The other day I received an e-mail notice about frames and art racks available at an estate sale in Albuquerque. The estate was of an artist who had died in 1994, and the small house she had apparently lived had been vacant ever since, the remaining framed art collecting dust. I met the seller early one morning, thinking I would be most interested in the art racks, but they were too big for my art. Instead, I ended up buying four metal picture frames — with pictures still in them.
One of the pictures was quite a good portrait of a man, done in charcoal and signed by the artist. Another was a cross-stitch landscape in a dirty mat in a frame with no glass over it: no information about who made it. Now, days later, those pictures are still sitting on the loveseat on our sunporch, waiting for me to do something with them. Here I have pictures I cannot use but find myself reluctant to throw away. It’s a dilemma I didn’t imagine when I bought them for the frame. Someone did that artwork with love and passion. Who am I to extract it from the frame and just throw it away?
I also recently found a small collage (4 ½” x 6 ½”) on E-Bay and bought it. I was interested in how it was made. When it arrived, it was in much better condition than I had expected. It is quite a lovely piece done on cardboard backing in what appears to be very thin balsa wood, and/or some kind of very thin bark, and some other materials I don’t recognize. (See the picture above.) All the seller could tell me about it was that it came from an estate sale in the Northwest. No signature.
It got me thinking about why people do art. For most artists, it’s obviously not for the money: most will never get rich selling art. It’s also obvious to me now that it isn’t for immortality: one only needs to consider how much art is never even signed, or signed by someone who may never become known beyond one’s own family, if that; or that sits in an attic or vacant house for years before finally being thrown out or sold. The years move on, the pictures change hands, most essentially anonymously — sold at a garage or yard sale, on e-bay, or at a second hand shop. Some are simply set out by the street for people to take if they want them.
I realized, too, that most artists, like myself, probably don’t do art for any sense of immortality. They do art because they have to. I don’t know about other artists but I create to keep centered, to keep a sense of purpose, and hopefully to provide some enjoyment to those who receive my pictures, for as long as those pictures remain in circulation.