My father retired from a long career as a dentist to become at various times a painter, fisherman, gardener, cook, runner and Klezmer fan. I don’t have his aesthetic sense or attention to fine artistic detail, which is why my art ends at geometric doodles on hotel note pads. But my father spends good chunks of the New Jersey winters painting in his basement studio, working off of pictures that various family members and friends email to him as potential e-muse-ments. A few times a year, he frames a cross-section of his work and submits it to a show, or occasionally finds a gallery owner willing to take a few pieces.
Last week I got a smile-generating email from Pops: He sold a painting. On the home studio scale, it’s a nice deal; it’s as much a boost to the artistic ego as to the weekend (and weakened) cash flow. The second line of my father’s email put it in context, though: He was proud to sell a painting when the “real art” market seems to have tanked worse than the local housing market. Sotheby’s and Christie’s can’t move the “name” artists now, with nearly a third of recent auction pieces going unsold.
More than ever, we need art. I’m tired of graphs that go down and to the right; I don’t want to look at red numbers on a screen because there’s only a backwards-looking story in them. Art is healthy. Art is something that makes us laugh, think, feel uncomfortable, or remember what it was like when we took that picture we consider postcard-worthy. Supporting local, small-scale artists will do more for the economy than buying a museum piece because you’ll help a starving artist fund supplies or entertainment, pumping that money right back into the economy. My contribution this week: one not-so-scary Bear Monster shirt from Jeph Jacques’ repertoire. Topatoco, Jeph, UPS, and wherever Jeph spent some of the proceeds on art-enhancing food and drink get small-scary benefits; I just look more bear-like. Both are good things.