I was in one of those conversations.
Two art collectors in a clearing at a gallery, circling each other rhetorically, sizing each other up.
I was supposed to be fawning over the stuff I was there to see, but I really couldn't. Damn me and my honesty (I once drove 20 miles in Appalachia to return the excess money a cashier had returned to me after an insignificant transaction, much to her confusion). So I said, half apologetically, "I don't love it."
I could tell my conversation partner didn't know where to go with that, and since I didn't want to get into any chest-thumping about something as capricious as what art I love, I gestured toward my friends gathering at the door, shrugged my shoulders faux-ruefully, and scurried out.
Fast forward to tonight.
I swept into a West Seattle home of strangers, was greeted like family, could barely look at the art because of the engaging conversation still in the foyer...and the living room...and the stairwell...and the bathroom...and the kitchen.
No posturing. Images that spoke to me. People that cared about art, life, each other. Generosity of spirit, generation of the spark that fueled the return of me to myself at the end of a hard week.
And it made me think: so much of the art in my home is not about a careful calculation of collector value (although I'm lucky that I've made good choices in that regard), but rather is about the very subjective experience I have when I encounter it.
Sometimes I buy something because the image follows me around. I keep turning to look at it. I go past it and back up. I look at it over my shoulder again and again, and I know.
And sometimes I collect something because I love who made it. Every single time I look up at the brooding, painted eyes over my desk, I think of Jerry. John is in every cup of coffee I drink from the stoneware he made.
And sometimes, like tonight, I am seduced by the combination of a quick drive through Friday evening rush hour traffic with a friend, our animated chatter the soundtrack to the city lights receding behind our drizzle-soaked window; arriving at a warm home on this windy night; compelling images that tweak my memory-strings; the easy hospitality of people who love sharing food and space with friends; a painter who is honest and frank, both in his work and in his being; a photographer whose skillful, intimate photographs are juxtaposed with her nervousness and broad smile (nerves trumped by delight).
I would have loved the paintings and the photographs without all that.
But I got a soul-feeding, too.