Friday, 7 December 2012

The Art of Selecting, well, uh.. Art

For this week's Friday Phil, I want to talk about selecting artwork. Now, we're no experts on the matter; I'm not sure we've ever actually selected any artwork per se, which is why I want to talk about it.

See, my inlaws have a theory about this, and if they actually use it, it's worked for them. My father-in-law explains it something like this (not exact quotes): 
The thing you can't do is say "I like this," or "I don't like this." You need to say "This inspires me," or "This doesn't inspire me."
Well, you might say, isn't this just replacing one word, namely "like," with another, "inspire." And you're mostly right. But as far as I can tell, the primary difference is this:

Art is so subjective that what one person likes relative to another is often so inconsistent as to appear random. When we say "I like this," or "I don't like this," we pronounce personal judgment on a piece of art that, if your partner has an opposite opinion, represents your active disagreement.

However, if we put the responsibility on the piece of art to inspire us, then whether it does for one person or not is not their fault. If the Mona Lisa doesn't inspire me, my wife can't say "Oh, he's just disagreeable," she'll just have to blame ol' Mona's half-smile or Da Vinci's forgetting the eyebrows.

Or you can blame Dan Brown.
It's your call, really.
Now, that sounds like high-falutin' psychology. Truth be told, we have only halfheartedly tried to test this strategy in the past. I have to admit, the subtle distinction between liking and being inspired by art makes it seem almost laughable to put it into practice. That said, we haven't exactly been loading up on the art using our own methods. Maybe if we did put the theory to work, we'd be walking out of galleries and decor stores with so many paintings under our arms, you'd think we were auditioning for a part in Ocean's Twelve.
No, so far our strategy for selecting art and decor (primarily decor to this point) has been less evolved. To illustrate, we're going to do some mad-libbing, so need you to pick:

  • a type of material (wood, stone, fabric, etc.)
  • the name of an animal or religious figure (I guess in the case of the ancient Egyptians, this could be both)
  • a verb meaning "love" or a word meaning "hate"
  • an actor from the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross (or the original 1983 Broadway stage production, if you have to be different)
  • a facial feature

Got yours all written down? Don't peek down before you have!

Good. So our strategy for selecting decor goes something like this:
Cass says "How about this [material] [animal/religious figure]?"

I say "I [verb for love or hate] it. Doesn't it look a little like [Glengarry actor]'s [facial feature]?"

I would say our method inverts the old 18th-century marriage proposal system, where
"man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal," but this blog relies on Friday posts to bring the testosterone, and quoting Jane Austen doesn't exactly fit that bill.

Quick, gotta recapture the male audience's attention. Ummm, okay:
"Yo dudes, who's hotter, Jane Austen (above) or Mona Lisa?"
Okay, yeah, never mind.

I digress.
One thing that shopping for art has done is helped me realize how difficult it is to find art that both of us like that compliments the furniture and decor we already own. So my solution on a pair of occasions has been as DIY of me as I get: I make my own art (sort of).

Next Friday I'll share with you how I do it, but suffice it to say, if you've got Photoshop and a bit of a printing budget, you can make beautiful canvasses that you, your significant other, and your space will love.  

With or without eyebrows.  

Until then, do you guys have any strategies for selecting art and decor? How did your mad lib turn out? (Mine: Cass says "How about this Mahogany Platypus?" I say "I canonize it! Doesn't it look a little like Alan Arkin's jowls?")

In case you thought, hey, I'd buy a mahogany platypus.
Note: They're not mahogany, nor do they look much like George Aaronow, in case that impacts your buying decision. That said, they don't NOT look like Alan Arkin...

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