Yesterday I went with my husband to a gallery show of Wolf Kahn’s pastel works on paper. During the long but pleasant drive to Kent in the soft rain we discussed what made an artist famous, what makes them recognized and valued. Wolf Kahn is one of the best known artists alive today. (Jeff Koons’ name also comes to mind.) I like Wolf Kahn because he often uses bright color, and he abstracts the landscape as I also frequently do. Hans Hoffmann was his teacher and has been influential in my work as well. So I was very much looking forward to seeing his work. (You can see Wolf Kahn’s website by clicking here; and the Morrison Gallery’s website by clicking here.)
But unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by what I saw. His colors were no longer the zingy ones I love. I now have learned those were made in the ’70’s (see the intensely bright book covers in the first photo below… that’s what I like!) The recent ones we were looking at yesterday in this show were often dull and so sketchy and quick, they were almost offhand – but still expensive. They were smaller than I expected them to be (mostly 12 x 18 inches) going for around $6,000 each. (A couple of the slightly larger ones were going for $22,000.) I felt like people were buying a name, like a market speculation: were these worth that much money for any other reason? I know plenty of unknown artists whose current work I like better, including mine. The piece I liked best of these was the one oil there (see bottom photo) which was going for $60,000.
On the way home we discussed whether to spend one’s time marketing and playing the art world politics to become recognized and valued, or to just simply paint, and let the chips fall where they may. I do not feel called to make the marketing effort, but I do feel called to paint.
This morning in church there was a discussion about immortality. We think we want to leave a legacy and achieve immortality on earth – to be heard and remembered, but actually we already have the kind of immortality that counts, the one with respect to true eternality – God. I don’t believe we have to earn that. The question is this: how are we going to utilize that gift to glorify God? For me the answer is to pray and to love, to learn and to paint. Whether anyone else gets that may not be necessary. And if God wants to work it out so someone does, He is certainly capable of that. He knows what I need better than I do; my job is just to be obedient to His leading. And never is His leading clearer to me than when I paint.
Meanwhile, enjoy my pictures below of this show, and if you ever see anything of mine on my blog you want to buy for $6,000 (or $60,000 for that matter) just let me know!