The color was like the sky. It had a texture that changed from a soft brushstroke quality to patchy and cloudlike. It was 5’ x 5’ which at the time seemed huge. I felt like it could envelope me completely when I was in the same room with it. I loved it. I loved it so much I had it moved with me wherever I went, like one of William I. Koch’s paintings. What was it? My blanket. It brought me joy and I thought it was beautiful, but would I hang it in a museum or gallery next to my Deborah Giller sculpture, or photographs by Bill Burke?
Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch at the MFA is both intriguing and baffling to me. How did we end up with sailboats on the front lawn of the Museum of FINE ARTS? Well, those boats came along with works of sculpture, paintings and historically significant objects, but I wonder…if my artwork became valuable, would my blankie end up in a gallery? If we love it does that make it art?
Consider the fifteen stuffed animals I’ve won in the arcade claw machine: they are hard to acquire, they are rare and definitely cost more than they should, and I love them. Do I expect anyone else to feel this way? No. The trouble here is making a distinction between what we love and what we think everyone should love with us. Koch allowed his boats on the MFA lawn because we “should” love them, but they’re only on there because the MFA loves Koch’s Fernando Botero sculptures. Koch is permitted the conceit that everything he loves is inherently valuable, just because the MFA finds some of it so. The show sends the wrong message or, at least, a less than honest one. In the end I have the sense that Mr. Koch just loves things that are expensive – that’s the only thing his collections really have in common. That’s a love I can’t relate to, and which has nothing to do with art.
Over in the South End, the Clifford Smith Gallery is showing Things We Love: Selections from the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford. Normally this would just be a group exhibition with a great variety of work by their represented artists, but this exhibit has something very unique. On one wall hangs a painting done for Jim Smith by his mother. In all the things that I have seen that people are telling me to love, I understand why this is here. I can relate to that kind of love. Its personal, it has nothing to do with cost, but it does have something to do with value. Is it a Picasso or a Chagall? No, but It hangs in Clifford Smith for us all to share in. It has its place in the gallery’s list of works, and at the end of the description it says, “We love this painting”. For me, that is true love. Each piece in the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford has been selected, they have a story for each piece and they love them all, and they love them all in different ways.
These two exhibits both inhabit venues where I go to find “art”, and in both places I found some things I would call art and some things I wouldn’t. I also found out that I think being “really into sailing” does not make a sailboat a work of art.As a working artist, a curator, a writer and a teacher I love many things. But if I loved them all the same way in the same amount then they would all become meaningless and unrelateable. Would I like to someday have a show called Things I Love: The Many Collections of Heidi Marston? Hell yes: Jim Dow photographs, the Andy Mowbray sculpture…but probably not my blue blanket. The things I love have value – some monetary some personal, some both – and for me that distinction is what makes the love more true. So check out Carolyn Smith's painting at Clifford Smith, and see the things Jim Smith and Rob Clifford love. And go to the MFA and see the many Collections of William I. Koch, and you tell me what the difference is. I might have to go add my claw game animals to the installation on the MFA front lawn. Why not? I love them. Why shouldn’t everyone else?
"Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch" is on view Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - Sunday, November 13, 2005 at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
"Things We Love: Selections from the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford" is on view at @ Clifford Smith Gallery.
All images are courtesy of Google image search.