Pastel on UArt, approx. 3" x 5".
No sales at Trident Cafe yet so far either. The other day I went there to hang out (not because my work is there right now, but because it's my favorite cafe in Boulder) and it felt strange to be surrounded by my own works. It felt weirdly familiar, as if I were still at home, or in my own studio, where I am always surrounded by the same works. As I sat there, I worried I might overhear patrons talking derogatorily (I'm sensitive, yes) about my art on the walls. I needn't have worried--sadly, in two hours, I didn't see a single person out of perhaps 100 people even glance at the art on the walls. Sigh.
In my experience at least, it is hard to sell art. Especially abstract art. (Although Open Studios has been successful for me. I'm guessing that's because many people that go to Open Studios are going with the intent of actually buying something for their homes, and also many of them decide ahead of time to go see, e.g., only abstract artists during those two weekends in October.)
In museums, in cafes, in shows, I have often overheard attendees deriding abstract art, laughing about how their "four-year-old kid could do that;" "why would I pay money for just scribbles and blobs of color;" "I could do that myself without even trying;" etc. (They're partly right--kid art can be fantastic, thanks to the combination of lack of self-criticism, absence of self-consciousness, spontaneity, purity of intention, lack of preconceptions, etc. See Loriann Signori's utterly delightful recent post about teaching kids!)
It's hard to hear those things--whether heard about my own work or overheard in front of a Twombly at MOMA--though it seems to be a common sentiment. I've had people even at my Open Studios see my realism work and exclaim that they can't believe I'd wanted to stop doing that and instead do what I am doing (and passionate about) now.
I always wish, when I overhear these types of comments, I were able to take those people right at that moment, sit them at a table with some art supplies, and say, "Fine, go for it, let's see if you can indeed produce a simple abstract painting that's interesting, compelling, emotional, lovely, exciting, 'without even trying.'"
It's hard to stay true to what one cares most about, art-wise. I myself have had plenty of times when I wondered if I were going down the wrong artistic path. I suppose in terms of selling art, I have. Other than on a million-dollar (Rothko, Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Frankenthaler, Brice Marden, Josef Albers, etc.) scale in the investment art world--other than on that scale of famousness, well, realism and even semi-abstract always outsell abstract by a huge margin (i.e., in local shows, non-famous-NY-artists shows).
I've found it's often even hard to get an abstract work juried into a show. One of my art teachers at the classical art school told me she thinks it's because many people, including some other artists and art jurors, don't understand how they're "supposed to" react to, or judge, or "understand" abstract art. And so out of fear of seeming ignorant, they simply reject it automatically and move on to art they're more comfortable with. For me (as long as something is competently executed in terms of, say, materials), it's just a pure matter of instinctual response to any given abstract painting. I might love it, hate it, or just shrug out of boredom. I think many people think they are supposed to "figure out" what an abstract painting "means." They think there is some kind of hidden message and they're worried they'll be exposed as not intelligent if they don't "get" it. There may be some abstract paintings like that out there, but frankly, I think those paintings are a minority. Mostly I want to just assure people that any reaction they have is appropriate. Gut reactions are the best reactions. You don't want to think about it. (In my perhaps crazy opinion, the best abstract paintings are the ones that stop your conscious thoughts. You should emerge from viewing them feeling slightly dazed in a pleasant way, as the chatter of your left brain was finally silenced even if just for a few moments.)
It is true that sometimes abstract paintings can be better appreciated by learning about the context [social, technique, materials, etc.] in which they were created--but I maintain the perhaps radical opinion that what matters is just your own gut reaction to a piece. Does it fascinate/repel/surprise/compel/bore you? How long do you spend staring at it? How much of that time spent staring at it is just feeling, as opposed to thinking analytically about how and why the artist made it?
The way I finally figured out what I really wanted to do in art (for the moment--this of course can and will naturally morph!) was by asking myself two questions: 1) when I'm in a museum or a show or looking at art books, what am I most drawn to and feel most excited about looking at? and 2) if I knew I only had a year to live, would I choose to paint realism or abstract? ...and suddenly the answer is perfectly clear to me. I don't know why gazing upon, say, two blocks of color in a rectangle should give me goosebumps, but when it is well done, it simply does.
I love my skeptical Moji. He'd tell those art critics a thing or two.
From the archives: baby Gadjo!
In Hyderabad, India.