On Becoming An Unsuspecting Art Collector

by Dana Jerman

“Whenever people attempt life, debris piles up.” - Gary Indiana

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Blastfortune.com has been a forum wherein I've been able to talk separately about individual artists as well as my relationship to them via my work as a figure model.

This is extremely fortunate for me as an appreciator of culture I don't always entirely understand but feel drawn into. My personal process and bearing witness to the process of others in relation to their chosen art form (in this case, painting- rendering 3 dimensions onto a 2 dimensional surface) has been extraordinary and life changing. It means a greater understanding of everything relating to the task of making something beautiful.

I’ve felt most comfortable in the role of creator. Not of things meant specifically for collecting, which is to say items that ideally go together when they are displayed, but that is certainly a possible scenario for future work.

I’m a bit of an outsider artist, though. I did not go to art school or bother learning many tactics behind manufacture, packaging and sale of art. Let alone technique! Much of what I do is simple and experiment-based. I am however, most attracted to art that does something I don’t believe I myself could ever do.

To commit to a collection. To the desire for collecting. This is an art in itself. And a bizarre one. I say bizarre because the collection then evolves to take on its own sensibility in reflection. It provides a mirror. They show me what I value. So far it seems I value color a great deal. Diversity of subject matter. And a high level of stylization.

Some pieces have come to me as gifts. Some waited for me a long time in closets and storage.

This too seems best, feels the most right, when the members of the collection have chosen you.

Perhaps these are all criteria true of any collection.

Music. Photos. Earrings. Stamps, on one occasion. Paper and collage items. Books. I have collected so many different kinds of books. I do get a little claustrophobic when my collections get too big…

But now I feel a special maturity of presence and being coming over me in the form of art collecting.

I have gotten better at admiring. Better at watching with a patient eye, then saying "I connect with this. I want it. How do I get it?” And then not procrastinating. Of yet, remarkably I have experienced no buyers/traders remorse. Eventually I see myself commissioning works, and very potentially even working in an art gallery. Perhaps having a hand in curation.

For an artist to gain a collector. How important is this? I have never had one. I know a painter who has a patron. The painter describes him as a laconic man from another country. The painter is a bit confused as to why his art appeals to this man, but is very thankful for his patronage.

I have never asked the painter though, if he experiences the curious emptiness that I sometimes feel in the aftermath of a sale. I have traded something beautiful for a number. For money. And now that the cycle of commerce is complete, what next?

A favorite writer of mine, Jeanette Winterson, has this in part to say about how art seized her and called attention to this impluse for collecting.

From her book ‘Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery’:

The true artist is after the problem. The false artist wants it solved (by somebody else).

If the true artist is connected, then he or she has much to give us because it is connection that we seek. Connection to the past, to one another, to the physical world, still compelling, in spite of the ravages of technology. A picture, a book, a piece of music, can remind me of feelings, thinkings, I did not even know I had forgot…

Long looking at paintings is equivalent to being dropped into a foreign city, where gradually, out of desire and despair, a few key words, then a little syntax make a clearing in the silence. Art, all art, not just painting, is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar. No-one is surprised to find that a foreign city follows its own customs and speaks its own language. Only a boor would ignore both and blame his defaulting on the place. Every day this happens to the artist and the art.

We have to recognize that the language of art, all art, is not our mother-tongue.