Today is Halloween. A holiday dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows) and martyrs. Not to get morbid but some of my work has bones incorporated into them and all of my pieces are made up of old parts. These parts tend to be 50 to 100 years old so I would assume that most of these parts were owned by people who are no longer with us.
Rather then have a sense of loss or sadness associated with death, I prefer to see death as a reminder of how precious our time on Earth is. So much has been left to us. Gifts that have been created, collected, loved or perhaps merely cast aside. From these parts I create a place were they come together. I give them a new life that speaks of things past. They have their story to tell and it is a privilege to listen. We can learn a lot from these stories. All you have to do is spend the time. There is no trick to this, but it is a treat.
Is Norman Rockwell an illustrator or fine artist? How about Maxfield Parrish? If we are talking about technical expertise then of course, both are fine artists. If we are talking about something beyond mere technical expertise then the assessment gets a little more complicated.
I find the same complication is true of the pieces I have been creating. To me, some of my pieces clearly transcend their parts or my technical ability in putting them together. Other works are nice but don’t seem to have that quality. That is not to say that they aren’t art or worthy, just that they seem to not have that quality that takes them to another place. I must confess that I am not sure that I am the best judge of what makes a piece successful. Some of my most favorite works are not necessarily well received.
Spiral (left) seems to have a balance and a kind of movement that makes it seem so much more then the few parts would suggest. This piece always pleases me when I look at it. Ketch (right), on the other hand, is pleasant but somehow doesn’t seem to go beyond what it is. Still, I have received kinds words on both.
I have no idea how to describe what fine art is but I do think that I seem to know it when I see it. Now all I have to do is create it.
This is Gallery Juno. The gallery has been showing artists in Soho since 1990. These images are of this gallery empty, between shows. I am so pleased that I will be getting the chance to show here. The show is from October 9th to the 31st with the opening reception on the 9th (no need to worry about getting information, I will be emailing or mailing
out postcards about this).
I am still a little shy about inviting people to these shows. I have to keep reminding myself that people who show up are either friends — who really care about me and want to support my work — or they are people who have seen my work and have wanted to see more (very flattering).
Now come the decisions, which pieces to show, how many to display and how they will be arranged. I do like the “salon style” with lots of work almost bumping up against one another. I am surprised how well these pieces “talk” to eachother. Then again, the “gallery style” with far fewer pieces, shows the work with much more breathing room. This gives each piece the space to allow viewers can relate to each piece on its own terms.
I am so grateful to Junko for giving me the opportunity to show here and for her help in organizing the show.
I started making these Foundlings back in 2007 and by the time 2008 came around I had created four pieces. I jokingly suggested that I would make a hundred pieces before I would assess how successful I was in expressing my voice and where I was going with this work.
I have now created a hundred pieces. I have included 80 of these in two self-published books; have had a half dozen shows; received relative success in entering art shows; and have sold over 20 pieces. Am I successful? Have I met some imagined goal?
I don’t have any hard and fast goals but I have learned several things. I really enjoy creating these pieces (and as an aside, I have more skills using tools then I ever thought I would have). The exploration of the creative process has been helpful in my transition from graphic designer to fine artist. Having a creative objective rather then merely a monetary pursuit has been very freeing. And lastly, fulfilling a life-long dream of being a fine artist fills me with a peace that I have seldom found in my life as a graphic designer.
I owe so much to Marie who has helped me in this endeavor. She has been an inspiration, a business partner, a muse and critic. I am just not sure that I would have been able to go so far without her.
If there is a “down side” to being a fine artist, it is the solitary aspect of the pursuit. As a graphic designer, I had a skill that I would frequently offer to friends and family. There is something very satisfying in the offer to help the important people in my life. It made no difference if I was making a resume, creating a logo for a friend starting a business, or making a wedding announcement. To give, to make another person’s life a little better (or just a little prettier), has seemed both trivial and profound.
Thank you to all of the friends and family who have been so inspiring and so helpful in this quest. I could not have gotten so far with you as well. In the end, to paraphrase John Lennon, the beauty you take is only equal to the beauty you make.
Now to see where the next 100 pieces leads me.
A wooden serving tray, decorative carvings from an old piece of Victorian furniture, a cutting board, and glass lamp parts from an electrician’s basement. Somehow this all only came together when I added the shell. I do wonder sometimes, that all I am doing is making pretty frames to hold bits of organic things. Then I do this.
It still has a focal point of organic material, a lion’s paw shell, but this has really gone beyond merely displaying a shell. With its beautiful white center to its brown edging, the shell seems to glow. Like the moon.
I am especially pleased with this piece.
I am careful not to do something different for the sake of doing something different. I am however, curious about where this creative process takes me (not unlike driving around in a new neighborhood). Is it easier to make simpler pieces rather then complex ones? Are bigger pieces more gratifying than smaller works? Are silver tones possible or does silver destroy the timelessness that the warm gold tones convey? (No, sometimes, and yes). I am surprised that I never seem to run out of ideas, places to go,… or questions.
As I have stated before, I really have a problem with art having to be “new” or “novel”. On the other hand, art that is unique, really inspires me. I would assume that to some this is but a semantic argument but there is something to be said for having a voice that is clear. We are all unique but some are better able to express this then others. When an artist clearly expresses themselves I get a kind of “reference point”. This helps me see the world around me. To be able to say “I never thought of that before” or “that inspires me”, is a gift that another person can give me.
I am still unsure of this piece. How to say “more” with “less”? This is always such a challenge for me. With works with a lot of textures, items and patterns, the issue seems to be making all of the elements work together, to get them to “sing” as one. Not necessarily an easy task but a clear one. One “sharp” note, one “flat key” and you get noise rather then a melody.
Minimalist works, on the other hand, what is left out, what is not said, is almost as important as what is said. I think this is what makes minimalist works, sometimes, so difficult to appreciate. A painting of a sunset allows the viewer to bring all of their experiences to it but a solid blue canvas has no obvious “entry points”. There is little to ”relate” to. What one “gets” from a minimalist work is largely what one “brings” to it.
“Necessary Elements” has such balance for me. There is so much room to “enter” this work and yet, “Vanishing Point” seems to be missing something. I would like to say that I am sure how successful a piece is when I finish it but I am not. With these two minimalist works of mine, one seems so successful and the other less so. Some works I am pleased with right away and other works take time to appreciate. I guess it’s like music. Some tunes you hear for the first time, you like right away and other tunes, you need to take time to listen to. To let the melody wash over you.
So right now, I am still listening to “Vanishing Point”.
I am still thinking about my show at Artexpo. One of the reoccurring comments at the show, that was the particularly surprising, was how many people would take a quick look at my Foundlings and see a clock. When you have a circular form with something hanging down from it, you get an iconic clock form: a clock face and pendulum. I was aware of this.
In a way, the comment is inspiring to me. The comment means that it is easy for the viewer to “see” what they want to see in my work. That there is a lot of “room” to enter my work. This is a good thing. How else can you inspire people unless they have room to be inspired? Still, with art as it is with most things in life, what you “get” from something is largely what you “bring” to it.
The other comment was how often people felt my work was “Asian looking”. Again I assume that the comment was a compliment. Just as the Japanese art of flower arrangement, called ikebana, pushes the art to elegant heights using very formal design and balance, I can only hope that the comment meant that they felt the same way about my work. My pieces do range from the minimal to the complex but in each case, formal design uses the contrast between balance and composition.
It was a great show. Artexpo was an incredible experience. It was also overwhelming, inspiring, and tiring. I was one of 135 artists; I had over 80 friends show up; and nothing broke. I also sold two pieces.
I couldn’t have done this without my honey Marie (on the right), and my dear friends who helped run the booth; Meryl (on the left), Joan and Rob. Now comes the time to deliver the work, run down all of the leads and thank everyone who showed up.
By far, the most inspiring part of attending the show were th artists I met. Not only were they talented but they all made me feel welcome and were only to happy to share their insights with me. To name a few:
- Anita Varadaraj
– Cameron Neilson
– Jeremy Bortz
– Jodi Simmons
– Julianne Snyder
– Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen
– Seth Apter
I have written, in the past, about the problem of what to create. It is no small task to find your voice. It has occurred to me that, completely unrelated to this, but just as important, is persistence. To stick with something until it is right. The problem is, when is sticking to a particular artistic direction a sign of tenacity and when is it a sign of mere dysfunctional doggedness? Rita Mae Brown once wrote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
So what am I expecting? Am I doing the same thing and expecting different results?
Clearly I am looking for recognition. Most artists do—from the admiration of the work itself to sales and placement in prominent galleries. There is also another understanding and that is, as important as it is to explore, I have come to understand that it is just as important to stick to something. To push it. To refine it. To get it to a place that is beyond impulsive. There are many art forms that appear to happen quickly, like Japanese ink paintings. But although the act itself is quick, the process and the training aren’t.
It has been over eight years that I have been pursuing the creation of these Foundlings. They have evolved—as I have. It is clear now, that I am also trying to explore persistence as well. To refine something until it is right… This is gonna take time.