Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

August 22nd, 2008

My Personal Art Crisis

Posted by christina in Web Columns

I haven’t posted in 5 months. At the last posting, I told you that I was involved in some personal artsy projects that were taking me away from my writing. This is true, but not a full disclosure.

We had some much-deferred maintenance in our backyard and pool area that couldn’t be deferred anymore. Coordinating contractors and pitching in to do much of the work ourselves was indeed time consuming. But this excuse was just a shield to hide behind while I pondered a personal art crisis that blind-sided me in February. Here is a column I wrote then and never posted due to my unresolved feelings. Next time, I will tell you how I came to a resolution over the past five months…

(Written February 29, 2008)
I’m having a personal art crisis. It is multifaceted. I am doubting the validity of commercial art, and I am doubting the validity of my own art. Both doubts go directly against the beliefs I espouse daily as a columnist, as a mother, and as a teacher. Both doubts stem from a need to put art into my house for the purposes of design.

In my perfect world, art and I would always find each other across a crowded room in the most unexpected of places. I reject art that is purchased to be an accessory in the grand scheme of interior design. This is in part because I think loving a piece is a component of what makes art “art.” How can you love something that you chose simply because it was the right shape/size/color to fit into a specific place in the home? I need more than pragmatism to start a relationship.

We needed a sculptural element on the sideboard in the dining room. We didn’t have one before, but suddenly, I felt it was the key to the whole room. The piece needed to fit in thematically and aesthetically to the style of the room, and be just the right height and depth. I expected that we would embark on a lengthy search to find the perfect piece.

One afternoon, I was killing time at Home Goods while my daughter did a gymnastics class. Less than ten feet inside the door was displayed a large, thin-profile, hand-painted pitcher with very folksy looking instruments and music notes set against a city skyline. Funky and colorful, it suited my taste in art perfectly. There were actually two such pitchers, and the price was right, so I put them in my cart and marveled at my good fortune. They were functional pitchers with a twist, fulfilling all the needs of my sculptural quest.

But as I walked through the store, I started to doubt the pitchers. I had found them too easily. I had found them at Home Goods. Could they be considered art? The price tag obscured the label showing where they were made. What if they were mass-produced in China? Were they still art?

I examined them several times before deciding to buy them. Feeling quite a bit conflicted, I took them home anyway. At home, they suited the space on the sideboard as well as I’d hoped, but their unspectacular pedigree kept haunting me. It wasn’t hard to determine why I felt unsure about them. They were folk-art style that I wished I had found at a street fair in North Carolina, but instead they were found at a large retailer. When I peeled up the price tag, it verified that they were both hand-painted and from China. Could I accept them as art with such a mundane provenance? I espouse engaging the creative force in everyday life, and here I had been blindsided by an art connection in an unlikely place. But I was rejecting it because it wasn’t special enough. I am a hypocrite and a snob. Not a good realization.

Around the same time, I decided we needed two large canvases in the home to fulfill spatial requirements in two different rooms. Cost was prohibitive for us to purchase large works by another artist. Buying large art from a retailer would cause the same problems for me that the Home Goods purchase caused. I decided the art would need to be created within the family.

I bought the blank canvases and I’ve been staring at them for weeks. My mind sees the images I want on them, but I am certain that whatever I paint or draw, or ask someone else in the family to paint or draw, won’t be “good enough” for such a large art statement. I tell people constantly to make their own art, and my home has plenty of family-crafted art, but this time, I am feeling paralyzed by the idea.

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