“I don’t care if I sell my work. I just give it away…”
Overhearing this statement is like listening to the apartment below me being remodeled, on a Saturday morning, to accompany my slight second-hand cigarette smoke induced headache. I am, at this moment, enjoying the whir of the circular saw. The day is heating up and I ponder the “open house” art experience.
Is it about selling? Or, broadening the overall experience of art? Are people more interested in being entertained than looking at art? Does looking at art have to be a sacred, distraction-free, reverential moment? And, most importantly, why didn’t anyone buy my work?
This doesn’t make me insecure. I’m not the kind of person to take disappointment personally – I know what I am doing. But, it is a disappointment. All open houses/studios are draining: the standing around, looking at your work, talking about your work, preparation and then – its over. The wine stained plastic cups and melted bags of ice are thrown away. Lingering drunk-er guests gradually drift outside and you can (finally) go home.
The time and money involved in preparing for these events is an investment. You frame your work, clean the studio, hang everything just so, etc. With any luck, the weather is good and there is a NATO protest downtown to keep people out and about in the neighborhood.
The trouble is, you just don’t know. You can’t control what happens next. All you can do is prepare and show up.
Of all the hallways I have exhibited in over the years, from Around the Coyote to the Cornelia Arts Building, I can’t say I have a favorite. It’s really hard to make a sale in a hallway. Maybe its the feng shui – all the energy is moving away – but I think there is a sense of security and intimacy that comes from being in a person’s studio space as opposed to viewing work in a tent, hallway or other impermanent space.
That said, just because I didn’t sell any work in the hallway doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. In fact, the statement overheard above was made by a gentlemen who had just sold some work in the very same hallway (granted, at the other end of the hallway, a cul-de-sac, where energy had flowed from the main door, if you believe in that sort of thing).
In case you are interested, Dear Reader, I do care if I sell my work. I am not cavalier or nonchalant about that. Selling work buys me time to paint. Sure, I want people to see and enjoy my work – its satisfying when people appreciate and/or are moved by something I’ve created. But, in the end it’s not about that – it’s not even about the finished work. For me, the “point of it all” is being able to continue making work (i.e. painting).
This is my interesting conundrum: a lot of the work that I have created is driven by the “demand” of the art patron. Don’t get me wrong, I paint the subject matter that is of interest to me. The everyday experience is as important to see in art as naked women on clam shells, color fields and paint splatter. To elevate our daily lives, to connect people through a shared experience, to inspire contemplation, etc – that is what I (underneath my cold, reticent exterior) care about. But, if I make work to sell, to buy time to paint, and work doesn’t sell – well, that kinda sucks.
I’ll be sitting out the next open house but at least I have an apartment full of great paintings. Saws, jackhammers and nail guns be damned.