The Upside Down Quality of Life and Art

When life starts to signal to me that things are about to take a turn for the worse, that’s when I have an irresistible urge to buy art; it’s a well established pattern with me and I have a burgeoning collection as proof. Years ago, when things were at a particularly bumpy juncture in my life, a friend’s husband hilariously observed, “Well, it looks like it’s about time for Chrisanna to buy another piece of art.” And so, it was.


Recently, I purchased my first piece of abstract sculpture by an artist whose name (I kid you not) is Jimmy Miracle. On the day I discovered Jimmy’s work at a show opening, I had received some news that felt like another nail in my coffin, so I was primed to act out. Ordinarily, I shy away from teeny tiny galleries, agonizingly mindful that my knowledge and appreciation of modern art doesn’t measure up—expecting the typical denizens of such places to stare at me with a slightly furrowed brow or their nose wrinkled in mild distaste, wondering how on earth I wandered in? As cliques of intellectual art snobs mingled, there the sculpture hung in all its abstract glory—speaking to me in a way most other compositions do not. Defiant of my inauspicious life circumstances, I decided to seize the moment and bought Jimmy’s miracle piece. I’m ornery enough about myself and my talents and abilities that sometimes I refuse to live as common sense might recommend. So there.


A few weeks later, when I drove down to the tony Georgetown gallery to pick up my purchase, the solicitous and trendy assistant slid it into the backseat of my old Honda. Before returning to the gallery, she carefully explained that, “the top of the piece is where the hook is installed.” These instructions made me roar with laughter—which, no doubt, disturbed her greatly. In fact, I appreciated the trouble she went to in instructing me in the art of displaying my purchase because I am confidant previous clients have made similar errors.


Driving home, the assistant’s impulse to provide guidelines for how I should hang the sculpture got me thinking both about how much I appreciate art which can be enjoyed from different perspectives and how this philosophy might be applied to our lives. So what if I’m hanging it upside down? As long as the pieces don’t fall out and I like what I see, does it matter? Many experts might disagree with my approach, arguing that I’m interfering with the artist’s vision, blah, blah, blah. It ain’t his vision now; it’s mine. So, too, with the order in which you structure your life: maybe getting married is the last thing you’ll do as an adult, instead of one of the first, if you choose to do it at all. The expected order of things has always bothered me—in fact, one of the most significant, ongoing struggles of my life has been the tension between wanting to be like everyone else and my resistance to following the crowd. I have never thought of myself as a rebel, but this is something I’ve fought tooth and nail my entire life; I wish I knew why.


What about you? Has there been a point in your life where you utterly resisted doing what was expected? What element of your life have you displayed upside down? What is it you do that makes those close to you scratch their heads?


The thing about my art collection is that it reminds me I believe in myself. The pieces I’ve picked are pieces I love. I bought them at times that defied common sense, but I did it as a reward to me just for being me. They serve as a kick in the butt to keep me going. Now that I think about it, it all hangs together.


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