Sometimes I wonder about it: what happens to my art when someone buys it?
I’ve had collectors show me the art they purchased and framed in a way that makes me cringe… or applaud. I’ve had people send me pictures of my work in their homes or office. There have been invitations to visit the work, and requests to install it for them.
Each of these encounters cements my relationship to the patron, and the patron’s relationship to the work. The collector loves it, finds it inspiring.
Once, I got a message that my work had been sold at auction at Selkirks! Exciting! Well, “exciting” until I went to the Selkirk’s website and saw the price it fetched. Let’s just say that is was a very humbling moment.
Thursday I got a call from a collector. A tentative voice on the phone.
“Claymera? Is this Claymera?”
Oy. I thought that was dead. In 1999 I made and sold passable functional pottery along with very traditional film photography, mostly nature prints. Now, photography has changed a lot in the last 20 years, but there were STILL a lot of nature photographers out there in the ’90s. Mine were fine… mediocre at best. Technically good but pedestrian. It’s hard to be a good nature photographer.
I sold this work under the business name Claymera…. clay… camera.. I thought it was clever. It lasted about 2 years before I gratefully found a niche in alternate process photography… and left pottery for commissions and personal work.
The caller bought the piece at an estate sale. It was still in the protective plastic sheath it was sold in.
Oy. That means it sat in a closet.
“It’s perfect,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”
Thank you. Don’t tell me how much you paid.
“Is it valuable?”
Well, I said. … I’m still alive.
She got the joke. A C-print of a butterfly, no matter how good, is unlikely to be valuable.
But it was to her, in a way. She told me she loved the piece; I almost begged her to visit my website and see my current “good” work!
Still, it reminded me that, in the last 20 years or so, I have sold thousands of photographs, mixed media paintings, and other art pieces. Where are they living? Are they loved? How many of my photographs or paintings are sitting in closets, or on their second or third owners?
Art has a life beyond the studio.
And that woman made my day.