I Blame Science

Seriously, it's all science's fault!

Let’s be honest, nothing truly prepares you for that first job. If you’re anything like me, you dive in head first and learn as you go.

When I started my consulting company, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, because I had been working in the art world for a number of years before going out on my own. When I landed my first corporate client, I had no fear, no hesitation, no “OMG what have I gotten myself into” moments.

What could go wrong -- EVERYTHING!

When I tell you it couldn’t have gone worse, I mean it couldn’t have gone worse. Perhaps if the secretary pool had pitchforks readily available, it could’ve been worse. And before you think I’m just being dramatic, let me explain what actually happened. This was a BIG project, it covered 3 floors and over 50 works of art. I worked for months with both the company’s interior designers and Vice President of Facilities. So when installation day finally arrived, my only real concerns were the works wouldn’t all show up or we’d break something. God I wish we had just broken something!

The day started out normal.

The crew began working on the lower floors, slowly making their way up to the executive level. The crew had maybe installed a total of 3 works on the executive floor when we began hearing rumbles. Unlike most revolutions throughout history, ours began silently through email and group chat. 

It started with an executive assistant who became visibly upset when a painting was installed on the wall in front of her cubicle. She felt the work was offensive and refused to work across from it. Before I could say or do anything, we noticed a small group of female employees making their way toward us. And that’s when demands for all the work to come down started.

Men At Work No. 6, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

My massive mistake!

I was at a complete loss. It’s not like we didn’t get approval for all the work. It had been seen by a number of people and not a single one expressed a problem with it… So what had I missed? Looking back, I now realize that everyone who approved of the collection were either males or had been in the oil industry for years. For them, the works conjured up memories of time spent in the oil fields. They focused on the figures sun-burnt skin, the details of the machinery, and the equipment, dirt, and sweat-drenched clothing.

No one, including myself, had considered what the larger audience would think about the collection.

Men At Work No. 2, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)
Men At Work No. 9, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

For the female employees and those new to the industry, the works offered no emotional connection. Rather, they served only to reinforce the “good ol’ boy” mentality of the industry. And highlighted the disconnect between themselves and those they reported too.  What seemed like a perfect marriage between artwork and company turned out to be anything but.

I’ve always known artwork had the ability to stir strong feelings within all of us. And each and every one of those feelings are valid.But I have to admit: just how strong was somewhat surprising.

Ultimately, we ended up removing all the offending works and brought in works that spoke to everyone. At the time, I felt like a massive failure—after all, I was the “art professional”. Looking back on this experience, as painful as it was, I realize now it planted the seed for the philosophy behind Mona Loves Gustav.