Bits and Pieces

Sitting in a restaurant, driving to work, walking the dog, cleaning the house, what do you see? What are the images that pop into your head when asked that question? Whatever flashed in the mind’s eye in each of us is a thread that knits together our visual world. There are likely similarities in what we see, but there is also a unique way in which we each organize the chaos of constant visual stimulation.

How much and how often is attention paid? Is it all “white noise” that clouds any clear vision? Can we sift out visual metaphors that translate into meaning? What can we discover by paying attention? Is there a way to see the same old stuff in a new light?

Artist John Evans lived in a small apartment in the East Village from 1964 through 2000. For 37 years he made a daily practice of collecting bits and pieces of surrounding images and found objects, composing them in a diary format. The New York Times (JOHN STRAUSBAUGHJAN. 26, 2005) described his work as “a world of romantic invention conjured out of odd juxtapositions of weird and familiar things.”

“In rescuing and dignifying scraps of local life — a matchbook from a bar, someone’s tossed-off photo-booth portrait — Mr. Evans can be thought of as a historical preservationist, operating on an unusually intimate scale. Yet his own moods seem reflected in how he handles the materials. In one day’s collage, ticket stubs and candy wrappers explode like fireworks against an ebulliently bright background. In another, juxtaposed images of Hitler and Oliver North make a grim political statement.”

Our own sensibilities may not lead us to his style of recording, but making a practice of awareness of what we actually SEE rather than what our daily script tells us that we see is a way to stimulate inspiration.

It’s easy to be attracted to and render images we deem beautiful or significant. But can we look a little harder and find ordinary elements that can become ideas?

This week the challenge will be to explore the house and the studio and the grounds, snap a few pics with your phone and use these images as a jump-off point. Look for things you’ve passed many times without noticing. See if you become aware of new relationships between things you’ve walked by for years. Is there a way that something in our surroundings would not only suggest a new work, but marry with a work in progress? Pay attention to scale and to negative space. Let your own moods be reflected. Actual collage elements can be utilized if desired.

Otis will help us print up to three or four of those photographed images. Then let them inform a painting/collage in some way. Other imagery from your inspiration file can be used to build a more complete picture, and/or an underpainting. Mix and match—play.

If you’re working on additional pieces like the 8 x8’s, use the opportunity to take the photos that can be used later. Or maybe a new awareness of surroundings will propel your current endeavor forward.

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