Musings on art and artists

Water Lilies, by Bessie Potter Vonnoh, c. 1913

There has been a very interesting discussion on the member forum for the Realistic Equine Sculpture Society about how the equine collectibles community and the artist who work in it are perceived by equine artists working in the fine art world. Some of the comments reminded me of something I saw during my last visit to Brookgreen.

One of the galleries there had an exhibit entitled “Fifteen Women: One Hundred Years of Sculpture”. One of the things that has always struck me about Brookgreen is just how many pieces in their collection were sculpted by women. It was also clear that many of the pieces were designed not for galleries, but for gardens. I have often wondered if the work these women did, often portraying children and animals, got the same kind of scorn from the “proper” art world. That proper art world was already turning away from realistic work; indeed, Brookgreen was established in part in reaction to that. Did the marginalized realistic sculptors of that era in turn marginalize these women for making expensive “lawn ornaments” just as some look upon artists in my field as making “toy horses”?

The museum card next to the sculpture pictured above had an intriguing comment:

“At a time when most sculptors produced monuments, Bessie Potter Vonnoh made significant contributions to small bronze sculpture and garden statuary designed for the embellishment of the home. … Concentrating on sculpture for domestic settings that combined naturalism and elegance, Vonnoh entered a male dominated field creating a pathway to professional success and making high-quality sculpture accessible to a wider audience.”

I have never had a lot of concern about whether what I did was considered “art” or “Art” – or even craft. Having been raised by a commercial artist, I was indoctrinated in only one important distinction among artists: starving or not-starving. The idea of a viable market was always front and center among my considerations. But I think the quote above talks about what has kept me involved in collectibles. For any number of reasons, the average person finds Art intimidating and incredibly distant from their day-to-day life. I like the idea that we are making “high-quality sculpture accessible to a wider audience”.

, ,

2 Responses to Musings on art and artists

  1. Sans Souci Studios May 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    This is really interesting. I hadn’t thought about “women’s art” and “garden art” vs “men’s art” and “gallery art”. I was just talking to an artist friend, though, about how intimidating many people find galleries, and how artwork is often more approachable (both literally and figuratively) if displayed in an environment such as an artist’s home during an Open Studio.

  2. Abraxan June 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    It’s no surprise why Brookgreen specializes in women’s art – it was founded by Anna Hyatt Huntington, a famous and quite successful sculptor, and her philanthropist husband. You can read about them here:

    And not all of us “fine artists” are trying to intimidate collectors. 😀 Some of us just prefer bronze to other mediums.

    I believe in making money with my art too, which is why I have a zero-interest payment plan for my collectors and other incentives to help people start collecting bronze. Many collectors start with porcelain and resin horses (as I did) and move on to bronze. And some, like me, still buy the porcelains, in particular. There are collectors of all income levels who will buy bronze because they love it, or porcelain because they love it, or both for the same reason. I had a 19 year old college student customer who made payments on a sculpture of mine because she loved it. If we make things they love, they will find ways to buy them, thank goodness!

    I love your porcelains, and your book sounds like a fun project. Those photos you shared were wonderful! Wonder when Halflingers all became the color they are today? Interesting stuff.

    Keep up the good work!

    Lynda Sappington

Leave a Reply