Tag Archives: sales

When Art is Not for Sale

intolerance and materialism

“Intolerance and Materialism” Acrylic and Ink on Canvas, DS

Recently my art was exhibited in a public alternative space.  It went mostly ignored until the last day of the show.  When I was taking down the paintings and carrying them out to be packed for transport, someone brought out the next one for me.  Someone insisted they take my picture in front of them. Four people grabbed my arm and attention and introduced themselves and asked if the art was for sale.  They seemed to like it without really looking at what it was.

As an introvert in a hurry to meet someone a few kilometres away, I said to the first: “I can carry them.” To the second, who wanted me to pose here and there and not where I wanted to, I blurted: “I am in a rush.” The last group, I fear, saw that I was very non-artist-like.  I said, nice to meet you, and quickly left, extricating myself from their kindly grip.

The display was installed to promote thinking and awakening to new ways to consider the Christmas story. The ideas visually presented were not heresy but they were alternative like imagining what Mary and Jesus would look like in today’s culture.  I dreamed one night that angels had meetings to discuss how they might help us with our issues.

The everyday person, educated but not in art, has probably been to European galleries exhibiting traditional, historical paintings.  The new, the avant-garde for them, is maybe Van Gogh or Picasso in extreme.  Perhaps anything contemporary does not register on their consciousness as art.  After all, as a non-musician uneducated in music appreciation, classical music has only appealed to me in the past decade.  My rhythms flow in the era of disco and ballad.  After all, I am a narrative painter.

We need more shows of art that is not for sale: art that can challenge our current ways of thinking and being in a changing world.  Lately most shows that offer art, not-for-sale, are self-funded by the increasingly silenced artist.  The arts used to be totally supported by the church.  Patrons paid artists to paint for the church.

Art reflects life. The way a society supports the arts reveals its inner health and outer vibrancy.  Perhaps we need venues for viewing and circles for discussion.  I like that ad I think it is for Levi’s jeans where everyone of many cultures just dance together to the great music.  Art is like that.  Art for art sake, not sale.

“Art Makes Us” Vancouver Art Gallery

http://vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/upcoming_exhibitions.html

Art Can Imitate Life

InstallviewHolyCups

Installation View “Holy Cups” DS

At some point during the week between Christmas and New Year I find myself reviewing the year and setting priorities.  Both the studio and the prayer are quiet, sporadic, ad hoc, and unfocused.  Self care is taking its turn, finally.

Since the summer, shredding papers has been my contemplative activity.  Many of those papers are articles kept for writing essays, the essays themselves, and images for collage. This morning I came across one of my papers about the life of faith as an artist.  A quote from philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorffe expresses both the temptation of an artist and, in my case, how faith and art practices co-exist so well:

The art lover, like the mystic, turns away from ordinary concerns to be caught up in the bliss of contemplation… art takes over the function of this worldly salvation, no matter how this may be interpreted.  It provides a salvation from the routines of everyday life… Picasso expresses [about art]: “I love it as the only end of my life.”… Thus works of art become surrogate gods, taking the place of God the Creator; aesthetic contemplation takes the place of religious adoration…  “Art in Action”

Choices must be made.  In the life of faith, art making serves God, not money.  The unpopular image is enfleshed when one knows it will not be well received.  One does not build a career so much as follow Jesus on an art journey that imitates real life.

A table painted with checkerboard circle and vines, a round glass mirror, with hand-built pottery cups with holes around the edge and butterfly handles, and a little brown basket.  Is there any meaning here?  One could never drink from such cups with rows of holes.  Even so I am impressed to display them as some kind of worship.  There is no doubt that these items in their hand-made imperfect form are no competitor for the worship on offer.  It seems to me that God is pleased with this offering of my talents, such as they are.  Will it be another year of creating work that does not sell?

Paradox: Self-Promotion and Humility

If artists do not promote themselves no one else will. In fact no one else will even know that his or her work exists. Yet for a follower of Jesus, the example is humility, and oh yes, Jesus always promoted himself. What? Or did he?

Jesus often told people who he was and why he had come. He taught people about his Father. In fact his main focus was on the Father’s love for people.

Jesus did not promote himself for selfish reasons. I have to admit that Jesus revealed whom he was in ways that made him unpopular. Where am I going with this? I am not sure.

As an artist I need to sell my work. My work is often not easily accessible and needs to be explained. To explain I need a platform. To get a platform I need to promote myself and my work.

I find myself wondering what Jesus would have been like in his decade or so of working in the carpenter shop. I know the workmanship would have been superb. His dealing would have been honest. The work would have been on time and under budget. But, how would he make sales?

Perhaps the world as he knew it then has changed dramatically. (He continues to know it as he is still with us through his resurrection.) In the village, there may have been a carpenter’s guild. People would have known him and his work well because of word of mouth and the reputation of Joseph’s work. The work probably came to him. Jesus, I imagine, would have worked humbly without promoting his work or himself. In fact, his work, by its nature may have been self-effacing, yet he is the Creator of the whole world.

As a carpenter in a village he would have created functional items from time-tested designs. He did not work then as a wood artist or sculptor. What is the difference between making functional items and creating original work that is experimental, ephemeral, conceptual, thought provoking or just plain beautiful? I do not know the answer.

My work is more like the latter. In a tough economy people buy what they need to function in daily life: plates, cups, and bowls. Their focus is on survival. In these days of fake news, and especially real news, paying the bills is paramount.

Galleries suffer in down times yet art is deep and creative in a culture under duress. I think of the Dada movement of WWII. Art was made that deliberately made no sense – and it helped the artists to keep their sanity when their work was declared an affront to the state and they were deported or left.

Actually it was an affront to the state. That is why it was created. The state had gone wild. Artists had the courage to reflect this.

Anyway, that art did not sell then but now is literally worth millions. The German artist Kurt Schwitters, known as the father of modern collage, created small collages out of whatever crossed his path as he lived in a prisoner of war camp in Scotland. Work that would now be worth millions was thrown in the garbage by the guards. I saw a small collage he made one year in the Vancouver Art Gallery, 8 x 10, browned with age, bits of ordinary paper. I ask, how could this be worth millions?

It brings me back to the big questions, what is art, what is the artist, who is the viewer, what makes someone buy art? Is art worth dying for? I ask here for your answers, tell me.

 

LifeStrife

“Life/Strife” Mixed Media Collage DS