“I wish Mary hadn’t been the one to buy that piece,” she told me. “She’s wasting it.”
I was on the phone with a relative, listening to a description of a fundraiser at her church. A couple dozen volunteers had each designed a decorative mask, and all the masks were auctioned off at a dinner. The grandest, said my relative, was the one designed by the priest, and she’d been outbid by another church member.
My relative added, “She hung it up in her bedroom.”
I said, “How is that wasting it?”
She replied, “No one will see it.”
I’ve been thinking about that since our conversation, and I have a question for you guys, because I know a lot of my readers are creative-types themselves (painters, writers, graphic artists, and so on). What would make you consider a work of art “wasted”?
My thought would be, if it was limited to people who didn’t understand it. Ten years ago, if I’d attended a concert by Joshua Bell, it would have been wasted on me. But my relative thought having a work of art appreciated by only a few people meant it was wasted, so she’s clearly going for the “largest number” definition.
I do feel bad about the painting my Patient Husband hung in the basement. That one is clearly wasted. The artwork that never got unboxed after our move (due to lack of wall space) is also “wasted” until we find it a home.
I’ll go one further: in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the musical instrument collection has four Stradivarius violins in a glass case. They’re beautiful, but behind glass they no longer sing. Their beauty is in their voice, but in order to display them to thousands, the museum had to rob them of the chance to be played.
The most expensive piece of artwork in my house hangs on my bedroom wall. I don’t consider it wasted, though, because as it turns out, I spend time in my bedroom. I look at it every day, and I appreciate it. I enjoy having it where I can see it.
Ideally an artist would have both the wide exposure and the hard-core lover who studied every jot of the work. But if you had to choose? Three or four individuals who savor and love your work, or a thousand people to see your work and enjoy it briefly?