The Value of Me
I have a painting – this one, oil, which is now framed and under glass – and I painted it with a palette knife on a piece of 15 x 11 watercolor paper. The painting slightly influenced, in my mind while I was making it, by the work of Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell, primarily the two square-like objects on the left side of the piece. Windows. When it was done I loved it, I loved it more than most of the paintings I’ve painted these last 10 or so years, I just did and do and if you like it that’s nice and if you don’t it’s okay as well. Personal taste, each their own, la-dee-da.
Thus far I have priced all my framed, under-glass 15 by 11 paintings at $45. I’ve sold three at that price, one of my Patrons receiving a discount on a couple. But I liked this one so much, I felt it carried an energy and a commentary about life and its possibilities and sadness’s and the whole shebang, I decided it was worth more than the $45 and when I brought it to a street fair the other night I decided I would ask $95 for it. (Though it turns out I didn’t have enough room on the table to display it.) And then there I was in the studio very early two days later, dawn light streaming in through the front garage windows, and I found myself staring at the painting – which as of yet has no name – and I realized that for me it had worth beyond a hundred dollars, a lot more, and that in the entire scheme of things, what people charge for goods and services and my 70 years on the planet and what I’ve learned and all my life experiences and how I feel about hope and faith and loyalty and devotion and ugliness and meanness and wetlands and seashores, sunshine and even the first few minutes of snow, that up there on the wall was, in fact, an original ‘Cushman’. As in fucking A, not one other like it on the planet.
And 45 dollars might be okay for some of that size paintings of mine, but not this one. And it raised for me a whole conversation – with myself – about value, and how I place value on what I do, and what feels like a history of undervaluing what I do and for that matter who I am as a contributing member of the human race, never mind a published author and displaying out-there-in-the-world painter – and I remembered on two occasions, two different times I was leaving Massachusetts for the west coast, two different people in my life saying to me, “You have no idea how much you mean to people.” And me kind of turning around to see who they were talking to because, well, I guess I don’t and have never had, and if this sounds cocky or egotistic or anything like that, whatever, I sure don’t mean it to be, it’s my way of asking myself do I want to sell something by lowering the price to what I think will make it sell-able, or do I want to say, hey, I made this and it’s cool and it has things to say and, oh by the way, it is an original ‘Cushman’ and you aren’t going to find another one like it in Portland or Nebraska or Santa Monica or Budapest or Paris, not on the North Shore of Oahu or anywhere on the whole granite planet.
That’s why I’ve decided to price this so far nameless piece at $250. Because I say it’s worth it, that is the value I place on it, like, yowser, this is a newer me who feels a bit more pride in what I do and never mind in what I have done during 40-some years of serving humans in human services and some 35 plus years of sharing experience, strength, and hope with fellow wanderers in from the cold of drunkenness and addictions, and trying to offer a slice of hope in my various forms of human presentation every day I’ve been allowed to suit up and show up, and most likely this painting never sells and becomes something offered to my grandkids when I’m gone, if one wants it, but maybe right here I’m humming along with Mavis Staples singing, “If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot.” And this is my doing a bit better giving a good cahoot about myself. One way.
Cue up some James Brown – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”.
For sale – one nameless painting.