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The Art of Giving

"Detail of Madonna in Venice" oil and bronze leaf on canvas, 48" x 48" By Peter Fowler

There is no need to check the list twice.

Every year it seems that the same old gifts get re-wrapped and re-gifted: socks, travel coffee mugs, khaki pants, perfume. There is no thought or effort required in holiday shopping anymore. All it takes to complete your shopping list is a quick trip to the mall, a roll of wrapping paper from Walgreen’s, and a bow.


Is that what the holidays have come to?

In this world of increasingly impersonal communication, perhaps it’s time to reach out this season and make a very personal connection. This year, eschew the big-box stores with their mass produced and generally generic fare and opt for art instead.

The idea of buying and giving art may seem frightening. The very definition of art can be rather elusive.

According to Merriam-Webster, art is defined as the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.

The keys words of the definition—conscious, creative, and imagination—are of the upmost importance when searching out the perfect piece for a particular person.

A photograph, a piece of handmade jewelry, an oil painting, a wood craving—art is personal and subjective. Art can make a connection, it reaches out, it touches and it is remembered.

Nancy J. Parisi, an artist, photojournalist, and journalist working and living in Buffalo, feels that giving art is very personal.

The piece that is chosen should be significant to both the giver and the receiver of the art.

“It has to impart feeling or a message—an obvious stated message or a more obscure and poetical one,” Parisi says.

Artist and illustrator Alix Martin agrees with Parisi that the gift of art is a thoughtful gift. It can take a bit of time, energy, and love to acquire the right piece of work for the right person.

Martin believes that finding out more about the person you are buying for is essential if you want your gift to have that wow factor when it is unwrapped. She recommends having a conversation with those loved ones on your list to find out more about their likes and dislikes. She also recommends attending art shows together and taking mental notes as to their preferences.

When finally picking the piece, Martin says, “You will find yourself having to be mindful of that friend or spouse and you will probably learn something new about your loved one.”

Giving art is not just about sharing something unique and special with those close to you; art as a gift provides its own unique sense of satisfaction to both the giver and receiver.

“When you give local art, it’s awesome to know that everyone of the pieces was created by an artist, with all the time, love, and energy it takes to produce,” Martin says.

Parisi also feels a strong connection to those who purchase her art and to those she gives her art to.

“I like to frame my own work and have been known to sneak little messages behind mat board or on the backside of the print,” says Parisi. “It’s like a little secret between me and the purchaser of my work.”

In addition to searching out the art, it is not just about finding the aesthetically perfect piece. There are other things to consider. Many artists offer their work as originals or prints only, others offer both their original work and reproductions, and some simply sell reproductions. For the untrained buyer, figuring out the difference may be a bit tricky but is quite important when it comes to that often tight holiday budget.

Originals are just that, a one-of-a-kind piece of art. Reproductions are copies of the original piece. Copies may be made as part of an edition with only a certain number of copies available, while other reproductions may be mass-produced.

Parisi advises purchasers to inquire about what they are buying if they are unsure.

“The person selling the art work should or would know the difference and a buyer should inquire [before purchase],” Parisi says.

Reproductions should not scare a buyer away, however. Originals and reproductions each have their place on the holiday list.

“Reproductions or copies are priced at about half the price of the prints or originals and are worth every penny,” Martin says.

According to Martin, it depends on who will be receiving the gift as to which should be chosen. If the gift is for a new or causal friend, a reproduction will do the job, but if the gift is for a loved one or someone you want to impress, get the original.

“If you want to have pieces that may go up in value in the future, then buy a print or an original,” Martin says.

As luck would have it, art shopping has gotten even easier this season.

The 2010 Holiday Open Studios and Galleries Event is just around the corner. More than 100 artists covering the many medium of art will be showing and selling their work at dozens of galleries and private homes throughout the Elmwood Village and Allentown.

This annual event begins on Friday, December 3 and runs throughout the weekend. The hours vary by day. Friday the galleries are open 5-9pm, with some opening earlier. Saturday and Sunday the galleries are open from 11-6pm.

Artists in Buffalo, Inc. sponsors the event. The organization’s mission is to support promote and increase the visibility of regional artists, galleries, museums, and related arts businesses. They publish the Buffalo Niagara Artists and Galleries Guide every two years and distribute it throughout the region. They host the annual Open Studios and Galleries event and they maintain a comprehensive guide of artists. Their website ( lists hundreds of artists from the Western New York area. The site allows visitors to find artists according to their medium, alphabetically or by where their work is shown.

The 2010 Holiday Open Studios and Galleries event is the perfect place to bring your proverbial list, start, and possibly finish your holiday shopping.

Examples of Parisi’s art can be viewed at Martin’s paintings and sketches can be found at redfish Art Studios (21 Elm Street, East Aurora). Her work is also on exhibit during the Open Studio event at the Globe Market (762 Elmwood Avenue).

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