#25. What to do with OLD ART? (suggestions welcome) part I

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View of branch/fleece sculptures in my studio at Vermont Studio Center, 2008

All that art that has been made…. A blessing and a curse. Why do we make it? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Years of art-making = a lot of old art. The worst is the big stuff, the awkward mixed-media sculpture, the fragile stuff, the found object assemblages, the large paintings, not to mention the framed things under glass.  

It’s shocking how it multiplies.. the older the artist gets, the more old art there is.

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“A New Bamboo Cross Statement” salt-fired porcelain, black bamboo.
16″ diam. x 18″ h. 1977 ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

Some years after graduating from art school (where I majored in ceramics) I stopped making art. For 10 years, when I became a wife, then a mother, from 1985-1995, I focused on life without art-making (however, there was still plenty of old art to haul around.) And then I reclaimed who I was, who I am. I started making art again (it saved my sanity) and the work slowly began to pile up— pastels, paintings, figure drawings, then mixed media collages, and assemblages, and then sculpture, and then graduate school, and whoa!~ ! 

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“For Love or Money” mixed media under glass, 24x35x3″, 2004. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

I recently had to take full responsibility for many years-worth of my old work, loads of old art which I had conveniently forgotten about, stored at my old home. The past several weeks have been a stressful marathon of clearing out my old home and studio, which was just sold. A bittersweet event. Though I have not lived there for the past four years, the place still harbored a lot of my old art (and art books and art supplies, not to mention memories) My ex-husband and I designed and built it, in 1995, and the amount of artwork that was still there was overwhelming. 

It was not only my own work I had to determine what to do with, but that of my two daughters— also artists, both prolific (think large paintings, some of them in the 6×8 foot range, and art school portfolios, and more that I just CAN’T throw out… )  

The questions always remain— is it good art? Maybe, some of it. Meaningful? Maybe to me, on some level, but to others? And does anyone want this stuff? And what the hell does one DO with it all??  

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“Door to a Mystery” found object/mixed media assemblage on canvas, 52x58x7″. 2007 (it made great bonfire fodder.) ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

I did the sacrificial bonfire, tossing bad paintings and sculptures that I once thought were.. well, pretty good.. into the flames. The work was at one time meaningful, as a record of personal creativity, but not worth keeping. In the end, lots of stuff went to the dump. (And my garage, and my basement, and into a storage unit…not to mention my studio, which is overly-full at the moment.) 

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“Very There When Here” mixed-media sculptural assemblage: found objects, natural materials, oil painting. 18x46x10″ 2004. (it found a home at the Stonington dump.) ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

I also discovered that some paintings were “borrowed”, or lifted,  from my home studio after I moved away… they just disappeared. (there were various people coming and going from that locale. I still am not sure just how much was taken. I keep remembering various pieces, wondering.. hmmmm… what happened to that one?) 

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“Gestation” 33×44″ oil on canvas, 2006. (“missing” painting) © 2014 Karen Rand Anderson

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“Energetic Tryptich” 30×36″ mixed media on canvas, 2005 (“missing” painting) ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson



 

 

 

 Some paintings have been donated to non-profits, like Art Connection RI and to galleries with permanent collections, like Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.  

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“Spaghetti Sauce Still Life” 24×30″ oil on canvas. 2000. (donated to Art Connection RI, a non-profit which connects art donors and community services) ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

I’ve donated art countless times to good-cause fund-raisers. (I’m pretty much done with that. I’m tired of being asked to contribute my art, with no recompense, to raise money for “a good cause”) Some pieces have gone to friends who really loved them. 

 

 

 

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“The Lucky Heart” acrylic, mixed media, found objects on canvas 12x38x6″ 2004. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson (collection of a friend)


What do you do with old art that is taking up space? Give it away? Donate it? Burn it? Take it to the dump? Put it in storage? If you feel like it, add to the conversation. 

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“Nesting Fleecebox” drawing: gouache, acrylic and graphite on paper 30×30″ 2008
sculpture: charred paper, bronze wire, acrylic, black birch branches, sheep’s fleece. 34x27x12″ 2008. (Collection Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, University of Conn.) ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

 

14 thoughts on “#25. What to do with OLD ART? (suggestions welcome) part I

    • Yes interesting.. I read something about this. Used to do something similar in my old RISD undergrad days; we’d draw people and scenes on cocktail napkins in bars, and leave them there. Thank you Catherine.!

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  1. Even photographers have this problem. Right now, I have two exhibits worth of matted and framed prints stacked up in my studio. I’m starting to re-use frames, so I can more easily store matted prints in storage boxes. But, it still piles up in my studio. My husband and I have talked about having a “starving artist” yard sale. Old work for sale, just name your price.

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  2. As for my drawings,I have picked the ones I like and put them in a binder. I don’t work on a large scale so they fit nicely. Once in awhile I pore over those sketches as they give rise to new ideas for a painting. I have tossed quite a number of drawings into the recycle bin and some paintings into the trash. But these days I choose to paint over work I don’t like or in some cases rework a painting if it’s worth it. I have lots of pastel drawings,too,in portfolio cases and in my flat file. Before getting rid of any I’ll probably let people look at them to see if they might be worth selling,donating or tossing.

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  3. Seems harsh to ever trash good art. :-( If you think it’s bad though that’s another story. Maybe you could sell it or show it as a “life’s work” type show. A progression of your work in one show?
    Maybe someone who has purchased your work recently would be interested in seeing your earlier stuff. Personally I think collections with different time periods of the same artist are the coolest. If I were you, I’d try to place older work with newer work maybe?
    I agree that giving it away is a bad choice too though.

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  4. Recycle, Repurpose, Consolidate. I think Robert Rauschenberg’s “combines” are a good start. 2D and 3D in tandem. I have an artist friend who’s made single works into diptychs that are so much better than the originals. AND there’s always the possibility of making a donation of your art to a museum, an arts fundraiser or a friend…

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  5. Some people have ritual bonfires once a year. If I did that I think I would have to have a longer cut-off date – even a year isn’t enough for me to decide what is worth keeping… so maybe every year I’ll burn what doesn’t hold up to my scrutiny that’s older than 5 years… And for my stacks of works on paper, it’s not the work so much as the *!?$* shipping containers!

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    • ONce a year seems a little harsh… Works on paper are a lot easier to deal with than weird and bulky found object assemblages.. I’ve realized I just cannot do that work anymore. Too impractical! I just trashed two huge wooden shipping crates because I had nowhere to store them anymore. *sigh*.

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  6. I think all artists can relate to this. I know I can. I think with the ease of photography now, I feel I can at least have a photo of pieces I am letting go or getting rid of and that makes it a little easier. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, it’s a never ending process, especially because making art is sometimes more about the process of making then the art itself a lot of times.

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