The Real Reason Fine Art Is Expensive

I’m going to have to paint two rooms in my house, pull up carpet, refinish a hardwood floor, call in an electrician, and buy new curtains. Oh, and did I mention write a novel? And it’s all my daughter’s fault.

You see, she bought me a picture. It’s a marvelous photograph titled “Solitude,” done by one of her friends who is a professional photographer. It shows a tall, February-bare tree leaning over an empty park bench. Behind it, just above the horizon, the sun shines through mist rising from the surface of Canyon Lake, casting long, soft shadows across the foreground.

The photograph would make a perfect book cover for a bittersweet, slightly eerie novel. If I write that novel, it might start out with the mystery of someone who vanished early one morning 35 years ago and has never been seen since.

Before I think about writing the book, though, I have to find a place to hang the picture.

I want it where I can see it regularly. The logical place, then, would be my office. Except that with the kids’ graduation and wedding pictures, the grandkid’s school pictures, the quilted pinwheel my mother made, the important quotations in calligraphy, the watercolor of the cat, and the calendar and bulletin board that are supposed to keep me organized, I don’t have much wall space left.

The living room? The spaces there are horizontal, and this picture is vertical. The formal living room/dining room? It’s already filled with prints and carpets from the Middle East. Besides, I don’t spend a lot of time in there.

The guest room? Too unused. The bedroom? Well, possibly. Or, an even better idea, I’ll move some of the things on my office walls into the bedroom and the guest room to make room for this photograph. I wouldn’t dare demote the grandchildren, but maybe the cat and some of the calligraphy could go. I’ve been meaning to put some things on the walls in both of the bedrooms, anyway.

But before I do that, I want to paint those rooms. (This involves spackling the holes and cracks in the wall, applying two coats of paint, and then—using the handy-dandy stud finder and laser level I got for Christmas—putting new holes in the wall to hang pictures. I’m sorry if the logic of this escapes you.)

Painting a room isn’t quite as simple as just painting it, of course. There are those busy brown-patterned curtains in the bedroom—it’s long past time they were replaced. And there is the carpet in the guest room, also brown-patterned, that is probably old enough to have voted for Ronald Reagan. I’ve been wanting to pull it up for months, even though I know that will only lead to sanding and refinishing the hardwood floor beneath it.

Then there is the outlet in the guest room that doesn’t work, and the light switch in the bedroom that only works if you give it that extra little tap in just the right place. Hence the electrician.

But it’s okay. I’m certainly not complaining. I’m delighted to have the picture. When Seth wins his first Pulitzer, I can tell people, “Oh, yes, I knew his work before he became famous. I have one of his early photos. It’s marvelous. And it only cost me $1500 and two weeks of hard labor.”

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