I recently executed a major overhaul of my guest house apartment, including purging the space of unnecessary furniture and a lot of art supplies which I am unlikely to use. Behind a stack of frames that I have had since I closed my photo gallery in 2013, I found four large 30×40 prints from my 2007 trip to India, each nicely mounted on 1/2″ foam core. They now adorn my walls. This is currently my favorite. I took it in Old Delhi, seated on the curb, with my camera at street level angled up to be as unobtrusive as possible. I love this image. It feels like a window on my wall, looking straight into India and down this Delhi street. Nobody is paying attention to me, the photographer, so I am not part of the image. So much of what urban India feels like is on display here, but that is not what I am posting about.
When I lived in Phoenix in the early ’90s, I participated in an yearly outdoor show called the Celebration Of Fine Art. A juried group of artists paid for a booth for 2 months under a large circus style tent in north Scottsdale. Then the public paid admission to get in and see us at work in the studios we set up in out booths. The operators of the show also took 18% of all sales. Needless to say, they made heaps of cash. Many artists did very well, also. I more or less broke even, but it was a great experience, and I did it again the next year when they took the Celebration to the Del Mar racetrack in California. I got lots of advice from the more successful artists at the Celebration. One piece that I have carried with me because it is such an interesting psychological take on selling art is this: if someone expresses interest in your work, encourage them to take it home and live with it for a while at no charge. Then they can either buy it or bring it back. The idea is that when they hang it on their wall, it is like they are installing a window, and if they take it down again, the wall will jump out and smack them in the face, making the room feel smaller. It’s true. Art, even two dimensional abstract art, makes a space feel larger because of the illusion of perspective it creates. But, and this is important, an actual window is much more effective at expanding one’s view of and connection with the world outside one’s room, if only because a photograph or painting is static and unchanging, whereas the view through an actual window is dynamic and alive. This is not to say that one shouldn’t have art, just that one should also have windows.
Now I know I’ve been a bit obsessed with my departure from Facebook recently, but I think about it a lot. I’ll get over it eventually, but right now, I think I am experiencing something akin to what happens when that potential buyer takes the painting off the wall and suddenly their world feels smaller and less interesting, even though it really isn’t. I think this experience is what keeps billions of people plugged into this one second-rate app. I shouldn’t compare Facebook to fine art. It’s more like the kind of generic crap they hang in cheap motels, cranked out by the thousands in low paid sweatshops in asia. But there is still that feeling of loss when you leave it. Building real windows is a lot harder than hanging a velvet Elvis in your wall, but don’t all worthwhile things take a bit more work?
So go ahead, keep that velvet Elvis if you must, but open up the window too. You’ll probably see me out there in the real world.