What High WASPs don’t do is buy art from a furniture store. Enough said.
Now, some of us have collections. Real collections, of the sort that wind up in museums when the estate tax proves too onerous, or warrant their very own auction. For example, if my dear friend Reggie Darling ever decides to be done with collecting, an auction house could have a field day up at Darlington House.
The Artsy, as one would expect, amass art on their travels. Their unerring eye affords them treasures where the rest of us might wonder quite where to put that teal papier-maché spirit animal.
But most commonly, High WASPs, especially those of us with fading family fortunes, buy or are given art from friends and family. Let me not forget economic exigencies, in portraying my culture’s obsession with good taste.
Since I moved back into my house, this trio has hung on one of my small walls.
The painting at right is a present from my father, of Martha’s Vineyard, where he used to have a place. The artist? Christie Scheele. My brother gave me the retablo below, one Christmas. I had it framed in heavy gilt. Folk art is as worthy of gold as anything.
The blackbird in a tree was a present from an old friend, painted by someone she knew. He frames his own paintings, also gilded. Redwing blackbirds are a sign of wildness in California; they live in places not yet wholly overrun.
But change is coming. Following the discovery of Lily Stockman, I became obsessed with her paintings. Then I bought one. First new piece of art in 25 years, other than my stepmother’s glorious photos.
It’s called, Her Favorite Time Of Day. This closeup shows the role of brushstrokes, even though the color is of course not quite right in my photo.
Only now as I write do I see the darkness in my other pieces, dispelled. And yet all these paintings share a mode of import, it seems to me. Semiotic landscapes, an imagined perfect country with something haunting the scene. Things float, rivers lead elsewhere. Now the sun seems simply to have risen.
So I will rehang my paintings, putting some over the mantelpiece, moving one or two of the 600 photos of my children into my study, changing juxtapositions one way or another. It’s a very unconscious approach to walls. There’s no theme, no studied approach to color, little intent. And as unconscious processes often are, revealing.
I recommend this way of proceeding with walls. It may mean a lot of empty white space, for a while, but you wind up with vivid colored fragments, transparent passages to other spaces and yourself.