The professor's warm eyes crinkled at the corners. He was used to such exuberance, at least in her. Gently he replied,
"And that, my dear, is when you develop a storage problem."
It's easy to get caught up in the romantic notions of art, the idea aspect of it. But we tend to forget that art is also an object, a thing, with all the requisite problems that entails. It has dimensions, it has weight, and yes, indeed, it can gather dust. It's great to dream big artistic dreams, but taking care of big paintings, and many of them at that, is quite another matter.
In the 1990s, when I was a student and then a professional artist, there was a craze where it seemed every non-profit and charitable foundation was looking for art to auction for worthwhile causes. I know that some artists really found it to be an affront to be asked to donate one of their works, either receiving no compensation if it sold, or a tiny percentage of the sale. I saw it as a golden opportunity to space clear my studio area, to move out all the odds and ends, and do something generous in the process. Auctions and donations really kept the creativity channel clear, so to speak, because my old work never really overstayed its welcome.
Casual art venues were also more prevalent then. The hipster coffee shop seemed to be on every street corner, and the owners and customers were craving exotic artwork almost as much as the latest latte. Although at one time, I was represented by three galleries in my state, it was the coffee shop that really gave me a tangible sense that all of my work mattered. Although I had one sell-out show, most of the time I would wind up with 'left-overs', those paintings that remained after the majority of the series had sold. These works may have been quieter, or more experimental, or might not have been in keeping with my typical style. These were the ones eventually scented with espresso on funky brick walls. It was fun to watch people who had never even attended an art event fall in love with a piece of art...it was fun for me, fun for so many of us in those days. Praise was wonderful, publicity was great, and of course, money was needed, but there was nothing like having a nearly empty studio because almost everything had found a home. Now, that was a high.
|Picture of Alice Neel in her studio.|
But like almost everything in life, things have changed. Galleries, feeling cut out of the financial loop, started to clamp down on their represented artists engaging in such practices. The coffee shop went corporate, with tastefully mass-produced prints on their walls, and auctions once again returned annually only to the plush province of the stately museums.
I am thrilled that out of the hundreds of paintings I have made, only a couple of medium-sized stacks of canvas and a few shoe boxes filled with smaller works under my bed remain. But this is about the limit that my small cottage home will contain, and I refuse to succumb to the solution of the storage unit. Not wanting to found buried under an avalanche of canvas, and yet still wanting to create has indeed influenced my present work-style. Except for the rare large panel, something I may obsess over for years, most of my work has shrunk radically in size, while expanding in thoughtfulness and detail. Where once I was captivated by art the size of billboards, now I realize that most often, my gems must be small.
This work, by legendary Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer, is only 9" x 8". I find it fascinating how many of his works are so detailed and yet so small, and wonder if he, too, dealt with similar problems.
|'The LaceMaker', Johannes Vermeer, 1669|