I made the first posthumous sale of Georg’s art yesterday. It was satisfying and sad at the same time. I sold three small feather pieces to someone who had been admiring them for a few months, since before Georg died. The fact that she had met him on a couple occasions made the transaction even more bittersweet for me. She knew Georg. Not the hale and hearty Georg of days of yore, but at least the Georg who was ever-gracious and twinkly, even as his light was gradually fading. Her excitement and joy at acquiring the works was palpable. I know she will treasure them and give them a good home. I know she will look at them each day and feel blessed by their presence in her life.
Still, for me, the feeling I had selling his art work was akin to sending a child off to the salt mines. I did not even make this art and I felt like I was selling part of me. I wonder if this is how it felt to my father. Did he ever feel sad to let his work go? Was it hard to sell something that had taken days and nights of his time to execute; something he had poured himself into and had worked on at three in the morning? He told me once that he often worked in the middle of the night. To exchange something that required so much effort for money seems almost sacreligious, and yet, this is how professional artists make a living, right? They sell their work, hoping that the buyer will not simply hang it over the couch, but will cherish the work, meditate on it daily, and be made richer by its very existence.
I have nothing to liken this creation story to in the world of poetry, since I have never been given hundreds of dollars for a poem. Nor will I ever be. Poetry does not work that way. I may sell a few chapbooks here and there, but mostly, I give my poems away. They are not all that marketable, no matter how good they might be, no matter what perfect hammer falls on what questioning nail or what universal chord is occasionally struck.
Georg used to say that he envied the poets because all we needed to make art was a piece of paper and a pencil. For him, there was much more at stake. There were materials to be bought, studios to be rented, and presentation formats and locations to be dealt with. All this is true. Visual art does require more trappings. Poetry can be written (and then spoken) any time, any place, and there is no fanfare needed.
But, really, a work of visual art (painting, sculpture, photograph) is so much more tangible and immediate than a poem. A visual work confronts the viewer in one fell swoop, whereas a poem must be read, often out loud, and then pondered, to be truly appreciated. But why am I even making these comparisons? Paintings, poems. Two different expressions of the same urge to tear out a little piece of one’s heart and hand it to the world on a platter. What happens after that—to the giver, to the receiver—is anyone’s guess.