BAD SHOWS, BAD ART, AND WHY WE HAVE TO PERSEVERE

I heard from a good friend this weekend. They’re doing the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craftsmen’s Fair at Mt. Sunapee. It’s been a crazy week for them: Attendance up day, crashing the next. Slow sales, strong sales, then…crashing. Hot, humid weather. Friends in Keene say they’ve had heavy rain and hail. I’m praying that went south of the mountain, and didn’t hit the Fair.

Every show we do can be a test of our talent, our commitment to our work. Amidst the craziness, there’s almost always a sudden burst of light and amazement. Someone who buys a major piece. Someone who loves what we’re doing. Someone who gives us the wise words that lift our hearts, and keep us going another day. Week. Year. If we’re truly fortunate, for our lifetime.

When I got the message, I was browsing Craigslist. (No lectures. I’m housebound! Have mercy here!!)

In the arts and craft section were the usual offerings of supplies and actual works. There was a plethora of paintings, for some reason. Did a collector die?? Did a lot of collectors die??

It was hard to tell from the crappy photos, but most of the work was ho-hum (to my uneducated eye.) Even odder, the works ranged from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. I don’t know if they’d been assessed at that price, or if an eager heir was sure these were masterpieces. Who can say?

I’ve already told my kids that when I go, they shouldn’t worry about all my stuff. Just let people into my studio with a grocery bag, let them fill it, and charge them $50 a bag. They will be millionaires.

As I scrolled and scrolled through this vast wasteland of art, two thoughts came to me.

One was from the lizard brain. Who bought this stuff?  Did they surround themselves with this work in their home? (Maybe it looks better in person…??)

Even sadder, who made it? Did they spend their lives painting mediocre landscapes and portraits? Did they sell any of it? Or…even worse…was the artist selling it? On Craigslist??

Does the world need more bad art????

Thankfully, the angels of my better nature chirped.

Yes. The world needs art. Even bad art.

I miss Regretsy, a hysterically funny website where April Winchell daily curated truly awful items for sale on Etsy. (Her tag line was, “Where DIY meets WTF”…) If I ever had doubts about the quality of the work I was doing, I only had to check in with Regretsy to feel enormously superior.

So one advantage of bad art is it can make us feel better about our own work, and give us our giggle of the day.

Then I thought about the artist(s) who made that work.

They must have painted their heart out over the years.

Every day (metaphorically speaking) they set up their easels, found something beautiful (in their eyes) to paint, and went to work.

Every day, they tried to do better (sometimes with mixed results) so they could be the artist they’d always dreamed of being.

Every day, they did something they loved–making their art–and hoped someone else would love it, too.

Maybe they cast a ray of light for someone else, too. Perhaps they were an artist living their dreams. And maybe someone else saw that, and was inspired to make art, too.

So what’s the takeaway today?

I cannot compare myself, my work, my success, to others. One of my art history books talked about a very popular Victorian artist, hugely successful in his time. But today, his work was considered too schmaltzy. Other artists of that period (some of them unsuccessful in their time) produced work that has stood the test of time. (I can’t find the reference now. Do I need to buy back my college texts??) The same for certain poets of that era, too.

I cannot judge the value of what I do. Only time will tell if what we make will stand the test of time. We may, like Vincent Van Gogh, become a major discovery in the years after we’re gone.

Or our work may end up on Craigslist. Or worse, the midden heap. (The dump, in days of yore.) (Where do you think most archeological finds come from, btw? Yep.)

I treasure what making art does for me. Taking up my artwork, without judging the value of what I do, healed me. If it did nothing more than that, that would be enough. But the practice teaches me, too. I began to write about these insights and lessons, to encourage others, too.

I want to be an art hero for others. We may never know who else has been healed, or helped, by the work we do. If we were once inspired by art, or another artist, then we know the value of that. Now it’s our turn.

I’ve quoted Martha Graham’s profound quote on creativity many times in my writing. The short story: There’s only one ‘you’, only you can make your work, and your work matters in the world. For yourself, for others, for the tiniest bit of beauty and meaning and healing it brings to the world.

I wasn’t put here on earth to be immortal, and neither is the work I do. Of course I hope it lasts! I hope to create a legacy in my lifetime, just like you do. We all do. But I that’s not under my control. All I can do is make the work of my heart, and put it out into the world. All I can do is to do the best I can–and then let it go.

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “BAD SHOWS, BAD ART, AND WHY WE HAVE TO PERSEVERE

  1. Thanks for the love Many, and God bless them, were honest and said they had a bad year. They don’t owe honesty but hearing sales are fantastic makes me feel bad and yet I know they are lying. I know it’s none of my business. But the truth helps Trev said I needed a Pokeman

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Luann, this again touched my heart. I wrote a note of appreciation to one of my best clients, who loves my work, and every year adds to her collection. She is such a dear to tell me how much she loves my ornaments, and I am so grateful. You’re right, I’m so inspired to keep making my ornaments, even when i am interested in and doing other forms of arts and crafts, because of people who find joy in in my work.
    Thank you for another great post! I am sharing with my cookie artist group, too.

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    • Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Nancy, and a triple thank you for sharing this post! I consider my readers my ‘customers’, too, and I’m so glad when people let me know my posts have helped them get to a better place.

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  3. oh as someone who used to work for Martha Graham many many years ago, and as someone who struggles with the ‘how can i make more stuff in an already stuffed world” syndrome… this was a lovely – i have never been interested in having my stuff be immortal, stuff never is!! thanks.

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      • long time ago, i was a costumer in the costume shop who played with dogs and harbored secret longings of sacred objects, stories and moments…it was an amazing time, filled with too many lessons, joys and heartaches to put into a small space. But a true take-away was even the greats, the truly GREAT artists struggle and strive. and need to create to thrive.
        and we never know who we will impact, when, or where or with what….thus with mud on my feet, ink on my hands and fur flying i step out again…. every morning Ms Graham did her barr into her 90’s with dreadful arthritis – daily practice. basic skills……

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve shared an amazing story, great insight, and wisdom. I’m so grateful you’ve given this little peek into those times. It’s inspirational. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  4. You are my hero. Your words and work inspire me and sustain me. If not, I might give it up, but I am working, instead, on some new ideas.

    I used to own 2 galleries in Charleston, SC, but was so busy framing for local artists to do my own work. I used to hear their comments about other artists when they were in my shops so when I did sit down to create, I felt them all looking over my shoulders, and I let myself be intimidated. I wasted that opportunity to have my works in my own gallery, and had to close for health reasons. I did one painting that was on a local magazine cover, and sold for $650 15 minutes after I put it in my downtown gallery. Do I paint? NO! I am so intimidated.

    I had one man who was a fairly good artist, but the only thing he wanted to paint was his grandchildren. I never sold one of his paintings for him. He asked me what was wrong, and I gave him suggestions for other subjects, and other colors. He never changed, and he never sold. This life is so hard, but so exhilarating, at the same time. So, yes, you’re my hero. I learn so much from you, and you “get it”. And now, I’m going to work on my project. Thank you.

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    • Oh my gosh, Barbara, your words have brought TEARS to my eyes!!
      I am honored to have inspired you with my words. People like you make this all worthwhile.
      Now see? I haven’t been paid (much) to write in several years now. I may never make a living with my words, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be famous.
      But I keep writing, because I love my brain on writing. I like how I have to think, to dig deep, to look at what I’m thinking and hold my thoughts up to the light. It’s a good practical, spiritual, practice for me.
      And now something I said has connected with you. It’s given you insight, and hopefully PERMISSION to do the same thing with YOUR work.
      So do it!!! Tell those invisible onlookers to go watch a movie while you work.
      Remember that the mean little voices we hear, telling us we aren’t good enough, are not ‘us’.
      We are the person listening.
      Take the sensitive, wonderful little person, and get them a canvas, some paint, and a brush.
      Paint what is in your heart–for YOU.
      Because someone, somewhere, needs to see you do it. They need to see your courage, and your
      passion, and your inspiration.
      And then take a picture and send it to me.
      I will love it, because of who you are, and what is in your heart. Okay?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Luann! The Fair ended a couple days ago, and I’m just getting around to reading your emails. I wear one of your necklaces every day at the Fair, and people recognize it and ask where you are. You are missed a lot here! I let them know your work is available in the League stores and online.

    Truthfully, sales were very good for me and most everyone I spoke with, despite the oppressive heat and one very bad stormy afternoon.

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