Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Accidental Artist

by Drew Martin

CONGRATULATIONS! is a project I did today as a final farewell to a shady character, Ted Gowkialo. He really does exist and is a bit of a crook. In my case, he broke his contract and took off with a $1,700 down payment for cabinet work. This was actually a few years ago and since then I was able to recover $1,200 but the balance is lost. When I recently started looking into this again, naively hoping he would make good on his promise to eventually pay me, I found out that he owes a lot of people money, including his landlord, who told me to "Join the club!"

I am not a litigious person and I did not want to make a big deal out of it because I hate to think about money so I decided to settle it on my own terms as an artist. I turned the $500 difference into the Museum of Peripheral Art's first award and retroactive grant. I had previously conceived of a WANTED poster so I had already drawn a police sketch of Gowkialo but I gave him a look of moral regret: as if I was picturing him how I hoped he would look when thinking about what he had done. I created two versions of the poster: one in English and one in Polish (his diaspora) but I never put them up. When I recently changed the idea into a grant, I kept the WANTED look because I hoped it would have the same immediate impact with those connotations, especially since many people are looking for him to pay up.

The written message is, however, very different. It reads:


Ted Gowkialo is the recipient of this year's prestigious $500 Foxsly Award for his contributions to minimal art. Ted's piece "The Invisible Cabinets" was a set of invisible kitchen cabinets he made using vanishing materials.

This afternoon, I traveled on several trains to reach his neighborhood two hours away. I put 30 fliers up on trees and posts as well as on the doors of his apartment building. This was not a vengeful or threatening piece: I did not blow the smoke off my staple gun when I finished. It is a piece about closure and forgiving. I could even stretch it and say it is a piece about Easter: a wayward carpenter and the possibility of miracles.