Archives for category: Thoughts

Image

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.

I was at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Arts recently when I came across an exhibit of Theaster Gates, a Chicago-based artist. To over simplify it, here was another artist working with found objects in very much the same palette that I use: old wood, rusted metal, and mechanical parts. He too was looking to give new life to discarded material, to “rejuvenate both the architecture and social structure of South Chicago”.

The difference, to my eye, is that I am concerned with form, balance and composition. Always wanting to not stray too far from what I would call “classical beauty”. That is not to say that Mr. Gates isn’t concerned with beauty, just not what is typically called beauty. True, there are many different types of beauty and there is a real insight in seeing the beauty in everyday things. Could it be that the effort to “make things beautiful”, in a classical tradition, is as much of a distraction to making certain types of art as the abstract artists thought realism was? In a way, realism is not real but an illusion. It is the art of making something that is flat and tricking the eye into thinking that it is somehow a window into a space that is three dimensional. There is an incredible amount of skill to do this but if that is the goal of art then the best artists are the best technicians.

Is it possible that my struggle with making things beautiful, turns my work into decoration? Could it be that making things “pretty” just for the sake of making something pretty undermines what I am trying to do? I don’t think I can give up on my understanding of what art means to me. That is, after all, what my vision is but it does make me wish that I could have a long conversation with Mr. Gates.

Image

I haven’t been selling. I’m not really disappointed but selling is a kind of validation. It’s difficult to know if it’s the work in general, the particular piece, the location, the audience at a particular venue or the economy. The prices for my Foundlings are not cheap. I could charge $19.95 for a piece and they would sell like hotcakes. I could even charge $195 per piece and they would still sell but the goal is not merely to sell. The issue is to establish worth. As works of art, these are precious and the price should reflect that.

Still, how to charge? By the square inch? The bigger the piece the more the price? Sounds like I am selling carpet. Perhaps by the complexity? The more complex, the more involved the work, and the more I should charge? Some of the most challenging works, however, are the minimalist ones. Complexity just doesn’t seem right. I could always charge by the hour. Thinking, somehow, that the more time involved in a creation makes for a more expensive piece but I want to avoid any kind of manufacturing model. I am not a manufacturer.

Then there’s the success factor. Perhaps the pieces that I think are the most satisfying to me should be more expensive then ones I am less satisfied with. And yet, there are pieces that I am clearly less attached to that seem to be highly regarded. Do I have enough impartiality to judge which works really are the most successful? To know which pieces are actually my definitive works? Which of my pieces are my “signature” ones? Clearly there aren’t any firm rules so like the process of creating these Foundlings, I need to rely on a certain amount of experience and a lot of intuition.

This piece is called “Stasis”. It’s about balance.

Image

Image

This project, a stained glass window, was completed a while ago but I now feel inspired to include it in my blog. Created for my home, this started as a gift for Marie. I designed it and had a wonderful glass crafter, Laura Carbone, build it to my specifications. I may have driven her crazy but she seems to be recovering nicely.

Marie has incredible faith in me and my abilities as she is often heard to say “how hard can this be?” I am from the “I’m not sure I can do this” school of trying things. I have way too much respect for people who perfect their craft, whatever it is, over time.

Not only does experience bring with it knowledge but experience seems to bring with it a kind of understanding. For example, I don’t want to focus on how to hold a pencil. How hard to press the pencil to get the line quality I want. With time, the experience of holding a pencil becomes invisible. How to leave a mark becomes intuitive. The pencil becomes an extension of my hand. And my hand a seamless extension of my vision. It is my hope to get good enough with the tools necessary to create these Foundlings that the tools themselves become invisible. As it is now, creating these pieces is a struggle. But that too can be part of the process.

ImageSorry for the delay in posting. There have been lots of distractions.

My work was recently reviewed as not original, but merely decorative. I was saddened but not surprised by this assessment. This, of course, got me wondering about art. Is art merely about what is original? Is art about what is fashionable? Where does beauty, skill and style fit in? The Metropolitan Museum of Art is filled with “art” that is, strictly speaking, merely decorative or done for religious purposes. Neither of which is “new”. I am not even sure that creativity was all that important as well, with most of the works in this museum. Within each period, there were conventions and styles that the artist worked within. There were visionaries that would break conventions but breaking the conventions was not the goal in and of itself.

These days, contemporary art seems to be obsessed with novelty. This novelty is not without merit, but is that all that matters? So much of the new art I see seems less concerned with style, technique, ability and vision in the pursuit of the new. Even aesthetic questions of beauty seem largely irrelevant. What saddens me is that by this yardstick, the Mona Lisa is just a portrait and Vincent Van Gogh is merely a landscape painter.

I have no illusions of wanting to be “new”. I only want to put forward work that is original. I am not the only one putting found objects together. Indeed, found art seems to be very popular today. My goal is to have a clarity of vision that when I put a piece together, it is unique. That a Foundling stands by itself as a work of art and as a body of work, my Foundlings stand together in an exploration of material transcending its own humble origins.

I am much more interested in following my vision rather then what is in fashion. Indeed, as an artist, I don’t have any other choice. In the end, I have to have the strength of my convictions and follow the path I am on. Wherever it leads.

And I should mention this piece, Jasper. If a piece is particularly inspired by an artist, I name it after him. In this case, Jasper Johns. I am always moved by his work.

In looking over my collection of Foundlings, it seems that I have been going in conflicting directions with my Foundlings. There is the gold or silver direction; the complex or minimal direction; and then there is the image or graphic direction. The image or graphic direction seems to be the most problematic for me. With an image direction, I incorporate a representational object, or several representational objects within a Foundling. I am concerned about using someone else’s art but I have come to terms with this by firmly integrating the object within the larger more complex piece. In “Hand of Dave” (left) I am using several objects, a hand that I found in an antique store in Santiago, Chile; the “Hear no Evil” monkeys that I have had in my studio for decades, and an old tintype. These objects, like points of interest, give the viewer a more direct entry into the piece. In 70 Degrees, it is a study of pure form.

Sometimes I feel like it’s easier to depend on these representational objects and yet it is extremely difficult to integrate them into a Foundling. It’s as if these pieces are reluctant to give up their identities for the greater good of the piece. On the other hand, the Foundlings with pure form, are not as warm. Each direction has its own strengths and each makes for difficulties in their path to creation.

As I create more of these Foundlings, it is my hope that the path to take will become clear. Or perhaps I am meant to take more then one path, and that will become clear.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit how pleased I am to have self published my first book. Part catalog and part book, this contains 40 of the 72 Foundlings I have made. It is my hope to give these to the people who have been so helpful to me. I don’t expect to sell these books, make a profit or become a publisher but it is nice to have a compendium of my work.

I have long wondered what my creative voice is. What do I have to say? How would I say it? I have drawing ability but technical skill seems to be only half of the issue.

Rather accidentally, I started to create assemblages. I have found that other artists working with assemblages usually fall into one of three categories: Spontaneous; artists who put their pieces together in a very busy, free-form way, Utilitarian; artists whose work ranges from steam-punk to appliance-like objects, and the Animated; artists who create works that look like animals or people, that have a lighter, more colorful feel to them.

My work does not easily fit into the usual categories of assemblages. My pieces are much more formal in nature with a very strong graphic foundation. Although they are created with found objects, I combine them to create very precious looking work. Like reliquaries holding sacred objects, they command a kind of attention but they certainly don’t scream.

I am pleased to have finally found my voice.

I have been in Italy and had a wonderful time. The museums and architecture are beautiful but that is the obvious part. All around me, in ways large and small, there is beauty. Not just behind closed doors (although I am sure the art behind the closed doors is spectacular) but every place I glance. From the sides of buildings to the use of type, from the fashions on the street to the foam on cappuccinos. Everywhere there is a beauty, a sensitivity, a history and an attention to detail that takes my breath away.

Change is so difficult. I can get myself on a path and I find it so difficult to change. Is that just my nature or just human nature? Is this the focus to explore one direction, exhausting all potential before moving on, or the comfort of the familiar? Dark wood with gold and brass seem like such natural companions, the warmth of the gold bringing out the warmth of the wood. Then, without really looking for it, I found such beautiful textures in silver, that I had to try to work with them. At first glance, after working with gold for so long, the silver seems so cold but then I am reminded of the Mapuche in South America. They believed that silver was so much purer then the gold they had. The gold so yellow compared to the white of the silver. The silver was so spiritual for them. So I will try my hand with silver. Except for a small Foundling that I made for Marie in silver, this will be my exploration in silver. A change or just a detour?