Everything I needed to know about value I already knew as a baby. Then I forgot about it as soon as I started listening to others tell me what they thought had worth. I’ve been trying to reclaim that original concept ever since.
Watch babies sometime and we’ll see a truly basic and instinctual concept of value. Give them an expensive gift and they play with the box. Decorate a cake and they smear it in their hair. When they encounter a puddle they turn it into a percussion instrument. When they make a mess they paint on the walls. They are the geniuses of finding an uncorrupted value in everything. And this is the lesson we can learn from them. Unfortunately, being a baby is the last time society will allow us to set our own standards of value without labeling us lunatics or fools.
Value is the importance we think something deserves. It can come from many different sources — rarity, usefulness, popularity, prestige, desire, hunger, sex, power, leverage, control, balance, justice, greed — you name it. The old saying “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” sums it up nicely. There is no universal standard of value; just social, cultural, or individual ones.
For example, unlike many people in our society, I don’t regard money as being very important. That’s probably why I’ve always been so horrible with managing it. I do, however, think honesty is incredibly important. And that’s probably why some people manage to find me so horrible to be with. But the same people who judge me harshly for being a financial idiot (which I am), are the same people I suspect are missing out on many truly beautiful things this life has to offer — the connectedness of empathy — the confidence of balance — the clarity of fearlessness — the bliss of surrendering oneself to the flow of the universe.
But I understand the traditionalists. I get them. It’s hard to break out of a strict process if you believe your happiness, or the happiness of your family, depends on it. Yes, thinking differently from tradition has its risks. But it also has its benefits. And I believe those benefits extend well past a life many of us spend too much energy trying to fit into.
My art is proof that I am reclaiming the right I had as a baby to set my own standards of value. Through my paintings, I reclaim the right to value an expression of art more than a talent in it. It becomes clear I reclaim the right to value imagination more than imitation. It becomes inarguable I reclaim the right to value painting myself a new picture instead of sitting back and waiting for the old one to be cleaned up.
There are so many rights we have that we’ve forgotten, so many opportunities for a happier life we thought were gone.
All we have to do is remember them…and reclaim them.
By the way, the painting above was done on a piece of plexiglass I reclaimed from on old frame at a thrift store.