“FRAME AN EXPERIENCE.” James Turrell said this. I say it too — but I mean it literally.  

Art that captures our attention evokes an emotion in us. We might find it hanging in a museum or gallery. Maybe it’s what our children draw, or photos that we and our friends take. It could be two-dimensional, or three. Whatever it is, we should live with it in all its forms where it frames an experience, memory, sensation or mood.  

As an art-history student, you’re taught first to ask yourself, “Do I like this?” Answer quickly, using nothing more than your gut. Then learn the history of the piece. But always go back to your initial instinct: Whether you like something has nothing do with its history; the resonance is instead an echo of your own.  

To like something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s beautiful; what’s required is that it says something. So how do we find pieces to live with? Start by simply looking. Chuck Close said it best: “What difference does it make whether you’re looking at a photograph or a still-life? You still have to look.” Venture out and see what there is to see with open eyes, so you can learn what you like to look at.  

I started by purchasing what I called “LaLa” — looks like art. I’d frequent flea markets and art fairs (town-square art fairs, not the chic happenings teeming with collectors and curators), buying things that spoke to me.  

Like many people, I love going to galleries to look at art, but visiting with the intent to buy something can be intimidating — not to mention expensive. Because the cost of entry can be high, on my first search, I spent a long time hunting for the “perfect” piece — the one that would say everything I wanted “real art” to say. It took me a while to realize that no one piece can possibly do this. Only a group of works will speak loudly enough to give voice to the things that affect you most deeply.  

I have pieces on my walls that I bought for $5, ones given to me as gifts, those I found while traveling, some that once hung in my parents’ home, a few I made myself, several made by friends . . . and even, yes, a couple I bought at galleries.  

At this point, I have a lot of art adorning my walls. But I’d love more — part of the story I want to tell remains untold. There are many pieces in many galleries I’d love to gobble up; recently, though, I assuaged my desire to tweak the narrative by moving everything around, reframing a few pieces in the process. I was surprised how much the story changed. Nevertheless, I chose to leave one wall blank to accommodate the experiences I want to capture that are still without frames.  

In search of the rest of the story, I go out often to look: I look at things I know I could never have; I look at things just out of reach; I look at things within reach. And I ask: Do I like it? 


Originally published on The Huffington Post