Thursday, August 5, 2010

Creating and editing, useful and useless


Etsy has opened up a world of lovely items to me, and also a world of temptation. There are so many gorgeous handmade items and pieces of art that I would love to own, but my finances are limited. And, frankly, I don't have the space to have everything I like. If I want to gradually purchase new art and other useful items, I need to edit out and give away some things at the same time. That seems to ebb and flow in my life: accumulate, edit, give away or purge, start over. Talking to my friends, that seems to be a common pattern, especially if you have children. Getting my kids to edit their stuff is like pulling teeth, though. Their philosophy seems to be, "Once mine, always mine!" Teaching them the joy of giving things away can be tough sometimes.

So what can I get rid of? Well, there are still boxes of stuff in the basement from the move: books (some of which can go, some of which are still waiting for shelves upstairs), toys (some keepsakes, and a lot of outgrown stuff I need to just toss before the kids notice they're still here), household odds and ends. Clothes are pretty well cleaned out, though - I went through everyone's closets this spring. A lot of stuff got edited in the move, but it's been a year, and the accumulation has crept up again. It feels good to have just enough, but not too much. Too much is a burden, a trap, a form of bondage, at least to me. But, I have a fairly broad idea of what is good and useful in my life, and what is not, so I constantly look for that balance.

It's funny to say that, because places like Etsy sell things I don't necessarily NEED, yet I do WANT many of those things. I'm trying to sell my art, and many people would consider purchasing my items to be a frivolous use of money. Is art useful or useless? Well, it's both, really. This is an old discussion I've recently become aware of, through David Taylor's blog. I've discovered an odd dichotomy in myself: I consider art eminently useful and good, worthwhile and necessary, yet I don't treat it as such with how I spend my money. I desire and value art, yet I struggle to justify spending money on it. Why is that? Why should I have to justify something good and worthwhile?

It's dawned on me that this discussion doesn't seem to occur to rich people very often. They can afford art, so if they want it, they get it - end of discussion. I realize now that I was blessed that my parents had quite a lot of good, original art in our home all my life, because my great grandparents were artists (in ceramics, watercolors, oils, and other media). I have a few pieces of their work now myself, and I treasure them. But I'm not rich by American standards. Between household expenses, raising kids, and all that goes with a normal middle-class life, art isn't a standard part of the budget. Still, I hope to add more art to my life as I go along, because it's necessary for my soul, even if it's not necessary for my physical existence. Every strata of every culture has its arts, and runs a gamut from the simplest "everyday" items to the most complex creations. So what if I can't afford the best of the best - I'll never own an original Monet, or a Picasso, or a Klimt. But if I enjoy those artists, I can own prints of their work. (I have a large Georgia O'Keeffe print, 'Blue River,' that I love.) And if I enjoy other artists I see on Etsy or in galleries, maybe I can eventually own some of their originals at a more modest price.

I would love to own a painting by Gary C. Myers. His blog, Redtree Times, shows a number of his works. He has exhibited at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, several times, which is where I first saw his work several years ago. Take a look at his acrylic/mixed media paintings - they're amazing.

I'd better start saving. . . .