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The Art of Hanging Art

Regardless of our individual tastes in art, it seems a fairly universal practice to adorn our walls with our favorites pieces. The notion of displaying art in ones home certainly dates back to the days of cave-dwellers scratching and painting images of horses, humans, and various abstracts to “decorate” their abodes. Given the permanence of these particular art installments, I can only imagine the internal debate that ensued among the dwellers: “Honey, do you think the horses would look good over by the rock collection, or maybe they’d be a nice complement to the reindeer by the front door?” These were clearly big decisions in the household, as they are today, and thus introduces the “second level” of in-home art, namely where (and, in more modern times, just exactly how) to place it. This got me curious as to the history of hanging portable art, such as framed paintings. But when I Googled the “history of wall hangings,” the top result was the history of hanging as a death penalty in the UK in the 18th century. Not exactly on point, but maybe not entirely without an analogous reference. You see, there are a lot of opinions when it comes to hanging art, and I feel certain that some “experts” would deem certain approaches to hanging art akin to the death penalty for the poor, unfortunate piece of art itself, rendering its fate utterly catastrophic. To this point, I read one article that definitively states that 57” from the floor is the perfect center point for all hung art when it comes to optimum viewing. At a modest 5’10” myself, I might agree, but then those taller or shorter than I may have wildly differing opinions on this matter. Then there’s the matter of composition. Some would argue that pieces must be displayed on their own to be viewed, studied, and contemplated singularly, while others practice the art of grouping various pieces together in a cluster or stylized arrangement. Certainly, the triptych demonstrates that this latter approach has both appeal and purpose. Yet, behind all these important opinions and decisions there lies the fundamental component of the logistics of hanging art, and I’ve come to believe that there are simply two types of wall-hangers: those that measure, and those that do not. I’m a measurer, you see, and outside of my occasional dyslexia getting in the way of some critical calculations, I feel I’m pretty adept at what I consider to be “proper” art hanging. My toolbox for hanging art is complete with the all-important tape measure, various-length levels, a pencil (with eraser), a pen, a proper hammer, a stud-finder, and, of course, a wide variety of weight-rated hooks and nails. Through the years, I’ve written seemingly-complex mathematical equations on the paper backing of many an artwork, resulting in the identification of the absolute, undeniable, singular point in the universe where the nail and it’s partnered hanger shall be affixed to the wall. Frankly, it’s quite rewarding when this concerted and focused effort comes to fruition as the piece of art sits “perfectly” in its new place of repose. Others (reckless as they may be) are reported to have “an eye” for where art is best placed, and, with nary a tape measure in sight, are able to affirmatively state “precisely” where the nail and hanger shall be placed. My wife, Carrie, falls in this latter category, and you might imagine my shock and amazement at the sight of her with a thick-heeled shoe in one hand, and a random nail in the other, taking aim at placing a piece of art in “just the right spot!” I’m skeptical of this approach, of course, but then again it seems all too ironic to suggest that a scientific method be applied to an otherwise wholly-artistic endeavor. Beauty, after all, is – perhaps – in the eye of the hammer (or shoe) holder. Regardless of the means, it’s quite a rewarding effort in the final analysis when the art and the walls and the furniture and the lighting and the space all come together in just the right way. It’s really an extension of the art itself, like fitting in the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to complete and reveal the comprehensive “picture” that the original artist had in mind. And, that’s truly all well and fine, until (such as in our home) it’s time to move the furniture, change the paint color, relocate a lamp, or bow to the whims of newly-creative thinking, when the process – whatever its style or composition – begins once again… More from Chip Collins' Blog:
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