Ta da! Back and anxious to record thoughts and ideas again. The mind is pulling at many strings that long to be connected. Like a crow that picks up shiny bits and bobs to make a roost, I will try to connect together some glittery threads that have streamed past me in these last months, beginning the blog again just before another group exhibition.
When we make connections we make choices. Our choices define. In creating they almost always have meaning no matter how slight. Reflecting on what your hand chooses and how you approach your work provides glimpses into self-awareness.
If it is to speak in any way, art-making is about meaning. It is born out of countless things, from a desire to call forth the wild for a successful hunt, as in humans’ first attempts at marks on a wall, to Banksy’s latest commentary on our modern culture—Dismaland. (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/aug/21/in-dismaland-banksy-has-created-something-truly-depressing ) It all says something.
Our experiences feed and affect our message. We may or may not know the impetus for a work and it may or may not be important. But the impetus, despite how buried it may become in the fiber and the pigment, still has the power to touch the viewer through our chosen imagery. When do we ask “why?” or better question: when is asking why useful?
Sculptor Christopher Saucedo, who endured losing his brother in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, (and then was left homeless Katrina, then lived through hurricane Sandy), speaks to a transformation in his work: “I’m a sculptor who primarily works with steel and wood and cast metals and big physical materials,” he says. But, according to Nula Eulaby on NPR,: “after being at ground zero, he didn’t want to memorialize the catastrophe with exactly the same material that comprised the World Trade Center’s remains. Instead, he hand-pressed layers of linen, making 10 blue papier-mâché rectangles. It’s recognizably a Sept. 11 blue — the blue of that day’s sky. There appear to be clouds floating on the surface, but a closer look reveals that they’re wispy renditions of the World Trade Center — two towers seemingly made of vapor, floating up and away.”
His pictorial language is thought anew because of his reflection on his experience. And his awareness of his response to such tragedy aided in developing a unique visual poetry.
In my work I rely on a combination of following the subconscious and looking to source material. The two paintings currently in the ReMax show are examples of that. One came from a subject suggested by the theme of the exhibition, the other came from following unknown passage-ways until an image that resonated appeared. Both ways of working are valid. The latter is more frustrating and definitely scarier, but more satisfying to me in the end. (Someone said if you’re not afraid, you’re not creating.) Both teach me something about myself when I take time to think about the color, shape and line choices, which direction, how much contrast, perspective or no, etc., etc. It all matters.
In the process of curating that show, because of it’s theme, we saw a lot of the same subject matter represented in the same media. Most pieces were similar in size and often the palettes were comparable. Yet the show is extremely varied and exciting. So what is it that makes a difference?
Why does Sally choose to put a veil of stripes over an image and how does it change how it is viewed? Why does Lois build so much texture? Why does Sue like to order things so precisely? What is Nan going for with all of those colors? Clear-cut answers are unimportant, but asking the questions—asking the questions forms connections, expands our thoughts and ideas, teaches us about our emotions and often reveals our own riddles.
When you see art you like, ask yourself why? When you see art you don’t like, ask yourself why not? And when looking at your own work ponder your choices. Let the answers elude if they insist. Just continue to “notice what you notice” with intention and be willing to let any experience that touches you either re-form or reaffirm your work.