Agent, Object, Subject

"Funky Couch" 2014 Dawn Nash dawnnashphotography.com

“Funky Couch” 2014 Dawn Nash dawnnashphotography.com

Dawn M. Nash is a professional photographer and an incredible artist. We worked together earlier this year on a series of pictures, some of which you will see here. As a pro, Dawn is always intent on meeting the needs of her clients. This series represents a playful departure from her bread-and-butter work, and a return to her roots as a fine artist.

Mickalene Thomas, Lovely Six Foota, 2007, C-print, 56.31” x 67.38” COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY, NY

Mickalene Thomas, Lovely Six Foota, 2007, C-print, 56.31” x 67.38”
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY, NY

Upon seeing the first completed images I was struck by how contemporary they are.The first image remains my favorite. As soon as I saw the picture I loved how it references European art historical Venuses and reclining nudes while also feeling relevant to both historical and contemporary photography. The work of Mikalene Thomas came immediately to mind. There are elements of the documentarian and portraitist in Dawn’s work, but she is a storyteller. Dawn’s narrative eye prevails throughout. In his essay Photography out of Conceptual Art, critic Steve Edwards describes how fine art photography in the 1970’s began to “avoid the supposed neutrality of documentary photography, whose central ideology is the invisibility of the photographic apparatus.” Dawn’s deft use of lighting, costumes and sets erases that neutrality.

Never is this truer than in the series of images we shot in my kitchen. Referencing the performative documentary photography of Cindy Sherman, the images straddle the line between re-enforcing and undermining prevailing gendered ideologies. Agent, object or subject? It’s hard to tell. This ambiguity accurately illustrates the human experience, especially for women. I have found myself equivocating between agent, object and subject many times in my life.

Dawn Nash, 2014 dawnnashphotography.com

Dawn Nash, 2014 dawnnashphotography.com

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #6, 1977. Gelatin silver print. 9 7/16 x 6 1/2 inches. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #6, 1977. Gelatin silver print. 9 7/16 x 6 1/2 inches. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Keep Throwing Pasta at the Wall

Homeworkburger Helper, 2007 (53"h x 26"w x 20"d) Ceramic

Homeworkburger Helper, 2007 (53″h x 26″w x 20″d) Ceramic

There’s an old saying that the pasta is finished cooking when a noodle, fresh from the boiling water will stick when thrown at the wall. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I love the childishness of this technique. Who would throw a noodle at the wall? Of course there are other ways to test pasta for done-ness. And if you throw enough noodles at the wall, eventually one will stick whether it is done or not. For some reason the absurdity of the image of throwing noodles at the wall has stuck with me.

When I think about the process of exhibiting art, I think about it in terms of throwing noodles at the wall. Its the silliness of the metaphor that I find useful. We artists have a tendency to take ourselves very seriously.

In art we can never be sure if what we are making is “good”, especially if you are doing work unlike any other in your known periphery. When it comes time to look for exhibition/sales opportunities, grants, jobs and the like, we never really know how our artwork will be received. It is easy to take rejection personally.

With my method of making art, the artwork and my identity are very closely linked. I have a high level of personal identification with my work, so it is difficult to avoid feeling personally injured when the art I make is rejected or not appreciated. Rejection happens. It may happen to me more often than some because I make work that is divisive, outspoken, and opinionated. I’m ok with that. My works are monuments to my experiences. The sculptures are my way of finding humor in life’s challenges. Not everyone thinks it’s funny.

Art is a form of communication. We make art because there exists no other language to say what we need to say. Miscommunication happens in every language.

If we are going to persevere as artists we must learn to accept that rejection is not a reflection on our self-worth. It would further to say that it is often not a reflection on the quality of the artwork work either (of course sometimes it is). There are many reasons why a curator, juror, or gallerina will choose one artwork or artist over another. Chances are you will never find out those reasons.

The point is, there is always more pasta to throw at the wall. Eventually one will stick.

 

 

The Warm-up is Not the Game

Soccer Mom Stockholm Syndrome, 2007 (56"h x 20"w x 20"d) Ceramic

Soccer Mom Stockholm Syndrome, 2007 (56″h x 20″w x 20″d) Ceramic

Have you ever watched a dance performance that gave you chills? While the dancer expresses herself, seemingly effortlessly moving through space evoking emotion in a highly individual way, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the training that proceeded that performance. Dancers practice for hour upon hour at the barre, perfecting small repetitive movements. Year after year they do this. If you’ve ever taken a ballet class you know. The class is structured and rigid, the movement is extremely specific. Eventually the most dedicated dancers become those performers who take your breath away, but there exists a distinct contrast between practice and performance.

In art we have exercises that build our skills. These exercises can be repetitive, challenging and often boring. They are not what we have in mind when we imagine expressing our creativity through making art. Just like the thousands of plies dancers do, we visual artists have our exercises too.

A dancer will have a fit and flexible body for as long as she practices regularly, but it is her performance that is the Art, the body is only the tool. When visual artists perform skill-building exercises, there is usually a drawing or a pot as a result. These results are not the Art, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

I’ve been teaching kids. A young student burst into tears this week because she felt she “messed up her drawing”. We were doing value studies on black construction paper with plain chalkboard chalk. The subject was white paper cups, cubes, and spheres. We discussed the notion of exercises, how we do push-ups and crunches to make our bodies stronger. All these kids play soccer. They know the difference between the warm-ups and the game. I explained that these exercises were the warm ups, not the game. I chose plain, cheap materials to reinforce the notion that these were not precious drawings. Nonetheless, there were tears.

There is a student in my night class who is a beginner at 85 years old. He is a fit, smart, outgoing man. He expressed his frustration at his awkwardness in clay compared to the advanced students in this all-levels class. He told me that after several class meetings he went home vowing he “wasn’t coming back”. I tried to explain the years (20 or more for some of us!) of practice and failed attempts each of the other artists have endured to get to their stage of development. We use inexpensive recycle clay, its just mud, nothing special. Nonetheless, there was frustration.

As we search for meaning in our lives through the practice of art we need to recognize the value in the ugly, awkward, boring, repetitive stuff we make along the way.

The warm up is not the game, but it’s still important.

Congratulations! You’re Skinny

Image

 

by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014

detail of “Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast” by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014

detail of "Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast" by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014

detail of “Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast” by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Talk opens tomorrow evening.  The gallery is a lovely house on Banker’s Hill which is used by its owner Gustaf Anders Rooth as an art gallery and a showroom for his unique furniture made from vintage wine and whiskey barrels.Rooth has a massive workshop behind the building, peek back there when you go. Rachel, Kelly, and I installed our artwork in the context of this house and its furniture.

Now that I have seen the finished installation it occurs to me that this gallery is the perfect setting for these two related bodies of work. originally we set out to collaborate on work that confronted relevant issues in our lives, finding similarities, humor, differences. Food and consuption must certainly be relevant to all of us. All the sculpture in this exhibition is food, interpreted through each artists’ distinct filters and presented in this domestic setting.

For me the work is always about popular culture and how the images and products we consume (literally or figuratively) affect the way we think, behave and feel about ourselves and each other.

Kelly and Rachel work with “…themes of consumption, indulgence, and juxtapose high and low culture with consideration for traditional craft.   Together they combined their medias to offer a perspective of America’s love affair with consuming both food and possessions. The china a family eats off of and the jewelry they pass down, like the food they consume, are representative of their history, cultural values, and economic status. Today’s fast food nation of increasing income inequality, and throwaway culture, may not be able to carry on these traditions of heirlooms.”

I think the sensual qualities of food plays a roll for the artists too, in color, texture in addition to flavor. Is it just me or is there a shameful quality in the detritus from this shared food? Come and see the exhibition and let me know what you think.

Planet Rooth Gallery to exhibit “Girl Talk” June 20 – August 15

Exhibition card featuring works by Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock.

Exhibition card featuring works by Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock.Girl Talk 

 

 

 

 

GIRL TALK

Planet Rooth Design Haus 3334 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103. (619) 297-9663

(from the gallery text)

Girl Talk is an art show about pop culture, feminism, food, and mass consumption, with humor conveying the themes. The featured artists are Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock, all three San-Diego artists who graduated from San Diego State University’s Masters of Fine Arts program and who have worked collaboratively on several projects. Their varying artistic methods range from ceramics to metalsmithing. Opening reception June 20th, 7-9pm, which features performance artist Amanda Schoepflin. Show runs June 20-August 15, 2014.

Amanda Schoepflin:

http://cargocollective.com/cathedralx

Kelly Schnorr: http://www.kellyschnorr.com

Lee Puffer: http://www.leepuffer.com

Rachel Shimpock: http://www.rachelkassia.com

Girl Talk

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‘Tampon Box’ from Girl Talk by Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media, 2013. “slender and regular and living in fear”

Girl Talk (a conversation in objects)

Girl Talk is an in-progress body of work, developed collaboratively, made manifest in objects that are, essentially, a conversation between two artists/friends Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer.

Rife with humor and irony, the sculptures address contemporary life from both unique and shared experiences/perspectives of the individual artists.

The sculptures explore the similarities and differences between the two women, the nature of female experience, friendship, and more weighty and contemporary concerns such as…but not limited to:

Nostalgia

Upbringing, family history

Gender roles

Domesticity

Milestones (marriage, children)

Cultural expectations

Popular cultural influences

Definitions of beauty

Sexuality and taboo

Violence

Value

Sense of place

Drawing on personal experiences and offering cultural critique of events that most impact their lives, the artists present a frank, open and funny conversation in sculpture.

We each make a sculpture and trade them. Then we will respond to/embellish/add to the work we received to create a juxtaposition/dialog. The result is a series of two-part pedestal pieces and wall sculptures. The material is predominantly clay, but both Kelly and I use a bit of image transfer, textile, and found objects as well.

Ale Cans

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

“Somebody told me that Bill de Kooning said that you could give that son-of-a-bitch (Leo Castelli) two beer cans and he could sell them. I thought, what a wonderful idea for a sculpture.” Jasper Johns
As quoted in “Jasper Johns” by … Continue reading

Love

"CupNoodle", Ceramic.

“CupNoodle”, Ceramic.

In Defense of Pottery in the Pursuit of Meaning

Forget beauty for a minute (if you can).

There may be nothing more intimate and soulful than making a vessel for food or drink for another human being. There is something quite sensual, erotic even, in giving someone a cup that you made which becomes the first thing that touches his or her lips every single morning. Before they kiss their children or their lover or their cat.

There is an intimacy in making the bowl with which your loved one will nourish his or her body with food. What could be more basic and essential than that?

Arguably, the every-day vessel, as opposed to the magnificent ceremonial object (or sculpture, for that matter), matters more.

When you feel like you need to defend the making of pottery, remember that. And if you want to love someone, make a cup for them.

Luck

Ted Talks have really raised the bar for public speaking. Those of us who are invited to speak regularly cannot just mumble through a 100-slide presentation anymore.

People want and deserve real content now. Time is valuable, and there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

The Price is Right,  (16"h x 18"w x 14"d) Ceramic

The Price is Right, (16″h x 18″w x 14″d) Ceramic

Quality content is continually made available online, anytime. Presentations and lectures by contemporary thought-leaders are on reputable websites that update regularly, are instantly peer-reviewed in comment sections, and available for free.

I remember a time when the Internet was new. At first people believed everything they read online. The pendulum of popular culture then swung the other way, nobody believed anything anymore. A healthy skepticism exists now. The open forum nature of the Internet allows us to research, discuss and even discredit reports or information that we encounter. We have ready access to the research and opinions of others. At this point, we each have a menu of trustworthy sites for information that suits our needs to choose from. One of the sites on my menu is TED.com

There has always been pressure to be informative, eloquent and relevant when giving a public lecture. The stakes are even higher now. We can no longer talk about our work, our process and our journey unless while doing so we also reveal to the audience a deeper insight into the human condition. We must leave the viewer with a sense of motivated optimism that they may affect positive change in the world. I am speaking at SDSU tomorrow evening as the final guest speaker in the Artists and Designers in Real Time series.

Wish me luck.