One of the household projects Kathy & I have been dabbling with over the last year or so is some decorating. We’ve been in our condo for just over 7 years, and other than buying new furniture and hanging some things on the walls it’s been pretty much the way it was when we moved in. We just never got around to “finishing” it – traveling is way more fun! But now that we’ve been spending more time here, spending less money on travel and are generally tired of looking at the same stuff, we’re trying to change things up a bit.
When we downsized from our old house, we had a lot more prints hung there than we needed for our new place. There were several that had been admired by friends and family, so I was happy to give some of them new homes. Others I removed from the frames, stored the matted prints in an archival box, and they are under the bed. I sent the frames to Goodwill. I’ll probably never hang the prints again but I have them and they are out of the way. I had new prints made for some specific places, but for the most part we just recycled prints that had been hung in our old house. I haven’t wanted to spend money on prints for prints’ sake without a specific location to hang them.
I have never collected prints by other photographers. I have several prints from photographers that mean a lot to me, and with the exception of one that needs framed, I have them displayed prominently (sadly, I don’t own a Curto 😉 ). One of our rooms is dedicated to prints of paintings by an artist in St. Martin, and that room doesn’t need a thing. But there are places in the house that just need decor. We recently had our bedroom and bathrooms painted. I have a beautiful grouping of prints on wood that I rehung in our bedroom over the dresser, but the other bedroom and bathroom walls are currently bare and awaiting our inspiration.
We’ve constantly struggled with the question of what to hang on the walls. I obviously have a huge selection of photographic material, but (a) we’re both sensitive to the idea of not wanting our house to be a “photography gallery,” (b) there is only so much wall space and (c) deciding on what to print and hang is a huge challenge. Printing and framing is expensive, and once we’ve put down a few hundred dollars for printing and framing (or for canvas or metal) we’ve always felt like we needed to be willing to live with it for a while.
But is that really the case? I consider a lot of my work to be “artistic” but I don’t consider myself to be an “artist” in the sense that any of my work will ever mean anything beyond a close circle of family & friends and a few “accidental” clients. If I went to Ikea, brought home a carload of decor, hung it on the wall for a few years and then tossed it in the trash, so what? But other than the fact that it’s my work and it cost me a bit more than Ikea, what’s the difference if I throw or give it away after I get done with it? We don’t mind spending (say) $300 on a case of wine or a fancy dinner, so if we spend that same money on a few things to hang on the wall, I don’t see anything wrong with considering them to be “consumables.” Better to give them away to an appreciative recipient of course, but we don’t have to live with them forever.
So the question I’m struggling with is this: If we consider replacing artwork to be no different than buying a new bedspread or draperies or having a chair reupholstered, so what? As long as we’re good with the money, no one cares but us. Yes, I would always try to find a new home for old pieces with someone who appreciates them. But that appreciation is more likely to be because they came from me rather than them being an artifact with some kind of collectible value. It feels a little weird to think of it that way, but I think it is OK.