Friday, October 1, 2010

What is Your Luxury? A Healthy Dose of Art and Coffee

I have been getting some flack lately about the money I spend on fancy coffees. Well, it is only one a day. My nerves can't take more than that. OK, maybe throw in a deli cup of tea in the afternoon. I feel rich when I drink my brew out in the world, which I wrote about in Café Saltz. Today I walked to an appointment, 12 blocks each way - not spending $4.50 on public transportation - and bought a fancy Organic Rooibos Ambrosia cup of tea for $2.00 on the way back. See, I am actually saving money.

  Cup of the Day #37
by Gwyneth Leech, 2010
Sumi ink on white cup

Honestly, a girl has to have some luxury and what else can we afford in this crazy expensive city?

It's me and Holly Golightly drinking coffee from a paper cup in front of Tiffany's. I love the opening sequence from the Audrey Hepburn movie, by the way. And yes, I do walk up to to 57th Street and 5th Avenue to look at the windows of Tiffanys - and Bergdorf's - on a regular basis. Because if you love installation art those windows are where you can get a regular dose of the best.

So, the truth is I am a penny pincher and hate to spend. Which is why my experience down on the Lowers East Side at Alix Sloan Gallery the other day was so strange and unnerving: I almost bought a painting! I went for the opening of Mia Brownell's show Stomach Acid Dreams and fell in love with a small painting in the rear gallery called Still Life with Helix. Like the other paintings in the show, it is a luscious mix of bravura still life painting technique, abstraction and science. Oh, the shining fruit! What grabbed me was a delicate strand of DNA twisting through the central axis, made up of brilliantly painted grape stem.

Against all reason, I wanted that painting. And at under a $1000 I could conceivably buy it. All I would have to do is cancel our family's self-employed person's health insurance plan which drains well over a grand from our coffers each month, maybe go to one of those high deductible plans where you pay as you go and gamble that your health costs are less than $20,000 a year. Think of the art collection I could have. Think of the artwork I could have amassed by now, if it weren't for 10 years of NYC health insurance premiums.

Throwing caution to the wind, I actually went to the desk to tell them to put a red dot on it -

but it was already sold.

"Still Life with Helix" by Mia Bownell
11" x 9"
oil on canvas


  1. Maybe art needs to be the new health insurance ;) I can envision us going back to bartering for services the way the dollar has crumbled in value. Great post and I appreciate the link to Mia's work. I can see why you'd skip a payment for it.

  2. Thanks Mary Ann. I have bartered artworks for all sorts of stuff - including dental work. Though negotiating relative value is always the fatiguing part; the dentist thought his work was worth more than mine. Reminds me of my grandma paying doctor bills with chickens and eggs back in the Depression.

  3. sorry for the deletion. Forgot to complete a sentence. Yikes ; (

    Ha, what isn't a luxury these days?

    I surely miss being in an area with a good coffeehouse who knows how to pull a good espresso, with actual crema on it.

    We're drinking Organic African Nectar Roobis, and am looking for some Provence ; )

    When we had our coffeehouse, we traded with some people and it was great.

    You're right about valuation on art. Some people just don't understand the process and what's involved.


  4. A girl has got to have her daily "luxuries", and I think a cuppa Joe is not a very luxurious splurge mind you, if you splurged on diamonds or couture clothing or expensive sports cars, then I could understand a little criticism now and then....but coffee, really... how on earth could one survive without it? And, as for Audrey Hepburn...who does not absolutely adore her and oh, that scene at Tiffany is absolutely is the entire movie, I might add. As for Mia's work it is so luscious and rich, and mouth watering in a weird sort of way...I can see why you wanted that "small piece" in the back of the gallery...thanks for the link to her work...oh and thanks for stopping by my blog...

  5. Phew - saved by the "red dot." That is a lovely painting, and I can totally relate to the desire to buy art. (1) it is beautiful and calls to us and (2) if we don't buy other people's creations now and then, how can we expect other people to buy ours? What goes around comes around.

    As for buying your coffee and tea, I can't imagine how anyone could criticize you for that when you recycle the cups so magnificently!

    But what really got me to comment today was looking back at your posts on Twyla Tharp's, "The Creative Habit" - I took a look see on line and just ordered the book (from the library - I am on a strict budget, too!)

    I had the opposite summer to you - while my teens were off at summer camp, I spent seven glorious weeks in my studio, but for me, when September hit, it was back to "momming" 24/7 and a little home re-organizing due to inheriting a major new piece of furniture.

    But now it is time to "get off the couch." My first step - like you, clean and clear, get the studio ready. This was helped by the fact that Aehee (a young photographer working on a book documenting NY artists in their studios.) came to my studio yesterday to photograph me in my studio.

    Since I am working on a self portrait a day this year, I can't really take a day off, but when the other demands of life are too great, then I struggle just to get the portraits done, let alone painting and marketing (another can of worms!)

    Gwyneth, I greatly admire what you have achieved with your blog - it's very inspiring and one of these days I am going to join you in the blogosphere!!

  6. Thanks, Fran. Your self portrait project sounds great. Would love to see it as an image-a-day blog!

  7. Hey, Gwyneth - I am planning to start a blog. I'll let you know when it's up and running!

  8. Gwyneth: I saw and loved the same painting by Mia Brownell at her Sloan Gallery opening. I was also relieved that it was already sold, but it's so interesting that you had the same reaction. Mia is an incredibly talented artist. She has her studio in the same building I have my studio (an all artist live/work building at Media Loft in New Rochelle, NY).
    Nancy Egol Nikkal

  9. Love these cups! And coffee of course...