BECOMING PASSE

Or, continuing to live as a baby boomer.  Rather than not living.  What else can we do?  Probably in junior high, the following were two of my beliefs:  one, that the farsidedness of middle age would neutralize my nearsidedness, and glasses would not be needed by me anymore.  Two, that (once realizing how BIG the baby boomer generation was) numbers would trump youth.  It would be cool to be old, because there were so many of us.  Wrong.

In America, there is nothing that trumps youth.

And it is only now that my brain has formed opinion based on knowledge and not impulse.  Having taught for many years, many holes in my early education have been plugged.  Oh, there are still some.  Reading now “The Count of Monte Christo“, the laptop sitting next to me prompts me on the smaller details of the French Revolution, the Hundred Days, that kind of stuff.  I welcome it to the slurry in my brain.  And there is so much more reading to do.

Now that I can think, no one will hear.

notebook

This is a notebook created by Charles Dellschau, an object of beauty even before opening.  Look at the play of the lines on the edges of of the pages against one another.  Thank you, “Infinite Art Tournament” for giving up this image (but not for placing artists against one another in a boxing ring).  That is why we are artists.  You cannot pick a “rookie of the year” in art.  Or ” most valuable player”.

This man’s work was never shown other to members of his secret club.  A club made of men interested in flying machines.

page of drawings

He died in 1923.  So these books represent a then current interest, many were thinking about this.  The Wright Bros. flight was December 17, 1903.  Successful flights were conducted before this time, but without the tools for power over the aircraft.  And maybe those others did not create their image carefully enough.  They didn’t tweet.

striped

Look at these amazing images:  bold, detailed, personal, parts using a private language, and give clues to real events.  Ah, my students will say “symmetry is not the most interesting of the methods of balance”, but I give this man a break.  Just like James Hampton.  If anybody can emblazen symmetry like these two, I am on their side.  Don’t get me going on the detail and subtlety that counteracts the strong symmetry.

1_throne

James Hampton

textile

This looks like a textile.  Maybe that is what draws me to this work.  The drawing looks like stitches, and he does significant work with borders in these drawings, like a quilt would have.

But textiles are now passe.  In the 1970’s with the liberation of women and political issues that went along with the cause, “punching holes”  in what a textile was was liberating.  Who did most of the textiles?  Repetitive, mundane, small and not splashy, women did them.  They stitched in their energy.

Textiles are now passe, but they still represent women my age, those who passed through those times.  Now other media are more interesting.  Stuff relevant to 2013:  technology, and making stuff out of what we throw away.

Remember:  your work has to reflect the days in which you live.

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USES FOR ART

james hampton throne

James Hampton of Elloree, SC, not at all far from here,  was a creative visionary.  He led a very simple life which deviated from the norm of simple work only during World War II.  He never married, died of cancer in 1964.  He dreamed of creating a church of a sort, and becoming a preacher.  He developed a language related to this church effort which has not yet been deciphered.

He did his work in Washington DC, living there after the war,  where he created his philosophy and “church” environment.  The piece above took 14 years.  One curator notes that there were icons like this found after his death from his time in Guam during the war and that some work from that time may be incorporated into the large scale work above.

What I respect is his complete dedication to his vision, his skill in re-purposing waste into art materials, and his design skill.  Years ago I ran smack into this formidable piece in a niche in the belly of one of the Smithsonian museums.

throne_Stand_sm

In these works, additively constructed of things from the street, the incredible surface made of bits of foil from various sources unifies the elements into one fantastical object.  Look closely and you will see discarded light bulbs repeated throughout the composition.

fear not

Symmetry in design is a comfortable choice for an artist.  It is not always the most exciting.  But when we think of our churches, symmetry is the overwhelming basis for their design.  Hampton sits in good stead in his effort.

Repetition of similar shapes, as above, in positive and negative incarnations also serves to unify his creations.  Angel wings seem to be everywhere, almost making the work seem to hover.

1_throne

Amazing that the “street nature” of the two cushions above does not spoil the effect of the majesty of this throne.

In the detail below, the armature of furniture pieces picked up from the street is obvious.

furniture basis

The work was made in a rented garage in Washington, DC.  His landlord discovered this work after his death, hoping to realize back rental payments by placing the work somewhere.

garage

Notice at the right above that this piece is in process.  Table legs have not been covered with foil yet.  This is the same table as in the previous picture.

star with aluminum balls

James Hampton lived a successful life, driven by a private vision.