So Art walks into a bar, and before he can even order an overpriced cocktail with his paint-drizzled hand, he snatches a glimpse of Commerce over in the corner, and Commerce is totally macking on Art’s bitch. Without so much as a moment of Artist’s Way meditation, Art takes that filthy hand of his and slaps it across Commerce’s jowled mug. And, boom, there’s a scene. One that ends with a close-up fade of Art and Commerce locked in a heated kiss while the bitch falls to the floor.

Tonight, I’m that bitch.

“Would you like to join me for yet another superfluous evening of standing near art in a warehouse while drinking?” I make the big sell to Karen, a sometimes commercial artist who is no stranger to body paint.

“Yes,” she drips back. “That sounds nice.”

The art world – meaning people with messy hair at the Peacock Room – has been buzzing its flier’d promotional buzz all week about the second coming of a Warholian Factory, some great antidote to the bar-bound creative stasis maligning the subversive intentions of a burgeoning counterculture. “Bay Two,” they and their leaflets quietly chanted, as if once this Wednesday night happened the plates would shift and crack, revealing an endless supply of paints, palettes and pecuniary delights.

All I know is that I’m standing outside the sales office for the behemoth (if momentarily on recess) Mills Park mixed-use nightmare and waiting to pay $7 to, uh, stand somewhere. Now, I’m no art person, but isn’t this the scene in Basquiat where the giant wave crashes over my bedsit heroin overdose, causing art to die?

Event organizer and longtime cultural dallier Kat Quast greets me at the door with a look that says, “Yes, I know who you are, and, no, you’re not getting in free,” which is fine, but the whole “drinks are in the back” nudge and “there’s a big screen with projections on it” wink may be a step too far. I can do art, thank you.

“Oooh look, multimedia!” Karen blips.

“Or, we’re watching television in public.”

The giant room is alive with the muted clinks of jewelry against plastic cups of liquor soundtracking a less-than-stellar manifestation of a social galaxy spin. Art, or so they call it, lines the walls next to tiny price placards. Just inside the periphery are your lesser-thans traveling a wide circumference, your almost-theres in a tighter spin, and your upper crust populating the center, as far away from the art as possible. Having garnered our drinks for yet another $7 each, Karen and I head straight for the creamy, crusty center.

“OK, if we just stay here, we’re the art,” I educate Karen. “Just look pretty.”

In the corner, a skinny man and an acoustic guitar conjure Nickelback, and the whole thing starts to look as ridiculous as it actually is. Terry Hummell approaches with a regal curtsy, Patty Sheehan hates me, Say It Loud’s Julio Lima frowns while wearing eyeglasses that wrap around the top of his head, and Mary Frances Emmons of the Sentinel recaps that one time we made out downtown and I got in big trouble with my husband for writing about it. We’re not very good art.

That’s not to say there isn’t some very good art here. The ubiquitous Andrew Spear, who even sketched me once, is here with more sketches and more hair than should be allowed on one man’s head. Doug Rhodehamel is here with more hair, a bit of crazy and some sort of installation I’ve yet to see. Rick Jones is here taking my drink from me. And some of the paintings on the wall would qualify as pensive reflections on spinal circuitry and the end of the world. It’s just that they’re the same pensive reflections that seem to be at all of these events; a sort of Brat Pack recasting of a supermarket, one without air conditioning. Is this the future?

“You’re from the Sentinel, right?” Mills Park developer Jim Pelloni – or rather, Commerce -– bends my wilting ear.

“Um, no,” I fume some booze into his face. “Better, the Weekly.

“Well, what we’re trying to do here is infuse this sense of artistic innovation into the construction of Mills Park,” he goes on.

“But this is just a temporary sales office, right?” I cock a brow. “You’re going to tear it down, right?”

“Yes, but it will be the last thing we tear down.”

There is no future. These awkward moments have short shelf lives, so while Karen does her “I’m going to flirt with Andrew Spear as a test to see whether I can prove he is gay or not; you should probably walk around” thing, I decide that maybe she’s right. Maybe Andrew isn’t gay, and perhaps it would be better to be closer to the art and farther from the commerce.

But as I’m perusing the walls, out of my tax bracket, for prices below $2,000, I feel something crackle beneath my feet and then notice everybody staring at me with faces of horror. I just killed art! Actually, I’ve tripped over Rhodehamel’s poorly placed Ivory-soap tribute to Stonehenge (“Soaphenge!”), and am now wearing a bit of time – albeit very clean time – on my shoe. (“I didn’t do it!” “It’s on your shoe!” etc.) Again, no future.

Defeated, I do a little more staring and a little less walking, trying to squint at images and make them somehow stir my soul in the way I thought art exhibits were supposed to. What I wouldn’t give for a pissed-on can of soup and a giant Mylar balloon.

“Oh my God,” a pile of female inebriation stumbles into me, mouth agape. “Look at your hair! It’s soooooo white! How’d you get it …”

Easy. Just slap a little art on one side, a little commerce on the other, and then kill it. This bitch is dead.

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