Someone once said that collecting art is about owning a slice of an artist. For some that may be true, but can anyone say they buy art only for that reason? Don’t we collect because art is an extension of our soul and way of life?
Art reflects our collective unconscious.
Loving art is not about the glory; loving art is about connection. The latest edition of Western Art Collector features an upcoming event: Brian Lebel’s Mesa Old West Show & Auction coming up next month in Mesa, Arizona. In an interview, Lebel had this to say about Western Art:
“What we offer at our shows isn’t just objects. It’s a Western way of life. And most of these collectors are buying for themselves, and not just to show off to their friends. When you buy a Picasso or a Maserati your neighbors understand what those things are when they see them. But our top collectors are paying…for a set of spurs…or a parade saddle. They’re not doing it to impress the neighbors. They’re collecting those things because it’s what they love and they believe in the Western way of life, whether it’s spurs or a saddle, or even a Pueblo pot or a Navajo weaving or a piece of turquoise jewelry.”
Our personal aesthetics form early on. When I was little we had a back yard tipi. I often dressed up like an American Indian. Wishing to somehow soak that culture into my skin, it was about sensing something. What child hasn’t wanted to be a cowgirl or cowboy? A turquoise blue corduroy skirt, fringed vest and little girl cowboy boots were a favorite outfit. Neither Native or a cowgirl, alas. But we live in a part of the country where it’s possible to be close, be educated, and to participate. Phew!
For many it is a business to collect and aggregate art with investment potential in mind. We collect to be a part of an unfolding cultural narrative or embrace history. But even collectors in the highest stratospheres begin their collections from a rooted point of connection.
Whether one buys local or buys global, we love art because art speaks to some part of ourselves. It’s a voice from the past, it expresses what we cannot. Art helps us feel closer to cultures, people and places that we aren’t able to fully inhabit but wish we could. One does falls in love with the hand of an artist, or with an artist’s perspective or philosophy. We’re patrons. Rather than being an attempt to take on an identity that is not ours, having art that means something to us is a way of paying homage. We hope the art we collect can capture what feels just out of our earthly reach.
Arts fundraising is wicked difficult these days. Artists with connections to creative organizations are feeling the pinch of downsizing by the very groups asking artists to keep them afloat. A friend of mine directs one of the richest philanthropic foundations in the country. You’d think she has no problems, but she has a truckload. Problems stem not only from having to raise money, but from issues within the philanthropy.
She has to consider where money comes from, scrutinize the sources. She needs to ensure staff feels empowered AND that they make good choices. Constant vigilance to the bottom line and adjusting to stricter and stricter government guidelines are what executive directors deal with every day. In the philanthropic arts world, artists themselves risk becoming marginalized. If they become too marginalized, they may jump ship. Usually not nearly as well off as the philanthropic group whose organizations they are being asked to support, artists will draw the line.
Then, the artists’ immediate lives become overwhelmingly about fundraising. Keeping it together is a smash-and-grab affair. How to you stop this crazy thing?
Thirty miles north of Jackson lies Moran, Wyoming, a tiny hamlet that plein air painter Bobbi Miller calls home. It’s a remote location, and during recent winters Miller frequently found herself snowed in. Last winter, over 150 inches of blowing, drifting snow accumulated.
But it’s this singularly beautiful place that holds Miller in awe, and it is this landscape that informs her art. Her connection to nature is visceral. Under its influence, Miller has moved from a softly representational painting style toward abstraction, and her impressionistic works intrigue us. Winter is thick, color pops under snow-laden skies. We shiver at thick smudging of ice and raw cold; beyond Miller’s stormy, smeared surfaces we glimpse pale yellow aspen, gray-green sage, scarlet willows.
Join Miller and the staff of Turner Fine Art for an Artist’s Reception for Miller’s new show “Winter Soliloquy,” on Thursday, December 5th, 5-7pm. Comprised of small and large scale works, the show remains on display through January 10th, 2020. www.turnerfineart.com
Joseph Cipro and Susan Durfee will give a talk on “Remapping: Portraits of Life,” their dual exhibition now on display at Jackson’s Center for the Arts, on Thursday, December 12th 12:00-1:00PM. Free and open to the public. Durfee and Cipro describe their paintings as explorations of relationships and the environment as they shape our conscious awareness.
For my mother.