It's the day before Thanksgiving, and Oakland artist Sean Fletcher needs to buy birthday and Christmas presents for his six-year-old daughter and his wife. But first he must get permission from a man he barely knew just a year earlier.
"Lucy's birthday is tomorrow, and then Isabel's birthday is the 30th, and then, of course, we have the holidays coming up," Fletcher explains over the phone.
"She really wants to go to a ballet," the 36-year-old father says of his daughter. "I thought about taking some of her school friends with her to the ballet, but I don't know what that would cost."
"The ballet seems like a pretty expensive proposition," counters Allen Spore, the man who controls the family's money. "Is it something she really wants to do?"
"Oh, yeah," Fletcher responds. "She's into her ballet right now; ballet's a big deal."
The conversation turns to Fletcher's wife, Isabel Reichert. "What she said she wanted to do is" Fletcher pauses, then tries again. "We haven't had a date. She'd like to go to dinner."
"A date would be fun," Spore agrees. "A dinner?"
"Yeah, a dinner."
"What do you want to budget for the dinner?"
"If I can get dinner and a movie, I'll go for it," Fletcher hints hopefully.
"That can be done for $75, $100?"
"That's cool. ... Done, approved," Spore pronounces.
"What about Christmas?" Fletcher asks.
"Umm," Spore ponders. "Well, if we did another $200 on that, would that cover everything?"
"I think so," the artist says.
Satisfied, Fletcher hangs up. But he's not finished. Armed with his gift budget, he still needs to inform fourteen other strangers and various acquaintances who know the intimate details of his everyday life, down to where he buys his condoms and how much they cost. That was a recent disclosure on his unusual company's quarterly report.
They say life imitates art. Fletcher and Reichert have turned their entire lives into art by, of all things, going corporate. A little more than a year ago, the husband-and-wife conceptual art team formed Death & Taxes Inc., a genuine corporate entity with its own bylaws and a board of directors consisting of acquaintances from the art and business worlds. The board oversees management's expenses that is, Fletcher's and Reichert's household costs and makes sure they don't exceed their modest means, very little of which comes from their art. Both have day jobs: She teaches art at UC Santa Cruz, and he's a financial planner.
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