Monday, June 04, 2007

David Teniers the Younger. The Art Collection of Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm in Brussels. 1651. Oil on canvas. 127 x 162.5 cm. Petworth House, The National Trust, Sussex, UK

When you hear the term "art collector", most of us think of someone who lives in a large home (or two or three homes) where they have plenty of space to display their many paintings or sculptures, purchased discreetly for them, of course, by their personal buyer traveling from auction to auction with their cell phone and auction number in hand.

At least I do. I have a vivid imagination.

But we are all art collectors whether we collect fine art or simply sea shells that we display along the bathroom window sill. Art, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder.

The other day I was thinking about the overwhelming task I've taken on, of rearranging most of my personal belongings, and I had one of those "aha" moments when I realized that I'm not simply trying to reduce clutter and reclaim a bit of order in my life. I'm also hungry to create an environment that is both artful in and of itself and a canvas on which to display my personal collection of art. Which means thinking of myself as an art collector. And we're not just talking about finding a few walls for paintings. Nosirree. My taste in art is multi-flavored and my collection is as eclectic as you can get! Everything from Mary Engelbreit to Claude Monet, Edward Gorey to Paul Gaugin.

This path of thought allows me just one more way to feel overwhelmed! It also allows me to mentally divide my belongings into new categories.

Category A is Useful Things I Use and Need To Own. Although some of these things might also be beautiful in their own right, I'm thinking of things I need whether they are artful or not. It doesn't matter if my chopsticks are beautifully hand carved or just cheap wooden sticks from the local Chinese restaurant, I need them. And beautiful or not, mostly this category of stuff simply needs to be efficiently stored.

Category B is Non-Useful Things with No Purpose Beyond being Decorative. This category is where I need to seriously consider what my relationship is with each item. When I look at each item, how do I define it? Art? Knicknack? Tchotchke? Collectible? Sentimental trinket? Investment? Dust collector? Each of these definitions holds a different emotional value and relationship. Like people, some are cherished friends while others I simply put up with for some reason - probably not a good reason.

I have a small love affair with a book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. And in that book, I have a favorite segment that I call to mind whenever I'm stuck on what to do with a belonging. I'll quote it here:

The Clutter Test

1. Does it lift my energy when I think about it or look at it?

2. Do I absolutely love it?

3. Is it genuinely useful?

If you can't answer yes to question number one and at least one of the other two questions, the author asks - why are you hanging on to it? I can't tell you how many times running something through that small test has been an enlightening experience.

Getting back to my small epiphany, I realize that I want to sort my belongings, making sure that everything in Category B is something I consider beautiful or entertaining or sentimental. It doesn't all have to be art in the traditional sense. It can be some silly, ugly little thing if it makes me laugh every time I see it. It can be a lump of clay in the shape of a ..... a.... indistinguisable lump of clay if my child presented it to me and it makes my heart feel full when I look at it.

But I want it to be art in the sense that it moves me. I don't want to keep things, dust things, find spaces for things, if I'm keeping them because they are the right color for the room or they might be worth something someday. I want to keep only those things that bind me to them in some magical and positive way.

I know that my fantasies will be tempered by reality. I live with family members who do not share my vision. I don't have the money to create the perfect home. I'm not gonna hide away the cat beds or the television. But I hope to aim high and then be pleasantly surprised at what I might be able to accomplish. And for that to happen, I must be off to do some decision making.

While I'm busy with my sorting and organizing, perhaps you might want to take a look around your own house. Ask yourself a few questions as you look about you. What items bring you a feeling of happiness or contentment? Which items make you feel stuck or sad? How can you make your environment honor your own personal collection of art?

1 comment:

Jaye said...

David Teniers the Younger. The Art Collection of Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm in Brussels :

I love this photo. They have it, or one like it, at the Kunsthistorisches Museen in Vienna and I love to look at it. What obsession to do something like this.