Story by Rita Goldman
If you’ve ever been disappointed with the way a work of art looks when you get it home, the fault may lie not in the painting, but in how it’s framed, or where it’s placed. We asked Joelle Perz, a Maui artist and art director for Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao, for some tips on making the most of every work of art.
SELECTING THE MAT
“If you want a painting or photo to have relevance,” says Perz, “give it room.” Surrounding a work with a wide mat creates an uncluttered space that draws the eye to the image. “If you stick a photo in a little frame, that’s okay, but people won’t pay attention. As soon as you give it space, it says, ‘This is precious to me.’”
HOW TO FRAME ARTWORK
“The frame participates in the artwork,” Perz says, “so anything you do with a frame has to be a conscious choice.” A frame that reflects the period of the painting will typically work best: a traditional frame for a traditional painting; something simple for a contemporary work where an ornate frame would clash.
When artists sell through a gallery, they usually don’t know where the work will end up, so they may choose a frame that’s as unimposing as possible. It’s okay to request a different frame, Perz says; just know that the cost of reframing can be considerable and not in the artist’s control.
HOW TO LIGHT ARTWORK
It takes a fair amount of light for our eyes to see color. (That’s why a nighttime rainbow looks white.) If where you intend to hang a work of art isn’t well lit, consider a different location for the piece, a different piece for the location (for example, a black-and-white print), or additional lighting.
At the other end of the spectrum is sunlight, which can fade photos and damage art. “Nowadays, artists are more conscious of using light-fast inks and oils,” Perz says, “but there are inks and oils that are tempting and beautiful, and not light fast. I advise not to put any artwork in direct bright sunlight.”
HOW TO HANG ARTWORK
“Where to place a work of art is hugely important,” Perz says. Before you pound that first nail, think about how the work will be viewed. Do you want it to simply decorate a wall where people pass by, or have it truly appreciated?
“The idea is to have the work at eye level,” she says. “If it’s in a room where you mostly sit, place it lower than you would if it’s in a room where you mostly stand. If the work can best be viewed from afar, put it where that’s the way people will see it. For a small piece that would get lost on a large wall, pick an intimate corner, where you can have closer eye contact.
“Be a detective,” Perz adds. “Live with the art for a while in different locations, in different lighting, before you commit.”
Share your tips for selecting and hanging the best piece for your house below in the comments box.