Last week love was in the air. Valentines was upon us and for better or worse, most of our attentions drifted to notions of that most beguiling of emotions, love. For many, this holiday smells of greeting card kitsch while others fall willingly and enthusiastically into it’s spell, happy to oblige partners with chocolates, flowers and other little creative tokens with which to say by simple gesture, that I love you.
Whether you are pro valentines or not, the emotion behind the holiday is powerful and affects us all. It touches us at the core of our humanity and resonates across the spectrum of human experience, from the most sacred and hidden spots in our soul to exuberant and joyful, if not outlandish, public outbursts, picture Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa.
A few months ago I re-published an old blog post I had written years ago called “Love at First Sight.” In it, I tie the emotion of love to the act of appreciating art. Whether one is a spectator and enthusiast to even the most seasoned of collectors, I think one would agree that there is truly something special going on when introduced to a new work of art that touches one’s soul.
Love at First Sight
A number of years back a friend of mine wrote a guest essay for a blog I was editing. In it she eloquently portrayed her passion for art as an “appetite for art.” I found this to be an apt metaphor as it speaks to the spiritual and emotional necessity art has in our lives, not unlike how food and water provide physical sustenance to our bodies.
While words may fail by way of explanation where the love of art is concerned, my experience has led me to believe that it all starts with a spark, an intangible gut feeling.
In reference to my modest collection, I can recall the first moment I saw each piece of art I have purchased and the particular sensation/gravitational pull that led me to buy each one. Picture a pair of strangers throwing subtle glances across a crowded room. Their body language hints of a flirtatious dance. Then, as if directed by some outside force, their eyes lock, they connect, and without a word, the chemistry ignites. Love at first sight.
This comparison as love at first art might seem a bit dramatic, but in all honesty, that moment is dramatic, and the feeling it conjures forth surely resonates well into the future for any art enthusiast. This may be true for seeing a work for the first time or revisiting a piece for the hundredth time, perhaps on a museum wall. It is as if one were reconnected to a part of oneself that was missing, that work being the only thing that could have possibly filled a specific void.
I’ll never forget the first time I found love at first sight where art is concerned and made my first major art purchase. It was at Kellie Rae Theiss Gallery in downtown Minneapolis. It was opening night for a group exhibit called “Girls with Guns”. Upon entering I was immediately captivated with a piece I saw across the crowded room. Cue the cliché love story. Our eyes met and while I traversed the room several times feigning interest in the other work that adorned the walls, my interest kept returning to this particular piece, she was a mixed media wood block print on canvas. Within a few minutes I came to realize what my soul had known the second I laid eyes on it. I had to have this work. It was as if it were a part of me that I didn’t know was missing, a soul mate if you will.
The price tag made my palms sweat. I had never purchased anything this expensive before and I certainly wasn’t in a financial position to do so. I spoke with Kellie about the work and due to her generosity and willingness to work with me a payment plan was established. I believe it took me over a year to complete the payments but alas, I was the proud owner of “Below the Belt” by Valerie Wallace.
As time went on and I continued to make art purchases when able, I began to notice that they were transforming into something greater than individual works of art – they had developed into a collection. And as a collection, each piece has grown in its individual meaning by how it plays off of the other works that surround it. They form a sort of evolving narrative or visual landscape of myself. As my tastes change and grow, so to does the collection, as it morphs to adequately portray who or where I am at any given moment. In a sense this ever-changing landscape forms a mirror of my soul, and isn’t that what a soul mate does, soul mates being an ever-present reminder of each other’s being-ness.
Over the years my preconceptions of what I like and what represents me in the work of others has changed and evolved. In many cases I have been drawn to work that has challenged and broadened my worldview. And again, isn’t that what soul mates are for? Whereas I used to be drawn primarily to work that excited my visual senses, my tastes have somewhat refined in that I tend to now search for deeper meanings beyond the surface treatments as I long for allegorical and symbolic revelations in relation to my experiences as a human being. That’s really just a fancy way of my saying that I’ve grown up. Well, maybe just a little, and arguably, only where art appreciation is concerned… ☺
While there are in fact numerous factors to consider when buying a work of art, and that it can be a daunting decision, especially if one is new to it, I really think it boils down to one question that must be asked and one question only, do you like it? Thankfully for you, there is only one person qualified to answer this question and that is you. No further outside advice is really necessary. In fact, as you ask yourself whether or not you like a specific work of art, I think you will be surprised how quickly you know the answer, as it will undoubtedly come from somewhere deep inside of you quicker than you can even ask the question.
My best advice for a first time art buyer is this: do not over-intellectualize the process. Go with your gut and know that there are no mistakes when deciding if you like a piece or not. In my personal experience, I picture each purchase as just another piece to an ever-evolving puzzle. And just as a crush develops naturally, so does one’s appreciation of art. And hopefully you’ll be able to experience the sensation of falling in love at first sight over and over again as you find new works of art to admire and to purchase.
So here’s to everyone and their soul mates, found or yet to be discovered… Cheers!
Note: By all means, please feel free to share your first experiences with art, either as a buyer or an admirer from a far and here’s wishing that, in the words of Andre 3000, “every day is the 14th!”
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