What is the Value of Art?
For this painting? Exactly $188.43. Why? Because I spent 10 hours of my life working on it. And my wife suggests that I charge at least a $10/hour wage. For the canvas (1½” thick generic), I used a 40% off coupon at an A.C. Moore 30 miles away. With gas money and Golden Acrylics added in, plus sales tax, I get to the above figure, which is exact.
That is its monetary value.
Its intangible worth is another story. A long one. A novel in twelve volumes; the fourth where I finally divulge my true intentions with the piece above. I began the morning in a funk, feeling sorry for the painter alive in a nation that boasts an impossible super economy, yet trounces its good fortune with an F350 sensitivity to life. Squash the spider! Swat the fly! Watch an eight year old smash a thousand exoskeletons fleeing up the anthill to protect it.
I spent the early morning spam tweeting a hundred gallerists to make them wake up to the prolific potential I have always hyper-activated in hard copy for my village. Then a wake-up call to my twelve year old daughter whom I homeschool away from the F350’s—to teach her that diesel is death, yet antibiotics has opened the door to the greatest party that will ever be. We need to live creatively (and quietly) alongside the diesels, so that we can dream this Christmas on earth without interruption.
This thinking cheers me to an idea that ferments throughout the morning and into late afternoon. I prepare a scratch meal while waiting for my wife to come home from work. She arrives. Plops down in the chair and we unload our thoughts for the day.
Dinner and more talk. A trip to the country wine cellar and a blank canvas in the basement.
I used to rock back and forth in my bed as a boy. I would set three albums on the turntable and let them play through while I rocked myself to sleep. Every single night of my life from age 11 to 18, when college roommates were enough peer pressure to make it a private affair with the door locked.
Now in my basement studio some twenty odd years later, I have gone back to rocking out all of that dreamy energy from my arms and eyes via painting. This night I was going to give my wife a hard copy that would sell. A nature scene at night of our Great Lake Ontario. No more politics. No more cultural critic. Finally a landscape some home decorator would purchase for $188.43. And it started out that way, innocent enough, probably Van Morrison singing “Oh my love when I am away from you…” And all the proposal promises I tacitly made with my lover were kept. We saved for our children’s college. We went to a camp in the summer and cuddled up on the couch to watch TV on stormy nights.
I might have kept to Van for an hour replaying, Summertime in England, and got bold with my love in a red dress, painting soft strokes while slow dancing with her in pacific moonlight. Then suddenly Harvest Moon, and I discover the demon rumors are true. He is rising from the lake! The creature writhes inside every single one of us. No escape. Both rickshaws and diesel trucks. All are accounted for in mortality. Holy Jesus, we’re gonna die!
So the following night I let the born again nihilist Bob Dylan set my text to the painting. It reminds us that doom is impossible to avoid at the onset of middle age.
Even with remarkable advances in metallurgy and sleek rubber linings, the shiny new Ford 350 will rust and leak by the time we are fifty.
It is (is is) a doom alone that counts, and that is the value of art to the living.
This particular piece should remind its buyer that there is no doubt, in a super economy, only a hardened, bitter, and frightened man will buy something he can afford.
So, any takers? I’ll have to add $45.00 for shipping.