Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Life of Art

By Michele Harvey

This is the fourth in a series of posts by guest blogger, Michele Harvey. Fenimore Art Museum is exhibiting new work by Harvey in the exhibition Watermark: Michele Harvey & Glimmerglass, until December 31, 2010.

The life of an object of art is a curious one. It starts as an inspiration or creative urge, which is transmuted into an idea or object.

In my case, it has been paintings, which start in the field as a scene, composition or sense of light, which deeply moves me. On the easel, a canvas can take months, weeks or days, determined by the painting itself. When it feels ‘right’, it’s finished. (It‘s said; a painting is never finished; only abandoned.) Some paintings never feel right and are sanded smooth and painted over. They form a wonderful surface for the next experiment. An artist’s life is full of experiments. Some work, some don’t. If a painting is lucky and makes it through this process, someone may find it interesting, sometimes interesting enough to give it a new home. Then something very curious happens, it transforms.


I realized this when I sold my first piece of art, a small print. The buyer expressed what it meant to her and I realized that this would be the beginning of an adventure. An adventure that started on the easel would be carried on and be different with each person and hand it passed through. We all come with our separate sets of knowledge, understanding and experiences and we imprint those on everything we touch. This includes art.


Two cases come to mind. My father, one late Christmas Eve, emerged from my studio saying, “Michele… your trees… the leaves, they MOVED!” Another was a woman who visited one of my shows. She sat on the bench, alone in the center of the room, in tears. I approached her and gently asked if I could assist her. She dabbed her eyes and said, “No, no…I’d like to just sit here… It’s so beautiful.”

Often remarks are of how a painting reminds someone of a childhood haunt or a place they love that I may never know. Sometimes they are places of imagination and somehow my rendering comes close to the mark. I’m very grateful when people share their stories. It means the painting is doing its job, being out in the world, making its way without me. With each new view it lives a new life, with each person adding his or her breath to it.


I once heard a gallery owner tell a collector that artists never like to meet clients. As an artist I can say this isn’t the case. My gratitude is to those viewers and collectors who have added their story to mine. And in doing so, have helped me move on to the next.

1 comment:

Tobacco Road Poet said...

Beautiful work, Michele. I have a feeling I would've been weeping in appreciation of your magnificent painting/s, too.

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