I am not religious. I can’t say that I am even particularly spiritual either but I have noticed that I am attracted to spiritual art.
I have travelled the world and would tend to be drawn to sacred things: Icons from Russia, Buddhas from Thailand, Tankas from India, and Incan Suns from Peru.
I have also taken my fair share of art history classes. And when it comes to art history, a large sampling of art does tend to be religious or spiritual.
It is, therefore, not surprising that I tend to reference spiritual elements, especially halos, in my Foundlings. I think this is less about a hunger for a spiritual awakening on my part then an understanding that there is much in the world that I don’t understand. Religion, when it is not teaching the “rules” of life, speaks to life’s mysteries. Sometimes with “answers” and sometimes with questions.
I do believe that the exploration of these mysteries are one of the keys to not taking life for granted. To be “awake”, to be “in the moment” is so important to having a full life. It is my hope that in some small way, my Foundlings, mysteries themselves, teach us to look at the world in a fresh way.
The holidays have come and gone and the new year has started. Having not worked on any Foundlings for over six weeks, it feels good to be working again. There wasn’t a crisis in my life nor was there any serious roadblock to preventing me working. The drive just wasn’t there. Although I created 15 pieces last year (including my largest work), it is all too easy to feel insecure by not having worked for so long.
I do try to remember that being creative is a process and like the tide, there is an ebb and flow. Sometimes I can push though a lull and pick up where I left off and at other times it is just best to take a break. As much as I want to believe that I have control over my creative process, it is actually more of a partnership. When we are working together we produce some of my best pieces. When I push but can’t find my creative side, the work suffers. The trick is trying to understand when to push and when not to.
Then there are the internal conversations. The internal critic that seems to seek any excuse to have a negative conversation. The conversations that suggest this artist pursuit is too difficult or that the work isn’t all that unique,… or that good. That perhaps this endeavor is nothing more then a narcissistic pursuit.
To make a variation of a common cliché, if creating good art were easy, good art would be common. Between the creative insight needed to find a voice; the technical skill that needs to be mastered; and the intellectual understanding that underpins most good art, the pursuit is difficult enough. The last thing one needs are negative internal dialogues.
The winter solstice has also come and gone and the days are slowly starting to get longer. This winter has been usually mild but it is still cold and damp. Spring is not far off and with it the thaw it promises. My creative block has thawed as well.
What is it about being an artist that makes us feel so vulnerable to criticism? Perhaps, as a group, we are not any more insecure then any other class of people but creating is a unique endeavor. With something like math, you add up the numbers, perhaps do it twice, and if it checks out, it’s “right”. Creating, without rules or clearly defined goals, all you can really do is try. But how do you know what’s “right” when you create? There’s nothing to “add”. No real yardstick to measure success.
Perhaps there’s a goal or an ideal that you strive for when you create with the understanding that you will never reach the goal you seek. Perhaps you strive to be “in the moment”, to create and not get in your own way.
In striking out on my own path, it was important to me not to use type, collage, and two dimensional images frequently used by Joseph Cornell. To avoid the criticism that I was being “derivative”. Avoiding elements, however, because “they have been used” is like not using the color red because it’s been used by others.
This piece is called Washington. Part of the thinking with this piece was not to avoid the surreal elements used by Cornell. To explore what these elements might do in a Foundling. How they would expand my creativity. Would the use of these elements, indeed be derivative?
I need to keep reminding myself, it’s not what you do, but how you do it.
My Soho show at Gallery Juno comes down this weekend. I have to thank the gallery for hosting the show and for their continued support. I am also so grateful for the people who showed up at the reception to support me. It’s rather humbling. I was pleased to have sold a couple of pieces as well. I think the show was a success.
What makes for a good show? The sales; the people with the kind words they offered about my work; the reviews? I just don’t have the answers to this question so I push on.
Here is Aries I. I first wrote about this piece back in January. It’s my largest piece to date at almost six feet tall and weighing in around 50 lbs. and it commands a lot of attention.
I was exploring what working large is like. It’s a very different experience. When working on smaller sized pieces, it’s a more intimate experience. A large piece can easily loose its “art-ness” and become a piece of furniture. The engineering alone is a completely different skill set that I have to get better at.
And I am relieved that, as designed, it comes apart to make shipping easier and with two 100 lb. hooks, it does hang easily.
I break things,… usually not on purpose. Sometimes this is due to my lack of hand skills and sometimes I just bang into things. Sometimes, rarely, I drop something and sometimes, things just break. I’m not particularly proud of my clumsiness but it does provide me with an understanding, and an opportunity to let go.
Despite our best intentions, some things just don’t go the way we want. Endeavors fail, best intentions don’t succeed and accidents happen. Perfection is just an idea. Worth pursuing but never attainable.
Rather then lament the mishap, I use this as an opportunity to go in another direction, to move on, or accept things I can’t change. It is a good life lesson. An exercise of sorts that reminds me that there is much to learn when things go wrong.
This Foundling came together quickly and has become a real favorite of mine. The tail of the baby horseshoe crab broke while I was assembling it. I would have much preferred that the last tap of the hammer, pinning the tail in place, was a bit gentler. I would have preferred that I didn’t break this in it’s final stages (this image shows the piece before it was stained and fully assembled) but in the end, it is broken as we all are. And yet, there is much beauty in our shortcomings. This is part of the human condition.
I have been traveling so I have been neglecting my blog. To all of my readers,… both of them, my apologies. Between several antique fairs to gather parts and a big family visit, it has been an enjoyable summer but not a productive one.
Gallery Juno has agreed to host another show for me. That’s the good news. It will be soon. That’s the less then good news. Don’t get me wrong, I am so pleased to have another opportunity to show, just that I have a lot of work to do in a short time.
The gallery is very flexible with what I show and how many pieces I mount but I am split between wanting what I consider my best work and only showing work that is new. The task would be so much simpler if I really knew what is my best work. Sometimes I know right away what is my best work and at other times, it takes months or years to figure this out. I will try to have mostly new work but I can’t help but want to put in a few favorites.
Marie has been so helpful in providing another viewpoint of my work. Sometimes I am just too close to the pieces to know.
People often ask me where do I get the parts to make my pieces. In general the answer is anywhere. I do have guiding principles with the parts I collect. They have to be old; they have to be interesting; and they have to “speak” to me. If something is old and “whole” I usually hate to take them apart to use them in my Foundlings. If it got this far and is still in one piece, it deserves to live on.
If, on the other hand, the part is broken, unsusable and likely to be thrown out, then I can save it by incorporating it into a piece. I never know what I will find or where I will find it. That is part of the thrill.
I was talking with an artist friend the other day and the conversation turned to our palettes. She asked if I found using the same elements, again and again, was redundant. There are certain materials that I use frequently. The molding on the left for example, can be found in many of my works. Other times gears, eggs, rulers or feathers can be found in many of my works as well.
So I asked her if she found using the color blue, used in a lot of her work, was redundant.
I think it’s less about if certain materials, or colors, are used often and more about how they are used. If I use these items to simply “fill the space” then yes, to me that is very redundant. On the other hand, if I use these items often because they do what I need them to do, then no, they are merely a means to an end.
I often struggle with how to keep these Foundlings fresh. When I get unsure, these works are merely frames around little bits of nature. Then I remind myself that I am not just trying to find beauty but to find a way to put such differing kinds of material together that make a statement. To look at the familiar and have it be new. To have these pieces wake up something in the viewer. If, in the process, I use certain materials again and again, so be it
I understand that it is natural to see faces everywhere. There really isn’t a face in the front of automobiles but with two headlights and a grill it’s easy to see one. Perhaps it’s just because we are wired to “find” other people. Perhaps this is something about bilateral symmetry that makes it so easy to see eyes, arms, legs or breasts.
This is Number 8. It is still a work in progress. Having the bones and the brass towards the top of this piece, I was looking to have some of these elements to integrate into the lower part of the piece. In the first image, I didn’t have any secondary brass. I then added two gears and brass pieces in the second image. That’s when I saw the face,… or breasts. Was I imagining this? Even if I was, does this take away from the piece? Or is this one of those things that until it is mentioned, you may not even notice. It does solve the problem of being “top heavy” with brass.
In the third image, the secondary brass is incorporated back in the top portion of this work. It does add nice texture but doesn’t solve the “problem”. In the end, if the human form is a thing of beauty, then following its form is only a recognition of its beauty. And that is fine with me.
Bacon. Some people like it, others don’t. Nutrition aside, liking bacon has nothing to do with if bacon is “good food” but merely a reflection of personal taste.
I am reminded of this after entering three shows and failing to get into any of them.
The nature of art is about trying to find a vision of self expression while tying to do your best. To make a statement while having no rules to follow. Art is about exploring the world and, I believe, recognition is a part of the feedback process.
Negative recognition feels like a kind of rejection of the effort itself. But as in liking bacon, this rejection has little to do with whether or not the effort was in fact “good” or worthwhile. The critique has more to do with the personal preferences of the judge. Their taste and their experience has more to do with the approval of the work they are judging then an actual “judgment” of merit.
So after two three rejections in a row, I got accepted into the 37th Annual Open Show at the Salmagundi Club… and I won a Merit award.