I recently sold a cutout that held a great deal of significance for me. I was happy to sell it, of course–that is one of the reasons artists have exhibits–and glad to make the buyer happy to have purchased it.
“Portrait of a Lady” depicts a woman sitting sideways on a chair, a glass of water in her left hand, head turned. She is dressed in black except for the fuchsia pashmina on her shoulders. That was my mother’s pose at her ninetieth birthday party while she listened to the speeches made in her honor. Because it is a tangible representation of a person who no longer inhabits my material world, I felt the need to bid proper farewell to the picture before handing it to the buyer.
A year ago, I was reluctant to part from my creations, my “babies.” Selling artwork isn’t like selling pork chops at the local butcher. It is imbued with layers of meaning, which evoke a range of emotions, among them ambivalence. I have gone from being overly attached to my artwork to acquiring a sense of detachment fueled by the belief that wherever my pictures end up, they will be displayed, admired and looked after. But in the process, did I miss something?
Art is communication. It serves as a repository of the artist’s thoughts and feelings, and the authenticity of those thoughts and feelings is what viewers tend to react to when they become smitten with a particular piece. Viewers, by no means passive, get to interpret what they see through the lens of their own experiences, thereby offering another perspective. Art is engagement, for example, when the artist challenges viewers by enticing, confronting, infuriating them. Indifference is the kiss of death for the artist.
For me, the sale of the portrait brought home a new realization: The loss of the picture was a metaphor for the loss of maman. Now that she is traveling the universe with other particles, she is harder to pin down. But by letting go of the picture, I am in fact releasing her excellent karma into the world of its buyer, and that makes me smile.