Affordable, quirky art adds vitality and visual interest to a home: shop smart with these tips

Art dealer Heidi Lawrence calls it “going the loop.”

Someone walks into her Lake Oswego gallery, nods when she says hello, then slides in to look at the paintings, sculptures and art glass. A card next to each piece has the price and description.

When the visitor repeats a loop, it is to focus on a specific work. That’s what caught their attention, notes Lawrence, co-owner of the venerable Lawrence Gallery.

Finding the art you love can be as easy as stopping to look. And yet, ask yourself: how long are you going to stare at that blank wall in your home before committing to a canvas that will add vitality and visual interest?

Original art elevates a home: it’s a conversation starter that brings vitality and dimension, and adds color to neutral interiors. And since the art is created in a range of mediums, it is priced to suit any budget.

Art sellers understand buyer hesitation: no one wants to post a bad decision. The art in your home should make you feel good every time you see it, but it’s also a reflection of who you are and your tastes.

To make the choice easier, many dealers, as well as the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery, let you live with a piece before buying it, and artists invite you into their studio to learn more about the visual creations that arouse emotions.

And all the museum shops sell affordable prints, maps and books with reproductions of original works.

Some of photographer Jason Hill’s portraits on display at the Portland Museum of Art’s AUX/MUTE gallery are sold in limited editions at the gallery’s fourth-floor store called the Numz Bodega.

A 16-inch square print is $50.

“At these price points, we’re expanding the view of what an art collector looks like,” said DJ Ambush of AUX/MUTE gallery, which featured works by black artists. “Affordable art is no less original or less important, and it can be the first or second piece in someone’s collection.”

At a time when more underrepresented artists are being invited to exhibit their work in museums and art galleries, and where NFT (non-fungible token) digital art and other non-traditional arts are being valued, institutions seem more welcoming, Ambush said. And he spreads the word.

As a radio personality on the independent black station The Numberz FM (96.7), Ambush has been broadcasting from the Portland Art Museum since the 2019 opening of the exhibition “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…”.

Since the AUX/MUTE gallery opened in August 2021, Ambush has met visitors to the museum for the first time who said they came to see one of the gallery’s star artists. Many then venture on to see other exhibits such as the work of four contemporary Aboriginal artists in “Mesh”.

“Being here and creating content and art in this building feels like home,” Ambush said.

Ka’ila Farrell-Smith creates original works of art in her studio in Modoc Point, southern Oregon.Photograph by Sam Gehrke

Art is intimidating. A survey found that most people see buying art as scarier than buying real estate, said Bradley Lawrence, who owns a commercial real estate finance business and is the Lawrence’s second-generation co-owner. Gallery with his wife, Heidi.

According to art researchers, 95% of people in the United States have never purchased original artwork. The main reasons? Most said they think art is exclusive, too expensive and involves too much pressure.

It’s no surprise that artists and art dealers want to change this perception. They say art adds a narrative to a living space. And the story of the artist is part of it.

Multimedia artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith sees art as a powerful teaching tool.

His contemporary paintings, often inspired by his environmental activism, have been exhibited at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Portland Art Museum as well as many other museums and galleries, including the Blue Sky Gallery in Northwest Portland.

Farrell-Smith, a member of the Klamath Modoc tribes in southern Oregon, talks openly about land justice. Visitors to his Modoc Point studio or those viewing his social media pages and videos will find that his “Land Back” series of paintings refer to his opposition to gas pipelines and other forms of corporate energy.

The works were also influenced by “indigenous sovereignty, Black Lives Matter and all the political activist work that’s on the wane right now,” she said in a Scalehouse Gallery presentation filmed in Bend in 2020. .

Farrell-Smith is the daughter of art lovers: Jane Farrell and the late Alfred (“Al”) Leo Smith, the Native American rights advocate whose religious liberty case shaped American law after he refused to accept a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Al Smith was called “Red Coyote”. A slice of its history is depicted in Farrell-Smith’s five-color lithograph “Red Coyote for Pitsap” ($800; 30 by 22.25 inches).

Collectors can connect to an artist or a single work. There’s more than one right answer to finding the type of art you love, said Heidi Lawrence, who is also a commercial and residential designer. It could be the mood: a landscape can be a soothing reminder of a carefree childhood, while an abstract can be a somber catalyst for reflection, she said.

To make it easier for potential clients to access the art, the Lawrences make house calls. They represent nearly 100 artists from across the Northwest, and prices start at under $50 for, say, a handmade copper bowl. Original ceramic and glass pieces cost less than $100. And small original and framed oil paintings start under $250.

“We have no obligation to visit,” said Heidi Lawrence, whose in-laws started the hassle in 1977 to spotlight local artists creating contemporary and traditional works. “Art is a luxury good. People have to take their time. »

The Lawrence Gallery had showcases in McMinnville, Portland’s Pearl District, and the Salishan Coastal Lodge Marketplace in Gleneden Beach before consolidating into a single gallery in Lake Oswego.

“People come in here and tell us they bought a piece of art 20 years ago and it makes them happy every day,” said Heidi Lawrence. “When it’s the right piece, it’s like a jewel. It finishes the space, it makes our customers happy, and we feel like brokers of joy.

Bradley and Heidi Lawrence of the Lawrence Gallery, now at Lake Oswego.Loren Castillo Photography/Lawrence Gallery

Heidi and Bradley Lawrence of the Lawrence Gallery, now in Lake Oswego, offer art consultations and home visits.Loren Castillo Photography/Lawrence Gallery

Art dealers Bradley and Heidi Lawrence offer these suggestions for getting comfortable with original art:

Spend time with art. Visit museums and galleries and attend art walks, art fairs and auctions.

A bonus: art galleries don’t charge admission like museums. “It’s a great way to pass your time, surrounded by original, varied and beautiful works of art,” said Bradley Lawrence.

Also check auction catalogs, sign up for art newsletters, and pay attention to the types of art that interest you.

Artsy, an online art brokerage, lets you see what’s happening at galleries, auctions, art fairs, and museums. It also helps you find artists, from Banksy to Anish Kapoor, from Paul Oxborough to Soonik Kwon, and buy or bid on paintings, sculptures, photographs or prints.

Other online vendors like Artfinder and 1stdibs allow you to search for Oregon artists.

Understanding art dealers. Dealerships should welcome you without forcing you to buy. Prices should also be clear. Make an appointment to view the art in the gallery or request a consultation at your home.

“Unlike some big cities, we’ve always been welcoming and friendly to all visitors, as most art galleries in the Northwest are,” said Bradley Lawrence.

If you don’t want to loop through a gallery, visit their website to find items of interest – not everything is on display – and check the artists’ social networks like Patreon, TikTok and Instagram to learn more about their inspiration. Then call or email for more information.

Portland’s four-decade-old Elizabeth Leach Gallery offers live openings and artist talks on its Facebook and YouTube pages to encourage hesitant people to enter the art world at their own pace.

When you’re ready to commit, you can buy from the gallery or its website – and have your purchase delivered or shipped almost anywhere.

Not all walls need art. The empty space works as a beautiful backdrop for the original art. Heidi Lawrence helps clients identify a focal point or two in their home.

A gallery wall allows a collection of artistic objects to look attractive together while injecting personality and color into a space. Display a small sculpture or keepsake on an art shelf and hang a canvas print, portrait or typography on the wall.

Limited edition prints and reproductions, especially works by famous artists, are widely available.

Hire an artistic advisor who understands your tastes and has connections to galleries and artists.

“Some people don’t have a high level of confidence in what they’ve chosen, but it makes them happy, which is great,” Bradley Lawrence said.

Financial art: To help make art purchases more affordable, some galleries and marketplaces allow you to pay over time.

The Lawrence Gallery is partnering with online lender Art Money to offer interest-free financing for 10 months on art purchases of $1,000 or more.

Other dealerships have agreements with Affirm, a lender that lets you pay in three, six, or 12 monthly installments for a fee you’ll see before you checkout (from 0% to 30% depending on your credit score ).

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman

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