Destroying your art can be as important and productive as creating it. And at any time in your career, for sure. It is especially important as a student to pack away for later your old work, or failed work. I have participated in many a critique where an artist feels that more talking and talking, and then more talking and talking will make her work a whole. The work must speak for itself. Always. The work must ask a question in some way; it must never be simply an answer. Simple answers are not art.
The truths in your life you will always remember. Pay attention. Ask any therapist about this.
(The following quote is from Teresita Fernandez, recipient of the 2005 MacArthur Genius Award, in a commencement address to her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School for the Arts. http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/29/teresita-fernandez-commencement-address/
“This kind of amnesia is life’s built-in way of making sure you filter out what’s not very important. You graduate today after years of hard work, immersive years of learning, absorbing, processing, accumulating, cramming, finishing, focusing. There are no more reasons, really, to even make art unless you really truly want to. Of all you learned you probably don’t need to remember most of the technical or theoretical information, as that’s all easily accessible with a quick search. And what you will remember will have less to do with the past and more to do with how it triggers reactions for you in the present. Oddly enough, what we involuntarily do retain is meant to help us move forward. This forthcoming amnesia that awaits you is just another kind of graduation, another step in a lifetime of many graduations.”
When in undergraduate school, in a very early drawing class, my TA told us to get rid of our past work. He said not to just turn it to the wall, not to pile it in a closet behind a door that you can still see: GET TOTALLY RID OF IT.
(Again, from Fernandez)
“Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.”
My teacher was right. This impedes growth. It can remind the artist what a bad one they are indeed. The artist does not need that kind of reminder constantly. I have said many times in the past that having your old art around, work not up to par, work that is an answer and not a question, is like living with your high school graduation picture hanging on the living room wall. It stunts you.
That school experience is not my first memory about problems with work. As an elementary school student, I read a story about a little boy doing homework. This fact stuck with me: that when he put his finished arithmetic homework into his desk drawer, the incorrect answers struggled with being on the page. They pulled and pushed. They were not united with the page. It would be so simple if we had these clues. Considering this story involved math problems, it was ever pertinent to my school experience!
The following are two pieces recently destroyed. It felt great to do this. It was healing. My spirit died when I walked past them, struggling with being on the gallery wall.
This piece looked like a bad mullet hair cut from the 1980s.
In this case, and also in the next shown, the initial mistake was not clearly identifying the perimeter of the sculpture. The shape breaking the lower edge is confusing and draws the viewer away from the activity of the piece. I also should have known that the piece should die due to the difficulty of placing the lines within the “square” of the piece. One good idea gleaned from the work is the sanding on the zig zag lines on the right. The one at the top has been sanded on its edges the most making it visually lighter. The middle line has some sanding, the lower one, almost no sanding. You can always discover a good thing even within a piece that does not work.
Again, wonky perimeter. Weak lines. The hangers perhaps do not lose their identity enough. I have had portions of a window as seen here work, as in the piece below, but they do not work in this case.
In terms of destroying work, because of my philosophy of re-using and re-purposing almost everything, the elements of destroyed works become raw material for new works. Sometimes there is a shape that I cannot get off the glass or the wooden frame. I leave it, respond to it, and have an interesting detail that needs to be considered, but something in a place I wouldn’t have thought of. The element is “found”.
So. Two destroyed pieces plus additional windows and additional work equals: