Most of us are familiar with the old adage "If you love something, set it free." This is not only a lovely sentiment but also a constant practice for artists. As individuals who have an innate need to translate our thoughts and feelings into visual, tactile and audible forms, we seldom create with the intention of retention. That said, a true bond does occur between artists and their work.
For as long as it has been documented, art-making has been compared to the birthing process and paintings to offspring. While physically, the comparison seems absurd, conceptually I get it. I've heard many a woman say that she initially bonded with her children at that amazing moment when she first felt them move within her growing tummy. Others say the bond began immediately after they learned that they were pregnant. Some artists bond with their work from the moment of conception. I bond with mine during its execution. Once the composition begins to fall into place and the piece has communicated to me what its colors will be, I know that I have embarked on a new and complicated relationship.
I say complicated because, romanticism aside, these relationships are not always about wine and roses. I've had many a rocky relationship with an uncooperative painting. I have seen most of these to completion only to part ways politely and amicably; "a mutual decision", I tell everyone. I have also, on occasion, stopped mid-painting and shamefully admitted to the canvas before me, "It's not you. It's me." Nevertheless, more often than not, the painting process is a wonderful adventure and its results are, if not quite like offspring, then like good old friends... that you then put on display and try to sell.
Sometimes artists resign themselves to the fact that they will never again share a space with a painting they created and grew to love. The painting is completed and shipped off to a gallery, where it will surely be adopted by a nice vacationing couple who will decide, the moment they see it, that they couldn't possibly go on a single day longer without this work in their lives. The couple will purchase the piece immediately and they will all go on to live happily ever after.
"La Sonora" (The Songstress) acrylic on canvas 30" x 40"
That might be the artist's dream, but we know all too well that selling art is not always that simple. A painting can hang on a gallery wall and be admired, even praised, for years without finding its forever home. Sometimes a painting must resort to doing a bit of gallery hopping before finding its rightful owner. This has been the case with "La Sonora," which spent two years of its life in a New Jersey gallery and returned home last year, just in time for Thanksgiving. The homecoming of a beloved piece is usually bittersweet. It is wonderful to reunite with the work and to welcome it back into your living or artistic space, but of course, you much rather it had sold. It is a bit like wanting your child to visit for the holidays but not to permanently move back in. I have sincerely enjoyed our eight-month reunion and now it is time for her move on. Her adoptive parents are out there somewhere, of this I am sure.
However attached I might become to a piece, I am always prepared to set it free because I gain from my work what I needed during its creation. Once paintings leave my studio, it feels great to know that they have gone somewhere where they will be loved and well cared for - and that in return they will bring joy to their new owners and their friends and families. If only paintings, like kids gone off to college and beyond, could write home once in a while.