Most artists crave attention; God knows they're not in it for the hours or the wages. That is why to most artists the worst thing imaginable is not a mere bad review from an art critic or the denial of a grant that may bankroll one's grocery bill for a year. Rather, the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to create art in a vacuum of indifference, to put art out in front of an uncaring public. It is for this reason that painter, gallery owner, and art-world mover and shaker Doug Padilla deserves recognition.
Certainly, many local artists achieved great heights in 2000. Shannon Kennedy won two national grants for her exquisite video pieces that explore inner spaces, and she mounted several successful shows, locally and in New York. Wing Young Huie, meanwhile, continues to draw national acclaim for his large-scale portrait projects. The recent "Lake Street USA" endeavor was an amazing anthropological survey of the people of a single road--and of the city and the country beyond. What separates Padilla from other artists is his absolute devotion to creating an atmosphere of passion about the local visual arts, and to ridding the world of artistic indifference.
Consider the evidence: The 52-year-old Padilla is widely known to local artists and scene followers for his gallery, Art Jones, which he runs as an ad hoc space--it appears wherever is affordable and available at the moment. Here, Padilla is often willing to try things that most other spaces in town shy away from. His regular off-color exhibit of local erotic art is just one example. Also, Padilla hosts his "Salon Artisimo," an irregularly scheduled panel discussion on various topics that brings together a wide range of artists and art lovers to discuss culture-related topics. And finally, Padilla has painted and shown his work in town--as a solo artist or in groups he helped found--for the past 20-or-so years. In 2000 he was awarded a State Arts Board grant for his expressionist, slash-and-burn, day-of-the-dead-toned creations.
"[Art] is what you do," says Padilla on the artist's experience. "It is how you digest, process, and explore life. If you don't do it, you get nasty and depressed and sick--ask my wife and friends." In the end, Padilla's enthusiasm has at some point affected nearly everyone in the local art scene, and has made it that much easier for local artists to stay healthy and get a good night's sleep.
Michael Fallon is a St. Paul-based writer and a frequent contributor toCity Pages.