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Art can, and should, mean something…

We are not the worst of the worst, we are the best of the broken, wrote 19th Century poet and philosopher Pierre De Montford in his epic lyric poem C’est La Porte Ouverte Aux Tragedies.*  We’re only as sick as our secrets, says the sign on the communal room wall at Verhelst Recovery House. 


Both quotes remind me of Bisbee, a little cultural oasis in the near endless deserts of Arizona. The town, unique in myriad ways, gives off the feeling of a place in which anything is possible, a place abandoned when the copper ran out, and later rediscovered by runaways looking for a fresh start, hippies looking for a new way of life, and artists drawn to the town’s beauty and its affordable rent. 


Of course, when Sloane Bouchever got in touch and offered us a show in Bisbee, we didn’t know any of this. It was just another featureless name on a map. We agreed because we would be in nearby Tucson that year to buy a dinosaur, and because Sloane had a fancy sounding surname. 


As the exhibition drew closer, Sloane’s texts became more frequent; did we want to collaborate on some fund-raising for Verhelst Recovery House? Did we need a car to pick us up? Did we have any special dietary requirements? Did either of us play ping-pong? A word of advice; don’t play ping-pong with Sloane. It’s humiliating. I lost a tooth. That’s not a joke. The night we arrived in Bisbee, in a particularly aggressive, inebriated, game of table tennis, I lost a tooth.


From the outset it was clear that Sloane was no ordinary gallerist. In some ways he was not a gallerist at all. Sloane is a collector who happened to have a gallery, and his collecting ethos was based on achieving parity between male and female artists, and representing the broad diversity of talent that exists in the arts, but is most often underrepresented in The Art World. Sure, he sold our pictures, but he was more interested in our trip being meaningful, both to us, and to the community of Bisbee. 


Sloane wants art to having meaning in the real actual world where we all live, rather than just in the insular, and self-congratulatory, bubble of The Art World. It was in this spirit that Sloane and his wife Danielle made the fund-raising for Verhelst, and our visit to see the centre’s life-transforming work, the focus of our visit. Art can, and should, mean something, and working with Sloane is a reminder of this. 


It is fitting that Sloane is evolving his gallery from a commercial enterprise into a museum. It’s also fitting that the Artemizia Foundation is in Bisbee; a small cultural gem of a museum, in a small cultural gem of a town. As for my tooth, I never did find it. A part of me, as the saying goes, will remain forever in Bisbee. 



Mike Snelle   ~   The Connor Brothers   ~   Shoreditch, UK

* Pierre De Montford is a fictional poet invented by the fictional artists known as The Connor Brothers.

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