I got to the Bob Car Performing Arts Centre at 5:30 and entered the performers' door. Inside, a small room was packed full of actors and there was an amazing spread of food. I was sorry I had eaten at home. I wandered through the maze of backstage hallways past all the dressing rooms, in one a guitarist was lightly strumming his guitar. I then found myself on the main stage. The curtains were down and there were row after row of tables set up with red chairs on them. I knew that my goal with this first sketch was to catch Brian Feldman, who was going to be dressed all in red and seated in one of the tiny IKEA red chairs in a performance piece called "I Am a Red Chair."
I found the empty chair Brian was to sit in by reading all of the silent auction sheets until I found the one with his name on it. Unfortunately, his chair was sort of isolated and off on its own. I had hoped to sketch Brian in the foreground with a line of red chairs marching off into the distance. After walking around his chair and viewing from all angles, I finally decided to sit with my back against the giant main stage curtain and use the chairs on a table next to me as a foreground element in the sketch. The emotional impact of the sketch is much different than originally envisioned, but I like that he seems distant and small, isolated as the party swirls around him. VIPs had paid $225 for the privilege of viewing and bidding on the red chairs as well as sampling food from some of Orlando's finer restaurants. A gorgeous woman in a tight red dress stood at the table in front of Brian for the longest time. I imagined she must have been arm candy for a rich young bachelor.
Margot Knight walked over to me and asked if I found it difficult to sketch in my suit. I actually did have a problem, since I placed a pen in my fake breast pocket only to find it disappeared inside the suit's lining. I had to force it out by cutting a hole in the inside lining of my jacket. I also had placed an open pen in my shirt breast pocket and it had bled out into the fabric. Luckily my jacket covered this black wound all night. Director John DiDonna approached me when I was done with my sketch and said he had a place for me to sit on stage right. The tables full of chairs were quickly wheeled off the stage and I kept stepping out of the way of stagehands carrying chairs and tables. John walked past with a couple of chairs saying, "This is my life."
Brian, however, was still seated. His auction item was twofold - to be a Red Chair, as pictured in this sketch, for two hours at the location of the highest bidder's choosing, and to work with them, or whoever they named of their behalf in the marketing and creation of their very own performance piece. He said one artist kept coming up to him to see the latest bid. The artist was a bit upset that people were bidding on Brian and not bidding on his art. When the auction ended, Brian had been sold for $80.
John DiDonna pulled me aside and told me I would be in front of the main stage curtain, sitting beside the American flag. I walked on stage and stared out at the several thousand people as they were busy taking their seats. I desperately wanted to face the audience and start sketching, but I decided I should stay on task and get a sketch of the performers. I folded my hands and waited...