The 7 Most Inspiring Moments At The Cheap Art Show

Art, Events 2 years ago

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: A Cheap Art Show was chock full of inspiring moments.


1. When I bought a $5 bill for $1

One of my favorite pieces was called “Smile.” It was very simple in its concept and execution: a five dollar bill with a penciled-in smile over Abraham Lincoln’s normally stoic expression. The kicker was that it had an asking price of $1. So immediately you’re making an investment and “hopefully it makes your day,” says artist Alex Arash, who encourages an emotional connection with art.

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2. Watching a 5 year old sell more art than adults

Tristan couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. “These actually aren’t guns, these are tranquilizer guns, and the bad guy was trying to shoot the good guy, but accidentally shot himself with the tranquilizer,” he matter-of-factly explained to me before I even had a chance to ask what he was drawing. He immediately sold the drawing for 99 cents (1 cent less than the cheapest pieces there), then began drawing more pictures and selling them to the various adults who couldn’t resist the cute factor. When my friend Kate wanted to buy one of a scorpion head, Tristan told her, “I’ve been selling them for 99 cents, but some people have given me more, if you want to give me more,” so she paid $3. I bet Tristan walked away with more cash at the end of the night than some of the official artists.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 1.41.04 AMphoto via @cheesepolitics

3. Watching another kid use his lunch money to buy art

Most of the artists brought a few small pieces to sell at low price points. Cheese Politics brought only one large painting, on sale for $75- the highest price he could ask for this show. He sold it to a young kid who used his lunch money to purchase the piece. He said it was for his new bedroom in his family’s new home. If that’s not an inspiring, emotional connection to art, I don’t know what is.

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4. Realizing not everyone’s trying to make pretty Instagram photos with their iPhone

At first, Matthew Bauer’s black and white desert landscape photography seemed like they were taken by a guy who knows a lot about aperture and lighting and takes his art very seriously. I thought maybe he even developed these prints in a dark room. I asked him what kind of camera he used, and he told me, “Oh I shot all these on my iPhone. Just an iPhone 5, not even the 6. The 6 takes nicer pictures.” I loved that answer. It took away all the pretentiousness I was somewhat expecting and proved he was the artist of the everyman.


5. Seeing Chef Keith turn cheap eats into gourmet

Whenever we have events, Chef Keith makes a customized menu inspired by the theme, so he came up with the Cheap Eats appetizer plate, where he took cheap, childhood favorites like tater tots and pigs in a blanket and added his own gourmet touch. Instead of calling it pizza, he called it “English Muffin White Pie” so I had to ask why. “It’s a pizza with roasted garlic puree as the sauce and then mozzarella cheese topped with mushrooms, pine nuts, and a little truffle oil made on an English muffin. We used to make them when I was a kid with pasta sauce instead of garlic puree though, and toasted them in a toaster oven.”


6. Watching a woman buy a painting that she had been dreaming of for years

The show was coming to a close when I noticed Gigi excitedly talking to the featured artist of the night, Jesse Azarian, about the painting she had just bought from him. It was of a little house in the woods at night with light shining through the windows to show that someone was home. She told me she was immediately drawn to it because it reminded her of a recurring dream she’s had since she was a little girl. In the dream, she lives in a cute, little house that has no doors. “It’s comforting, yet creepy,” she told me. She hadn’t thought about that dream in a long time, until she saw Jesse’s painting. Gigi was so excited about her new painting, which was exactly the intention of the show- to show that art is a universally beloved concept and  shouldn’t cost a fortune to enjoy.

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7. Realizing that I can be an artist too

Out of all the events that go on here, I am rarely a featured participant. But with this art show, I thought it might be fun to display some of my own artwork. I went to the CVS on the corner of 3rd & Fairfax and got some prints made of some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken, and put them in inexpensive frames. I sold one print of a pair neon wings that I took just up the street at a store on Fairfax, and traded Jesse Azarian a nighttime shot of Canter’s Deli for one of his 6×6″ cigarette paintings. It was inspiring to be featured among so many other great artists.