07/02/2013 10:33 am ET Updated Sep 01, 2013

Experience of a Lifetime

"The Sentiment of Style" is a recurring series based on the notion that the most treasured things we own -- our homes, clothing, jewelry, art and accessories -- are objects of equal intimacy to us as our friends, family and mentors. Whether we realize it or not, these items tell stories. Those we keep the longest, and miss the most once they're gone, have the best tales to tell.

"FRAME AN EXPERIENCE." James Turrell said this. I say it too -- but I mean it literally.

Art that captures our attention evokes an emotion in us. We might find it hanging in a museum or gallery. Maybe it's what our children draw, or photos that we and our friends take. It could be two-dimensional, or three. Whatever it is, we should live with it in all its forms where it frames an experience, memory, sensation or mood.

As an art-history student, you're taught first to ask yourself, "Do I like this?" Answer quickly, using nothing more than your gut. Then learn the history of the piece. But always go back to your initial instinct: Whether you like something has nothing do with its history; the resonance is instead an echo of your own.

To like something doesn't necessarily mean it's beautiful; what's required is that it says something. So how do we find pieces to live with? Start by simply looking. Chuck Close said it best: "What difference does it make whether you're looking at a photograph or a still-life? You still have to look." Venture out and see what there is to see with open eyes, so you can learn what you like to look at.

I started by purchasing what I called "LaLa" -- looks like art. I'd frequent flea markets and art fairs (town-square art fairs, not the chic happenings teeming with collectors and curators), buying things that spoke to me.

Like many people, I love going to galleries to look at art, but visiting with the intent to buy something can be intimidating -- not to mention expensive. Because the cost of entry can be high, on my first search, I spent a long time hunting for the "perfect" piece -- the one that would say everything I wanted "real art" to say. It took me a while to realize that no one piece can possibly do this. Only a group of works will speak loudly enough to give voice to the things that affect you most deeply.

I have pieces on my walls that I bought for $5, ones given to me as gifts, those I found while traveling, some that once hung in my parents' home, a few I made myself, several made by friends... and even, yes, a couple I bought at galleries.

At this point, I have a lot of art adorning my walls. But I'd love more -- part of the story I want to tell remains untold. There are many pieces in many galleries I'd love to gobble up; recently, though, I assuaged my desire to tweak the narrative by moving everything around, reframing a few pieces in the process. I was surprised how much the story changed. Nevertheless, I chose to leave one wall blank to accommodate the experiences I want to capture that are still without frames.

In search of the rest of the story, I go out often to look: I look at things I know I could never have; I look at things just out of reach; I look at things within reach. And I ask: Do I like it?