Things I Learned: Art is Amazing

Today, Nick and I ventured through the streets of Tribeca in New York City after munching on my all time favorite vegan ice cream from Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream.   We stumbled upon a small book store, and I purchased a book titled What She Ate, which I will discuss in another post because it is absolutely amazing, and then we were off to find Nick a poster for his new apartment.

He typed ‘poster shops’ into Google Maps, and sure enough there was one close by. Thinking that we were going to a shop that sold cheap posters on easily-damageable paper with popular rock bands such as The Rolling Stones on them, we walked through the unusually hazy, hot and humid-for-late-September-streets of downtown Manhattan.

We arrived at a small shop that had light red colored walls, a small desk on the right side of the room, and stacks of what seemed to be white paper. There were a few samples of different kinds of wood you could choose from to frame pictures, and framed works of what seemed to be art ranging in size, covering the walls from floor to ceiling. Not what I expected. I expected black walls, blaring heavy metal, possibly some T-shirts and old CD’s and veinal records, and a sales associate that was a spitting image of Brendon Urie from 2008.

What I saw was a giant framed work of art that I finally identified as a poster, and not a painting, in what seemed to be a solid gold frame with a tiny price tag on it that read “$5000”. I immediately thought that we were in the wrong place.

There was a stout elderly gentleman sitting at the desk with large black framed glasses who murmured “How can I help you?” in an Eastern European accent. Nick asked him for a particular poster, and the man exclaimed that he didn’t have anything of the sort.

“These are collectors items.” He explained. “All of these pieces, I myself, and my family have been collecting for years. Since the early 1950’s. They are the originals that we have cleaned a refurbished, and now we sell them.”

Suddenly I thought this was the coolest place on Earth. Nick asked if he had any posters from World War II. “Of course!” said the man.

He pulled out an enormous stack of quite large posters and explained that these posters would have been hanging all around America as propaganda during the war. As I looked through the posters, I saw images of men off to war, slogans that encouraged men to serve, images of fighter jets, and images of women that seemed strong willed and a necessity to winning the war. The fact alone that America was acknowledging the importance of women and their abilities during this time period was what caught my attention the most. And it wasn’t just one poster either. Of the maybe 30 posters that he showed Nick and I, and least a third of them were of women.

Being English, Nick asked if any of the World War II posters were from England, and the man said he only had one. It was a black and white poster that displayed images of various fighter jets. The man explained that this poster would have been hanging in a generals office. The general would use these images to explain to fighter pilots which planes to fire at, and which planes were ally planes. Since they obviously didn’t have the technology back then to have a computer within the fighter jet decipher which jets in the sky were enemy planes, they had to rely on their ability to differentiate who’s planes were who’s simply by recognizing the structure of the plane. How crazy is that? (I wonder how many planes were mistakenly fired at because of this).

The fact that that poster had actually served a purpose during World War II was remarkable to me. Nick asked the man how much the poster was, and he replied that it was $500. The man also mentioned to us that these posters were investments if they were kept in good condition because like with any artwork, they increase in value as time goes on. I had never thought of artwork like this before. Automatically I went into investment mode and couldn’t wait to have enough money to buy one. I knew we weren’t going to walk away with the poster because right now, Nick and I don’t have $500 to spend on a poster, but I looked at Nick and said “Babe it will be an investment if we buy it one day.” Then the man said to me to not think of it like that.

He said “Don’t think about everything as an investment because you miss out on the true meaning of artwork. Did you see his face when I pulled out this poster?” He pointed at Nick. “Did you see how his face lit up? That is what is important about the artwork. Money is nice, but there is no true value to the piece if your face doesn’t light up like that every time you look at it. That sparkle in his eye, that’s what makes this all worth it to me.”

I smiled as his words warmed my heart. I feel like I have been cheating my emotions. I feel like part of my soul was sullied by this idea that you shouldn’t grow attached to tangible means, and this man revived whatever vicissitude had occurred in me. Up until now I looked at stuff merely as tangible items you can buy and sell. I like nice things, don’t get me wrong, but I never grew much attachment to things. Now however, I feel like I want to invite the idea of loving something in.

I don’t want to go as far as to say that I’m going to lose myself in devoting my life to loving things because that’s silly. What I’m saying is that I think there is this big misconception between “loving things” and “loving yourself. You hear scholars saying all the time that it’s important to learn to love simplicity, and not to become attached to tangible means. You have maybe heard that physical things mean nothing or that the more you have, the more you want and that impacts your ego. I once read a book by Eckhart Tolle titled The Good Earth in which he describes this idea that the ego is never satisfied. It will become momentarily satisfied when you buy something, but its not really satisfied, it just wants more and more and more thus the physical body keeps purchasing more and more things, but the ego will never truly be happy because it cannot be satisfied. This is why some become financially unstable, or lead a lifetime of unhappiness because this is the trap that we often fall into. Essentially, we think stuff makes us happy, but it doesn’t. And you’ve also probably heard one of the most famous sayings money doesn’t buy happiness. 

But what if to a certain extent it does? If you buy a work of art that you gaze at in awe every time you glance at it, or if that piece brings a smile to your face and fills your heart with butterflies, isn’t it bringing you happiness? Are you attached to that item now because it makes you smile, or because you want it? I don’t think so. I think that humans were meant to create, to inspire others, and to draw emotion, and if that emotion happens to be love or need, than that can’t be associated with a negative connotation. You can love things, because the act of truly enjoying the presence of a tangible mean adds definition to your character; the things you love and incorporate into your life define who you are. We all like different things, and that’s what makes us unique. Incorporating things into your life that bring you joy is a way of not only expressing who you are, but it is a way of expressing self love. Maybe by buying that cool poster or vintage piece of jewelry you are making yourself happy, and there is no better way to develop yourself than to bring joy and love into your life.

They don’t have to be expensive things. The things you buy don’t have to be made of solid gold. But I think it’s important to realize this difference between truly loving something, and not. If you love it, buy it. Cherish it. Talk about it. Tell other people about it. Write a blog post about it….. Let it be a part of you.

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