How much is a painting worth?

This afternoon, Nicole and I needed to get out of the house, to do something more than grade papers.  So, I found a couple of galleries listed on the CL website and we made an afternoon of checking out the local art scene.

The contrast of the two was striking in one minor detail: the intent of display.  Often, I find the visit to an art gallery to be a rapturous experience, one in which I crawl outside my own skin and become an interaction with the work.  However, at our first stop–The Red Sky Gallery–I became acutely aware of this being both a gallery and a store and the way such an arrangement affects the viewing experience.  And as I roamed the beautiful metal sculptures and pottery and paintings, I found my eyes drifting to the little white tag, often before I looked the art itself.  It became the number by which I would evaluate the work, and it seemed by which I began to evaluate myself.  As my wife and I are both public school teachers, there’s not a lot of extra cash in the coffers to buy art.  And so, a look at the price is often an evaluation of the self.  Could the art be added to my life?  Could it fit in my house?  Not only this, but could this beautiful art, often fragile, even work in my house with two often rowdy dogs.  And so on and so on.

Our second gallery was the McColl Center for the Visual Arts, an artist in residence program.  Their main exhibit was an archetectual/art mediation on doorways.  Nicole and I also found an interactive exhibit in which we colored our own $100 dollar bills for the purpose of raising money to fight lead poisoning.  Through three floors of the renovated church, we perused such oddities as bronze casts of teeth, animated shorts on the role of crime, and videos of Rube Goldberg machine.

Suffering (as I read this morning in one of those moments of serendipitous clarity) is often caused by the desire of the self to separate oneself from the whole, to put the definition of the self and the fulfillment of the self’s desires above all else, as opposed to recognizing the unitive harmony that occurs when goals and vibrations of the self are concordant with the whole.  Walking through RedSky, I marveled at the beautiful work, but at times found myself having to let go of the implications of the price tag on my self-worth (wondering how nice it would be to stroll into the store and buy the beautiful iron statue that spoke to me).  It is in these pools of anxiety where I often find myself trying to tread water, and thereby not appreciating the beauty right in front of me.  Even looking at a glass bowl and thinking that I could never possess it for fear of the knowledge that Atticus would eventually knock it over somehow diminished the experience.  Wrapped up in what the beauty meant for me, rather than just allowing myself to be wrapped up the beauty, its light shined a bit more dimly.

Luckily at McColl, Nicole took my picture, we colored like little kids, played in LCD projectors, and I remembered again how much I love Rube Goldberg, purposeless, aimless joy.


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