BURN or BUY. The first sacrifice from Michael Wessel on Vimeo.

The other day I burned a painting that I really kinda liked.

Not that I wanted to, but I felt it was necessary. Funny part was, it wasn’t even on the chopping block for my current project, Burn or Buy. That painting had been 11th hour rescued by a fan who really loves my work and couldn’t bear watching it get torched. But, still, something needed to be burned.

What the heck is Burn or Buy anyways? Is it some clever tactic to get more people to buy my work? Is it some deep artistic statement? Am I just trying to get people to notice me by whatever means necessary? Why the heck would I ever burn a canvas?

Los Angeles artist Wessel getting ready to burn his first painting for the Burn or Buy project

The answer is, yes.

I want more people to notice my work. I want people to get off the sidelines and participate by buying because that’s the money that I use to keep on going. I want people to jump into the fray and participate. And, yes, I have a deeper artistic reason for doing it. And, a canvas is just a canvas. Creation doesn’t stop unless you stop. I can paint more, as long as I’m still around.

There’s no reason why any activity undertaken by an artist only has to have one level of meaning or purpose. And, if it’s about making money so that I can continue being an artist, so be it. Making art is my job and I should get paid by the people who enjoy my work. Something like this makes that issue more pointed bc if they like something and don’t buy it...the opportunity to to get it will be lost forever.

Los Angeles artist Wessel burning his first painting for the Burn or Buy project

The art side of it...

I have so many paintings sitting in my room, each one of them with some specific meaning, some emotional value. Sitting in my place is heavy. There’s a lot of attachment. With attachment comes ties that I think in some ways are holding me back. Selling has become harder for me because, well, each piece is a small piece of my soul. Taking a small piece of my soul and sacrificing it for no other reason than to cut ties (and, yes, to hopefully get more people to notice what I’m doing) opens up a space for movement forward.

To burn a painting is to destroy something beautiful (subjectively), but also to remind myself that beauty is short lived and you never know when it might vanish. In the form of a painting, a relationship, whatever, nothing lasts forever. We lie to ourselves and say that it will be, but, nothing really is. The beauty is in how much something is appreciated while it is there. Looking back is a pale comparison. In that space the burning makes, it reminds me how much more effort I need to make in appreciating who and what I have in my life right now bc it might not be there tomorrow.

Los Angeles artist Wessel getting ready to burn his first painting for the Burn or Buy project

Burn or Buy...I do it for many reasons.

I do it to gain attention, I do it to raise money, I do it to gain a deeper understanding of myself. None of these reasons are wrong. The actual experience itself, amazing. Freeing myself from the attachment that I make to each of the work with some gas and a lighter, well, it’s freeing. My friends who help to film, enjoy the burning, cheer me on in the moment, I think they get something from it too.

The flames, the laughter, the emotions that unexpectedly bubble up...I mean, why not do something like this? All it is is a bit of paint on some cotton. The value we give to it is so subjective it’s laughable. A million dollars or one hundred, who decides the value and why?

The aftermath on of Los Angeles artist first burning for Burn or Buy

As for me, I’m having a blast with it.

So far I’ve sold 2 of 2. The burned one was my decision, a bit outside of the Burn or Buy...a necessary bit so that I could gain from it what I hoped to outside of raising money for more art supplies. Next up...well, I still have to paint that one. This project is a blast. It’s definitely got people talking, or at least scratching their heads.

Thanks for dropping by!


SOLD First Burn or Buy is now being appreciated by a fan of Los Angeles Wessel artBOUGHT Burn or Buy Week 1

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