Shallow as a one-sided gnat’s freckle, that’s me.
If asked what movie I’d prefer to watch, book to read, music to hear, I’m almost never the person in the crowd who says “challenge me!” I’m the one who wants to be effortlessly and palatably entertained, and that rarely includes any sort of idea or activity that involves my working, learning, evolving, or—banish the thought! (literally)—thinking.
I have always known that I’m not fond of experiencing anything that makes me feel the slightest bit out of my comfort zone, and while I don’t think it admirable or something I find brag-worthy, I don’t think it’s shameful, either. Even the people that I know who crave the New and different and are energized by being amid the exotic, the confrontational, or the controversial mostly seem to find that very pleasurable rather than frightening, and so, choose it because being uneasy or even frightened is in its way pleasant to them. True adrenaline junkies are not alone in this: the great explorers among us, whether those of intellectual or physical, artistic or scientific realms, thrive on the jagged edge of the known and the safe.
So, as I was wandering around the interwebs this morning and looking through a certain high-end vintage auction house’s catalogue of art, I was struck by how many works I could admire for their originality, their technical facility, their wit, and/or their power, but how many I could also truthfully say I was attracted to, myself? Not so many. Some there were that I thought incredibly impressive and deeply respect-worthy for numerous reasons, but few among them would I ever consider hanging in my own house or office or want to look at long term. I do like mysteries and scary stories, and there are plenty of artworks and concepts and images that amuse and delight me for the very reason that I find them ugly or appalling, even to the point of painful laughter, but unless these things meet my own criteria for what I’d like to enjoy at length, it’s all for naught.
And of course, as a visual artist myself, and one who’s never made any particular headway with building a paying audience for anything I do, I am always intrigued to snoop around at such sites’ pricing of artworks. I marvel at what is listed as unsold, seeing artworks of phenomenal skill and complexity offered for what I think pretty reasonable prices (though I certainly couldn’t afford them, not least because of my aforementioned lack of success as an art entrepreneur); at what has sold that I couldn’t imagine living happily with; at what astronomical prices are being asked for things that in my opinion don’t even come close in material costs, labor time, or skill level to what I’ve sold of my own work in the past for comparative pennies. This kind of perusal is highly educational, occasionally frustrating, sometimes encouraging, and most often, just a great source of inspiring ideas and images that make me want to head back to my own drawing board again. Worth all of it, if only for that last.
On reflection, I do remember that I have made many images and told many stories myself that I didn’t want to hang on my own walls, and even a few times have destroyed ones that I knew someone else liked because I didn’t think it represented my ideals anyhow. That’s the strangeness and the delight of the arts, isn’t it. One person’s trash is another’s pleasure. Crazy. Wonderful.