The Secret of Art

“The beauty of life is that you can choose to shape your pain, or let it shape you. Yet here is its secret. That which mars most deeply can be transformed to greatness. The most heinous injury can become beauty! This is the secret of art as I know it.

The Dragon Librarian (Scrolls of Fire Book 1) by Marc Secchia

No Rest For The Creative

Quote

Amazon.com

“When you’re a creative person, you have to create. Retirement isn’t part of that mentality. The mentality is, What is inspiring you next?

The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand by Pamela Skaist-Levy, Gela Nash-Taylor, Booth Moore

From the first chapter:

We just wanted to create something people loved and a work environment that made us happy. That’s our version of the American Dream. That’s the glitter plan.

An Artistic Personality

Quote

Amazon.com

A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.  Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is.  It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want.”

They are always asking a writer why he does not write like somebody else, or a painter why he does not paint like somebody else, quite oblivious of the fact that if either of them did anything of the kind he would cease to be an artist.

The true artist is a man who believes absolutely in himself, because he is absolutely himself.”

The Soul of Man Under Socialism by Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wild)

The Myth of Overnight Success

Quote

Amazon.com

“Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days.”

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Getting Started

Quote

Amazon.com

“The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others.”

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Economy Demands Art

Quote

Amazon.com

“We don’t need to be taught to make art, but sometimes we need permission to do so. Following instructions is overrated…Why Make Art? Because you must. The new connected economy demands it and will reward you for nothing else. Because you can. Art is what it is to be human.”

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

Use Your Voice

Quote

Amazon.com

“We’re always being told find your voice. When I was younger, I never really knew what this meant. I used to worry a lot about voice, wondering if I had my own. But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.”

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Cultural Traditions and the Value of Folk Art

Folk art tends to be filled with culture. The design and the purpose is as much about the community surrounding the artist as it is about the technique or relative marketability of the art (artists have to make a living too!). People don’t buy and display garden gnomes because they are excellent examples of artistic form, they buy them because they are good luck charms and fun representations of European mythology and tradition. I love that.

Traditional Garden Gnome on Etsy

Unfortunately, the cultural emphasis has a tendency to devalue some amazing forms of art based on westernized perspectives. For example, European folk art tends to be higher valued (e.g.: more costly) than South American pottery. In an honest apples-to-apples comparison, a European garden gnome, a Mexican terracotta chicken garden planter and an Italian terracota garden planter are on an equal artistic level. They serve similar purposes and require (approximately) similar levels and types of skills to create. Yet, a quick google shopping search for these categories of items returns decorative Italian planters that range from $30 to several hundred, Mexican planters ranging from $10 to about $200, and garden gnomes ranging from $10 to about $200.

Non-traditional garden gnome on Etsy

From a resale perspective, my own experience has shown that good condition garden gnomes will usually fetch a higher price than Mexican pottery – even when the gnomes are clearly factory made and mass marketed. Also, anything officially identified as Italian tends to be automatically placed in a higher price bracket. Why? Several reasons: 1) Average middle-income white Americans view garden gnomes as safe no-offensive gifts and (sometimes) household essentials. 2) The word Italian is associated with things only accessible to the upper class (e.g.: cars, suits, etc). 3) Mexican pottery is associated with low cost tourist mementos.

I will leave the racial, cultural, cultural appropriation and class-system based discussions to another person (or another day). For now, I will move the focus away from garden gnomes and terracotta pots to sand art and clay whistles.

Ocarina Whistle on Wild Raccoon Market

Both sand art and ocarina whistles tend to be attributed to Native American tribes, particularly those living in the southwestern United States.

Ocarina whistles have a history spanning the entire world – Native American flutes look and sound very different.

Sand art is a Navajo tradition. Sandpaintings are amazing. I can’t even imagine how it is done, much less done well. Nationally recognized artists can fetch a good price for their work and I’ve seen a few that are simply stunning.

Sadly, in the used items market, the reality is that sandpaintings tend to be associated with low-cost tourist trinkets and head-shops (read: businesses catering to people who smoke marijuana). Therefore, they can be hard to sell at an appropriate price, in a general marketplace (e.g.: standard flea markets and resale shops).

The most frustrating thing about this is the fact that it’s a matter of (white) cultural perspective – garden gnomes are appropriate for good upstanding families and sandpaintings are displayed by wild teens and college students. When the wild youth settles down and starts a family, the sandpaintings are replaced with garden gnomes.

Navajo Sandpainting on Wild Raccoon Market

I would like to say this is a distinctly Midwestern presumption and attitude, but I have  traveled all of the lower 48 states and lived in every region (time zone) this country has – in the lower 48 (my hopes of visiting Alaska and Hawaii have not yet been realized). In my solitary-person experience with different communities, people and regional used items markets, these perspectives are pretty consistent nation wide.

It’s also an excellent example of a problem that extends to all forms of art: (de)value by ownership association. An amazing painting owned and cared for by person X will be summarily refused by person Y because of the time spent under the care of person X. Sometimes this is because person X has a bad reputation and sometimes it is because person X has a GOOD reputation. Effectively, person Y does not want to be: 1) associated with person X, 2) seen owning person X’s discarded decor and/or 3) known as the person who paid good money for person X’s vacation-find.

If you have ever wondered why some second-hand chain stores (the Goodwill included) will move large quantities of items across country, effectively selling slightly-different versions of the exact same stuff, here’s an explanation: breaking ownership association is one of the many key aspects to making used items easier to sell.

Art rescue is as much about the often perplexing perspectives of human beings and society’s entirely illogical value-system as it is about preventing quality and beauty from experiencing a dreadful and unwarranted death at the local dump.

As an individual actively involved in art rescue and a fan of all forms of folk art, I challenge you to try and divorce the art from the owner. The quality of an object should not be exclusively determined by ownership history…items previously owned by famous or historic people notwithstanding (that is an entirely different conversation).

Respect Artists Tees

Wild Raccoon Press on Zazzle

Also, inappropriate cultural association is something that should be challenged. Thousands of years of Native American tradition cannot be dispensed with because a few (mostly white) people happen to like both sand paintings and recreational drugs. Equally lengthy Mexican traditions also cannot be tossed away simply because American’s habitually take their summer vacations in the area.

Think about it. Comment on it. Blog about it (send me the links). But, whatever you choose to do, respect the art and the artist.

Respect.

Always.

Art and Self Expression

Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women

Sometimes I wonder why people buy one artwork over another.

Does it represent where you are in your life or where you want to be? Is it the design and the colors? Is it fashionable or trendy? Does it draw you in for reasons you can’t explain?

Every person has many reasons behind decisions as intimate as the selection of art. Yes, intimate. Think about it. Artwork is placed in prominent locations within a person’s inner sanctum. The bedroom, the living room, even the front yard are your own domain. They are both private locations and semi-public representations of who and what you are.

Placing something over the living room couch means putting it on frequent display. It is something you view, repeatedly, every day of your life, for as long as the artwork remains. That’s significant.

All human beings instinctively recognize that frequency of viewing equates importance and will respond accordingly. Those reactions may range from shock to admiration, depending upon the artwork and each individual’s own interpretation of it.

Artwork has meaning. Significant meaning that extends far beyond anything the artist attempted or intended. Which brings me back to my original question – why choose artwork A over artwork B?

I’ve posted things to the Wild Raccoon Market that inspire this line of inquisition. The very purple (and simply wonderful) Sacred Sisterhood of Wonderful Wacky Women is one such item. This is something that could either represent the wacky women in my life (past and present) or the wonderful women I wish were in my life (present and future). Hanging this image could say “this is who I am and I proudly recognize that fact.” Alternatively, it could say “this is who I wish to be, and I am working to create that reality.”

Waiting For Signs

Another image inspiring inquiry into the purchaser’s intent is the striking and almost mesmerizing Waiting for Signs. This print contains the following text:

“I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now, & then I asked is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me.”

Since this is currently hanging over the top of my desk (waiting for it’s new home), does that mean I am recognizing that my life has begun and waiting-for-signs has ended? Or, does it stand as a reminder that action must be taken each and every day, signs not-with-standing. Is it an acknowledgement of what is, or inspiration for what should be?

I suspect most people spend very little time mulling over these sorts of questions when selecting artwork for their home or office. It’s a pity, really, because this sort of digging has a way of turning up nuggets of potential for a conversational goldmine.

In my opinion.

Take it for what you will.

Fine Art vs Folk Art

The following is an expression of my own opinions about art. It is the reason why so many of the items posted to the Wild Raccoon Market are folk art. It is not an official definition of art forms. I am not an academically trained artist or curator. I am not an expert. Take it for what you will.

Fine Art vs Folk Art

Fine art lives behind locked doors. It is protected by security guards; secured by top-of-the-line electronics; properly insured and never, ever, touched.

Folk art lives in the doors themselves. It is the welcome sign hanging off to the side; the stern metal lion doorknocker; the door handle with fancy swirly designs made shiny and flat from many years of use.

Fine art stands inside the immaculate gardens of important places. It holds the weight of definition, the scales of elegance, in appropriately frozen poses. It is in the statues so imprinted with the weight of history and quality and prestige that no one dares mention the missing hands, arms and heads. Fine art does not change. It is there, holding it’s ground, for centuries of time.

Folk art stands in the shaggy gardens of common places. It holds the responsibilities of everyday priorities. In spring it is painted onto tall, almost-straight, discarded things, carefully marking sections of newly planted corn, peas and carrots. In summer it is the festive flags fluttering in the wind and the garden gnomes dancing with the rain. In fall it is carved out of pumpkins, stuffed into a scarecrow’s clothes and sewn into homemade costumes. In winter, it is made of snow, rolled into balls and decorated with old clothes, discarded vegetables and food coloring.

Fine art is a painting with a carefully constructed metal plaque describing who, what, when and why. It is the visual representation of those things we should know and must appreciate.

Folk art is a dusty side-note displayed in a dim room off a long hallway. It stands together in a case filled with it’s sisters, brothers and cousins; all sharing a single plaque between them. It is the primitive and traditional and crafts and handiwork selected from the sea of un-importance to stand forever within the reflected light of prestige. It is a comparison, a point of not-fine deemed fine-enough to illustrate what is truly fine. It is token.

Fine art is the very expensive and oh-so-proper painting hanging in the receiving room of an everyday home. The receiving room – the one room that is only entered when important, judgmental or stiff-necked folk come to call. It is precise, proper, dust-free and cold.

Folk art is the colorful, comfortable, painting hanging over the living room couch. It is the fairy swinging from the kitchen window. It is the candy dish that has been re-glued many times over because it was made by grandma and, therefore, comes out every holiday – just like grandma used to do.

Fine art is sold at high-profile auctions by white-gloved attendants. It is purchased by straight-backed collectors in designer suits who seriously participate in the investment driven bidding war.

Folk art is sold at community fundraisers by everyday artists wearing jeans and t-shirts. It is purchased by neighbors, who make selections while munching on homemade cookies and chatting about local events.

Fine art is the tapestry hanging on a castle wall.

Folk art is the quilt covering a child’s bed.

Fine art transforms a building into a museum. It takes a historic location and places the title of ‘curated’ upon it’s now-glorified head.

Folk art enters a place, warms the colors, softens the edges, and plays in the yard. It is the tipping point, the key element transforming a house into a home.