How Valuable is Art?

pauper's crowns

I just bought my first painting ever. Does this mean that I am now officially an adult? Oh no! Okay, I guess that is not such a bad thing most days. This may sound weird, but as I have gotten older, I have developed a greater ability to have healthy relationships with art. This may at first seem counter intuitive because art is often defined by aesthetic descriptors, however, I think my appreciation for art has something to do with my growth into a less superficial and more intentional person. Here, let me explain…

I used to think that buying art was a waste of money. More than that, I didn’t even like spending time looking at art as a kid. Do you know a guaranteed way to make a kid bored and cranky, and on the edge of temper tantrum territory? Take him or her to a museum. Adults think that kids will love this activity (because some adults love it). But, I promise you they will not. Do you remember when you were a kid? Did you like going to museums? No, you did not. You wanted to build pillow forts and eat pizza for breakfast and watch television all day long.

So, some people grow out of this immature attraction to instant-gratification-pop-culture-consumerist-stuff much earlier than I did. I am almost 30 (I know, cool huh?!) and I honestly don’t think that I cared two licks about art until sometime within the past few years. The critical force to changing my mind about the value of art was most likely peer pressure.

I have been very lucky to have some friends who are artistic savants. One of them, I had the great fortune to live with for a few years and she would paint and create art in our living room. I became habituated to this and it seemed like the most normal thing in the world to have a huge canvas hanging out in our communal space or art supplies scattered across the available surfaces. Funny how our appreciation for the beauty of an experience often peaks at the beginning and end!

My brother bought a large painting from this roommate of mine when he had come for a visit while she was putting the finishing touches on the canvas. The price tag for that painting was not an insignificant amount of money and so it gave me pause to really examine the value that he saw in it. It also made me reflect upon the creative process that my roommate had undertaken. I had seen her change the canvas design multiple times as the inspiration struck and I realized that there was more that went into this piece than just a linear beginning, middle, and end. The relationship that we have with an object is what makes it magical and that painting and I had history! I am learning, also, that a piece of art gains meaning from two key relationships. The artist does her best to share an expression of feeling or meaning through a piece and then the viewer, as a consumer of art, imbues his own meaning as well.

Ultimately, I found myself relieved that this beautiful painting had found a home with my brother and that I would be able to see it when I visited him. I had grown fond of it sitting on the easel in our living room and without knowing it, now I found myself really sad to see it go. It represented for me more than the colors and designs, it was one of the only times that I have had such a voyeuristic look into the beauty of another person’s creative journey.

When exactly did I learn to appreciate art? The turning point for me was when I realized that the value I placed on art should be proportional not to the price tag or even the appearance, necessarily. Art is important because of the way it makes us feel. I had a relationship with that painting that my roommate had created. The painting that I have just now purchased invoked a special feeling in me as well. So, back to my newest possession…It is a creamy colored canvas, maybe 16” 16” with a flock of green and orange turban squash. Nothing else. I think I am in love. You see my interest in wholesome food and farming combined with my newfound love for personal expression and the emotional significance of positive environments has left me swooning for this piece. One more idea to leave you with:

“Our thought shapes the spaces we inhabit, and our spaces return the favor.” -Steven Johnson, from his book: “Where Good Ideas Come From”

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