“Treat a work of art like a prince; let it speak to you first” – Schopenhauer
Last month I spent much time doing one of the things I love most – looking at art. I saw an unending stream of creative expression from varied artists working in all different kinds of mediums. Looking at each piece of art was like being at a cocktail party and meeting new people with a unique story to share.
Art serves such an important role for humanity. For the artist, it allows an internal interpretation or concept to be birthed into tangible form and sent out into the world.
It’s an observation made by one that can be shared by many. It is fascinating to me that we are able to capture another human beings creative process and have it reside with us in our homes and workspaces.
For the viewer, art can be a place to connect our feelings, questions, experiences and sense of wonder to something in physical form. We say that a piece of art speaks to us because there is recognition to something internal, even if we can’t define what we are looking at or what it is stirring inside of us. And art is quite a personal experience. Two people could be looking at the exact same piece of art but internalizing and experiencing it totally different because it is filtered through our unique lenses.
When we bring art into our homes it starts to tell a story about who we are or where we’ve been, literally and figuratively. Sometimes it gives us the language that we cannot speak for ourselves. It can be a reminder of something we love or bring us back to another place in time. It can ignite a universal emotion or shine a flickering light on a place hidden in our dark recesses. But no matter what it is saying it must speak to us. I’ve seen too many people bring artwork into their homes simply because it matched a sofa or was the right size for above the mantle, but they didn’t connect to it. That’s like eating in a restaurant and not caring what’s on the plate!
We humans are multi-faceted creatures and art gives us an opportunity to explore and express the variety of things we find interest in. Just representing one side or one style could get boring pretty quickly.
Like those interesting characters at a cocktail party, different artistic styles could have quite a fascinating conversation if we give them an opportunity to get together. A conceptual (modern) piece of art could be quite provocative next to an old master because one plays off the other. Think of building a collection of art like planning a great dinner party. Any good hostess knows that you’ll have a much more interesting time if your guest list isn’t too homogenous and their diversity compliments one another. Art can offset or highlight other things in the room making them much more interesting then they could be on their own.
Acquiring art that we love is only the first step in settling it into a space. How we hang or display our art can have great impact on how a piece feels or how it interacts with it’s surroundings. Too high or too low and it could visually float or sag. Too big or too small and it could overpower or feel diminutive. Hung properly, art can settle a space or help us transition from one room to another. Sometimes a painting needs lots of space to allow it some breathing room, while multiple pieces can be hung in a group but speak as a single unit. My friends have a beach house and on one very large wall there are close to 30 paintings of the sea. Different in style, size, frames and eras they all seem to be settled into one cohesive hum instead of disjointed cacophony. Conversely, one very large piece can hold a wall all by itself, needed no competition for the eye’s attention.
Sometimes the addition of a piece of art can be the starting point for a room or space. My own living room is a case in point. Although it was lovely, it seemed like a collection of things that had found their way together without much passion or thought. I had no real intention of redoing the room until I saw a painting done by an artist I’ve been admiring for years. While in the gallery I did a mental scan of the walls in my home. The room I had never paid much attention to was the only one with a large enough wall. When the painting arrived it was such a departure from what I had and it seemed to turn the room upside down. My reaction was equal parts excitement and discomfort, as I knew I’d be forced to finally open my eyes and make some decisions on what I liked and didn’t like. Turns out, I didn’t really ever like much of what was in there and the transformation began. Now I find myself sitting in there, getting lost in my paintings, and really enjoying what I have around me.
Sometimes a piece of art can be the thing that finishes a room. We recently placed a beautiful painting in a client’s family room that did just that. The room was lovely but needed something of importance to meet the scale of the room and to punctuate what the furnishings could not say on their own. Working with a fine art gallery we were able to pinpoint a few pieces that might do the trick. When the pieces were delivered, one stood out to my clients as the superstar. Not only was it beautiful on it’s own, but I was able to amplify and unify all the other furnishings and settle the room with a sense of completion.
For many people the word art can be intimidating. They may imagine it as something elitist or reserved for those with refined taste or expertise. But the truth is, cost or pedigree is not what’s important. What is vital is making a visual and emotional connection to something tangible that represents beauty to our minds. That can be a child’s naively crafted pinch pot, a mass produced poster or a centuries old oil painting. Whatever form it takes, we must have the confidence to surround ourselves with our unique definition of beauty without fear of being judged.
Art is a priceless destination for the eye and the soul. It is a way for us to connect with ideas and concepts born outside of ourselves, but internalized within. It is something to find familiarity and comfort with because it connects us to our human experience.
Are the things on your walls speaking to you? What are they saying?
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