What is of value today maybe worthless tomorrow. What maybe worthless today may in turn be priceless tomorrow. The true value of an object or work is only understood within the context of the next generation, not ones peers.
Over the last several months, Herman Melville and his life story has come to visit. Melville struck out into the world when he was young, then discovered his love for writing. Two of his earliest works did well during his lifetime, but then his greatest works were ignored from that point forward. Critics at the time of the publishing of Moby Dick, thought of him as a ranting madman that was mentally unstable, which of course was the farthest from the truth. The work was misunderstood by his peers, and in turn he was shut out of the publishing world from that point forward. At the time of his death in 1891, the world had forgotten him.
Move forward 25 years in time, just at the start of the roaring 20’s, a new generation was quickly rediscovering his work. The Melville that we know now is the Melville that was discovered and preserved from that period.
The paradox of value is something that we all struggle with, whether it be writing, painting, sculpture, or mixed media formats. There are the immediate day to day needs that life demands from each one of us, yet the disconnection of being able to do the thing that compels and is the thrust of ones life, or work that is meant to keep the cold out, seems to be a troubling quandary. Yet perhaps it isn’t.
Work stands on its own, stating its intent to silently wait in dusty storage for the world to catch up, for the generation that can see to come along. If anything, a strong sense of mistrust must be had for the work that is hailed in the present, in that it is touching something that exists within the Now that is fleeting at best or worst. The work that has real staying power, is probably at this very moment locked away in studios and warehouses, waiting, wondering whether it will ever be discovered again.
The hope is that we conserve the unknown in the present, for the generations of the future. It is their fresh set of eyes and perspective that will choose merit and value, not ours.