“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

8.09.2008

But is it Art?


This drawing is my most-wanted. I've had more people want this piece than anything else I've ever done. No one actually wants to pay for it though. It's big & it's framed & that adds to the cost, but I don't know if that's the reason it remains so unsold but oh-so-wanted or not. I've had a long time & many occasions to think about this. People who can afford this have wanted to borrow it, to display it with other works in their homes. After all, they tell me, it's just sitting here, it's not going anywhere, I won't miss it, why shouldn't I let them enjoy it for a while? They tell me that I never know who will see it if it's out there - in their house, they mean - someone who may actually want it enough to buy it. I've thought about that, also. They're not wrong. It is just sitting here, not being seen. There's no real place to show it here in this town. Maybe someone will see it in their home & decide they can't live without it. Maybe it's the thing to do, I tell myself. But I admit that this bothers me - that it somewhat hurts my feelings. Well, it used to hurt my feelings - I've grown tougher over the years & more confident - but it does still bother me. What is the reason? I wonder. The answer, I think, is that they don't consider me a real artist. I know, I know, this is a problem I myself have, but this is part of the reason why. Part of the scared girl's excuse for being scared.

But perhaps it's not personal. Perhaps it's not just me. I have a friend who has wanted to purchase one of Robert's wonderful photographs for several years, but is aghast at the prices he charges. What, she says? $400 for that little print? No way, she says. But spending $400 for a new purse is something she does without blinking, without quibbling, willingly - several times a year. I don't know what this means. I don't know what to make of it, but I have a theory.

Art is scary. Especially new art. Undiscovered art. Art that hasn't yet been declared art by museums or collectors or critics or time. (Apologies to Robert, to whom this does not apply, who has photographs in museums, galleries, private collections.) To say to the world "Look! I think this is wonderful - I think this is art - I'm willing to spend actual money on it" is scary. It puts someone out on a artistic limb. After all, they're probably thinking, what do I know about art? Nothing. So I will be safe. Once someone else says it's good, says it's worthy, then I'll know - I will trust their opinion, not my feelings. So they buy a purse from a department store - a purse like thousands of other purses in thousands of other department stores - a purse that someone somewhere has deemed in, has deemed cool for this season. Feelings of insecurity don't arise with the purchase of this purse.

I could be wrong. I don't know. I think that maybe I'm analyzing this too much, that maybe people don't buy a piece because they just don't like it, but then I remember that they want to borrow it, want to display it. They just don't want to pay for it.

19 comments:

  1. I analyze things all the time :)

    That would bother me too! It's like saying it isn't worth what you are asking for. My art teacher from high school gave me some good advice about pricing art. He said you should ask yourself how much money it would take to replace the pain you feel from letting it go. I like what he said.

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  2. I think part of the problem here is a cultural one. In the West, at least, there's this idea that art is a personal calling. Well, yes, it is. But with that comes an implication that it shouldn't really be tarnished with something as ordinary and grubby as MONEY.

    Some people are called to be brain-surgeons, but no-one tries to get out of paying THEM.

    I would be upset too. This is your skills on display. And think of the time it took you. And all the courage any artist needs to create a piece and then SHOW it to someone.

    Insist on payment.

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  3. Hello. I wanted to stop by and thank you for visiting my blog the other day.

    I'm enjoying your posts here...It's very interesting (maybe not enlightening, though) to see the priorities people have and then how that changes when money is involved.

    And the differences in social strata play a big part too. I work in a profession where most of our clients never need worry about money in their lives. They buy art because their art consultant tells them who will be the next "big" thing or what is a good investment. Never mind what the art really looks like. Or else it is something to brag about when the cocktail crowd comes along.

    And then, they will still go out and buy the purse, too.

    The livelihood of artists has always been at the mercy of patrons and critics. I just hope that you keep creating because that is your nature and let the right people find you who will appreciate you, because they will. I think true art lovers still exist.

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  4. Valaine, Panther, Tangobaby - Thanks for your comments. I had decided I was whining & being a baby & logged in to delete at least delete the last paragraph of this post. Your comments stopped me. Y'all are right.

    :) Debi

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  5. debi - everyone wants free ice cream, you know?

    Thank you for posting a photo of that painting, for giving us a little taste. I'm sure it's even more delicious in person.

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  6. I'm glad our comments are useful,

    I'd add that sometimes, just sometimes, it's okay not to charge. or not to charge the full whack. Maybe if the piece is being acquired by a charity of some kind. But this can only ever be at your discretion-it's not right of the other folk to expect it.

    My experience is that people usually value things more if they have to pay for them.

    My own personal gripe is people who come to poetry readings (I'm a poet), applaud, etc. etc-and don't buy a copy of the book. It's not like they can't. These are usually people who are comfortably off financially, spend THOUSANDS on expensive holidays, furniture, etc. etc.

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  7. She's behind the curve on prices. Better make it three purses now.

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  8. Robert - I KNOW! :)

    Breda - I blame the government. :)

    Panther - I'm in the photography business, and people who will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding cake or a dress or a rented limo see no reason why they should have to actually pay a photographer for wedding photos.
    I CANNOT count the times when I've stood at the counter dealing with a bride in tears - she having decided that Uncle Joe could take the pictures (or her cousin, the art student) & then ending up with terrible stuff, wanting to know if we can fix them? Usually we can't.

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  9. Priorities, honey...priorities. The purse is something to show off NOW...to everyone. Look world, I can afford to carry this. Art is different. Unless you're a name, they don't want to pay for it. You should try to get into an art show, bet you would sell them then. They are fabulous, even if you are the only one who ever sees them...

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  10. Ah...a subject that I too have much to say! Look at all the ready made art people buy; the same image done thousands of times over. Printed and framed in China. The Chinese win as they get the money.
    I'm starting to fill my home with original pieces of art. I pay for them as I know what goes into it. But mostly because I fell in love with the image. Most artists barely break even; I'm preaching to the choir, I know.
    But, back to my home filling up with REAL art. It is starting to feel really good. It is taking on an energy of its own. I love looking at every single work of art. Even better when I know the artist personally.
    Art is an investment; but not the economical one that you think it it. It is an emotional investment in yourself and your surroundings. A positive one. With dividends that go far beyond the price you paid for it and one that never dimishes.

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  11. As a photographer,I know exactly how you are feeling. I once had a client say to me, "Why are you charging this much for a photograph when I could go and get one printed at Wal Mart for 50 cents?" I have never felt so offended. Some people just don't get it. They don't see that they aren't purchasing a piece of photo paper, they are investing in the creative art that is residing on that piece of paper, or canvas, or any other media.
    I guess different people value different things.
    But I must tell you, dear Debi, if I could afford it, I would be investing my hard earned dollars into one of your gorgeous paintings. I so adore your work. My walls are filled with the work of people I love and value, and to have one of your pieces on my wall would be such a treasure.
    You ARE a true artist, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, or make you think otherwise. We creative spirits need to believe wholeheartedly in ourselves as artists if we want others to believe in us too.
    (I'm still in your cheering squad...how bout those pompoms?)

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  12. Everyone loves art, but there are DIFFERENT levels of loving art. Ther is liking something pretty, and there is appreciating the work, talent and substance that goes into it. And a million different places to rest in between. ANd as Sarah says, people choose where to spend their money. Some on shoes, some on cars, some on handbags(or , here in New England, pocketbooks) you can love something and not choose to spend money on it. I think that is why I am forever scrounging ebay for wicked cheap Eileen Fischer outfits! No offense Eileen!

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  13. If I might add my professional two cents and echo many of the sentiments that many have already posted.

    They won't value it unless they pay for it.

    That they are providing you invaluable exposure is just a big crock. While they are providing you with exposure they are also telling their friend that you have lent it for free. This exposure never leads to a sale. If fewer artists wouldn't buy this line, then more artists might make a decent living from their artwork.

    They clearly love the piece, but have not "stepped up to the plate." The best thing that could happen is for you to sell it to someone else.

    It is frequently the people who drive expensive cars and wear expensive clothing that claim they can't afford art. I feel that when you purchase a piece of art you aren't really buying it. You are providing a direct grant to an artist to help them continue making their art. It is like voting for an artists with your pocketbook. In exchange you get something wonderful to hang on your wall.

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  14. Dear Debi,
    I just received a little award and am told I need to pass it on....Guess what! :-)
    Please visit my blog when you get a moment and pick up your prize!
    Hugs and love,
    Cookie

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  15. And to think I worried about posting this!

    Christy - It IS all about priorities, and image. I try to let it not bother me. I'm getting MUCH better! :)

    Paula - I do the same thing. I want original art in my home, and while I'd LOVE to own something old & truly fabulous, that's not going to happen. There's so much terrific contemporary stuff out there that it's okay. I know what makes me happy.

    Jaime - OH!!! The WalMart thing! ARGHHH! I've heard it 1000 times, and it's SO offensive! Thank you for the wonderful compliments re: my work. And PS - I sold a painting yesterday. Always a happy feeling.

    Michelle - You're right, of course. People can spend their money where they want. It's the ones who want to "borrow" art that aggravate me - I understand loving something, but just not having the $$ for it (I am in that situation all the time), but borrowing? Uh-uh. It's like buying a dress to wear for one occasion, and then returning it to the store.

    Sarah - Thanks for the inside scoop. It helps to hear it from someone who does this for a living.
    Much appreciated!

    And Cookie - THANK YOU! I have already picked it up & sent it out!

    :) Love you all, Debi

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  16. wow...first of all let me say that the painting is very you as i see you anyway ...and i love, love colors and the contrasting themes. well contrasting in my mind. my i-was-raised-catholic mind that is.

    secondly i am thrilled with the response you received from posting this beautiful enigmatic piece. everyone has so much to offer in terms of support and experience. it is a testament to your creative work and expressive nature that your reader's so 'get you'.

    i for one have a phobia about choosing art i will love for a lifetime. i so want to be able to see a piece it in my nest and then commit my love to $$. but lack of confidence in my creative path abounds in all areas and explains much about the dirth of art in my home. the garden is so ephemeral that it 'doesn't count 'as art so i plant away. i am way messed up in the is area. i am trying to get better but it is hard.i am not sure i am making one with of sense but oh well...the important thing to know is i am positive i love this piece and i agree it is a huge insult for people to ask to' borrow' it but not pay for it. i mean who does that sort of thing??

    that said i have a similar experience all the time when it comes to people choosing a $100 bottle of wine over therapy. and they say things that seem to indicate they have no idea how i might perceive this. my work as a therapist is by far the expressive art form i have the most confidence in. it is creative and takes a great deal of skill to do well every day and with everyone. so. i understand how this may leave you feeling bad. i think that people do love the piece but have screwed up priorities when they buy that bag instead of your art :)

    i'm going to hit the 'publish comment' button now. i hope my rambling on and on doesn't wig you out or offend.

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  17. Robin - thanks so much. Your rambling doesn't bother me at all. I like it and I ESPECIALLY liked hearing the term "wig out". I haven't heard that in ages - it made me LOL!

    :) Debi

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  18. I think it says a lot about us the buyers. Maybe it is about not attaching value to those things that give our senses pleasure in a private way. The purse could be about showing others that we are ok while the piece of art is about showing ourselves that live is beautiful. I'm sure there is an anthropologist somewhere studying this phenomenon. http://ssl.brookes.ac.uk/anthro-art/index.html

    I recently also came across this site: http://ellieblankfort.com/. Ellie used to be an art dealer and now she works as an artists adviser. Maybe the trick is finding out how to find those who value themselves enough to buy your work.

    And next time if they want to borrow a piece charge them a hefty rental fee :)

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  19. H - I think you're very right. It's so important to all of us, and I include myself in this, to show others we count, possibly by driving a cool car, weraing the right shoes, etc., but I guess to many people that's MORE important than showing ourselves that we count to ourselves. Luckily I'm much less concerned re: my shoes & purse & car. I don't know how I got here, but I'm glad I did.

    Thanks SO MUCH for the links. I plan on checking them out today.

    And the rental fee is a TERRIFIC idea!

    :) Debi

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