A Van Gogh!

A Van Gogh!
From the artists at ArtWorks945

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Couldn't Help Myself!

I admit -- I became dismayed and disheartened. Jean Clee changed her mind. She doesn’t want to trade for Ode to Life. And not a single other person has shown any interest.

Call it impatience. Call it desperation. Call it a lesson in not doing drugs.

But I decided to modify Ode to Life.

I’ve been doing some home repair and so had nails, paint and caulk lying around my basement. Over the weekend, I put those to artistic use. I took Ode To Life off its frame, nailed it to a board, dipped nails into paint and nailed them onto the painting, and then put caulk and acrylic in various places.

The result is what you see above. I figure it needs a new name. So I’m calling it ‘Blow To Life’.

I was initially appalled at what I had done and so drank a whole bunch of wine to ease my mind. The next morning, however, I woke up and, despite a persistent hangover, came to like the new painting. Indeed, I started feeling downright pleased with myself. But then, as I was walking to Ace Hardware to get some more nails and a pair of rubber gloves, I ran into Herb Jackson.

Herb is an art professor here and is a deservedly well-known artist. His art, in my opinion, is absolutely fantastic. I feel very lucky that I run into him every so often around campus. We had a lovely conversation during which he told me about the change in technique from the impressionists to Van Gogh. As we talked, however, I told him that I might modify the painting I had. That was a lie -- I had already done it but was still feeling a little bashful about what I had done and so couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth. He told me that I should be careful because it is illegal to deface another artist’s work. After all, I don’t own the copyright.

Fuck! Fuck, fuck and another fuck.

What was I going to do? Had I done something illegal? Or worse yet, had I done something stupid? Have I doomed the Van Gogh Project?

Herb and I finished our conversation, we shook hands, and I worried about these question all the way to the Ace store. As I was perusing boxes of nails, though, an answer appeared to me: I decided that the only way forward was to trust in the power of art. I decided that I would take a poll.

If anyone thinks that I have defaced Ode To Life, please write ‘Boo’ in the comments section of this blog. By saying ‘Boo’, you will at one and the same time express allegiance to the artist who painted Ode To Life and express your dissatisfaction with my addition to it. All those who don’t comment at all will be interpreted as thinking that I have at the very least not worsened Ode To Life and so can’t be accused of defacing it (and hence of not doing anything illegal). On the other hand, if anyone particularly likes the changes, feel free to write ‘Yay!’

And of course, if anyone wants to trade for Blow To Life, let me know.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sarah's Thesis

Damn I have awesome students!

Here is another message I received from a former student of mine, Sarah Adams.

Anyway, I’ve been reading your blog about Van Gogh (nice taste in art by the way!), and I wanted to add some support to Kent’s thesis.

I think that part of the value of the paperclip is how I obtain it. I contend that the method of obtaining an object adds to its value (even if the method you use to obtain it is irrational). If you had given Dominic’s Face with Line Through It to a reputable art dealer, he probably would have thrown it in the trash and laughed at you. But maybe one day, he’ll receive it and think: “this is the drawing that started the Van Gogh project, and that makes it really valuable to me.”

So here’s my thesis: participating in a trade like the kind outlined in your blog and in the story of the red paperclip increases the intrinsic value of an object.

And I’ll support it with a little history of Van Gogh. Did you know Paul Gauguin lived with him in Arles at one point (before he moved to Tahiti)? Apparently in December of 1888, Van Gogh confronted Gauguin with a razor blade because he was afraid Gauguin would leave him. Van Gogh fled in panic after this confrontation, and that was when he cut off a piece of his ear and gave it to a prostitute to keep carefully. Gauguin moved to Tahiti and never saw him again, and Van Gogh died in January of 1889. Some doctors have even speculated that the strange perspective and angles in his painting of the “Bedroom in Arles” are the result of lead poisoning, and that Van Gogh actually saw the world in those strange angles. Lead poisoning could have also caused the rings around the stars in “Starry Night.”

Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $139 million in 1990. Who wouldn’t want to own a painting by a man who tried to kill his friend, ended up cutting off his own ear, and was very probably suffering from lead poisoning? Even if the painting was only halfway decent (and Van Gogh was clearly quite a talented artist), think of all the stories you could tell about its history!


Just to emphasize Sarah’s thesis, here it is again:

Sarah’s Thesis: Participating in a trade like the kind outlined in this blog and in the story of the red paperclip guy increases the intrinsic value of an object.

For self-interested reasons I really like this thesis.

But of course it is one thing for me to like Sarah’s Thesis and another for it to be true. But is it? In my next blog post, I will argue that its truth depends on a particularly difficult topic: the nature of value.

Until next time, however, if anyone wants to (perhaps) increase the value of a piece of art you own, let me know – I’ll trade you for Ode to Life.