DESTROY ART

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.

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This piece looked like a bad mullet hair cut from the 1980s.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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And:

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THE STORY OF AN AESTHETIC

 

The following are some of the most loved things around here.  Stuff that shows its history is most meaningful.  Ghosts of things.  Things that have BEEN places and in others’ hands.  This little desk was in an old barn made of railroad car wood and was on the property Glenn bought in 1974.  It sat in that barn until my discovery in 2008.  I love it.  It has no drawer, but who cares?

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The little black hoof-like feet are original.  Just had to take a picture of it on the piazza we are laying.

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Some child, at some time, made stars.  We preserved them.

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Found this old aluminum lawn chair in a dumpster.  It had been painted many colors in its life.  Used a tool and dug into the last paint job, the black, and revealed other colors as I chose.  Then it was protected with a thick “varnish” for metal.  Where to put it?  The decision wasn’t difficult.  I have had this amazing ceramic piece for decades.  They were made for each other.

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The following two pictures are not very good, but they illustrate how I added color to the walls of my home when renovating, and how color is discovered in my sculptural work.  Above with the lawn chair, the same thing was done.  Scrape or sand away layers of color to reveal the color history of the thing.  This house was built in 1939 and a lot of life has taken place here.  I let it show.

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Below is the back of the house just after we moved it to our acreage.

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So, it makes sense that my aesthetic should one that celebrates the history of a thing.  The Japanese call it wabi.  Or sabi.

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THE SOLDIER AND THE PIN-UP

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Nothing goes to waste around here.  Years ago, my boss went to the High Museum in Atlanta to see an exhibition featuring part of the army of life-sized terra cotta Chinese soldiers unburied decades ago.   He was kind enough to bring a small replica back to me.  It sat by my computer at home for years.  Mouse broke it finally, while picking through the space on the table,  her mind focused on my keyboard.  It was after the time she stayed at Ms. Ann’s Pet Retreat for three weeks and gained more than two pounds.  She had nothing to do!  She was unused to her voluptuous figure and it swayed beyond the predictable once and again.

Not to worry.  The soldier’s head found a space within a composition almost immediately.

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That’s the soldier, on the left of the female softball player.  Her bat is missing; used that for something else.  The soldier’s body lay with other decapitated souls and waited for the perfect assignment.

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Having left the world of two dimensions in my pursuit of making sculpture (by training, I do textiles),  the following piece came a little later.  Named “Caryatids”, we see bird bodies defining the distance in space between the two window frames.  They are also functional and needed for support.

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Below is a better view of that space.

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The soldier body got an assignment lately.  He is purposeful and occupying space between two windows.

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Above our hero lifts a window on what is left of his neck and supports the composition, along with the pin-up, who is also experiencing some integrity problems.  Their two bodies define the distance between the front and back window, and make it stable.

But making art means one must keep many balls in the air.  In the piece “Caryatids”, we can see that all occupants in the space between the windows are birds.  That makes sense,  In that piece, birds are the visual vocabulary.

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What common denominator do we see in the visual elements above?  Windows, red, curves in metal, glass, rust.  And two figures.  One Chinese and dating from 210 BCE, and a chalk redhead from 1946.  They don’t have much in common other than they are perfect for spanning the needed space to make a window hover.  What is the artist to do?  Pick the right title.  Let the viewer think they know the relationship between the two and then surprise them.

A CHANGE IN PLAN

Pushing for more windows per piece in an attempt to create in legitimate sculptural dimensions (recent works are still basically two dimensional), three old windows are at play here.

Worried about that, I called the contractor guy who gave us the windows in the first place.  Glenn has been threatening to take two walls off of our little storage shed and replace those walls with windows.  Love the idea;  worried about my window inventory.  Reminded Cecil not to put any old wooden windows in the land fill.  Meeting of the minds.

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Have been thinking about the spaces between things since the last caryatid piece.  Becoming more and more convinced that the spaces between things (old windows, ideas) is where I exist,  and,  as the dinner table conversation went last night, I cannot count the times my family coughs in a day.  Anything linear (counting, long term planning) is not my forte.

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The window that makes up the back plane of the piece has been divided into six tiled sections, where the window has only five.  The bottom section of the window is twice the size of the top four.  No matter.  The strong white tiles dominate and keep the pattern regular.  Wanted to establish a strong pattern on this plane because it will be repeated on subsequent planes.

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With two windows aligned, my attention turned to the spaces within.  Thinking about my first caryatid piece, I wanted to improve on it.  The universe did not seem so interested, however.  Notice that there are six sections now on each layer.

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The first idea for this piece was to whack off the heads of these little Italian farmers and their wives, which one can find in abundance at any flea market.  I wonder what the influence was for all these little figures that you can find in all sizes and are so similar.  Wanted the bodies to support the second and third windows, and their heads to sit on top of a window, with a side view connecting the body together.  After working a while, the idea seemed contrived.  My little Italian farmers will be used somewhere else.

Had found eleven beautiful little bottles with caps a while ago, and here are six of them serving the same compositional idea.

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There remains one farmer’s head on the bottom right of the base window, grouted in with the rest of the tile.  This head survives the original idea.  The little glass vessels cast wonderful transparent shadows.  My friend Betsy often gives me the remains of her stained glass projects, and shards have been added to the first and second windows to enliven the composition in a quiet way and refer to what the windows once were.   A snake like metal line adds variety to an otherwise fairly geometrical composition.

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Price upon request.

SYMBOLS

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This ashtray is one of my favorite things.  Bought at a flea market in Rome (not Georgia), it perfectly expresses my feelings about all machinery.  And anything with chips in it (not flaws in china).  It is a Limoges piece, it is signed, and it wishes me a Merry Christmas on the back.  It also states that it has been painted by hand, these facts in Italian, of course.

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Europeans are  so unselfconsciously artful.  It feels so different there compared to our expansive passivity.  Less expression says so much more, like the funny figure lost in the spaces between keys.  We are too wordy.

My students used to ask why the nude was used so much in art imagery.  The simple answer is that it makes the statement more universal.  Figures are not attached to a point in time as determined by clothing.  The abstraction of the man above approaches this ideal (the use of the word “ideal” should also be connected to the Greeks and their art) however.  His image simply says “man”.  Any man.  He is almost nude.

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My husband loves this  lady.  He is all about the figure, perfect proportion, and romanticism.  He is less interested in commentary in his images.  Or he was.

As artists, the longer we live together the more our work approaches the other in style and content.  This excites me but leaves me confused about my work.  It is not like it was, but that may not be a bad thing.

Where Glenn was once doing this:

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He is now doing this:

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Where I was once doing this:

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Now I am doing this:

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AM I A TRAVEL AGENT?

Back at home in SC, this picture from yesterday, travel day, seems like a dream.

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A bad dream.  But the holiday trip to the Midwest was the finest of bad dreams.  The snow and ice we experienced was like this:  beautiful, untouched and viewed from inside our car which was going at normal speed.  What I most love about snow is how it reveals the forest floor, which one can never see in the summer.  Ice defines the lines of the branches of deciduous trees, snow fills out the big shapes of the evergreens, and traces the forest floor.  Defined by snow and ice, the whole forest makes a fantasy-like sense.  In the summer, the woods are deep and spongy like one alive but unreadable shape.

We all know about last winter.  Here in SC, where we live with the most marginal of heat sources (gas log, occasional space heater) it was all so marvelous.  We could be outside all winter.  Making soup in the kitchen was enough to get warm (having lived without real heat for 7-8?? years, I now understand about making soup, washing dishes just after dinner [think 1945]; it makes so much warm sense).  Eating soup was enough to get warm.

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Contrast this picture above with the Midwestern winter; they were taken the same day.  My daughter’s two horses have a visit with the mother and grandmother of one.  They have warm sunshine and grass to eat.  Nice little vacation for two horses from Virginia.

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Yesterday was Garrett’s sixteenth birthday, and we planted this little magnolia in celebration of that.  We have so many trees that stay green all winter here.

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It is also warm enough to finish the construction of our third tee-pee which protects certain bushes and trees from the deer.  I feel so lucky to have so much cedar, dead and alive, on our acreage.  It is beautiful and can do so many jobs.

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This winter is not over of course, but here we are not seeing much difference from the moderation of last winter.