Monday, July 17, 2017

Geeking out on estate planning

The artists at Hunters Point Shipyard started an estate planning group. Motivated by the fact that some of the artists are getting older (and you never know...), and the fact that we still have a lot of art. We worry about what’s going to happen to it. No one wants to leave a mess for their heirs.
But it’s our life’s work. To us, it’s priceless. It’s the story of our life, like a journal, but better. Naked feelings right there on the canvas (even if most people can’t see them). Everyone hopes that his/her art will live famously on in some a museum, or at least a loving home somewhere—we hope it will avoid the rubbish bin and the Goodwill/Salvation Army store situation. (Even if it’s rescued, the work could be damaged.*)
Early on in my career some gallery guys told me to save everything. That was not good advice for someone like me, who even kept her grade school reports and high school diaries.
One of the first recommended tasks it to start an inventory.
Screenshot of Inventory list in InDesign (without images)
blue: destroyed  |  pink: question  |  red: sale, gift, auction
I had a list in Adobe InDesign of all my paintings—a very long list—but I added numbers…each starting with a year. I used my college transcript to try to recreate that period. (My list also has notes for major life events such as who I was dating, where I was living, whether it is an important work, etc. I plan to add more ‘story’ for each piece.) Here’s part of a page of the list.
Then I added the numbers to the digital file names. This felt amazing because the work lined up in the order in which it was made. Which is how I think of it…which piece led to which…so that was exciting to see. Here’s a pix of part of the still life folder:
Digital files lined up by date
Digital files lined up by date

(The inventory number needs to be added to the back of each painting.)

The next step was to add a photo of the work to the list at relative sizes. Now the list becomes very, very long. Too long to print out.

The process brought up a lot of emotions. Proud about some old work. Horrified and ashamed that I had destroyed some really good work. Ashamed that for some long-gone pieces only have a bad photo exists. Have no idea what to do about my slides.  Felt guilty that my series are not similar to each other. It’s been strange to look over everything but I feel somewhat energized by the process.

What shocks me is that there is all this artwork memory. For example, I can remember the making of each painting, with love, that I may even have destroyed, when at the same time not a soul knows about or has seen it. Yet I am so involved with it emotionally. It has a title, a photograph usually, and a place on my list. It’s like a secret friend.

I had a secret life all these years.

I make this art alone. Often there is a struggle to work something out—I almost never give up. Sometimes the process is easy. Usually I feel like “What am I doing? I can’t pull this off.” Some pieces make it and some don’t. Some get destroyed later. But it’s all very important. And no one knows about it, for the most part.

Painting days are lost days. Much of my life is these secret, lost days. Painting feels like work. But it has to be done for some reason.

Some pieces leave to go to a new home, which is a wondrous thing for which I am always grateful. Can collectors know the feelings that are in the piece? I guess making these pieces helped me deal with events in my life. I know that when there were very strong feelings, the work came out better. I guess these are my little helpers.

My next steps are to re-photograph art, organize the studio, and start collecting work that I can give to auctions. Since I’ve destroyed bad work, I’ll give good, older work. I will put an explanatory note on the back. I will find out which pieces friends want, when I pass, and make a “tangible assets” list for a Living Trust.

I also lowered prices.

*I worry about my work out of the studio. I rarely exhibit in cafes and restaurants because I worry about the work getting damaged. I am often horrified when I see where the piece will be installed. (Sun, danger of getting splashed or kicked, smoke damage, whatever.) One of my pieces lived on a dusty sun porch with the dogs. A major piece is right next to the refrigerator a few inches off the floor. A beloved piece was crammed into a strange space while the living room was filled with schlock decorator art (which they probably paid more for). It still looked good. It takes a good piece to look good in a bad spot!

But often my art ends up in a great spot in a loving home or office. Then it’s safer than it would be in the studio where I am liable to paint over it.

**Another task to be solved is that a lot of work exists only in slides, which have not yet been scanned, and even when scanned, don’t look very good.

***Another task is the mound of drawings which are somewhat sorted but way too numerous.

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