Masked Men Raid SF Art Opening

A funny thing happened on the way to the Isabel Samaras art show Saturday night, May 9, 2009.

A group of people wearing brown bags over their heads came streaming through her show at the Shooting Gallery followed by a woman carrying a small digital video camera.

They were headed next door to White Walls where there was another art opening happening upstairs at the newly relocated Gallery Three.

I had already checked out the show by artist Dustin Lee Olson called, “Fantastic in the Sack” a collection of oil paintings featuring naked women in various poses, each wearing a brown bag over their head.  Oh yeah, there was one of a bagged sheep too.

So when I saw the first person wearing a bag come strolling through the crowd downstairs, I naturally figured it was Olson arriving late to his show.  Then when multiple people showed up I figured he had an entourage for support.

Well, that may not have been exactly right.

About 30 minutes later, the guy with the best bag design came up to me seeing my big camera and reporter notepad out, and asked in a paranoid pitch, “So, what’s going on?  Are you with them?  Who are they?”

I was a bit confused and a little cautious myself that I was about to be the butt of a gag (which I still may be) and I tried to wrap my head around the situation.

According to this guy who claimed to be the artist (whom I believed solely on the basis of his superior bag design), he was being f-ed with by this band of bagged men and their documentarian for what seemed to be flattery, criticism, opportunism, or a mixture of the three.

Olson asked me to try to get to the bottom of it since none of the bags would talk to him.

Well, I spent the rest of my time at the gallery trying to sort out what was going on, talking first to the lady with the camera who told me she was just standing outside and saw people with bags on their heads come from all directions and the ethos told her to document the event.  Right.

Then I got a hold of one of the Bag Heads who claimed to be Morgan Moeller-Margerin. He said is was a fan of Olson’s work who thought “there would be more people with bags on their heads” at the show.  Okay…

I repeatedly asked Olson if he was being serious with me fearing that I was actually the one being “punked” with this article being the punchline.  He insisted that he didn’t know what was going on and that I wasn’t to trust what the other bags were saying.

However, when I was back home looking through my photos, it was clear that the Bags all arrived together with Olson leading the way.

I put on my investigative journalism hat and I discovered that Moeller-Margerin and Olson are Facebook buddies, with each person having fewer than 100 friends.  It says to me that they really do know each other and are trying to pull the whool over my eyes.

I now feel just as confused as Olson sounded, but as local art consultant Alan Bamberger said Saturday night when I explained what was going on, “It’s better to have someone do something, than nothing.” 

He was saying that Olson should be flattered to be goofed on, but now I’m thinking that advice is just as good for me.

Bamberger aptly summed the whole thing up saying, “That’s what makes the art world great, all the whacky stuff.”

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