“You’re gonna be rich someday,” my co-worker said after she saw a sample of my art!
That wasn’t the reaction I expected! “Someday you’re art is going to make you a lot of money,” he said as I emptied out the waste basket from his classroom.
Ugh. How does an artist deal with or handle such comments. You know they mean well. You know that value is measured in material means with money; the sad truth of our civilization.
What’s tough about the whole thing, as a young artist especially, was that I didn’t know how to respond to such statements. It was on the same level as your Grandmother praising you for your school project like no one else ever created such a gooey gluey, tilted, smelly thinga-ma-jig in grade 3 before. Thoughts that race through your brain when people see your work and say you’ll be rich are:
1. Are you a prophet? Will this prediction really come true?
2. You’re blowing me off aren’t you by trying to make me feel good. You’re sort of pitying me aren’t you.
3.O crap! That’s the last time I show anybody my stuff! I’m done.
Or you may actually respond with, ” O gee Ernie, Mary…I dunno, duh wit the price of canvas deez days…no artist can get rich…yuk, yuk…”.*sigh* ( for all you Millenials, yuk was the LOL of bygone era of no-internet and horse- and -carriage)
This question of value all comes down to the nature of art, I think. It’s no ones fault really. Well maybe.
I make it no secret that I’m a Sci-Fi buff (fan). No matter how cheesy or how heady, I like my Science Fiction. A recent episode of the 60’s Twilight Zone was called Eye of the Beholder. I won’t ruin the story for you ( cuz I know you’re gonna go seek it out and watch it, yuk) . The title is just that- beauty is really in the EYE of the beholder. We all see worth based on who we are and how we have been socially conditioned to see it. Anyways that’s deep and debatable, I know. However I have been thinking about this fact for quite some time now. How does one really price their art? If art is priceless then how can it be sold? Should a painting be costed at square inches or how much time it takes to make or what the fair market value is, etc, etc ? ( Don’t ya hate when someone uses etc twice! yuk)
*Last night before bed I watched an episode of Ray Bradbury Theater. It was a series made in the eighties based on stories of the famed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury. My wife and my teenage daughter are especially fans…NOT! It’s one of those shows I watch alone for the most part. Know what I’m sayin’? The reason is because the stories often seem pointless or anticlimactic. However last night’s story was called A Miracle of Rare Device. It really seemed to align somewhat with the question of artistic worth or intrinsic value.
Two ne’er -do- wells, William and Robert ( played by Wayne Robson and Pat Harrington) stumble across a beautiful mirage in the middle of nowhere. One fellow is keen on making a few bucks from this freak of nature, which appears as a great city on the horizon. Eventually he has a change of heart and feels bad about fleecing people of their money for something he , himself, never created.
They have a sort of nemesis in the character of Ned Bantlin who drives about on an old motorcycle ( imagine a Mad Max character) and always seems to benefit from their discoveries. In this case Ned buys the look off point, kicks off the two drifters but soon discovers that the selling of beauty for mere greed loses it’s effectiveness and the mirage, to him , disappears. Seeing no monetary gain, Ned leaves frustrated and angry tearing up the dusty road as he speeds away.
Sadly Robert and William watch the sunset on their dreams not being able to see the beautiful mirage. In a last moment before the daylight fades a family of four, ” born in wheat fields and who by God’s grace wandering the world..”, turn up asking to see the great miracle. Discouraged , Robert and William, say the view is free and might come back tomorrow. Who knows? The family , however, do see the mirage of a great city -the miracle of rare device. In their believing innocence and wonder not only does the family see it but Robert and William see it again as well.
The moral, I guess, is that beauty and wonder belong to the beholder. Art and beauty has it’s own worth indigenous to the beholder. It makes some compare it to great riches exclaiming, “You’re going to be rich someday!” It transports people to new realms and supplies their dreams.
‘Guess all we artists need answer to their bursts of admiration is, “Thank You…that’ll be a 100 bucks please…yuk, yuk…”
*originally written August 1,2014…I think