Post Party-um Reflections

Mounting a major exhibition is not unlike giving birth, take heed all aspiring male curators, it is as close as you'll come to the pain and joy of childbirth.

Actually, I revisited many emotional states fom the past during the two weeks leading up to the opening of Beyond Ultraman. The night before the opening I experienced that old feeling of childhood: the night before Christmas. You lie awake in bed, knowing that you should go to sleep, unable to turn off your feverish brain, and worrying that if you don't go to sleep the magic part of the next day may never come. The agony of anticipation, the realization of desire, the knowledge that you need to rest to have strength to enjoy tomorrow. Then on the day of the reception, as I went through the motions of a normal workday at my day job, I was reminded of Halloweens of yore. Looking forward to dressing up and being someone different than normal, being able to leave the routine day early to gather with friends who are sharing in the special event. And then the demons of new relationships - Will they like the show? Will they like me? Was I too pushy? How's my breath?

So, here are some statistics from the first weekend of the exhibition (those of you linking from the LATDA email bear with me):

During the first five days of the show, over 3,000 visitors viewed Beyond Ultraman! The opening reception drew just under 500 people into the traffic on a Thursday night. Friday was Art Night in Pasadena, when shuttle buses delivered more than 2,000 people over a four hour period. On Saturday morning before the Bossy Bear reading and Mothman toy launch, people were standing in line waiting for the museum to open! All the Bossy Bears, large and small, were sold out before 3:00 PM. We went through 250 Homies in the vending machine in two days.

Sound bites on Art Night:
- A woman standing in the middle of the gallery called her friend on her cell phone and said, “You must come here immediately! This is the best exhibit I’ve ever seen!”
- A dazed young man was walking around looking at the exhibit. I asked him if he had any questions and he said, “I came to Art Night to see the exhibit at the Pacific Asia Museum but they were closed, so I came here. I am so glad I found this exhibit! Thank you for putting it together!”
- A woman who came to see the plein air painting show walked around and remarked to a friend, “This isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it is really interesting!” She then walked over to the vending machine and bought a Homie.

The best visual reactions were those captured in the mirror behind the Homie display –- how often do you get to see people’s reactions to artwork they are viewing? I saw lots of smiles, some guffaws, and wide-eyed awe from people of all ages and backgrounds. It was the best affirmation of the exhibition one could receive.

As we were leaving the museum on Friday, there was a clutch of young people standing in front of the museum talking in the light rain (the rain was a surprise to us who were inside all night). I stopped and asked them what they thought of the show. It turned out that I was speaking to some heavy hitters in the vinyl art world –- Jonathan Cathey of Super Rad Toys, whose work was represented in the show in one of Brian McCarty’s photographs; Luke Chueh, also represented in a McCarty photo; and Joe Ledbetter, who has been a longtime supporter of PMCA and who I had hoped would be the subject of a new McCarty photograph in time for the exhibition. With each introduction, my eyes got bigger and my voice got higher as I recognized each artist’s name. I admitted I was surprised at how young they all were (and a voice from afar said, ‘They’re probably surprised at how old YOU are!’) and expressed that I hoped we would work together in the future. Beyond Ultraman is the first museum exhibition about the world of vinyl art toys, but it doesn’t mean it will be the only or last one.

We haven't processed the fact that the exhibition is up and running yet. I have to go back again and again to reassure myself that it really is open. Now we are thinking that it should travel...