of the hors d’oeuvres! My sister was coming! We framed everything in time! All that had gone wrong was fixed. My support system came through for me, all in shining armor. The previous days’ stresses were completely relieved.

I breathed.

We hung the show like we were in the army. If they ever hang up art in the army. Drill Sargent Kate. Colonel Cory. We measured and somehow I could do math in my head for the first time ever. Must be time pressure does that to you. We hung it up and I did dances of joy – it was beautiful. It was better than I could have imagined. We came home and I made labels and showered and got ready. Went back and wham-bam got it together. My parents and in-laws came through with refreshments (phew!). My sister helped me hang directional signs around the mazelike Shirt Factory. It was all up and done by EXACTLY 4:45 p.m., leaving us 15 minutes of calm. I had a glass of wine. I looked around at my first-ever solo gallery show (!!!) all framed and hung and looking absolutely perfect and beautiful, and at my family there in place looking absolutely perfect and beautiful and beams of sunshine leapt from my heart and filled the room. Basically.

Carol Barrett was the first to arrive. Then some Shirt Factory people. And more people. And more people. And nobody seemed to stay very long, but they all thoughtfully looked at each piece and asked me about the process or had a favorite to point out to me. Every time somebody new walked through that door it was like opening a big thoughtful Christmas present as a kid. That feeling of “Oh! AND this one too! I can’t believe it! How did you know I was hoping to get it? I already have so much, I can’t believe there’s more! Yay!”

I want to say that about 100 people came to the show. One wave would go out and I’d feel a little sad but within five minutes a whole new wave would come in. There were at least four or five waves, where there’d be 20-plus people there all at the same time. It was a flood of family, friends, and the Glens Falls community, which I’ve always found to be supportive, but I was especially excited to have that support all in one day. It was long and my feet hurt and back ached (I must have terrible posture to not be able to stand up for more than two hours at a time – flip flops didn’t help) but I didn’t get to talk to all the people who were there. It was amazingly gratifying, all the folks who arranged their day to be able to come by and show their support and maybe buy something. For me! For Kate! Better than a birthday. Not only are people glad I was born, but they’re stopping in to see where I am in my life.

And I needed that. Because this show – THE FLOW – it was about a lot. Much of my work is play. It’s fun. I make a mess and whatever I see in it comes out of the mess and it’s just fun. But behind that is this: My life philosophy, my religion (Katethysianism. I made it up.), my outlook – that’s all wrapped up in this artwork. My gratitude for Glens Falls as the opportunity to reinvent myself and come in new – that comes through in the artwork that I’ve cut up and re-used as something new. My childhood and long-ago memories are showcased and that’s about my desire to preserve every little thing and not let it go. My photos of the process of painting are about enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the destination. And there’s humor. And there’s experimentation. There’s letting go, there’s holding on, there’s taking something you hated and changing the way you look at it so you accept that it’s a piece of the whole – a part of what makes it great. It’s all there.

THE FLOW is titled for this scene from Six Feet Under (more so 2:56 through 3:45 than anything). Like I said in the press release, I feel this way without drugs – feel the flow. Also, it’s named for this Andrea Gibson poem, Water Drips Through Stone. (Better if you just listen – that video is distracting.) The line goes “Your heart is that water, your art is that water, YOU are that water, now FLOW.” Changing the world no matter how small you are – because you don’t back down. You find a way to make your point.

And people came to see it. To mark this moment in my life and to look at the things I made to see something that might speak to them.

I have one painting that’s got my one-hit-wonder Dive, pasted on a fridge. It’s called Fame. My grandmother Mimi pointed it out to me and said, “That’s my fridge!” My incredibly talented cousin Mackenzie St. Onge was selected to be one of 70 top hockey players at this USA Hockey Camp. Mimi said we didn’t get our art skills or sports knack from her – but what we did get from her, and from her children, was encouragement from a young age to believe that we could do whatever we set our minds to! No kidding, either. The first words Mimi ever spoke to us were about being beautiful, talented, and being able to do anything we set our minds to. A loving and supportive family and community can do a lot for a person.

I sold prints. I sold a lot of prints. I made enough to recoup almost half of what I laid out for the show. I never know where to set my expectations. Had I sold nothing, I would have shrugged and said ah well, I’m not in it for the money and now I’m broker than broke and nobody likes my art. Had I sold a large piece, I would have clicked my heels in the air and rolled around in the dough like Scrooge McDuck. So this is an even balance. I’m happy. I feel grateful and affirmed, like this is something I should keep doing. And maybe I will sell more – the show is up through the end of June!

It will be open for the June Arts Open House on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for Art in the Public Eye’s Third Thursday Art Walk on Thursday, June 16, from 5 to 8 p.m.

As it finally quieted down around 9 p.m., Cory (ever-helpful!) packed up the food and I helped him some and walked my parents to their car to say good-bye. At the loading dock entrance to the Shirt Factory, I started pointing out the business cards, posters, postcards, commissioned piece of artwork and flyers I designed for tenants and other clients and realized I could stand in one place in that lobby and scanning, see – no exaggeration – TEN different pieces Advokate or Kate Austin-Avon Art had created – and been paid for! What an amazing place Glens Falls is to love me so much. I love it back.

After it all, Cory whimpering and tired (pictured at left, mid-whimper, tablecloth in hand!), I took some pictures of the show for Facebook and for this post. Hugged him in the middle of the gallery and blew a kiss to the room. It was a wonderful night.

Thank you all for making it so special!

P.S. Did you see this article on me by The Free George? Such thoughtful questions!

P.P.S. I was interviewed by Ed Bartholomew for his Look TV show Beyond The Headlines. It will be on Channel 8 (locally) tonight at 8 and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday at 8 and 11 p.m. and Wednesday at 8 and 11 p.m.

but just then the goddess cried no
the goddess cried no
water drips through stone
now listen close
your heart is that water
your art is that water
you are that water now flow
your heart is that water
your art is that water
you are that water now flow
and for the first time in years the woman rose
and she rose
and she rose ’til her hips stretched the skyline
and her lips kissed the stars
and her hands held the sun ‘til it lit
the caverns of her heart
and then she fell
and raindrops down upon the earth
she showered the rives
and the oceans
her breath was the motion of the tide
she purified the soil
she birthed the storm that split the dam
then sprung a dancing spring that drown
the tanks
the machines
every thing that didn’t sing
and then she
swallowed up the lies
she vaporized the greed
she was the water that spawned the flowers
that brought the bombs
to their knees
she was the wave
the tsunami
that revived the human heart
she was the part of us
of me
of you
just now
coming true

- Water Drips Through Stone by Andrea Gibson

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