June 10, 2007

Pine Lake Bench
oil on canvas
16" x 20"

To Value Art is To Live With It

Once I've finished a painting, it sometimes seems to sit there asking to be seen by someone other than me. After I've shown what I've done to my husband (who usually can suggest a few improvements) and my mother (who marvels at everything she sees), I naturally look for ways for others to enjoy the work.

The audience, after all, is the reason to paint, isn't it? I'm not the only artist who wrestles with how to get their paintings into the public eye and, ideally, into the marketplace. If someone will buy the work, we reason, it must have been worth painting.

Unfortunately, if the painting isn't gobbled up by an eager collector, some will conclude that it must not have been worth the effort to begin with. If they are prolific painters, they may resent the growing body of work that sits stacked in a dark corner, and, in extreme cases, stop making new art. Some actually avoid the discomfort of unsold work by burning their paintings in huge purpose-built bonfires. (Note: I almost burned the canvas that "Pine Lake Bench" above was painted on -- what a waste!)

As I am one of those painters who often makes several paintings in a week, I've also had to reckon with the disposition of an accumulating stack of painted canvas. In part, this blog is one way of solving the problem. If you're reading this, you've probably seen the image of one of my paintings I've posted alongside. If so, I've perhaps accomplished part of my aim -- to serve the impulse that inspired me to paint in the first place. If not, there must have been some other value to the work than that you behold it!

In the past week, I've been one of millions who view the work of other artists online. For the most part I've spent less than 30 seconds looking at any given image. Sadly, I can hardly call this activity art "appreciation." The valuing of art (or anything else for that matter!) requires more than a quick glance (or even the recommendation of an "expert")-- true appreciation takes a committed relationship, more like a marriage, than a cheap thrill or one-night stand.

For example, a painting I bought in Vieques several years ago cost me $1400. That's the price for which the artist, Alec Moseley, had decided he'd be willing to let it go for, the one that assured him his efforts would be valued. Because I'd fallen in love with his image of a sunny Vieques hillside, I was willing to pay the price to bring it home forever.

I'm so glad I did -- it's been worth every cent! I find something to enjoy about it every time I look at it, often something I haven't seen before. And, each time I look at Alec's work, I get a great energetic hit of his great passion for painting -- all of this without having to travel to Puerto Rico.

I receive something from every piece of art, including my own, that I sit with over time. From the beauty of the colors and composition to the pleasure of seeing through the painting into another time and place, I'm find I'm actually quite content to enjoy my paintings for as long they are with me. Then, when someone else falls in love and commits to, i.e. pays for, a live-in relationship with it, I'm really ready to let it go to a new home, where it will be cherished by others in months and years to come.

Art dealers often let prospective buyers take a painting home on approval. While not always practical, when it is, it's a great way to take the step of courting a new piece of art before making a purchase. In that spirit, if you see an image ofthat you're drawn to, I'd be glad to make arrangements with you to bring one of my paintings into your home. Just let me know by replying to this post. If you're not ready for a deeper commitment (yet), please feel free to flirt with whatever catches your eye in the moment!

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