What art do you love to look at?
September 6, 2022 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I've decided I want more artwork on the walls of my home and my office. I know really very little about art. Help me figure this out?

I could tell you what I like, but I am looking to expand my horizons rather than entrench them, so to speak.

In broad terms, I feel like I like things that are dreamy and ambiguous; things that are surprising; things that are abstract or feel incomplete, things that are dark in either color, concept, or both; things that incorporate words; western and eastern calligraphy; and things that reference religious or classical stories. I'm not looking for, like, one piece of art that encompasses all of these attributes but rather these are sort of starting points.

In the absolute broadest terms, though, just tell me what art you love to look at. Thank you!
posted by gauche to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have had a print of Kandinsky’s Succession on my wall for about 30 years and still find some new interpretation almost every time I look at it.
posted by sageleaf at 11:38 AM on September 6, 2022 [6 favorites]

Are you looking to acquire original pieces or prints/posters of work from famous (or even less famous) artists?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:50 AM on September 6, 2022

Hi, you are somewhat in my area. In October, New Haven usually hosts Open Studios where all the artists open their studios to buy art. Sadly it looks like no central location this year but keep an eye on ArtSpace's website. Go to local festivals and look at stuff and buy art from people you could run into at the market.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:52 AM on September 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Are you looking to acquire original pieces or prints/posters of work from famous (or even less famous) artists?

I'm open to either/both/all.
posted by gauche at 12:19 PM on September 6, 2022

We bought a piece by Beckie Reed a few years ago and I never get tired of looking at it. Another artist doing slightly dreamlike pieces that I see in local galleries is Lee Madgwick.
But I second cobaltnine's comment - go see what your local artists are doing. Something will speak to you!
posted by crocomancer at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

You live in Hartford - that gives me an idea!

1. Go to the Wadsworth Atheneum one afternoon.
2. Go into each and every room in there, and look at everything.
3. If something you see there blows your mind, go to the gift shop and see if they have a poster of it.
4. Whether you do or don't get a poster of that thing: look up the artist's other work and see what else they got, and see if you can get a print of something else anywhere.
5. Repeat at other museums.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on September 6, 2022 [7 favorites]

I have several antique Maxfield Parrish prints. These were very popular in the 1930s, a whole lot of people had them framed, and these framed versions are available on eBay and in antique stores. Daybreak is probably the most famous one. They definitely have a dreamy quality.

You can also get new posters of many of his prints, but I really like the antique framed versions.
posted by FencingGal at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

look through the offerings from art museums. You can drill down (eg look at museums of contemporary art for abstract stuff) or start with major large general collections (eg Met, Smithsonian etc) to get a sense of what you like.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:24 PM on September 6, 2022

I love the Pre-Raphaelites, very romantic and lush. Lots of green/nature.

There's a lot of Art. People can be judge-y, but if you love it, ignore them. If there's a college bookstore near you, they'll have posters. Go find local galleries and visit, it's fun. Visit local museums and art supply stores. If you buy a poster and later decide you don't love it, put up something else.

Over time, when you travel, buy art that you like. Go to museum shows, but postcards or other stuff. Art enriches life, every day, whether it matches the sofa or not.
posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

All of the illustrations by Ralph Steadman of Alice in Wonderland but especially the image of her grown too large and stuffed inside of the White Rabbit's house.

Anything by Edward Gorey is always a treasure. This print is fantastic.

I also love vintage advertisements. I have a very weird old Lifebuoy B.O. soap ad in my bathroom.

This season my favorite thing to stare at is the piece my mom made for me of Baba Yaga's amazing chicken-footed hut.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 2:35 PM on September 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I occasionally like to browse This Is Colossal to see some interesting current stuff. A lot of it is street art or installations or sculpture, but often it's 'check out these cool paintings from an artist on Etsy' or whatever. At the very least it might give you a starting point from which you can dive down the rabbit hole and find something you like.
posted by greta simone at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you would like the work of Odilon Redon, a turn of the century symbolist artist whose earlier works consisted of dark, sometimes-nightmarish, sometimes-quirky black and white lithographs but who had a later period of luminous colourful paintings, often referencing Greek mythology, biblical figures, and Japanese art. A lot of his work would fall into the "dreamy, ambiguous and incomplete" category. You can get many of his prints online.
posted by Naanwhal at 3:49 PM on September 6, 2022

Not that I want to give away my secrets but I love shopgoodwill.com for art buying. Obviously you can just browse whenever but I've gotten some amazing prints, original pieces, frequently already framed. And the selection is hugely varied. I have found the most random things there that I would never have thought to search for, but caught my eye through browsing.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2022

Look at the ocean pictures of Vija Celmins, and the ones byHiroshi Sugimoto.

Sugimoto also did a series of photographs of blank movie screens that carry some of the same feelings of the seascapes.

Look at Agnes Martin. Look at Hedda Sterne.

Look at Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

Look at Mark Rothko. Just stand in front of one of his paintings for a while and see what it does to you.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:00 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would go to thrift shops like Goodwill or Value Village for sure! I have found some awesome original framed art there. I would say I find a cool piece of art maybe 1 in 10 visits so it’s a numbers game. Drop in when you pass one, see what you see. When you drive through a neighborhood with an elderly wealthy population definitely stop at the thrift shops!

Search FB Marketplace for “art” and “painting” and see if you like anything- in my city up and coming artists sometimes sell work on there quite affordably.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

You might find it helpful to learn a bit about art appreciation. I don't mean art history -- I mean appreciation. Learning a little bit about HOW to look at a work of art might help you learn what you like and don't like, what attracts you, what repels you. Like you, I didn't know anything much about art, but I decided I needed art in my life, so I took an online art appreciation class. I can't share the link with you because the class is not online any more. But there are plenty of free you tube videos about the topic. Here's one. Here's another. I picked these two specifically, because they somewhat contradict each other, but they both focus on the same general things: big picture, small details, attraction, context, self-reflection.

[A small aside: I have a dog, and I like to watch him sniff stuff. His sense of smell is his dominant sense. It's his main way of learning about the world, and he gets so excited sniffing stuff! For humans, sight is our dominant sense. When I look at art, I like to imagine that my eyeballs are like my dog's nose, and I try to use my eyes the way my dog uses his nose. I move them around, looking at the art from different angles. I concentrate up close, then move back. I explore the outlines of the art. Looking is such a gift, and learning to enjoy that gift in the same way my dog enjoys smelling has been a real source of joy for me.]

As for what I like to look at -- I like contemporary art with bright colors and bold shapes, so my taste is very different from yours. I like Northwest Coastal Formline art, mixed media collage (especially if it includes letters or words), David Hockney, Vorona Ecaterina (who I just learned about today!) and the coastal paintings of Childe Hassam (you might like that last one). One thing I like to do is look at the Saatchi Art website and just click around. I will never be able to afford any of those paintings, but it's a good resource for being able to see (and appreciate!) a lot of art all in one place.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:57 PM on September 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you're open to posters of art, I think Magritte has lots of cool, dreamy stuff. In fact, I think I might go hunting for some now.
posted by brachiopod at 8:05 PM on September 6, 2022

This is more about decoration/interior design than your choice of art. I like a lot of the proposals above.

But when you put up your art pieces, try to think of your whole view as a composition. I know this seems a bit much, but the simplest answer is to either buy one really big artwork, that takes up a lot of your view, or to buy a series by the same artist, like three or four different posters by Matisse.

My workplace faces a wall with a door in it. The wall is beige, like a milky latte. The door is always open. On the left side of the door is a modern collage piece that needs professional help that I can't afford right now, but it is interesting to look at with its different materials and colors. It is in a very large frame, so it takes up a lot of the wall space. On the right hand of the door is a big 19th century etching with a lot of detail. It's a scene from a forest glade with a lake in the distance. It's really lovely to look at when my mind goes wandering. Sometimes I walk over and look at the details, the glimpse of a castle in the distance, or the flowers in the foreground. Through the door, the view is supposed to be very simple and graphic: there is a room with high, white wall panels, and a bright blue wall above them. There is a daybed against the wall, and over it, there once was a very large green poster. Unfortunately, that piece was damaged beyond repair and am looking for a replacement that is equally large and horisontal. So I try to make my whole view from my office chair into a bigger picture, rather than seeing the individual artworks as isolated objects.
posted by mumimor at 1:22 AM on September 7, 2022

What art do I love to look at? Mentally running through what's on my walls...
  • Japanese paintings and woodblock prints.
  • Nature linocuts. I often prefer something a little stylised over photo-like realism, and linocuts lend themselves to that.
  • Riotous colour, whether abstract, geometric or fields of flowers.
  • Fluid, impressionistic paintings of landscapes and seascapes.
  • Pastoral views of various kinds.
  • Reproductions of museum artworks I particularly like. I have a couple of Bruegels, a Patrick Caulfield, a gloomy frog, the Great Wave off Kanagawa, an Escher, possibly others that I'm forgetting.
  • Photographs of places I remember fondly.
  • Maps.
  • Cats.
  • Street scenes and atmospheric pictures of buildings, real and imaginary.
  • Illustrations from children's books, or pictures that look as if they would work well in that context.
I've acquired these things from museum gift shops, the local market, charity shops, art and craft markets, antique shops, Etsy, little independent galleries, the local art collective... also, I follow a lot of artists and art-lovers on Twitter, which leads to having a lot of browser tabs open to searches for affordable prints.

Incidentally, I also have some things on my walls that were not particularly meant to be hung on a wall: a cuddly octopus, a kite, a restaurant banner, a colourful fan.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:57 AM on September 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Based on your likes, Jon Ching may be of interest to you. Some galleries you may want to check out: Static Medium (California), Giant Robot (California), Beinart Gallery (Australia), Spoke-Art (California), Art Republic (UK). They send out emails for new shows, newly available paintings or prints, etc. It's a good way to get a handle on contemporary artists. You can also just peruse their websites to get an idea of who you may like. I heavily collect two particular artists, although they may not be what you're looking for based on your description. But sharing their names nonetheless: Audrey Kawasaki and Stella im Hultberg. Good luck on your journey!
posted by sickinthehead at 9:47 AM on September 7, 2022

I'm a professional artist and art professor. This means that I tend to have three types of work on my walls and pedestals: my own, pieces from my friends/students/colleagues/network, and pieces that hit the very high bar of winning some available display real estate away from the first two categories.

For that last category of unrelated artists, I'd say the 95% of the work is acquired while traveling and is strong on its own but also engenders fond memories of said travels. Then 5% is work I stumbled across locally and/or online that I knew was highly unlikely to be able to be approximated in any other context - by me, friends/students/colleagues/network, or in my travels - and that I found extremely compelling. One of my favorite pieces in that vein is a Jon Offutt blown glass landscape vase like this one.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:24 PM on September 7, 2022

You live in Hartford? Take EmpressCalipygos’ advice, sure, the Wadsworth is cool.

But the New Britain Museum of American Art is phenomenal. Go get inspired there.
posted by slateyness at 8:52 PM on September 7, 2022

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