I recently finished a show called, Melange I, at Circle Gallery in Historic Annapolis. With a total of twelve artists showing their work, in a high rent district of Maryland, I didn't have a ton of space to work with. But, the 144 square feet was size enough to show eight cohesive pieces, linked together by either palette, shape, or subject. The challenge was that the 144 square feet was broken up into three smaller walls of space, five feet by nearly ten feet each. Hmmm.
I had fifteen potentially showable pieces that I'd whittled down to ten. But, not knowing what the other artists were showing was making me crazy. I wanted to present well, and offer something appealing for any onlooker, whether a student, professional, artist cohorts, art appreciator, or simply someone that saw the sign and decided to poke around the gallery for a minute or two. More specifically, I needed to offer a good sample of subject matter, realizing not everyone esteems children, weimeraners, or dairy cows the way that I do. So, I took my ten paintings in, and hoped for the best.
For the first wall, I anchored the space with a painting of a dairy farm in the twilight. Below the imposing piece went two smaller farm paintings with matching barnwood frames. On the twin facing wall, I featured my modern portraiture, three paintings to be exact, linked by both media (lots of ink) and style (the use of five or less hues to soften the harsh ink depicting negative space). The last wall, across the walkway, showcased a fresh, whimsical painting of jersey cows out to pasture. Below my beloved cows, was a much smaller landscape with a similar palette.
Sounds like a lot of art for a small space, and believe me, it was. I wouldn't have set up my show quite like that without help from David Diaz, a well known Maryland Oil painter, who also happens to be the president of the Maryland Federation of Art (the nonprofit that operates Circle Gallery). Watching David place my paintings with abandon was inspiring. I took cues on what to put together and why, as well as how to place paintings together, to allow each to shine, avoiding the cluttered look that doesn't allow the eyes of an interested onlooker to rest.
When the two week show was over, I decided to go home and put some art up on my own common area wall. I have a spacious studio full of paintings (some good, and some borderline horrid). In this studio, I have nearly thirty small works from other artists (for good energy while I paint), however, in my living area, upstairs, the walls are bare. I've been fearful of hanging the wrong thing the wrong way in the area that any company sees. Putting art on that wall could invite (uninitiated) constructive criticism from everyone from the UPS guy to my mother-in-law. Besides I didn't want to seem like an egomaniac.
As weird as it felt, showcasing my own in my own house turned out pretty good. I applied the same hanging principles that I learned from David to my living room, and rearranged my furniture to allow the wall space to be free of other distractions.
Using a level, a stud finder (my husband jokes that my internal stud finder works just great as I managed to find him. ha. very funny, dear, albeit true), a yard stick (another trick from David), some decent nails and a hammer, I did, indeed, curate my own living room gallery. As egocentric as it seems to cover a twenty-five foot wall with one's own art, it works. The wall looks perfectly well balanced, and subtle, due to the uniformity between pieces. I was so happy with the result that I made a few more throw pillows for the couches, engaging the paintings with the furniture flanking them. I'll post photos tomorrow if we get some good afternoon sun so I can forgo the flash.
Since the change, the family and I spend considerably more time in the living room. Even the husband is reading in there, which is nothing short of a miracle, considering the ridiculous man cave he has downstairs (equipped with air hockey, billiards, two sided stone fireplace, leather library chair and ottoman, floor lamps, and nearby urinal with a flat screen in front of it). The kids are curling up on the couch more, instead of in front of the t.v. (not the one in front of the urinal), and even Calvin, the neurotic nine month old weimeraner was been less tantric lately...could it be the paintings? The best part is that I can't wait for constructive criticism from company, because even if they don't like my work, I know it works. It looks like a well curated, well organized art space. The room is inviting and uniform, and makes one want to linger...Stay tuned for photos. Thanks for listening...