My home is undergoing a major renovation. The good news is that it will double the working space in my studio. The bad news is that I won’t be able to have access to my studio for a few months. That’s a problem.
Speaking of problems, I just heard a brilliant quote by the artist, Mark Rothko that sums up a question I have long thought about. The quote is, “Amateur artists create. Serious artists solve problems”.
It seems to me that making art is not merely about “creating”. Anyone can “make a mark”. Leaving technical skill aside (which is one yardstick by which one can measure a work), I think the pursuit of art is an exploration: How do I show light?; How do I describe a form?; How can I break though traditional artistic norms? It is in the pursuit of solving, or at least exploring these problems that elevate the simple act of creation into something more profound. Something “bigger“ then just creating.
In creating art you aim for a vision and you never get there but sometimes you get close. Sometimes, very close. There are other times where you miss completely your vision but in the process you find a completely different approach. Surprisingly this can be better then what you were originally aiming for.
When you miss entirely what you were trying to do, then what? Keep the piece as a record of what you tried to do? Decommission it (a nice way to describe destroying the work)? Throughout history artists have destroyed their works, painting over their canvases or smashing sculptures. Sometimes in anger, sometimes in despair and sometimes in frustration. No one ever suggested that creating was easy… or straight forward but this still doesn’t answer what to do with works that don’t live up to your vision.
This Foundling is called Pan and was one of my first ventures into using silver tones. I have had some real successes using silver and it has been surprising. I had thought that only gold, with its warm color, would work with my Foundlings. This work, on the other hand, seems not to have achieve what I was working towards—but I liked the silver.
Do I keep this or do I take it apart? There is real beauty in creating another piece from a “less then successful” work, not unlike creating a Foundling from material thought worthless. There is always a fear that in the future I might regret my decision to take a work apart but in the past I have actually returned to works, long finished, and continued to work on them, integrating them into larger other pieces. This has frequently been successful and a very gratifying approach. So what to do?
I guess I will wait.
I don’t consider myself morbid or having a particularly “dark” senseability. When creating a Foundling I am usually driven only by an aesthetic vision (although the thought of “How will I ever get these parts together?” does enter into the conversation from time to time).
It is fascinating, however, to see people’s reaction to a new piece I am working on. As a focal point, this piece has a baby’s head, cast in concrete. Personally I see a sleeping baby. For me, using elements, like parts of the human body, pushes a piece into a surrealistic direction. I enjoy how people see so much of themselves in my work when I do this. On the other hand, this does open the work to a very literal interpretation.
Some reactions are so strong, seeing death or dismemberment, that I feel like I am intentionally provoking an agitated response. I am not. Like using bones in my work, first and foremost I see form. Sometimes the bone speaks to a reference to nature and life or sometimes to a religious theme, like a reliquary but never do I seek to merely inflame.
In the end, as with so much of my work, I seek to see the beauty in things normally overlooked and have an opportunity to see things freshly.
I had sold “Satari I” last year. It had become a favorite of mine and like a child going off to college, I was pleased that it was starting a new life but sad to see it go. So I made a variation of it I call “Satari II”. It came together relatively easily and I was glad that it was similar enough to earn the title Satari II but differnt enough to not feel like it was a copy.
It is important in this piece to have a symmetry like a mandala. I struggled to do this and yet, the flower is off center, not by much, but enough. Usually I just try to remind myself that perfection is just an idea and that it doesn’t really exist. It is something I always aim for. In so many ways, the perfection I actually seek is in the imperfect pieces I use. A crack here or a stain there. Even the boxes themselves are usually not square. I see the beauty, as well as the human condition, in this short coming and yet, I wish this was centered a little better.
In this piece I am using a Christmas tree stand, a cultivator, rulers and an antique discus. How to get such diverse objects to live together? Certainly form is one part. Then there is texture, color and size but there is something more. Concept will give me a direction and a focal point is important but in the end it is only the balancing of these elements that ensure that they will live together as a Foundling and not as merely a combination of elements.
This balance is a kind of style and just as in some paintings you can see the hand of the artist, in my Foundlings you can see my hand through the balance I choose.
Art Expo / Solo came and went. It was exhausting, it was chaotic, and it was a challenge to get all of the Foundlings done in time for the show but in the end, it was a good show. I sold five pieces and made lots of connections.
The show is definitely worth doing but the act of selling, no matter how much recognition is gained by someone purchasing your work, you have to let go. You have to physically hand over a piece that you have lovingly, and sometimes frustratingly (see Now It’s Personal), put so much time and effort into. Yes, you tell yourself that these are your children and all you can really hope for is that they each find good homes. Yes, you can do that Buddhist thing and say that clinging causes suffering and yes, life is about letting go.
This piece, Daybreak, was finished just in time for the show. I was just getting used to seeing it in the morning, hanging on the wall in my home when I had to get it to the show.
Albert bought the piece. A really nice guy who I have much in common with. A very talented artist as well. And that was it. It was sold. Gone. I do try to remind myself that inspiring people with my work is part of the process and yet, I am disappointed that it is gone. At least it found a good home.
About a month ago, I talked about breaking a piece as I was just about completing it. I was determined to rebuild it. It took some time but I found a second glass shade that was supposed to be six inches in diameter. It turned out to be 6.125” inches in diameter. I had a friend Nick, who has a lathe, generously offer to widen the diameter. He did a perfect job.
I carefully took this piece apart and was now ready to fit this together again. This time adding felt to the frame, as a kind of padding, so the frame wouldn’t squeeze the glass shade breaking it. I really knew how to fit this together after putting it together the first time and struggling to take it apart without ruining it. I was getting very familiar with this piece.
I was putting this together, so proud that I had overcome this mishap and yes, with the last screw, with the last half turn, the shade broke again. I wanted to scream. Seems it wasn’t the frame that was squeezing the shade but the back cover plate.
I was very discouraged. Not a good mental frame of mind to try to put this together again but now it’s personal. I will get this together. It will take some time so I am likely to be in a better mood when I do try to fix this,… again. Now if I can only find another glass shade.
I have gone back to working in smaller sizes lately. There is something very precious about working in this size. In this piece entitled “Audrey”, there is a wonderful juxtaposition of ribbed patterns in the molding and the ribbed scallop shell.
I had thought that the only way to overcome a small size was to “over build” it, to make the work feel particularly solid, almost heavy. Doing this seemed to make sure that the small size wouldn’t make the Foundling look inconsequential. It seems that to have the interplay of a lot of patterns and textures creates a world that not only gives each piece an identity but more then makes up for its small size.
It has taken some time but I have slowly gotten the process of making these Foundlings down to a kind of science. After figuring out the aesthetic direction which sometimes takes days and at other times, months, I fit the piece together as I “engineer it”. Fit one piece together, take it apart. Move onto the second piece. Fit both pieces together, take it apart. And so on. By time I stain and prepare all of the pieces, when I finally fit, glue and screw all of the pieces, I don’t have to worry about if the pieces will go together.
In the final process, I give the screws one final half turn to make sure everything is secure and that’s when it happened. Literally, the last piece, the last screw, that last half turn… Crack. The white glass shade cracked.
Do I leave it as is, as so much of my work has cracks in it or struggle to take the entire piece apart; hope that I can get it apart; hope I don’t ruin it beyond repair and hope that I can get it back together again? All this, only after trying to find a replacement glass part that will fit.
Knowing how tight a screw has to be is a very specific skill. I am not looking for perfection but I do want a certain level of quality. A crack that is largely aesthetic, adds to my work. A crack that makes a piece of glass rattle is just not acceptable. So I will take this piece completely apart and hope that I can get it back together. I never had to deal with this sort of stuff when I was drawing… I guess I will have to go for broke.
In my January posting I mentioned that I wasn’t very productive. That somehow, I didn’t have the drive but that I was confident it would return. It has. Since the beginning of January, I have completed seven pieces and two more are in progress.
My creative process is almost as much of a mystery as my journey through the “artistic, industrial complex”. Who’s advice should I take; where do I show my work; how do I show my work; what’s the best way to get wider exposure; how do I sell my work? The questions are endless.
I do find myself getting a bit jaded lately but I need to stay open and I need to remind myself that as much as I would like the wider exposure, or the sales, the actual goal is in the creating. My ego may crave the recognition, and my circumstances could really use the sales but in the end, it is the creating that drives me.