Friday, March 28, 2008

Advice Column #14

Hey Bartender!

My mom visits me twice a year. Last time she brought me a gift- a huge, exquisitely ugly painting. It makes my living room look like a discount bordello. She paid a fortune for it. What can I do? I can't leave it on my wall where people will see it. I have no room to store it. I can't get rid of it or my mom will write me out of her will. I need a drink.

I wish you would have sent a picture of this horrible painting. Perhaps I could find a drink that matched aesthetically. You have some interesting options here on what to do, and later, the perfect drink. I doubt your mom will write you out of her will over a undesired gift. She's your mom- and loves you unconditionally. That's what moms are for.

First, you need to find out how much the painting is worth and who deals or sells that artist's work. Find out how big of a fortune was wasted on the art, and the possibilities of the value of the work appreciating. Art is a funny market, and if you're going to jeopardize your relationship to get rid of this painting, you better cash it in. The internet has a lot of resources for finding other works by the artist, and assessing value. Useful websites to find out the value include,, and of course, You may also find some background information on the artist's work that could help you appreciate it as your mother does.

Speaking of, why not call your Mom and ask her what in the painting made her think that it was perfect for you. If she comes up with unfounded answers, you could reply, "while I appreciate the gift, Mom, I think you see much more in this painting than I do, and that it would make you happier to have it in your own house." Then suggest a great place she could hang it. Let her protest, or ramble on about how it was a gift, and bring it with you the next time you visit her- and just hang it on the wall. You too, can insist. You've probably learned this trait from her. Try to understand her appreciating of the work, and try to remember that she was trying to show you those good things by giving it to you- and you missed it.

You are not required to live in a prison of things that cannot be re-gifted. You are not required to accept gifts you do not want and that do not fit into your life. Bad art can wreck the relaxing mood of your living room, and you don't need it. An option is to go to and find something to replace it on your walls, or buy a painting from an artist you know and love- for a market (not a "friend-rate") price. You should support artists you like, and not feel compelled to keep art you can't stand. You have agency.

If you aren't ready to talk to your mom about how much you don't like the art, you can hang something over it on the wall where it presently hangs until the day before she arrives. The next time your Mom comes to town, go to some art galleries with her and find some work that you really love. Buy it. Tell your mom how inspired you were by her encouraging you to become a young collector, and then- astonishingly- realize the art you've bought displaces the work that your Mom inflicted upon you. You can also use the age old excuse that the old painting doesn't match your new furniture. Ask her if she would mind hanging the monstrous work in her house until you have a place big enough to take it back. When that time comes, tell her you can't imagine the painting anywhere but with her.

This second plan has the bonus of actually starting your art collecting, and making sure your mom gets to enjoy the present she thought you would like. I'm certain that it reflects her taste better than it does yours. You can also spend some quality time talking to your mom about what you like in a painting, so maybe the next gift won't be in left field. You two will have drank a lot of wine at the art openings, of varying quality and taste- much like the art. Just make sure you try to relate to your mom, so you can both understand each other's tastes. You need to show her what you do and don't like, in art that neither of you own yet. Then show her how dedicated you are to those tastes, by buying a work that you love- right in front of her.

While art opening wine can't be avoided, or upgraded, you can flex your big choice muscles afterwards with an aperitif. This choice drink can accompany dinner or dessert, and like you're conflict free resolution of the bad gift, has taken a long time to get just right. Pommeau de Normandie from Etienne Dupont is a mixture of calvados (apple brandy) and apple must (unfermented cider) aged for 30 months in oak casks. The aperitif is 17% alcohol, and has rich flavors of apple, vanilla, and prune. The rich and delightful taste will leave your mouth with a rinse of caramel. The mahogany drink has been aging in a certain kind of oak- the kind that was grown in sandy soil and burnt slowly when being formed into a barrel. If the oak were grown in rocky soil, it would leave a tar taste in the place of the vanilla. Your mother- she gives you things unaware of what they will mean to you- generally Mothers aren't trying to ruin your life or your living room decor- give her a little time to mature, and mix your critique of her gift with a desire to understand her tastes, and how you can improve them. If you throw rocks at her attempts to be kind, you'll just damage your relationship with her, but if you nurture her kindness, you can find out how much you have in common, and how art, and amazing Pommeau, can bring you together.

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