My favorite piece of art is hung above my TV. I think this may be breaking some rule about design, but I don’t care — it’s my space, and the setup makes me happy. The piece is a charcoal sketch of a body, but there are more lines than the sole shape of a body. Someone who knows a lot about art might say it’s “abstract,” but I am not that someone. I am just a woman with a wall that I want to enjoy, so I say the body is moving. I say the body is dancing, grieving, rejoicing, fucking, breaking, healing, separating, connecting, breathing. I say the body is living and, because art is alive on my wall, my whole space is alive, too.
There is a liberty in adorning your space with art. It feels like having your own museum exhibit: a place to bring your interests, aesthetics, and values to life. As a person who has never felt comfortable in the hegemonic structures of art museums, I’m drawn to the idea of being my own liberated curator. And I want other queer folks to feel this way too! I want other queer people to share the experiences of their lives through collecting art. I know the term “art collector” comes with a lot of associations, but all you need to become an art collector is an affection for creation, an appreciation of beauty, a nourished imagination, and a small budget (even $5 works!)
For queer people, adorning our homes as we desire is especially important. Because our sense of safety is constantly undermined, creating a personal place for refuge is vital. Art, along with community, can ground us in this haven. Art warms, comforts, and sustains us. Art can reflect the life we live and also be a portal into the world we want. So the endeavor of collecting art is a social act of rejoicing in who we are and conjuring who we wish to be.
While the importance of collecting art is clear, the reality of actually finding and purchasing art can feel tricky. Where do you go to find art? What kind of art should you buy? And most importantly, how in the world do you pay for it? I used to think that collecting art was something only really rich people did (spoiler alert: not true!) I also thought that the commercial wall decor I bought from Target didn’t count as “real art” so I couldn’t call myself a collector (also, not true!) All of these long held beliefs about access and importance of art changed when I connected with Delia LaJeunesse of Sbvrt Art.
Delia is an art consultant who, full disclosure, also happens to be my very dear friend. Her mission is to empower people who may have felt disenfranchised from collecting art to begin their journey of finding art. A journey of prioritizing meaning, beauty, and awe in their lives. A journey to live more artfully. When my wife and I got married, we asked Delia to help us find a few pieces for our home. We have very different tastes, but our mutual desire was to create a cozy, queer space (on a realistic budget!). Delia’s framework was meditative, budget friendly, unpretentious, empowering, and astoundingly supportive. She taught us that we could queer the world of art collecting to our benefit. Because I believe in the collective healing power of art, I wanted to share her advice for others who also dream of how to create their perfect, cozy, queer space.
Why You Should Collect Art & How The Experience Can Be Queered
Delia explains the necessity of collecting art in such simple and beautiful terms: “People should collect art because living with art leads to more artful living. I think we are collectively beginning to really value leading creative lives, even if we’re not fully artistically inclined. Creative living = how you ask questions, how you think about your work, how you compose your day, how you make love, how you cook, etc etc. Surrounding yourself with art is naturally going to inspire more creative and artful living.”
At its core, art can help us to understand the world around us. It can remind us what an interconnected species we are and how to live in greater harmony. So the practice of gathering art becomes a work in realizing our greater connections.
On the matter of queering art collecting, Delia explains: “I think when art collections are approached with a set of values that understand the dynamic presence of art, that focus on employing art towards meaning-making and a deepened appreciation of living, we can step away from a precedent of collecting for the sake of financial investments, or an elitist framework of social status…If we can shift our focus to a) How the art expands our worldview, creates meaningful opportunities for reflection and connection, and aligns us toward our values and b) How the role of art collector can significantly fund and further the career, platform and influence of artists a collector believes in, then we truly have the opportunity to view art collecting as an endeavor for personal growth and social impact.”
In essence, collecting art is not about asserting status but reflecting values. A good example of this is in my sister’s house. She has a close up black and white photograph of the fat rolls on a woman’s stomach hanging in the kitchen. My sister is raising a daughter and deeply values being anti-fatphobic. This art serves to expand her daughter’s growing worldview, plus anyone who visits her home, to have respect and acceptance for diverse bodies. In this way, art can showcase the social change we are working to advance.
Where To Find and Purchase Affordable Art
Finding art can quickly become overwhelming because there is an abundance of options. This challenge is the reason Delia started her business. She wanted to work with people one-on-one to find art that met their aesthetics and budgets. She recommends searching both online and in person. A few quality online options are Etsy, Artfully Walls, Minted, Saatchi, Society 6, Artsy and more. Some museums like The Met and Smithsonian also have open access art, meaning you can search their database to download and print art for free! There are also wonderful places in the local community to source art. Tattoo shops, coffee shops, thrift stores, bookstores, and many independent gift shops.
Delia also suggests, “Buy original work from emerging queer artists. Buy prints from emerging or mid-career queer artists! Prints are fantastic, especially if you’re just starting out and have a lower budget. Emerging and mid-career artists depend on the sale of prints a lot. Prints have a small stigma attached to them that I think is elitist nonsense, so go for it. I focus on living, upcoming artists not only because their price point is a lot more accessible, but also because they have their finger on the pulse of society in a very unique and vibrant way. Artists shape culture, and they are the makers of meaning. Supporting emerging artists, especially queer, BIPOC, neuro-divergent artists is an incredible way to promote the ideas, values, and vision for our potential that you believe in.”
The significance of purchasing directly from artists is heightened when we think about our current climate of unregulated AI. The use of AI in art is incredibly dangerous and harmful to creatives because the technology steals from artists. Every few months, there’s another social media wave of people using AI to generate derivative portraits or avatars of themselves. Rather than participating in a trend that steals from artists, I would encourage folks to make connections with real artists directly through social media, and commission them to make custom portraits. As long as the unregulated use of AI continues, we will have to be diligent in resisting its harm on artists. If we believe art has the power to heal and connect us, we must remember to use it as a source to honor mortal beauty, liberation, and social impact.
How To Live an Artful Life
Ultimately, an art collector doesn’t have to be someone who purchases art at all. Stay with me here, but I believe we can collect our own experiences and curate our own galleries. Maybe it’s not financially feasible for you to purchase art or maybe you can’t find anything that speaks to you. In that case, the matter of our own lives can be extraordinarily beautiful if we give it a container with which to be held. Last year, I took a leaf from the tree my wife proposed to me under and I framed it. My good friend has his Beyonce Renaissance ticket framed on his wall. Every time I walk past a little free library, I look for children’s books because the pictures are often beautiful pieces of art worthy of being framed.
When we pay deep attention to the world around us, everything becomes artful. You don’t have to spend a ton of money building a collection of art, you just need to slow down enough to consider the potential beauty of the world around you.