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But, What are the Vibes? Best Steps to Curating Your Home Art Gallery

As an artist, the bulk of my art collection consists of self-made pieces and collected memories from the places my family and I lived over the years. When I do buy, my purchases are incredibly intentional, even if they appear spontaneous and my budget is abysmal. See how I get there below.

three separate canvases wrapped in black textiles on a white gallery wall
photo | Kaelyn Guerin original textile art in exhibit, Full Moon on Fifth

Art begins with a thought. It is consciousness incarnate. The artist's insecurities bleed through the paper just as much as their strengths drip from the canvas. In doing so, every sculpture becomes a sigh of contemplation. Every line is an act of resilience, every brushstroke the act of letting go. Ever true to its roots, great art evokes a range of thought in others. When I look at a piece of art, I find myself asking several questions:

brown vase with layered folds on white table and dark background
photo | Casita Amada Studio, vintage wabi sabi vase

What does this look like to me? Where does it take me? Do I like where I am going? What am I feeling? More importantly, am I enjoying this feeling?

But when pressed for time, the shortest way there is a straight line—What is the vibe?

Some artists are masters at escape. They remove themselves from frantic schedules and air pollution to paint wonderful encaustic captures depicting florals and landscapes. Others drive at breakneck speed towards despair with moody-scapes of dark and brooding creatures in oil pastels that spell out their divorce, the terminal illness of a child, the loss of a parent too soon. . . .

abstract art on wood panel, striking red on white
photo | Melissa Monroe Art, Fuzzed Out 2023

The simple truth is this: all artwork is evocative of a some kind of named emotion. And yet this presentation and range of emotions is so easily recognizable in the artist's work because it spells out our own humanness. It is relatable. We find ourselves in it. So then the artist's lens is a critical tool for the shaping of their art. Their battles, their God, their triumphs and challenges are all uniquely captured in the sincerity of their work through the artist's gaze. Curating an art collection is simply a matter of choosing a perspective.

To sit with this heaviness is the unspoken bargain that is struck when you become a collector. You decide, as the buyer, the recipient, curator, insert "whatever", that this joy and strife and tension or release gets to live with you in your space.

photos | clockwise Natalie O. Decor "Mask-Bright Red" print; Kaelyn Guerin "Crowns" and single-line sketches with flowers; Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS

However, even after you know what the art you love feels like, you still have to find it. Accessible artwork is a hard nugget to crack because by the time you know an artist feels right it's generally after the whole world knows it too. This knowledge is rightfully reflected in the price. Art galleries sometimes cherry pick from perfected obscurity, but by this point someone else has asked all the tough questions and arrived at their own intimate answers. They have likely also added their fee, plus tax. The good news? I've found some amazing places to shop great art, and the first one doesn't even require you to put on pants.

Stop one: Instagram

Now I know you expected to hear Etsy. But after nearly two-decades of providing a relatively lucrative platform for handcrafters to sell, I truly feel Etsy has been supplanted as the place to find original art, sculptures and ceramics for the un-initiated. Questionable policy changes and Etsy listing price hikes were ill-timed with the introduction of Instagram shops and the ability to simply sell through DMs. All said, IG is a happening place for art exchanges, new launches and art drops. Just like Etsy, your new favorite Instagram artist is likely young (college or college aged) and very likely female. Search for your preferred style of art (brutalist sculptures, abstract poetry, contemporary acrylics, etc.) and narrow down your choices for regional preference or style through hashtags. If you're eyeing something with a little patina, there are also a handful, ahem hundreds, of vintage and antique faithful re-sellers that will occasionally surprise with an underpriced quality print or original artwork. And yes, if you want to ignore the mass-produced Cricut Stanley cups, you can still easily find original abstract, modern and contemporary art in all mediums and price points on Etsy. For the sake of simplicity, see also Ebay, Chairish, and 1st Dibs.

Black woman in the nude smoking a cigarette on a floral sofa resting
photo | Danielle McKinney "Dream Catcher", 2021

woman of color in halter top with headscarf seated before a matching background
photo | Brejenn Allen "The Baddie with the Pearl Earring", 2023

Stop two: Your local art school

This one is so obvious it's nearly criminal. Budding artists of all mediums (ceramists, textile artists, designers of varied disciplines) spend countless hours in studio. Many of the works that they create end up trashed, painted over or neglected in a family attic. If you're lucky, some bored faculty member has decided to host starving artists' sales or markets regularly near you. Students who need the cash sell original pieces for unbelievable prices. Support their art and give new life to your space. It's a win-win for everyone!

Touch it, feel it, grab it: Go to the store

But many of the platforms mentioned have their own hindrances, both for the seller and buyer. Live in a lower income area? Well-appointed art likely doesn't pop up often on Facebook. That gifted artist that is self-taught lacks access and connection with the university faculty as they are not enrolled students. Your new favorite mature sculptor that is more comfortable with a blowtorch than a cell phone may feel uneasy selling online.

For this, we turn to the conscious brick and mortar establishment. Recognizing that there are frustratingly large gaps in the representation of artist that finds their way to museums, shops like UNREPD have carved out unique spaces for underserved artists of color to feature their work. Bonus points? They have an entire category of works that are less than $500. Occasionally, big box brands looking to appear collaborative like Anthropologie and West Elm routinely host pop-ups of talented up and coming artists. On a smaller more conscious scale, plant stores and coffee shops often share spaces with other creators to foster community and drive sales for all participants. Subscribe to the newsletters of businesses you already support to be aware of the opportunity to support artists.

On that note: If you're still dipping your toes into buying art but know what you like and don't mind digging, Facebook Marketplace is an underrated gold mine for finding art near you. Shopping this version of local is crucial when your budget is tight as it allows you to cut out shipping costs. Also, there is no need to set up any additional accounts. Assuming you already have the FB app, you can log into your profile and search for any and all art within a range you consider within reason. Having driven several hours one-way for FBMP furnishing, normal ranges need not apply for the right piece. See also: thrift stores, vintage/antique markets and consignment shops.

Home design is incomplete if you stop at furnishings and finishes. It is the objet d'art, layered, stacked and leaned that transforms a space and gets it across the finish line. As much as I would love to say this was to answer a few of your questions, I personally just want to see more of your homes happy with art on the walls.


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