A Real Life Gallery Girl Speaks

These are the girls that make up Gallery Girls.

Okay, so I confess that I have yet to tune into Bravo’s latest reality TV confection and second foray into the contemporary art world known as “Gallery Girls.”

“Why do I need to watch a reality show about the New York art world? I lived it! I still live it every day! I eat girls like that for breakfast!”

Unpaid internships. Trying to woo notable collectors in the hopes they’d make my name. Throwing about the word “post-modern” like I actually know what it means. Dipping my feet into the “to-be-seen” crowd at openings. Contemplating ripping a page from a book a fellow grad student needed for their thesis. Crying the night before an opening.

When it comes to the “ugly” of a girl trying to make her way in a cutthroat job market, where the supply of the over-privileged with an “in” and bitchy, inadequate backstabbers outweighs the demand for jobs, I’ve done it all.

Luckily, I survived that stage of unpaid internships, underpaid assistant gigs, and digging for threadbare connections unscathed and with my dignity intact.

I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Gagosian

“I want to still be me one fine morning when I wake up and have breakfast at Gagosian.”

Okay, so that’s not exactly the way Holly Golightly said it, but you get my drift.
I decided I wanted a career in the art world when I was a sophomore in college.
By the time I finished my masters, I had already been an unpaid museum intern, an unpaid gallery intern, a curatorial assistant at a marquee institution, and a paid gallery researcher.

While I was getting that degree, the bottom fell out of the economy. The bustling, booming art market screeched to halt. And the academic world lost interest in the unsung stories of women artists.

I took at unpaid internship at MoMA — an amazing opportunity that I never would have gotten without a graduate degree. Go figure.

What I learned en route to becoming a Gallery Director was that, just like any industry, getting a foot in the proverbial door is as much about chance as it is about skill set, bravado, and connections.

The job I wanted opened at MoMA four months after my internship ended. I sent in my resume to HR but followed up with an email to the curator I had worked for. I would learn months later that the email went into her SPAM folder.

“If I had known you were applying, I would have stepped in with HR,” she told me when we crossed paths at the museum.

Sometimes your resume goes missing.

Sometimes, you piss-off the wrong professor and get black-balled from admissions to the grad-school program of your dreams (what happened to me).

Sometimes the collector that family friends puts you in touch with gets you an interview at a great gallery (not what happened to me).

Sometimes that collector wants you to hand out napkins at their dinner party — but at least they’ll pay you $15/hour (what happened to me.)

Sometimes you land a paid internship that turns into a full-time job (not what happened to me).

Sometimes you land a paid internship — a $10/day lunch stipend in a neighborhood where the average lunch price is $15 and there is no public transport node near the gallery because it’s practically on the West Side Highway (what happened to me).

Sometimes you read an article about a person in a magazine and think, hey I want to work for her. And then you become an unpaid intern in her company, but never meet her until 3 years later when she’s interviewing you for a job. She lets you in. (what happened to me.)

The door’s open.  All that’s left is you and your experience, your eye, and your bravado to make something of yourself .

Once you’re through the door, it’s up to you, your experience, your eye and your bravado to make something of yourself.
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Some Call it Art. Some Call it Just Another Day at the Office. I call it Training for the Amazing Race.

Without fail, every season on the Amazing Race, there’s a challenge in which teams have to carry heavy, awkward things over long distances. I’ve always wanted to be on the Amazing Race and so I watch each episode with half a mind focused on how to prepare for when it’s my turn. But carrying heavy awkward thing over long distances is not the kind of thing you can easily train for.

Living as an art handler is like training to be an elite athlete.

Unless of course you’re an art handler.

Standing in the storage area of my gallery Tuesday morning were two 6-foot canvases. They were awaiting transport to an off-site location where my team was installing an affiliated exhibition. Given that I have a compact SUV with moving blankets in the back, I was the designated transport.

“Are you going to bring your car around?” my assistant asked.

My car was parked half a mile away. Down a hill.

“No. I’ll just carry them to the car.”

I ignored her doubtful/cautionary expression as she handed me the white gloves.

Curating and art handling develop good forearms. Thanks in large part to a power drill.

I had only walked five feet from the gallery when a gust of wind and a traffic light made me realize that this might have been one of those lapse of judgement moments. The canvas under each arm had transformed me into an urban sailboat, with only forearms for rudders. My floaty skirt that was keen to pull a Marilyn Monroe over the subway at any moment had to be ignored.

The old man who sits with his walker on the street corner and calls me “Cupcake” was, thankfully, enjoying the early bird special at the Legion.

With each block the canvases grew heavier. The wind, wilder. And all I could think is: Why, oh why did I insist on the extra set of bicep curls!?! The half mile to my car was the longest half mile of my life.

waiting for my life line.

People paused to gawk. Others dove out of my way. A few got bashed with the frames of the canvases’ stretcher. A beautiful man in a Mercedes convertible pulled over to ask if I needed a ride. He was wearing a Rolex… and a wedding band. I artfully (haha!) declined.

When I finally arrived at my car, I folded the seats down. Laid out the moving blankets. And proceed to attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Neither canvas fit.

I sat down on the parking lot asphalt. My arms were shaking — there was no way I was carrying these back to the gallery.

Eventually, thanks to a “phone a friend” lifeline, I found a solution. The paintings did not have to be abandoned in the parking lot — a threat I had thrown at them as they leaned against the side of my car, mocking me.

When I arrived at the satellite site, I expected to find a world map welcome mat and Phil Keoghan waiting for me. Instead, it was just a series of white walls and another Road Block — a very large picture puzzle.

I expected to find Phil and the map waiting for me at the off-site location. Instead, it was just another Road Block.

I Coulda Been a Contenda: My Blog, the TLC, Randy in Cincinnati, and How I Almost Became A Reality Star

It’s every blogger’s dream: getting “discovered.” And no, I don’t mean by your long-lost third cousin Shirley whom you haven’t seen since she was the toddler who pooped in your wadding pool.

I mean by someone like a literary agent. Or better yet, someone in Hollywood. I mean, by someone with the pop-culture clout to turn you into an overnight sensation who gets to appear on “Late, Late Night with Craig Ferguson.”

In the blogosphere, we're all waiting for Columbus to discover us and put us on the map.

Back in January, “They Told me to Find a Rich Husband” was discovered.

A casting director  in LA was on the hunt for a handful of women willing to be followed by the TLC as they embarked on a  quest to find the perfect mate in 2012. Somehow, she read my blog and thought I’d be perfect.

The next thing you know, I was on weekly conference calls to the West Coast, in part being investigated in part, investigating.

It was all very exciting. As I sat down to my video interview, my heart pounded with all the thoughts of the possible — the problematic along with the positive.

Was this going to be my fast track to literary stardom? Or would I become the butt of late-night jokes as America watched me fumble through Meet-ups and “How to Grout your Bathroom Tiles” classes at the Home Depot?

Would I be a success in the world of reality TV? Or would I fall flat... again.

Was my “50 First Date Project” going to launch me into dating infamy? Or endear me to the hearts of single, educated women across the country?

Would people find me funny, or would I fall flat?

How big is my butt going to look in HD?

Eventually, the project quieted and I took it as a sign that it might be best to leave the story of my dating life to the written word rather than the world of reality TV. The premise of the show read like a feeder for “Say Yes to the Dress,” and I’m not the 26-year-old who’s ready to commit to a wedding in the next 9 months… even with a pending apocalypse.

Randy's semi, with its 200 wedding dresses, was parked outside my hotel in Cincinnati. One of those could have been mine?

And then I arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Netherland Plaza Hotel. As is the case with me, my timing was impeccable. The TLC was in town, at my hotel, filming “Randy to the Rescue.” Randy, as in Randy Fenoli, as in the wedding dress guru who always saves the day in “Say Yes to the Dress” — my guilty, single-gal Friday night at home pleasure.

Standing next to Randy while waiting for the elevator, I sized him up.

“I coulda been a contender!” I cried, shaking my fist, just as his assistant had begun to say something, I’m sure, relatively unimportant.

Anthony Bourdain Takes Me Back to Cuba

“Of all the places you’ve been,” asked Frank over a drink, “what’s your favorite?”

I paused to consider — when you’ve been a lot of interesting places and made an effort to make the most of your journeys, the answer is always: all of them. But in an attempt to be both cool and thoughtful, I cited Havana, Cuba.

In June of 2008, I was a fencer en route to a World Cup competition. I arrived in Havana dressed in white linen and a straw hat, hoping to capture a bygone era, thirsting for a Mojito, and hungry for a taste of a forbidden city. I could travel there, the letter from the US Treasury said, but I couldn’t spend any money.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but like Anthony Bourdain said on “No Reservations” last night, “I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful…Even run down, shabby, neglected Cuba is beautiful…heart-breakingly beautiful.”

Walking through Old Havana is like walking through an archeological dig undergoing a fairy-godmother transformation

I was struck by many things during my stay — mainly that walking through Old Havana is like walking through an archeological dig undergoing a haphazard fairy-godmother transformation. The architecture is striking. A mix of deco and colonial baroque styles set against the ocean’s edge. From afar, the skyline still beams the promise of a cosmopolitan city. Up close, the buildings’ dilapidated state becomes abundantly clear. Beautiful buildings a shell of their former selves.

A city under construction
An old city under slow and plodding construction

Before I left New York, I made sure to do some reading on the Cuban Revolution — The Motorcycle Diaries would not be my only source of information on Che Guevara. But to visit the Museo de la Revolucion to see a Cuban history of the shift to a communist regime was enlightening. It’s always healthy to compare one side’s propaganda with the other’s…

At the Museuo de la Revolucion, the delivery truck that allowed the students to rush the palace and thus begin the change in government
A wall label at the Museo de la Revolucion
The leaders of the revolution, Castro, Che and Camillio

As Bourdain experienced, I found the Cuban people to be warm and approachable, proud and  resourceful. “We like Americans. We love Americans,” my bellhop said. “It’s only your government we don’t love.”

A street vendor in Havana
There is a profound sense of community

Unlike Anthony, I can’t say I ever had a great meal — several good mojitos, yes, fantastic dinner, no. I got to ride around town in a vintage car, with native Cubans who spoke little English but who were eager to converse. But if there’s one thing I wish I could have done while in Cuba, it was go to a baseball game. On that, Anthony has the one-up.

the vintage car that showed us Old Havana

3 Guys and 3 Dates vs. the Blizzard and “Say Yes to the Dress”

The best-laid, over-ambitious plans of mice and single women often go awry.

3 guys. 3 dates scheduled, snowed-out and rescheduled…all for one Friday. Could it be done? The men and the proposed timetable seemed agreeable: one date would be with a doctor for a professional NY sports team who had an afternoon off. The second would be early evening drinks with a guy I had had crush on when I 17 . The last would be dinner with a guy I had uncharacteristically made-out with at a bar. I had the dress, the shoes, and the stamina. They had the charm and the credit cards. What none of us had going for us was the weather.

It was a romantic winter wonderland... but a winter wonderland condusive for 3 dates in one night?

I woke up Friday Power-Date Day to a raging blizzard. Hand-sized snowflakes blurred the trees 10 feet from my window and coated the streets. Date 1: snow-checked, again. Dates 2 and 3: pending.

By early evening, the snow had relented and the streets were being cleared. It would not have been impossible to forsake the new designer pumps in the name of sturdy boots. It would not have been impossible to head out into the night for lightweight flirtations buoyed by liquid fortification. I called Bachelors 2 and 3 — the winter-weather advisory was still in effect until morning. Should we meet wearing our snowshoes or cross-country skis?

3 guys. 3 dates scheduled, snowed-out, rescheduled, snowed-out, and rescheduled.

My dates now canceled, I was content to be snuggled in alone. With my phone turned off and my sweat pants on, I turned my TV on and tuned in to TLC. Sometimes, hot cocoa tastes better when enjoyed along side other guilty pleasures… like wedding-themed reality TV.

Outside, one snow storm settled while another loomed in the coming week.

Somewhere in the city a couple was grateful for sloppy street cleanups giving them an excuse to be snowed-in for a weekend together.

Inside my living-room, a “Say Yes to the Dress” marathon raged and I was a willing, if not unexpected captive.

What to do when your date gets snowed out? Watch a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon, of course!

How Blogging About Dating Suddenly Made Me a Desirable Date

Successful Relationship blogger? What do I tell him? Deny thy blog or confess its fame?

“You may not want to lead with the fact you have a blog about dating,” my friend Jake kindly advised me as we sipped lattes and commiserated over our recent dating droughts.

He had just brought to light an interesting dilemma: When you’ve made something of a name for yourself writing about love and its aftermath, do you deny thy blog, or confess its fame? Will guys think you’re clever or dub you as trouble?

“On the other hand,” he continued, “this whole blogging thing might just be the making of your love life. I’m worried that with your recent success, you won’t stay on the market long enough to keep They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband going. Seems now it’s a sooner, rather than a later, that you’ll land your Mr. Big.”

A recent slew of “Can I take you out for a drink?” messages from They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband’s male readership helped me make up my mind and lent a modicum of credibility to Jake’s alternative forecast.

Who would have thought that blogging about dating would make me a hot date ticket?

“What do you do?” — It’s a question we’re always asked when we meet someone and a question I always answer with caution.

“I consider myself a writer on the verge of landing a paying day job.”

“What do you write about?” The inevitable follow up question.

“Dating and relationships… I have a blog.”

Their eyes open wide, an eyebrow rises, a half-smirk curls upon their lips and they lean in a little closer.

“What’s it called? Maybe I’ve read it,” they coo.

“They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband.”

Usually, the next thing the guy will do is take a sip of his drink and pause. “So, do you want to be that Millionaire Matchmaker lady?”

“No…no, I don’t really care about other people finding rich husbands. ‘Find a rich husband‘ — that’s what people tell me to do. I’m the only person I’m really interested in. Blogging is a selfish business”

Pause.

“So does that make you a real-life Carrie Bradshaw?”

We ladies all think we're Carries chasing our Mr. Bigs. Turns out, guys are out there chasing their Carries.

Carrie Bradshaw — she’s the shadow-casting pop-culture icon we who write about dating in New York can never escape. As I chuckle and shrug, part in acceptance, part in denial, his next move is typically to put a hand on the small of my back to pull me in closer. The look in his eyes is telling. He sees his pseudonym in print.

“Carrie wrote a column called ‘Sex and the City,'” I’ve been known to reply. “I moved north of the city a few months ago. If I turned my blog into a column, eventually I’d have to call it ‘Celibacy and the Suburbs.'”

“Well, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?” Before I have a chance to process or respond, his hand is up the back of my shirt and his tongue is searching for my tonsils. Hold your horses there, Cowboy!

“When you write about me tomorrow, make sure to call me ‘Mr. Hottie,'” more than one guy has said. If they only knew…

Apparently, the prospect of being the subject of next week’s post can be something of a turn on. Thank you, Carrie Bradshaw for making dating columnists sexy. Before you, we might have been considered raging feminists, and a dating no-go. It would just be nice if the men in this city didn’t conflate you with your side-kick, nymphomaniac Samantha Jones… because, as their roaming hands and steaming eyes make evident, it seems they always do.