In my freshman year of college, I took a class in watercolor painting. Like Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, it was a “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”
Each week we were given a subject to paint. The following week, all the paintings would be taped to the wall, so the instructor could provide constructive criticism. No matter where I put my painting, it would always be cited as the worst in the class. I was repeatedly told I had no focal point (the story of my ADHD life). After that and a fight with an iron in sewing class (the iron won), I gave up my career aspirations in art and fashion.
Still wanting to have art in my life, I became the proud owner of an aluminum-framed M. C. Escher poster entitled Belvedere. It was given to me not by Mr. Right, but by Mr. Right Now. It echoed our relationship, with the woman looking off in one direction and the man facing another.
After college, I began a career in law enforcement that required a six-week boot camp in Brownsville, Texas in the heat of the summer. It was while on assignment there that I bought my first piece of “real” art.
I can still see it. A toreador painted on black velvet surrounded by a faux gold-leaf frame, lovingly carried from Matamoros, Mexico into Texas, where the scorching heat made the acrylic paint soften. It hung in its place of honor over the sofa in my first house, across the room from the macramé wall hanging my roommate had given me for my birthday.
On the floor nearby sat what I called my “duty-free sculpture” – a three-foot high bottle of Galiano, essential to the makings of a Harvey Wallbanger. I can attest that downing a few of those made tacky art look much better.
It was during a round-trip cruise to Jamaica that I fell in love with the works of French abstract artist, Marcel Mouly, the humanistic style of Persian artist, Ali Golkar, and the figurative paintings of Israeli artist, Itzchak Tarkay. I bid frantically at auction to obtain my favorite lithographs, most of which have graced my walls for 25 years.
Sometimes, though, what qualifies as art is simply in the eye of the beholder.
For example, I was showing what I thought to be an empty house one morning. As my client and I rounded the corner into the kitchen, I spotted a woman in her bathrobe and hair curlers, sipping coffee at the breakfast bar. I quickly began to apologize for the intrusion and then I realized that she was a true-to-life mannequin. Thankfully, she didn’t get up and follow us around the home.
Then there was the doll house – not the type that my grandfather built for me to play with as a child, but like the ones you see on Hoarders, where at least one is room filled with “collectible” porcelain dolls, with those googly eyes that watch your every move. Thankfully, Chuckie had left the building.
Taxidermy is another lost art form which, given my love for animals, should stay lost. Consider, though, that the moose head mounted over the fireplace in a rustic cabin in the Shenandoahs is still popular with some people.
If these examples don’t appeal to you, then here are some other ways to enjoy art in your surroundings.
You can view it. There are multitudes of galleries throughout D.C. that pay tribute to art and architecture at little or no cost. Don’t wait for friends to visit before going to the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Arlington Arts Center.
You can buy it. Meander through Zenith Gallery on Pennsylvania Avenue or at its Iris Street location. Sip wine and shop along Dupont Circle, where many of the galleries are open from 6-8 p.m. on the first Friday of the month. Visit local exhibits and art fairs. Check online auction sites.
You can make it. Are there children’s paintings posted on your refrigerator? Frame them. Staring at a blank wall in your back yard? Commission a mural of a serene vista. Want to work with your hands? Try pottery or create a custom kitchen backsplash from broken pieces of china and glass.
Whether you’re an aficionado of Matisse, Rodin, Warhol, Avedon, or your own work, let your home feature art that brings you joy, like the Elvis on velvet that hangs in my family room.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her at DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.