Skip to main content

$Monday: Buying Fine Art for the Home

Right before the pandemic canceled everything, I purchased my first piece of fine art directly from the artist. Adulting milestone achieved!

My home has always been filled with art because many of my family members and friends are artists, and I've created a few things here and there myself. I've been blessed with leftovers and castoffs and special gifts of artworks over the years, but this is the first time I've selected and purchased my own piece directly from a known artist (as opposed to, for example, buying folk art in a fair trade shop without knowing the identity of the individual artisan).

There is joy in receiving a surprise gift of beauty and in figuring out where and how to display it in my home. And there is a different sort of satisfaction in designing my own space in advance, choosing a piece to display there, and being able to pay for it.

There is plenty of advice to be found online about how to invest in art and how to decorate one's home, but I'm not looking to trade or sell pieces necessarily, nor am I staging home designs to please anyone but myself and my family. So I have slightly different purposes for how I want to accessorize my living space.

First, I prefer to meet artworks face-to-face. I don't believe that there is any perfect substitute for experiencing physical, visual art directly. Photographs can be confusing because they're two-dimensional, and sizing and true color can be difficult to determine. But sometimes, like during a stay-at-home order, online shopping is the only way to go.

Buying from an artist you know personally is a great way to support a friend or family member and to feel more connected to the piece. If you don't happen to know an artist (who makes something you want to purchase and display in your home), I like the idea of buying from an artist who is just starting out or who isn't famous or popular in your local area. You can find more options within your budget that way, and you can find something unique that you won't see in your neighbors' homes or at your local coffee shops and galleries.

On the other hand, there can be comfort and pride in displaying art that represents your local scene. And of course, it's always pleasurable to buy a piece from a faraway destination when you visit. It all depends on how you want your pieces to make you feel--grounded and comforted, refreshed and inspired, or reminded of a distant place and time. The point is to choose something meaningful to you, however you define that and wish to express it.

I like having things that are special and unexpected and things that remind me of people and places I have loved. Prints and replicas of famous or classic pieces of art, to me, feel like dorm room decor and not things that add meaning to an adult's home, but I am partial to a cheeky joke piece or fun bit of kitsch. I've seen the visual pun below displayed in an ornate frame in someone's house, and I think it's hilarious. It's both aesthetically pleasing and silly, and it it signals that the family who lives there is both educated and fun-loving.

Art can be humorous, edgy, subversive, exciting, soothing, steamy, awe-inspiring, cute, nostalgic, or just pretty. There's no right way to feel about a piece of art, but there are right choices to make if you want to feel any kind of way every time you enter a room. It's personal.

Once you know what you like, if you want to display it in your home, you also need to make sure the piece will thrive in its new habitat. You'll have to take into account how the piece needs to be installed and cared for. Will it need to be dusted? Protected from direct sunlight? Does it require special hardware? A frame? A case or a stand? Where must it be located within a room to be viewed properly?

Along with those logistics, there are issues of home design to consider. Will the piece fit aesthetically into your existing color scheme and style? If not, you may want to choose a different work or make changes to your living space to accommodate the new piece.

I bought this ceramic piece (above left) when my out-of-state artist friend Lisa S. Truax passed through my area on her way back from an exhibit. I wanted to take the opportunity to snatch up a piece of her (heavy and difficult to transport) ceramic wall art while it happened to be rolling through my town and at a time when I was still planning on renovating my kitchen over the summer.

Lisa has given me lots of functional pottery and sculptural pieces over the years since she lived in mid-Michigan back in the '00s. I already planned to display some of those things on open shelves in my new kitchen, and I wanted a bold wall piece to repeat forms and textures from my kitchen ceramics and heirloom cast iron cookware (to be hung vertically like Julia Child did with hers!) into the dining room.

I'm already familiar with Lisa's work in real life, so it was easy for me to select a piece from a set of photos so that she could set it aside for me when she packed up her show. The one I selected from a huge array of choices stood out to me for some gut reason, and it looked somehow familiar, though I didn't remember why. Then Lisa reminded me that she had collected earth from her previous backyard here in mid-Michigan years ago to create the crackled yellow portion. I was delighted that I had zeroed in on this one piece, which had caught my attention like the face of an old acquaintance you don't recognize at first.

My kitchen renovation is on hold for now, until it's safe for me and my family to swap kitchen use and renovation help with my parents, who also want to redo their outdated kitchen. I'm sad that these projects have to be put on hold during the pandemic, but having my artwork safely stored and ready to install gives me something joyful to look forward to, when I can finally finish my kitchen and open it up to dinner guests again.


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

$Monday: How to Make Do Without Hoarding

As more of us stare down the possibility of weeks in quarantine, it's easy to understand why some people are panic shopping. There's not much else to do when most activity and gathering places are shuttered. And many people are terrified--if not of the coronavirus itself, then of the disruptions to daily life and supply chains. But hoarding is disastrous to society; crowding ourselves into grocery stores is a serious health hazard; and there's no stockpile of stuff big enough to last through a doomsday scenario in which--oh, dare I say it--coffee beans become unavailable for the long term. (Not that I believe that will happen, but...) What are we to do? We can take a lesson from our grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and start learning how to do without some of the things people didn't always have. Some of the things we consider "essential" are things which we can, honestly, live without. Here is a list of items that some people are hoardi

$Monday: How to Get the Most Out of Your Groceries

Many of us have, by now, stocked up on enough groceries to last us two or three weeks. If you're like me, you chose to save money and maximize health by purchasing mostly whole ingredients rather than heat-and-eat processed foods. Now, to make those groceries last as long as possible, the key is to minimize waste by controlling portions and consuming things in a logical order. If you're not used to cooking and eating this way, it will take some adjustment to accept that you can't just eat whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. This is a great opportunity to learn old-school home economics and develop an appreciation for down-home cooking. If you commit to these habits, you will eventually get used to it and start to find real pleasure in the process, and these kitchen witchery skills will keep you healthier and wealthier long after the pandemic has ended . Yesterday, I had a hard decision to make. Our batch of Scharffen Berger chocolate chunk cookies dwin

$Monday: Corona Summer Self-Care

Nobody wants to hang out in a waiting room at the height of this pandemic summer. One of my friends just dodged an outbreak by procrastinating on having her cat's claws trimmed. Now everyone who's been to that vet during the past few days is supposed to do the two-week quarantine routine. Now on top of copays and the usual discomforts of obtaining care for our furry friends and our human selves, there's the risk of catching the cooties. Definitely go and get any treatments that you need, but it's great to not need as many office visits. I'm doing what I can do at home to take care of my own health and have all of my stupid, silly summer fun in relatively safe ways--like having a redneck pool party in the lawn with my daughter and husband. Here are some other ways I'm staying healthy, safe, and sane while maintaining social distancing and a spark of faith that my kid might somehow be able to go back to school next month: keeping active with silly st

TBT: Full House

Remember when co-housing, roommates, and multi-generational family homes were good ideas? Those living arrangements still have their advantages, but during a pandemic, it is much safer for individuals, romantic partners, and caregiver/dependent units to have their own spaces, amenities, and entrances. I miss the days when that wasn't so. I hope that one day soon, this pandemic will end, and the Great Recession-era post below will once again be relevant... at least for some people, at some times in their lives. I'm sure it is still relevant on well-governed, geographically isolated island nations such as New Zealand and Iceland. Oh, to be in one of those nations at this time! I sure do miss hanging out with my friends and having overnight guests, but in this very particular moment, I am grateful to live in a single-family home with only my husband and daughter and to enjoy the ability to stay put in it most of the time. I sure did not see an out-of-control pandemic coming

TBT: The Freedom in Tribal Connection

Way back in the day, I dropped out of grad school. I was doing well academically but not, let's say, spiritually. I asked several people in my chosen field what we could do about catastrophic injustices in the systems we were becoming experts in, and I received the same answer several times: "Uh, you could call your senator." I was smart enough to know I didn't need a master's degree to do that, so I quit school and began my career working for social justice-seeking nonprofits. For six years, I worked for a statewide activist organization that sent me on some long trips to reach out and connect with people across county and state borders to work toward common goals. One summer, my boss and I took a road trip from the "palm" area of Michigan's lower "mitten" all the way up to the tippy-top of the beautiful Keweenaw Peninsula. We went into mostly rural areas and met with local church leaders and people of faith in humanity, and we gathered

$Monday: Can You Breathe?

You can't earn or save money if you can't even breathe. One reason why "it's expensive to be poor" is that people who live in lower-income neighborhoods don't get enough clean air to breathe . I've demonstrated that " You can't afford a poor diet ," and it's even more obvious that you can't give up oxygen to save money. Poor air quality destroys productivity , and the terrible costs of air pollution are mainly borne by the individuals who suffer health conditions, disability, cognitive impairment , and premature death due to their lack of access to clean air. On top of air pollution hazards, the accelerating Covid-19 pandemic is threatening Americans' ability to breathe. Meanwhile, cries of "I can't breathe" draw our attention to escalating police brutality and our federal government militarizing Brownshirt-resembling forces against its own citizens who are protesting peacefully and within their rights according t

$Monday: Testing a New Kitchen Design Before Renovation

My husband and I planned to renovate our worn-out kitchen this year, with my dad's help. And--oop!--we all know what happened to everyone's plans for 2020. There is no way I can keep my family fed properly through the pandemic in my designed-circa-1990, tacked-together, corner-cut, stingy-cheap, crazy, nailed-it-wrong kitchen nightmare that has been crumbling, grumbling, rotting, rusting, and breaking since we bought this house in 2008. We have to do something, so we turned a setback into an opportunity to slow down and beta test some of our new kitchen ideas with temporary staging. It might look insane, but who cares? We won't be having the queen over for tea anytime soon, so we can take time to play with space and function before we commit to building permanent structures and finishing surfaces. For example, open shelves are not practical for everyone. They don't hide clutter or protect things from dust. However, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and prefer

TBT: Buddhist Meditations

Zen meditations! Inspirational quotes! Sick burns! Buddhism offers them all. As many American college students do, I enjoyed studying and practicing Buddhist rituals in college. As a recovering Catholic from a weirdly fundamentalist, Germanic-ish family tradition, I found the "bells and smells" of Buddhist temples familiar in a comforting way and the anti-dogmatic edge of Zen exhilarating in a refreshing way. I learned that extreme prayer and self-control are not owned by Christians, nor is smug superiority. What valuable lessons for a young person to learn. So valuable, in fact, that in our late 30s, my husband and I are still paying the bills for our private college educations. Can you put a price on ancient wisdom? Is that a koan? In my earliest adulthood, I took solace in the meditations below. Please enjoy them here on the Magic Nutshell, free of charge. Buddhist Meditations The Buddha sought a middle path between asceticism and materialism. All over the world, people a

TBT: The Best Free Medicine (Hint: Not Hydroxyclean)

It's not Hydroxyclean. Or any kind of disinfectant. Or hydroxychloroquine. It's not anything hocked by our joke of a president. But it is jokes about that and anything else that makes you laugh instead of rage. Humor has become more important than ever to my family's mental and emotional health during this global crisis. My tastes may have matured (or... something) since my days of watching Sacha Baron Cohen movies--now I prefer watching YouTube shows Trixie and Katya Save the World (WOWPresents) and I Like to Watch (Netflix) and following @knee_deep_in_life on Instagram. My husband and I laugh so hard we cry over a well-timed fart joke. Our nine-year-old daughter is a bit more sophisticated, but she shares the dark side of our sense of humor; we all adore Christina Ricci's iconic portrayal of Wednesday Addams. The news is, as usual, full of horror that isn't funny. Right now, the two main themes seem to be pandemic tragedy and racist violence. My husband and