I’ve been nesting a bit lately. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve bought a new rug, two new bookcases, and some art for the wall in my hallway. Although I really liked the images and the way they made me feel as I walked along the corridor into my home, I started to become a little self-conscious about what they said about me and my perception of art.
Allow me to explain.
If you have art in your home, regardless of style, age or acceptability, do you ever stop to wonder why you've chosen to adorn your walls and shelves with the art that you have?
People collect and appreciate art for different reasons. Some collect art because they believe it will increase in value. Some collect art because they want to impress visitors to their home or office. Others collect because of what they believe the artist is saying, especially if it has a sociopolitical message. And of course, there are those who collect simply because they love a piece.
None of these are inherently bad reasons to collect art. I'm sure the artist who sold their work to a buyer who hopes it will collect in value feels no less hungry than the artist who sold their work to a buyer who identified with its pro-immigrant rights message.
But I feel comfortable confessing that my art collection is more of a reflection of who I am in general, rather than my beliefs in a particular cause or the prospective value of art. Sure, plenty might look around my home and label me as unsophisticated because of the art I have. They might view my selection of posters and prints as pedestrian or clichéd. They see a series of images or DVDs and wonder (sometimes aloud) why I don't decorate my home in the manner that suits their view of me.
Of course, I pay these people no mind. As a matter of fact, these types of people are primarily the reason I don't have dinner parties or invite people into my home very often. To me, an art collection is a reflection of who you are, not what you think is “good art,” and certainly not what someone else thinks is good art. Like books, I think the art you bring into your personal space should invoke a connection that is justified to you and no one else.
I’ll give you some examples.
I have two small pieces of “word art” near my window. They are canvas and wood pieces with phrases on them. One says, “Peace starts with yourself & grows.” The other, “Paris Flea Market.” I have no idea where I bought them.
Across the room, I have prints from illustrators Grant Snider and Yao Yao Ma Van As decorating my tiny reading nook. Along the top of my bookshelves, I have a 6-inch tall replica of Jimmy Page’s 1959 Les Paul guitar that I won in a sweepstakes contest at the Eiteljorg Museum; a small, blue stylized wooden box my aunt Bonita gave me as a souvenir from her visit to India; and a 9-inch tall poseable wooden doll I found in a thrift store two doors down from my favorite coffeeshop back home.
A dark print in a heavy gray-blue frame featuring an image of a bugle, a violin and sheet music sits quietly in the corner behind my portable record player. Not far from the turntable, two small illustrations with uplifting poems beside them were treasures I bought from Suzy Toronto at the Independent Music + Art Festival in 2010. Two license plates -- one from California, the other from Indiana -- balance out this quirky corner.
Further along that wall, pass the $1 vinyl records I purchased at Goodwill mingling with the Miles Davis album I bought at the Strand bookstore and the Jonny Lang album I ordered online, is a set of plastic shelves. Home to my small, but beloved DVD collection, atop of the shelves/stackable cubes lies a "Powerpuff Girls" lunchbox I’ve had since my first job out of college as an Editorial Assistant; a small jar of sand and seashells my mother brought back from a trip to Florida with my middle name on it; and two baseball caps -- one fitted Yankees cap I bought over 15 years ago, and a Homestead Grays cap I purchased at the California African American Museum after I visited their amazing exhibit on the Negro Baseball League.
OK. So those were a lot of examples. ;-)
All of this to say that the art in my home is not intended for the enjoyment of others (although I would hope some people appreciate it), but instead, it’s there to reflect who I am. Where I've lived. Experiences I've had. In my art collection, you'll see my personality, my adventures, and my relationships. And if you visit my home and you’re keen enough, you’ll quickly determine that I have a not-so-secret love for the city of Paris; I’m not afraid to mix-match colors or patterns; and I’m neither a minimalist nor a maximalist.
I don't pretend to be sophisticated. I have no desire to impress. I simply want my space to feel as if it represents a life well lived. Because I firmly believe that you will know them by their art. Although I was hesitant about what my new art prints say about me as a fan of art, I’ve now accepted that when taken into perspective with all the other works in my home, whatever is being said is something I’m very proud to share and reflect me.