|How Do You Want To Be Remembered?
Combined Media on Canvas/Found Materials 6×12 — Artist: Laura McHugh
What do you do with your pieces that don’t sell?
Here’s a dilemma many artists face: you, the artist, create a body of work – for a show or because you were excited about a theme, material, process.
After days/months/years, you now have 3 to 20 new pieces. You excitedly anticipate the show date approaching, and you price and title all the work. The night before the show opens, you view the hung work quietly, with no one else around. The silence envelopes you and you glow in the beauty you have created. Each piece is perfect. Each piece has a story to tell and an impact to be made on the people who will come through the door in the morning.
As you turn to leave the studio, you shut off the lights and as you set your head down onto your pillow, you reflect on the time, materials, inspirations, challenges and all that has gone into the making of this body of work. You envision engaged attendees to the show in animated discussions with you about your process. You vow to smile nicely at anyone who comments about how the color of a piece isn’t quite right to go with their sofa, and ask for divine intervention should anyone request to change or create a piece that would match.
Morning comes and you have rested. The exhaustion you would normally feel from all the work leading up to this moment is pushed aside by the adrenaline coursing through your body. The time comes for visitors to arrive, and they do! They come streaming in, bounding to see the work and the studio space. They are animated, as you envisioned in your sleepy state the night before. They ask lots of questions, good questions. You reveal yourself and your secrets. You leave them alone a bit to read the titles on the pieces and reflect on their own impressions of the work, then you reengage, making sure you ask that they sign the guest book, which they happily do.
Then they leave. Without. Buying. Anything.
This makes you sad. Somewhat because of the money, but it goes deeper than that. These pieces that didn’t sell aren’t in the hands of someone else so that they can connect and emanate their message, energy, vision to the world. The impact you hoped they would make is fleeting…maybe the people who came to the show and saw the work “got it.” You didn’t stand with them to view each piece, so you have no way of really knowing whether the work was heard and accepted. And if someone bought it, that is no guarantee that they “got” it. Their relationship with the piece is deeply personal and intimate and may or may not have anything to do with what you felt and intended when you created it.
All of that not withstanding, you are now out in your studio/gallery with seventeen pieces that have not found new homes.
What’s a girl to do? They need to be lovingly and carefully packaged up for storage. Maybe you can put 1-2 pieces in an upcoming show where the call or theme is perfectly aligned. You have an art giveway project – maybe you can leave the art out for people to find. But some of it is too big for this project, or maybe you need to rethink your size criteria. You can seek out venues who might want the art, for sale or as a donation.
What you DON’T want is for these pieces to end up at the thrift store. You buy canvases and other art materials there to make INTO art. Having your pieces end up back there would be complete and utter personal and creative failure …. So what’s a girl to do?
My dilemma, for my art, is that it isn’t necessarily nice. I make it because it comes through me as a message – a commentary on a current situation, an emotion I’m feeling, or even something more political. I haven’t connected with the right audience for my pieces – someone as quirky and appreciative of the subtle messages as I am.
I might give some pieces away because the feedback I get from recipients of art in the Art For Everyone Project is SO satisfying. They all appreciate their new gifts and the stories of where the art ends up are amazing.
But I am also considering reincarnating certain pieces. For example, five small canvases I did as commentary on branding for huge corporations (McDonalds, Girl Scouts, Corona and Budweiser, and Smart Water) were understood and appreciated in the show, but probably will not find a permanent wall to hang on. Like the old masters who painted on a canvas, then drastically reworked the subject, or changed it altogether over the top of an existing work, I may do the same. I’m not pushed so much for resources to purchase more canvases, but I don’t want to store any more art. Flow is an important value and I want to keep the work moving through my creative space. Bundling it up and using precious shelf space is not moving in the right direction for me.
These Corporate Branding pieces may end up with a new coat of paint over the top. I might paint images on them that are “prettier” as an experiment to see if that sells. I will know what is underneath. That message will still carry forward, even if it is covered up by a pleasant painting.
What do you do with your pieces that don’t sell?
|Hooked. Combined Media (Found Materials, Pen/Ink, Pencil) Mounted on Canvas
24×36 — Artist: Laura McHugh