A recent request to paint a contemporary piece for a specific place, above a specific sofa, in a specific home, has led me to question not only who is buying art and why, but Does the art collector connect with the art he purchases? Or is he just filling wall space?
When I paint a pear I am told "I don't have space for it in my kitchen". If I paint a nude I hear "I can't put a nude in my home where everyone might see it". If I paint a horse will I be told "I don't like equestrian art"? As the artist, do I paint what I'm feeling or what I hope to sell (in order to fund painting what I feel)? Lately I have been contemplating efforts to have my art hung in local galleries. I am told that "a cohisive collection" is requested. Must I paint 18 pieces that all look alike if I want to be shown in a particular gallery? My suspicious nature tells me that only designers looking to fill wall space in office buildings or looking for a particular color palette to match a clients interior are buying art. Who will buy the painting of my shoes? Where would a patron hang such a piece?
Websters Dictionary defines Art as "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, or what is beautiful, appealing or of more than ordinary significance". That definiation leaves me asking: Who is to say what is beautiful or appealing, or does that even matter? If the artist is sincere and compelled to create by his or her need to express, why should society expect something else from the end result?
So what happened with the large contemporary piece I painted? She didn't want it. In spite of it's contemporary nature and fullfillment of color requirements, she felt the piece was too tender and is looking for something more bold. Was I disappointed? Absolutely not. As an artist, I felt I had connected with a patron who was able to project her personal self-expression onto a canvas with paint. This revelation was the ultimate compliment for an artist. Suddenly the patron became the artist and I felt my job had been completed. In the real world, what I hope that would translate to is "can't we all just appreciate (or not appreciate if the mood strikes us) and FEEL art rather than purchase it to match our theme decor or fill wall space?" If art moves a person, it moves them whether or not the piece was created by a well-known artist or an unknown artist, or what the subject matter may be, whether it's modern, abstract, realism, a pear, or a urinal. And when a person is moved by art, they become the artist.
(UPDATE on this piece of art: It was ultimately sold to the original patron.)