Home is where the art is

Art has been with us, well, as long as humans have been humans. Think of the vivid cave paintings found around the world… the still-fascinating wall paintings of Egypt … New World pre-Columbian art … aboriginal art of North America, Africa and the South Pacific. Not to mention the masters of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the last several centuries.

It’s only been fairly recently in our long history that art has become commoditized, mass-produced like corn flake boxes. As late as the 1950s, art was something special, and you felt something when you looked at it: joy, a lump in the throat, sadness, sometimes a question.

Sure, you had to go to museums to see it, but real art-lovers became as comfortable in art museums as in their living rooms.

I noticed then, though – as I do now – that most people’s living rooms are devoid of art. They may have something colourful or abstract or black-and-white-designy on their walls, but it ain’t art.

Unfortunately, art seems to have become a home decorating accessory. Something like a throw pillow or upholstery fabric. You can find bins and bins of prints at home décor chain stores. They’re framed and reasonably priced. They look nice on your walls. They’re fine as starter pieces, in dorm rooms and first apartments.

Original vs. mass-produced

But as you mature and (perhaps) have a little more to spend, consider venturing into the world of original art, something produced by a real human being. I asked a few artists how original art is different from the mass-produced stuff.

“Where’s the feeling?” local artist Elizabeth Berry challenged. “It’s joy versus neutral nothingness!”

Berry’s lively paintings are “a vivid statement of emotion,” she says.

Even her more subdued artworks still have a sense of energy in them. “I connect totally with the object,” expressing emotion and spontaneity, she says.

An artist for 40 years, Berry is comfortable with the idea that people want something that will fit their décor. She’s seen folks bring paint samples and fabric swatches to her shows (and they often find a painting that suits them).

On the other hand, some people have even redecorated a room to go with a favourite painting. (Note: Good excuse for new furniture, etc.)

Make a statement

My opinionated friend Sonia Day, painter/author/columnist, has her own viewpoint. “You’re getting something someone has slaved over,” she immediately responds.

“And an original is priceless – something only you have. Your friends can come in and say, ‘That’s an interesting piece,’ and you can build a little collection.”

The original art you choose also says something about you, she adds. “You’re sticking your neck out a little bit. With mass-produced art you’re not saying anything. With original art you’re making a statement, saying ‘I like this piece.’ ”

Ever practical, Sonia points out that “Original art often costs not much more than a print, and it may grow in value over the years.”

I personally am hopeless at drawing and painting. But as a (very small) buyer, I like seeing the world through another person’s eyes. I appreciate the skill involved in original art, and I feel some sense of communication with the artist.

Buying local

Certainly it’s easy enough to find original art in Toronto. You don’t have to brave the rarefied atmosphere of fancy downtown galleries. Try venues like Beach Studio Tours, Beach Guild of Fine Arts shows, Beach Craft Shows, One of a Kind Craft Shows and the summer City Hall art show.

Maybe it’s time to start your own personal art fund and expand your horizons a bit.

The art of the frame

Original art – even it it’s your kid’s drawing of a boat – deserves to be framed properly, if you want it to last. I spoke with Ana Alexandre, at the Incurable Collector, about the benefits of custom framing. Her key points:

• The artwork won’t ripple from humidity over time.

• Acid-free matting and backing will keep artwork from deteriorating.

• Matting keeps the glazing (glass) from touching the artwork. Over time, some art materials can stick to unmatted glass and ruin the art.

• UV-blocking glazing can protect the artwork from light, one of the biggest enemies of original art.

Her last two bits of wisdom: Don’t hang art in the bathroom; the best framing can’t protect it from the high humidity. And hang art where you can see it comfortably – without tilting your head if you’re standing, a little lower if it’s in a room where you’re usually seated.

Art has been with us, well, as long as humans have been humans. Think of the vivid cave paintings found around the world… the still-fascinating wall paintings of Egypt … New World pre-Columbian art … aboriginal art of North America, Africa and the South Pacific. Not to mention the masters of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the last several centuries.
It’s only been fairly recently in our long history that art has become commoditized, mass-produced like corn flake boxes. As late as the 1950s, art was something special, and you felt something when you looked at it: joy, a lump in the throat, sadness, sometimes a question.
Sure, you had to go to museums to see it, but real art-lovers became as comfortable in art museums as in their living rooms.
I noticed then, though – as I do now – that most people’s living rooms are devoid of art. They may have something colourful or abstract or black-and-white-designy on their walls, but it ain’t art.
Unfortunately, art seems to have become a home decorating accessory. Something like a throw pillow or upholstery fabric. You can find bins and bins of prints at home décor chain stores. They’re framed and reasonably priced. They look nice on your walls. They’re fine as starter pieces, in dorm rooms and first apartments.
Original vs. mass-produced
But as you mature and (perhaps) have a little more to spend, consider venturing into the world of original art, something produced by a real human being. I asked a few artists how original art is different from the mass-produced stuff.
“Where’s the feeling?” local artist Elizabeth Berry challenged. “It’s joy versus neutral nothingness!”
Berry’s lively paintings are “a vivid statement of emotion,” she says.
Even her more subdued artworks still have a sense of energy in them. “I connect totally with the object,” expressing emotion and spontaneity, she says.
An artist for 40 years, Berry is comfortable with the idea that people want something that will fit their décor. She’s seen folks bring paint samples and fabric swatches to her shows (and they often find a painting that suits them).
On the other hand, some people have even redecorated a room to go with a favourite painting. (Note: Good excuse for new furniture, etc.)
Make a statement
My opinionated friend Sonia Day, painter/author/columnist, has her own viewpoint. “You’re getting something someone has slaved over,” she immediately responds.

Cont’d. on Page 31

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