Art enriches your life and your home

 

The buzz phrase often used to describe the current self-referential aspect of home decor is “personalized,” and the design media has loads of suggestions for products that will help you achieve it. But rather than searching for ephemeral elements to evoke individuality, why not let original art communicate who you are?

Not only does art reflect a private esthetic, but according to 19th-century English poet Henry Austin Dobson, it “alone endures,” enriching your life long after any fleeting enchantment with yellow metals, round pillows or the colour orange fades.If you’re new to buying original art, you may want to pencil in a trip to The Artist Project, an annual mixed-media juried art show that opens in Toronto next week.

The four-day show is a great way for both longtime art lovers and first-time buyers to discover emerging and established artists, according to show director Claire Taylor. But more importantly, she says, it brings together would-be buyers of every stripe with the artists themselves.

“It takes out the middle man,” says Taylor. “People can deal directly with the artist and make a real connection. That makes buying a more meaningful experience.”

The event kicks off with an opening night party that lets visitors view work, mingle with artists, sip on wine and nibble hours d’oeuvres. Tickets are $25 ($23 online), with a portion going to the Canadian Art Foundation (www.canadianart.ca/foundation).

Now in its fifth year, the show has seen its artist roster climb from 90 to over 200, with a mix of Canadian and international artists.

Starting prices hover around $100, but can go as high as $10,000. The bulk of the artwork lies between $500 and $2,000.

Taylor says additional features will add value for the approximately 12,000 visitors expected at the show. “Untapped,” for example, comprises works by 17 emerging artists, either current students, recent grads or self-taught. Visitors can vote for their favourite and the winner will be given a free booth in next year’s show. The “Installation Alley” exhibit will display large-scale sculpture, conceptual art and installations not typically seen by those who don’t haunt galleries or museums.

The involvement of Sony as a sponsor reflects the role technology now plays in fine art. For one exhibit, five photographers will use a new Sony camera that takes 12 shots a second to create work that will be on sale at the show. There will also be an “Artists-at-Work” video installation in which five artists document their in-studio practices and techniques.

An “Art Chat” series will be hosted by such experts as writer Joshua Knelman and Canadian Art editor Richard Rhodes.

Tickets for an “Art Outing Tour” ($20) include a glass of wine, cheese plate and a 45-minute tour with a docent to guide visitors through the show while discussing contemporary art trends, pointing out significant works and connecting with artists, who will share sources on inspiration and the creative process. There are also free 30-minute docent-led walks, which take visitors through the show, giving them the chance to engage with artists.

Diverse programming helps extend the reach of the event, says Taylor.

“We try to cater to a broad audience, from young people looking to buy their first pieces to seasoned collectors who come to see the new talent, to interior designers and curators,” she says.

But it’s her fervent hope that those who feel most intimated by original art will show up, even if it’s just to browse.

“Part of the process of getting comfortable about buying art is educating your eye, but a huge part of that is learning about yourself and finding out what you love and what you respond to,” she says.

Taylor adds that the trend in home decor toward the homemade and handcrafted will bode well for artists and sharpen their competitive edge against mass-produced art available in home decor retail chains.

“I think people want to experience something that feels more real, and they want to think that their choice — not the trend of the moment — is the defining factor in what goes on their walls. That’s so much more likely to happen when you deal directly with the people who are making original objects of art,” she says.

The Artist Project is at the Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place from March 1 to 4. Admission is $14 ($12 online) and $10 for seniors and students. For more information and ticket options, go to www.theartistprojecttoronto.com.

If all this has you hungering to learn more about art, sign up for the Twitter feed of Art Knowledge News (www.artknowledgenews.com), which posts frequent links to great works, or consider investing $40 for a two-year subscription to Canadian Art (www.canadianart.ca). It’s a great deal.

You can read Vicky Sanderson’s On the House blog at www.thestar.blogs.com/onthehouse. Contact Vicky Sanderson at vswriter@sympatico.ca and follow her on Twitter @vickysanderson.