I once got into a screaming match with a friend (we were alone) at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. We were standing in front of a gigantic yellow square with no tone modulation of the colour at all, and my friend was trying to tell me that this was art. I was having none of it.
I told him, “This is not so. Art has to make you feel or it makes you think about something that you hadn’t conceived of before, or sometimes the sheer beauty of the work is overwhelming.”
My friend ended up being an internationally-awarded designer, so maybe he had a point. But I have to feel art. I remember going to the free admission night (the last Thursday of each month, courtesy of Telus) to the AGA and seeing 500 years of the Old Masters. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My heart was beating so hard in my chest because I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Titians and Rembrandts.
Many of the Old Masters took commissions from wealthy men and from the Church in order to support themselves, probably painting things they had limited interest in. Many modern artists refuse to take that route and disparage works that have too much commercial appeal and refuse to “sell out.” So, they apply for grants and sometimes produce works that only have meaning to them.
How can we gently guide artists and artisans to subsidize themselves by producing art that has commercial appeal in order to be able to indulge their passion for the things that have meaning for them and them only? When I go in peoples’ homes and find it without a single piece of original art, I wonder why they haven’t been able to find something to purchase from a local artist that appealed to them. Producing works that could give pleasure to someone and making a living at it is perfectly possible for many artists if some forethought can be given to what would appeal to people. I guess I understand business better than I do art.
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.