12 July 2013

enough for everyone

A few weeks ago I agreed to be one of 24 artists who each painted one letter of "Canadian Artists for the Poor".  You can see the beginning and end of my letter-making process here.

And on the CAP website, all the letters together.

This was a fun project which got me out of my usual studio routine to do something different.  It also appealed to my sense of altruism: not only do the funds raised by CAP go towards helping people in impoverished countries, but also, in the auctioning of the letters my "E" may wind up in the possession of someone who could not afford one of my larger, more involved paintings*.

The letters are being auctioned off at CAP's facebook page, and here is my "E".  Bids are ongoing until September 7, 2013, when each letter will find its home with the highest bidder.

*There is a lot of information out there regarding "giving art away", most of it cautioning against donating one's work because it is not a good way to gain exposure, that the donated work is in fact devalued by being sold for often a lower price than it ought, to people who do not understand its value and who will then undervalue other work of a similar nature, thus hurting the whole arts industry.

I think these points are valid, though a bit limited.

Here are some of my thoughts:

In primitive societies everyone eats when there is just enough to go round.  When there is a surplus, people starve.  This is because when there is a surplus people begin to hoard.

The fact that we have surplus allows us to do things like make art, since through hoarding our physical survival is ensured.  We make art and we give it a value, which enables us to continue to ensure our survival, and a cycle is created.  Within this framework, donating our work devalues it, thus undermining the cycle, which must be preserved so that we can continue to make art.

But what if one looks at the world from the point of view that there is enough to go round?

I suppose that idea could eventually lead to the capitalism vs. communism argument, neither one of which works very well when taken to extremes, as past and present examples demonstrate.  

I think perhaps we make assumptions about human nature.  It's a conundrum, isn't it.

How about this:

I do not donate my work for the purpose of gaining exposure, nor would I encourage any artist to do so.  I do donate work, very occasionally, to fundraising events which support my own values.   
When donating to this type of event, I hope that my work will end up in the possession of someone who cherishes it, whether or not they are aware of its monetary worth.  I also hope that the sale of my work will bring in more rather than less dollars, and to that end I try to promote the fundraising events to which I donate work.

I want to live my life through love, not fear.  I want look at this world as a place of plenty, not scarcity.

Perhaps because I've recently been reading about the philosophies of Milton Glaser, among others, I've been examining my own view of the world and thinking I could improve on some points.


Frances Vettergreen Visual Artist said...

"Enough to go around"...I like that. Though I am not sure that it's true that individuals hoard when there is an excess across all cultures. I hope that it isn't.

Like you, I don't donate art for exposure. I donate my work like I donate my money, to organisations I care about. But when I do, I hope that neither my work nor the organisation are sold short; it devalues both when the value of the work isn't recognised. I don't expect to see the same price tag on projects like this one as I do on my regular work, but neither do I like to see it given away, when I did the work with the expectation of raising funds.

But yes, let's hope that our work winds up in the hands of someone who will cherish it.

Verna Vogel said...

But is it not the individual cells which create the seed for a much larger organism?
Individuals may hoard in primitive societies; it seems we have a massive dilemma of corporate hoarding in our more modern societies. I think they are ultimately the same thing, played out on different stages.

As for the work being "given away"... perhaps that's a chance one is willing or not willing to take, and a little research will prevent surprises. If I want my piece to sell for more rather than less, I can take my own small part in the marketing of the event.

Thanks for your comment!

Frances Vettergreen Visual Artist said...

Oh, indeed we do have an epidemic of hoarding in our current culture...among corporations, among communities, among individuals. I like to think that somewhere there exists a culture smarter than ours. Possibly I am deluded.

I am coming round to the idea that the monetary value a donation of my work has to the organisation I donate it too is out of my control. I keep on doing it, and like you, I do some promotion. If the whole point is to help out, well, spreading the word via social media seems the least I can do. Nonetheless. It saddens me when I think I might have done more, financially speaking, for said organisation by simply cutting them a cheque...or spending more time at my day job and using the money I earn to buy someone else's art. Sigh.

Verna Vogel said...

Hmmm. Define smart culture, right? People tell me that my belief in multiple realities is called string theory. Whatever. I suspect that everything already exists, even if humans have not discovered the half of it.

Cutting a cheque might bring the organisation more money - but making a piece of art specifically for them stretches my own creative boundaries a bit, and I like that too.