Tuesday, November 27, 2012

News which isn't news

Le Petit Prince. 20"×16" (50.8×40.6cm). Oil on linen September 2012
I had decided early on not to offer my paintings as prints, postcards, or any other artsy merchandise. Lately, however, I revisited this question, tempted by two considerations. 

The first is that my sonnet paintings aren't going to be released to the world for a long time. I want to complete the series first, mainly because I want to make sure they work as a series, but also because I dream of exhibiting them together at some point. Yet there are 154 sonnets, and I barely keep up with my schedule of three sonnets a month, which means there are at least three-four years more ahead before the series is close to completion. It seemed reasonable to find some way to let them out there in some form.

The second was the idea, born in a conversation with Abby Markov on Google+, to put the images on something decidedly un-artsy, like kitchen towels or aprons (this option of print-on-demand aprons is offered on Zazzle), to get rid of some overstated earnestness often associated with the whole business of "Art" and make it more playful and whimsical.     

I've been thinking about this, even planning various approaches and playing with designs, but in the end, I decided not do anything like this, at least for now. At some level, it is a purely emotional decision: not that I feel bad about it exactly, but the truth is, the more I think about it, the more I feel myself setting in the wrong, stressful, noisy state of mind. This doesn't work well for painting, to say the least, which kind of defies the whole purpose of this idea: no paintings, no aprons.  

If I try to understand my own reaction and attitude a bit deeper, this is the best I've come up with so far: I feel uncomfortable enough with the decidedly earthly, material nature of paintings themselves. I'd rather they were as fleeting and immaterial as musical performances, or poems, or dances. I feel this discomfort whenever I am confronted with the matter of paintings outside the process of painting itself: whenever they have to be stored, or packed, or shipped, that is, taken care of as "things". And there is plenty to be had of it in any painter's life. I remember reading somewhere that Yoko Ono reportedly said that any painting should be photographed and then destroyed. And I understand this feeling, I empathize with this temptation, but I am not quite up to it so far, if only because I see the insurmountable distance between the original painting and its photo reproduction. 

So I tend to overcome this discomfort with the idea that paintings are rather like human beings, stuck between heaven and earth, between immaterial and material, between what's inside their minds and their outer, mundane bodies. This tension is fundamental to our life, and so it is to the life of a painting. Yet this way of thinking doesn't quite work with postcards, iPad covers and aprons. I don't want to try and increase the amount of "stuff" in the world any more than I absolutely have to. When I finally decided to abandon the idea of prints and merchandise again, it was as though a heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders; which probably means it was the right thing to do, for me. 

There remains only one unanswered argument, which often comes up in conversations on this topic between painters: what about people who would want something of yours, but cannot afford the original? I don't really think this applies to me: on the one hand, lots of my smaller original paintings are being sold on Daily Paintworks for prices that cannot be really out of reach for someone who would consider buying art prints or artsy aprons. On the other hand, all high-resolution images on my website are offered under Creative Commons Non-Commercial license, which means that you can do anything for yourself out of them, even an apron if this idea appeals to you... 


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