How Do We Define the Perfect Piece of Art?

Art sales during Covid-19 have been surprisingly brisk leaving me to wonder why? What is happening now that has made the difference in my modest art business from the previous few years? One potential factor is that people are spending more time in their homes during the pandemic. I am fully aware that there is nothing earth-shattering about this statement to anyone reading this blog post but instead stating the obvious. Working remotely and staying close to our homes during the pandemic has some people rethinking their living space. We are noticing our homes. Truly observing the interior details of our lives. Instead of dashing in and out for any number of reasons we have had ample if not more than we have cared for time to really look around at the place we call home. We are wanting to see some happiness on our walls. Something new. Something different. Something appealing to our senses possibly? Our vaulted family room ceilings don’t need to look like the Sistine Chapel, but a brightly colored floral placed over our newly designated workspaces may be just what we are wanting.  The scrutiny over the perfect piece of art may have taken a backseat to the painting that simply brings us joy. 

I started really thinking about how we judge what is good and / or not as “good” in art? I often have thought in my particular experience that people responded first and foremost to color even over composition. Thoughts over what constitutes a good composition vary wildly yet “art standards” have been ascribed. I do believe there can be artistically interesting exceptions to this rule. A composition may be imperfect, but it works perfectly well if not fabulously so. Different from a poorly designed composition that simply doesn’t have any hope of working no matter how hard the effort.  Trust me I have had many of those days where I struggled to make something work that was doomed from the get-go. In fact, I have painted over those fails believing that the canvas was ultimately if not mystically intended for something much better. Sometimes the original art stars align, where color and composition come together to make a piece successful in its imperfection. I have never cared much for rules anyway …

My work is not for everyone and I am ok with that. Ok may be a stretch as it took me many years to mentally resolve this fact and while I will never be 100% comfortable with this thought I am getting much better. Well, I am trying to get much better at participating in the “business of art.” I do know when I try to be any other artist than myself it is immediately reflected on the canvas. It is disingenuous and serving something else…the wide acceptance of what art “should” be. 

Nothing is easy in 2020 including art delivery. I was contacted by the husband of a friend and work associate a few weeks prior to Christmas. He contacted me through my website which I rarely update so I am always surprised when I receive a message through my site. I have increasingly relied on Instagram for art promotion and sales and paid little attention to my website which is not a great practice. I have had the opportunity to work with his lovely wife, an interior decorator for a number of projects which have been some of my very best art commission opportunities over the many years. He inquired about the availability of one of my paintings from my dance series that she was fond of and happily it was in my studio waiting for a new home. We made our plan. We met halfway between our two prospective places in a state neither one calls home but was the most convenient location. We made the exchange at the far end of a grocery store parking lot with masks on while remaining socially distanced. I slid the 24 x 36 framed painting into the back of his car while we exchanged pleasantries. Not the usual art exchange, in fact it felt almost illicit in nature. We were not doing anything wrong by any stretch of the imagination just trying to execute a reputable transaction during the confines of a pandemic. Everything feels off. We were quite happy to briefly meet and were respectively back on the highway within moments.  In an email to me today from his wife, my friend she told me the painting was designated for her birthday the end of this January which I knew. He presented the painting to her last night and she explained why. She recounted a sad story of a married work friend of her husband’s from a number of years ago. The gentleman had bought a beautiful diamond ring to celebrate the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary. He had intended on giving his wife the ring on the actual day of celebration. Sadly, she unexpectedly passed away two weeks before their anniversary. The gift was never given. The couple now live by his friend’s advice and words of wisdom: “if you ever buy a gift for someone and it’s a special occasion, don’t wait. Life is precious.” Agree…

The whole birthday surprise painting caper was lovely and a reminder to me that while my work may not be for everyone it clearly speaks to some.  Whether a painting exhibits the most technically astute composition, or a canvas filled with a scramble of lines it is how we emotionally engage with a piece that matters most. How we define the perfect piece of art is more about what is perfect for us…

Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it. If it is unfair, keep from irritation. It if is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it. (Anonymous)

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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