One Red Push Pin: My poem about unsold works of art

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

This Sunday morning, August 16, marks the height of the Woodstock Festival 40th Anniversary frenzy. My three posts on my 1969 Woodstock experience have pulled in an enormous number of visitors, but I still haven’t tracked down any visual documentation for the paintings I showed there. Several of them still languish unseen in my basement – they’re far too large for any of the walls in my house.

 

I recently posted my poem about what becomes of unwanted books at a library sale. Today’s poem is about unwanted visual art. In a way, it’s the sister of the other poem. But for the visual artist, the question of what to do with old work is more problematic. Old books and unpublished manuscripts can be stored in a few banker’s boxes at the most, a computer jump drive at the least, so space isn’t a major problem. For works of visual art, it’s another matter entirely.

I wrote this poem after a visit to “The Great Municipal Side Show,” a members’ exhibition at the Albany Center Galleries in the fall of 2005.

 ONE RED PUSH PIN

 Ninety-nine art works unsold on the walls,

ninety-nine pieces of art.

If one more creation should happen to sell

there’ll be ninety-eight unwanted works on the walls.

 

One red push pin, one more day

until the show comes down.

This gallery marks the center of a circle,

its radius one hundred miles

in all directions.

Forty artists, one hundred works,

and only one red push pin. The tiny crimson dot

means someone craved the art

enough to sign a check and guarantee a home.

The rest remain bereft,

sad puppies left abandoned at the pound.

 

But maybe not. The gallery maven claims

two more are sold, so that makes three.

Perhaps they’re out of push pins.

 

Ninety-seven pieces of art on the wall.

Ninety-seven fragments

of starving artist soul still hang unclaimed,

or lie supine, or rise on pedestals

above the slate-gray floor of painted plywood,

so like the deck paint on my studio floor

in SoHo lo these many years ago.

So like my loft, so full of painted children,

born of inspiration, left to molder now

in a damp basement ninety miles north

of where the action was.

 

The paintings in the gallery call in plaintive voices.

Please buy me now!

I need a loving home!

My maker’s out of space!

They stare with liquid eyes

that follow me like Jesus as I pass,

my checkbook firmly zipped away,

its balance earmarked for necessities,

and art’s a luxury, or so I tell myself.

I swear I will not splurge.

 

My heart bleeds for the artists

who’ll cart their work back home

with no adoptive parents waiting in the wings.

To them, and yes, to me, art’s no mere luxury.

We thirst for it like water, but its power

is in the making, not the having.

When I crave more art, I’ll procreate my own,

and stash them with their siblings

in my dank, dark basement

where water rises from a spring-fed lake.

 

© Julie Lomoe, 2005

Potential buyers, please note: I took a bit of poetic license here. My paintings aren’t actually moldering in my basement; they’re carefully stored and in good condition, as are the cartons of jazz LPs from the 1950’s I keep vowing to sell on eBay one of these days.

Watch for more poems in future posts. And please stop back tomorrow, when I’ll pose some questions about hosting guests on our blogs.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karen Walker
    Aug 17, 2009 @ 09:33:08

    I could learn to hate you, Julie. Poet, artist, writer of novels. A true Rennaissance woman. This poem is lovely.
    Karen

    Reply

  2. Roisin Markham
    Aug 17, 2009 @ 10:28:37

    I was thinking this morning about ‘artists’ unsold work, sustainable arts practice’s in this new time. My google alerts feed me a connection to you lovely poem. I wonder on average how many paintings lie finished and/or framed in artist studios. I can count 6 in my studio, I have 17 unsold hanging in an exhibition space coming home this week…
    “Ninety-seven fragments

    of starving artist soul still hang unclaimed”

    I don’t buy into the starving artist mode – but your words rang a true chord!

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Aug 19, 2009 @ 11:13:54

      Thanks so much for your comment, Roisin. I’m curious – what was the phrase orgroup of words that were in the Google alert that sent you here? I’m still learning how these things work. At least you’re exhibiting your work and getting it out there – that’s great!

      Reply

      • Roisin Markham
        Aug 20, 2009 @ 09:52:44

        Hi Julie, one of my alerts is set for ‘art and soul’ I think it came in under that one.
        It is better to have your work out there rather then in your studio unless people are visiting your studio to see it. How ever the place where it hangs I feel the guy has had free art decorating his walls!
        Oh to times when paintings fly off walls and decorate homes and offices with pride of place and wealth of stare!
        Wishing you and all who read this access to people who will apreciate your work and show that they value your creativity through sponsorship and patronage.

  3. julielomoe
    Aug 17, 2009 @ 10:47:40

    Hi Karen – please don’t hate me! You can add jazz and rock pianist and jewelry maker, but all these talents haven’t yet enabled me to make a living solely from the arts, unless you count my years as an art therapist, when I did actually use my skills in all the creative arts in working with the mentally ill – and got myself vested in the NYS retirement system, thus helping enable me to follow my bliss today.

    Reply

  4. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Aug 17, 2009 @ 12:03:16

    I will never be able to walk through an art show again without thinking of your wonderful poem!

    Reply

  5. Betsy Tuel
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 14:17:51

    Hi Julie, Another wonderfully expressive poem. This one evokes saddness in me–saddness that 97% of all those works of creativity and sweat find no takers. I am glad you acknowledged that the real value of art lies in the creating: “the real power of art is in the making, not in the having.” For me sometimes the value lies in the lift the piece gives me as I view it. I may like it but I don’t need it hanging in my home.

    Reply

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