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.
The show has come and gone. Four days standing on your feet. No one really told me that being an artist meant talking endlessly about your art. Answering questions that range from surprisingly profound to incredibly vague. “Does your art mean anything?” (not really); “How long does it take to make a piece?” (depends); “Where do you get your material?” (most anywhere). To people who do not create, the process must seem so mysterious. To those of us who have been creating all of our lives, the process is like breathing. It just happens.
I sold three pieces (one was sold before the show and two were sold at the show). Lots of other artists didn’t sell at all so this, in and of itself, is an achievement. The crowds were less then I hoped for but everyone had such kind words to say about
my work. And lots of friends showed up to encourage me which is so incredibly inspiring. I am grateful for so many friends.
Will I do this again next year? I think so. I think this is less about how profitable the show is and more about networking and reputation. I keep reminding myself that if this were easy, anyone could do it.
I got into an interesting conversation the other day about intention, with an artist friend of mine. She said that what was so inspiring about my work was how intentional it looked. It was clear that nothing was just arbitrarily put together. Items were repeated, parts lined up with each other, symmetry and asymmetry were very much thought out.
I think this is one of the ingredients that makes my Foundlings look like it has a purpose. That is not to say that there isn’t a certain amount of spontaneity in my work. I may spontaneously add a part but unless it looks integrated into the overall design of the piece, it won’t stay there. If it’s not purposely fitting into the piece, the work itself starts to look like a collage. I am very clear that I don’t want these works to look haphazard.
Also, I think this “intension” gives these works a sense of importance. Not in the overblown, pompous sort of way but in the serious, “I am paying attention to the details” way.
Art Expo is this week. I am excited, and nervous. See you there.
This piece is called Patience after one of the lions in front of the New York Public Library (the other lion is called Fortitude). This is another one of those pieces that seem to blur the line between fine art and illustration. It is line that is not very clear for me. I found this beautiful pewter paperweight at a little outdoor flea market. I wasn’t trying to do a “New York” theme nor was I trying to make some sort of library reference and yet, using the drawer pull under the lion, it still looked like an old card catalog drawer.
I think part of the appeal of these Foundlings is how much room there is for people to see what they want to see in them.
How important is craftsmanship? How exacting am I trying to be? How exacting can I be?
I have never really considered myself a craftsman and I have started to work with power tools for only a dozen years or so. Coming to power tools late in life is a good thing as it keeps me respecting the tools. Taking tools for granted can be a dangerous thing.
I want my work to be solid, to be well built but becoming a craftsman takes time. I never realized just how difficult it is to get a good 45 degree miter cut. Add to this that the items I am working with are not square and I can get pretty frustrated.
Just as in painting, is seeing the “hand of the artist” important? There are some painters, throughout time, who struggled to perfect their art. Their style or brush work was hidden in the pursuit of perfection. Other artists celebrated their style with obvious brushwork. You can tell a Vincent Van Gogh by just seeing a few square inches of one of his paintings.
So is this a cop out that I don’t make perfect corners? That my woodworking skills leave something to be desired? There is no such thing as perfection but aiming for it is a worthy goal. I do aim for getting the technical part “right” but then I do realize that there is beauty in the struggle. To see what I was trying for and understanding that even if I didn’t reach my goal, I got as close as I could. The effort was important.
As written in my last entry, I am working on a large piece. There are three reasons why: first, after doing a bunch of smaller pieces, the challenge of working on a large piece sounded like a good way to shake things up; second, in exploring the edges of my abilities, I learn what I like to do with these Foundlings. Each size has its own challenges above and beyond the aesthetics. Small works need to command enough attention so they don’t feel insignificant. Large works, just by their size have significance but can appear like furniture. These large pieces need a subtler aesthetic; and lastly; as a kind of strategy, I will have a fourth, outside wall on my booth at Art Expo Solo in April. It is my hope that having a large work on the outside wall will stand out in a very crowded event.
That’s the plan anyway. I want my large work to really stand out but not look like a clock (I received a lot of these clock comments last year).
And after all of this I still need to make sure that I can hang this…
Above is Number 3. A recent work that has become so dear to me.
I am working on a large piece — over five feet tall. Composed of two wooden specimen trays, the picture below shows how these trays, each almost three feet tall, will have a frame attached on the back (the image shows only one and a half trays). I didn’t think the trays could support all of the weight so I thought I needed a frame to support this oversized work. These two trays will also need to support all of the heavy parts that will be affixed to them and the frame will be modular so this can be transported in two pieces (and structurally, I am not sure this is a smart idea).
I usually have a pretty clear idea of what I want to do but not always an clear idea of how to do it. The first frame I made with the generous help of my friend Rande, turned out not to be thick enough to support all of the weight of this piece. This new frame is twice as thick and was put together with the help of another friend Dave.
Will this hold? How will the piece turn out? I have no idea. I still have to make sure the parts chosen work together, to figure out how to attach these parts to the frame, stain all of the parts as well as glue and bolt all of the parts into place. All while not losing sight of what I had originally envisioned.
And hanging, did I mention hanging? How am I going to even hang this?