Woo! It’s Friday! This Friday and every Friday in 2014, I am going to post about “living with art” – that is, suffusing your environment with the pieces of art you collect and/or create. I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter where you live: In an apartment, a rented house, a mobile home, a studio, a room in someone else’s home, or even a dorm. If you have the good fortune not to be in a shelter, you can surround yourself with art you love, whether you have traded for it, purchased it, created it in a workshop, dumpster-dived for it, or picked it up as a vacation souvenir.
1) Your space, your choice
Magazines and decorating shows love to talk about neutral color schemes with little pops of color. Do you know why? Because color is personal. I, for example, love baby poop green and grainy mustard yellow. Seriously. I adore both of those colors (though not necessarily together), which means that I get to use those colors in my house, wherever and whenever and however I want, because this space is mine. If my house were on the market, I would probably go neutral, but my house isn’t on the market.
Aside from having your house up for sale, there is no good reason to keep your space neutral unless you love neutrals. And if you feel passionate about almond, oatmeal, and eggshell, go you. If you aren’t passionate about those colors, then surround yourself with colors that you do like – like that delicious grainy mustard yellow.
The same thing holds true for art. Art is personal. Real estate agents don’t want you to display a giant nude St. George fighting a dragon who’s wearing nerd glasses and a Speedo, because anyone who is put off by that image might not want to buy your house.
Regular old guests, however, are not even considering buying your house. Ditto your mother, your pastor, your hyper-critical neighbor, and your uptight uncle.
If you haven’t already, click that picture so you can admire my naked ladies with mechanical tentacles and bondage gear. And don’t forget the VAGINA card. You know where those pieces are hanging? My office, which doubles as the guest room. Number of complaints I’ve received from guests? Zero.
Assuming you’re 18 or over, other people are not the boss of you, and you are not required to care what they think of your digs.
To the extent that it’s your space, you get to display artwork that you choose. Screw magazines, which are designed for mass appeal. Your space is for you and the people (if any) who live there with you. Express yourself! Surround yourself with inspiration! Don’t put a painting on the wall; put dozens!
(Yes, I understand that there are authority figures known as “landlords” who don’t necessarily love it when you make 91,800,429,611 holes in the wall. Or maybe you don’t even have walls you can make holes in. But instead of thinking of reasons why you can’t display art that you love, wouldn’t it be more fun to sit down and figure out how you can?)
2) No wall too small!
Like most middle-class Americans, I grew up thinking that art goes in roughly two places: 1) above the mantle; and 2) over the sofa. Throw some family photos in the hallway, and wham! You’re just about done, right?
Nine years ago, my husband and I bought a little house with an open-concept floor plan that challenges that whole way of thinking, because the sofa has to sit in the middle of the room, and there aren’t any hallways. Given these factors, I had two choices: Hang nothing on the walls, or radically re-think the party line. Now, I use just about every wall and every plane in my house, no matter how small.
(I hope real-life pictures don’t bother you, by the way. I can’t keep my house in a state of magazine-photo-spread readiness, and more than that, I won’t.)
With the mantra “no wall too small,” I want you to pause now to look at the walls around you: the spaces between closets and doors and windows, the places above windows and doorways, the weird little angled walls, all of it. Seriously. I’ll wait. No wall too small. Do you see more places you can put things? I just looked around my room, which I thought was pretty full, and I found two places!
3) In the ways that you display art, you are limited only by your imagination
The art that you love deserves better than to be stored in a box or a closet, and the walls are not the only places or ways for displaying art. For the next 50 weeks or so, I’ll focus on ways to create and display art on all kinds of surfaces and in every sort of room. I hope you’ll join in!