I’m not an artist. I’m not a buyer. My wife is both. Wait, that’s not entirely accurate. The fly in the pigment is that I’m secretly buying my wife’s art to keep her spirits up when they aren’t lifted high enough from the turpentine and linseed oil she uses for cleaning her brushes. Lately, she’s been cleaning up less and I’ve had to buy more paintings to brighten her mood. I’m relieved that she is happy, but I’ve relinquished all control of my spending, as though, these art purchases have transpired in Target stores, where the number one purchases is everybody else’s identity. The reality of my situation is that my secret art buying has spiraled out of control. I’m trying not to be hacked off at my wife or the art world and have taken the precautionary step to enroll in an anger management class. Charlie Sheen is my sponsor. Pray for us.
My anger intervention has directed me to think less on me and focus more on others.
Artists have a difficult profession. They are impassioned folks who need to express their passion through art. The difficulty comes in when non-artists (aka buyers) cannot see the incalculable value of their work. How can it be said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Beauty is perceived first in the eye of the artist. Many buyers can’t see the artwork for the brushstrokes.
That’s where gallery owners come in. They understand art and have the important job to translate the artwork’s significance. This is not an easy job because the general buying public continues to want four dogs playing poker or velvet Elvis paintings. There is no accounting for taste and this factoid must tempt gifted artists to give up their brushes and instead go into interior design to begin the removal process of curios chocked full of porcelain figurines, Beanie Baby collections, and life affirmation signs that include, “Welcome to Paradise. This way to the beach.” But be sure to keep the statuary of the lone seagull standing on a pier piling. These are priceless because the piers are on the endangered list.
History shows that even great artists have had a difficult time making a buck from art. Vincent van Gogh was broke through most of his life and borrowed heavily from his younger brother Theo, an art dealer. Most of Vincent’s thoughts and theories of art have been found in hundreds of letters exchanged between the brothers, from 1872 through 1890. Vincent wrote to Theo more than 600 times asking for money and Theo wrote back 40 times suggesting that Vincent consider interior design. Supposedly, Vincent sold only one painting in his lifetime. It was entitled “The Red Vineyard” and sold to another impressionist painter and heiress Anna Boch for a sum of $1,600 in today’s dollars.
Van Gogh’s last works involved the paintings of haystacks. Since his mysterious death by gunshot in 1890, the top seven Van Gogh paintings have sold for more than $712 million dollars combined. It’s unfortunate that he was unable to live to see the appreciation of his art and to enjoy the monetary rewards that came with it. The same goes for brother Theo who died holding a lifetime of IOUs and an ear as down payment.
I must learn from history, so history does not repeat itself. I’ll direct my wife to send me 600 emails formally requesting that I purchase her paintings. In reply, I’ll send back 40 emails suggesting that she take up interior design. She will refuse on artistic grounds. So I will have to continue to buy her paintings, but will become overwhelmingly despondent and shoot myself right after I lose a big pot of cash for future artwork purchases to four dogs playing poker in front of a haystack. My wife, who prefers cats to dogs, will not believe the dogs’ eyewitness account that I was suicidal over purchasing her art and instead she’ll rebound nicely with the haystack’s gentleman farmer, who is a rich patron of the arts, cat shelters and loves her works to death. My death.
So the moral of the story is to support our local artists. Attend the First Thursdays Art Walk, but don’t walk. Run instead. The artists need the money. I swear to death.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased border collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.