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Too Much Art, Part 1 – Diane Pieri, John Muse, Joe Borzotta, Ruth Seeley, Emily Brewton Schilling, Sara McCorriston

Our readers respond to a question about the issue of making art and keeping it or getting rid of it. The issue is urgent for older artists especially as they face their mortality amidst stacks and piles of works on paper and paintings or sculpture. But young artists too whose twenties are often spent changing apartments due to rent rise and roommate departure are also forced to deal with the issue.

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INTRODUCTION

I wrote a note to our subscribers a few weeks back asking for thoughts on having too much art. Below is what I said, and below that are some of the responses I received. Several more posts with more responses will be coming along soon. If you have thoughts about your “too much art” and would like to share, email editor@theartblog.org.

Dear Reader,
Let’s say you’re an artist. You love making art. You make a lot of art. You give some away, sell some, keep some, and then one day, you realize you’ve got too much art. What do you do? This question can cause you some sleepless nights. And some anxiety as you review your options. You sell some more art, give some more away, keep some. But still there’s more. One option, call it the “nuclear” is to throw the art away. Maybe not literally “throw” it away, but you give it to a thrift store, donate it to a charity, or, maybe you actually trash it. Libby and I have been going through this Too much art what do we do? problem for years. For years, we paid money to store our heavy work made in cast concrete and wood in a storage facility. One day we got real and threw it away. Later, we threw other work away. But there are some piece you love and can’t let go of. We are still working on the problem. I wonder what you do with your excess art? Thoughts? Send them to me at editor@theartblog.org.

THE RESPONSES

A painting hanging on a cyclone fence in front of an apartment parking lot shows a person facing away from you, wearing a black jacket and red dunce hat, and in the background a repeat pattern of clown faces partly covered by a violet shadow or road of red stars and yellow crescent moons that leads into the far distance.
Painting by Joe Borzotta donated to the world, seen on a fence in Hoboken, NJ, around ten years ago. Photo courtesy of the artist

Joe Borzotta

I do a couple things with paintings:
– Donate to Habitat for Humanity store
– Hang on a chain link fence with wire (usually paint over my name) so if someone likes it , they take it. Have also done this on old wood fences, constructions sites etc. Kind of a kick knowing it’s on a stranger’s wall and that I’ll never know who, where or why, except that they dig it enough to take it!
– Gesso over and use for studies or new work
– Joe Borzotta
www.JosephBorzotta.com

Ruth Seeley
I had an artist friend who worked at the same organization I did. We were also in an art group together. She left no family when she died last year. Her husband had died earlier. After his relatives chose paintings that they wanted, the remaining work was brought to her Memorial and placed around the social room. Each of the attenders could take a painting and log it with her estate administrator. I now have two of her paintings—one I bought long ago—and the new gift hanging on my wall.

I am now thinking of how to instruct my family when I leave piles of unframed work.
– Ruth Seeley

A Stop sign seems to tower over a street with row houses, directing motorists to stop, while another less familiar sign underneath shows an open mouth with a hand in a “shoosh” gesture with the label “Quiet Zone” on top of the image and below it the words “Because nobody likes to hear all that noise Yo.” With a red arrow going left and right under the sentence.
Kid Hazo X QVNA, Quality of Life Signage, Haha x Paradigm Projects. Photo courtesy of Paradigm Gallery

Sara McCorriston (Co-Founder, Paradigm Gallery + Studio)
I love when artists bring their artwork to the street—from giveaways to street art to public artwork. Art stored up can become an outdoor installation meant to be enjoyed in public space or even meant for others to take with them if they feel connected. Often the artwork ends up with a new home…A lot of what we do at HAHAxParadigm is tied into our belief that art experiences are for everyone and can happen anywhere. We incorporate art hunts in our programming whenever we can so more people can experience and receive artwork. Our Community Arts Project at the gallery is tied into this as well. If one person gets free art that they’ll cherish through the act of another person not being burdened with a pile-up of artwork, everyone wins!
– Sara McCorriston, Paradigm Gallery and Studio

A beautiful, ornately designed art work on dyed-blue handmade paper shows three smiling suns whose faces are a blue like Indian gods and goddesses, surrounded by depictions of many-colored rosettes and naturalistically painted yellow and red flowers, stems and leaves.
Diane Pieri, “Happiness,” from the series, Phases of the Sun, approximately 9″x9″. Gouache, casein, gold leaf, decorative papers, inks, punch shapes, printing scraps on handmade Japanese paper. Courtesy of the artist. NOTE: This work was not purged and is available on the artist’s website.

Diane Pieri
As a prolific artist but one who doesn’t sell like hot cakes, I have a lot of work. Every 5 or so years, I purge. BUT, I have a rule- I keep one or two pieces from a series and an original slide of the image. This way I have documentation of my entire career.

I am always surprised when I do purge because I invariably come up with many many works where I say “ You thought this was good?!” Well it’s not , so it gets ripped up and thrown away. Not everything an artist touches is worth saving, in my book.

At times I have put work out for anyone to grab it- free art. And in Germantown, it is always taken. This makes me feel really good.

I have given work away to “good homes” where I know it will be appreciated and kept in the family for generations. This also makes me feel good- knowing my work has a place where it is appreciated.

Being prolific can sometimes be a real burden so I actually enjoy getting lighter.
Diane Pieri www.dianepieri.com

An art installation in a corner of a gallery with wainscoting and wood floors shows two framed works on the left and right walls and in a vitrine in the foreground, two small abstract wire sculptures.
James Brewton’s The Pataphysics Times (right; 1964) in “Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde,” 21 Jan. 21-4 April 2020. Jim McWilliams’s poster for a group show with Brewton (left; 1967), and works by Philadelphia Wireman (foreground), on display in the Art Alliance, one of the exhibition’s four venues. Photo courtesy of Emily Schilling
A painting shows a blue horse in profile with its head turned toward the viewer and its rear legs in the air, unexpectedly, the sky is pale blue and the green is dark green and there is large forceful handwriting in black all around the horse but not on top of it.
Emily Schilling’s Poor jugginses (from series on James Joyce’s Ulysses), mixed media on linen. Photo courtesy of Emily Schilling

Emily B. Schilling
I have a friend who regularly burns her paintings—all of them—as part of her practice.

I’m not at that point yet, but I do have a lot of works by my father, me, and others in art storage. I formed a nonprofit for my father, the James E. Brewton Foundation, in 2008 when I began searching for his artworks. Jim lived and worked in Philadelphia; he’d studied at PAFA, but died young. His work was scattered, but I’ve located a surprising number of pieces, along with a few that he owned by his friends, like Joe Amarotico, Helen Siegl, Jim McWilliams, Dan Miller, and Louis Sloan. Since the collection in storage is mixed between my pieces and the Foundation’s, I stay on the safe side and pay the storage fees myself. It’s expensive, but it gives me peace of mind. I hope someday a museum will want to have stewardship of Jim Brewton’s artworks.

Many of the pieces were donated in less-than-perfect condition. I’d love to have some of Jim’s works in my apartment, but they’re stabilized and safer where they are. Conservation is expensive for a tiny nonprofit, and our goal is to form a relationship with a conservator who will get to know Jim’s work and methods. We’re talking with Elizabeth (Beth) Nunan at Flux Art Conservation about forming a collaborative, ongoing project with an educational organization, using the Brewton collection as a teaching tool for aspiring conservators.

Beth and her team are assessing six Brewton works with similar metallic paint/construction, including our top priority, a painting Jim considered his masterpiece: The Bombardment of Kobenhavn by Vice Admiral Lord Nelson in 1801: The Mad Laughter of Courage (1966-1967, mixed media on canvas, 49″ x 86″).

A man smiles and stands in the front of a crowded room with the audience smiling and some clapping, as he looks at a paper in his hands and points to a wall with art hanging on it. He is giving away his art and he is happy.
John Muse giving away art at Haverford College as part of his Extra Medium exhibition. Photo by Holden Kent Blanco  https://hkbphoto.com/professional-photographer-philadelphia. Courtesy of the artist
A woman smiles and stands holding a painting she has just been given by the artist who in exchange wants the recipient of the art to promise to perform a task of their liking and keep in touch with the artist.
Andrea Kirsh, Artblog contributor, holding up her John Muse art at the event at Haverford College. Polaroid photo by Patrick Montero  https://www.haverford.edu/users/pmontero

John Muse, Assistant Professor of Visual Studies, Director of VCAM, Director of Visual Studies, Haverford College

Well, I just did this:
Extra Medium | John Muse, Everything Must Go

Near the conclusion of Extra Medium | John Muse, all the work on the walls and many, many unframed works were given to anyone who was willing to participate in a raffle [which obliged them to promise to perform a task of their choosing and to stay in touch with the artist]…On October 11th, 2023, Muse gave away all the works exhibited in Extra Medium | John Muse—and many, many unframed works too, a total of 110. See an article on the event in the fall 2023 Haverford Magazine.

Approximately 110 artworks were given away. Each person stood to read their promise out to those gathered. Each selected an artwork—the first 35 selected framed works; the rest selected works from works that had been considered for the show. Each was photographed with their artwork. Each person turned in the form. [You can see the tasks promised in the spreadsheet on the website.]

Difficult to replicate… and so the rest, many hundreds, languish in boxes. But for one bright and shining afternoon, it was a joy to see many, many works fly off to other lands in other hands.

I’m receiving images and promise stories all the time. You can see https://www.facebook.com/jmuse99 for my reports on these. I’m working on the finleymuse.com <http://finleymuse.com/> blog too, but will have to catch up soon.
– John Muse

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