I used to be envious of some of my artist friends. The ones who always knew what type of art and style or subject matter would be their main focus and never strayed from that. I thought there was something wrong with me as I was all over the map exploring. I spent years experimenting, and will continue to do so, but my focus got clearer, and now it brings up another issue. After years of packing and moving my older art pieces everywhere with me, often having no room to even unpack, yet alone display them — then feeling they’re too good to toss, yet having dealers tell you “old art can’t be sold…” — I’ve finally embraced “learning to let go of the old” and am now tackling “what to do with it all?”
I asked some artist friends what they do with their older work, particularly if they were done in different styles than their works nowadays. Galleries usually only want the most current work we do. Many artists actually destroy their older pieces as if to remove evidence of what they’d done in the past. One artist friend was horrified by that idea, then added, “well, maybe if it’s really bad art!” But what if the work done in the past isn’t “bad”? Why should it be “forbidden” if we show or sell our earlier works because they are different than what we create today?
My mixed media steampunk style custom Painted Ponies wouldn’t have come through if it wasn’t for earlier years spent on collages and assemblages. The Trail of Painted Ponies Quarter Horse I created owes a nod to the 3D sculpted carousel horses I worked on before that. My sense of color derived from my stint as an oil painter and my feel for composition and design was enhanced by years of being an art director in the publishing world. Even my Love Rocks series borrows from my early art explorations.
Everything in the past somehow influences what gets applied into (or left out) of the newer work. When someone looks at a work of art and asks “how long did it take you to do that” the absolute truth is it took a whole lifetime to get to that point. Sure, an older work may not reflect as much or even look like the art of today, but they are our history and often represent big milestones that helped define our art. And a lot of it is still “good” art too! So, let’s buck the system. Artists shouldn’t be afraid of their older pieces. They deserve respect and I bet there are collectors who would love to see and even be thrilled to own a piece of our art history.
Even older art deserves good new homes.
Wouldn’t you agree?