I grew up in Greenwich Village a few blocks from the Cedar Tavern- the oft mentioned hangout of a few painters from the fifties. By the time I was old enough to order a pitcher of beer the Cedar Tavern had undergone the sort of transformation that involves polyurethane and the joint, while not quite a tourist trap, was well past being hip. My crowd migrated to Fanelli's on Prince Street and the Broome Street Bar and Grill.
These days I go the Bar 6 in the village if I am meeting a friend for a drink, but this is more the exception than the rule. My socializing has taken the form of "social networking" on Facebook, twitter, YouTube, creating a website and starting this blog. Gone are the times of painting all day and drinking and talking all night in a bar.
In friendship terms, what I have lost in quality, I have gained in quantity. In the old days I had a group of friends, some artists and some on the fringe. Today I have 1,000 and counting Facebook "friends." Most of these folks seem to be artists or involved in the arts. Some days I love the volume and diversity of posts in my news stream: artwork, openings, YouTube links for music, acerbic comments, lamentations, sentimental yearnings and even the occasional baby picture. I have one "friend" a well know art critic and the threads on his posts frequently reach 300 comments. What is there to say after 300 friends have commented?
Last month on Facebook my friend Carlos got into a lusty argument about art on another friend's wall. He had the savoir faire to understand the argument might be better conducted on his own wall. The argument was a harbinger of the perilous side of social networking. A few days later a new friend in France popped up in my IM box requesting a photo of my breasts. Around this time I was reading a book which included Stieglitz's nudes of Georgia O'Keefe. However surprised I was by Monsieur's request, I was more surprised by what crossed my mind: perhaps I would send digital versions of Stieglitz's nudes as a prank? I came to my senses and decided to "unfriend" Monsieur before I broke any copy write laws.
The "unfriending" began. Next came the drone friends who collect friends and never post- unfriended!. Then an artist who claimed to paint in squid ink and posted his every movement and finally Facebook changed it's privacy settings. The reality of all this interconnecting is like looking at table with too many coats of polyurethane- the wood is there but you can't feel it.
In the old days you could look someone in the eye and decide: friend or foe. You could size a person up as okay or a big waste of time. In the old days painters went to the Cedar Tavern to talk and drink. Today we post digital images, participate in a flurry of posted comments in the lambent glow of our laptops.