ARTSD 2016, booth 401

Contemporary art, drawing painting and sculpture by Lee Puffer at ART SAN DIEGO 2016

A view into ART SAN DIEGO 2016 booth 401 featuring work by Lee Puffer. Seen here, Puffer’s three “Brainstorm” sculptures (purple, blue, and yellow) five sets of white porcelain and gold hand sculptures (below, foreground), and two large framed “Brainstorm” drawings (on wall, behind sculpture). All work is for sale.

I am please to be represented at ART SAN DIEGO 2016 again this year. Booth 401 is a joint project by some of San Diego’s most interesting arts organizations; the Mesa College Museum Studies Program, The San Diego Art Prize, San Diego Art Institute, and San Diego Visual Arts Network. The collaboration between these organizations is rooted in a mutual interest to promote artists, exhibit their work, and network with the San Diego community.
The booth features artwork by San Diego Art Institute members who have been past years’ nominees for the San Diego Art Prize, and highlights the artists that have made the transition from their studios to solid representation in the San Diego art scene. My work was nominated for the Art Prize in 2011.
There is a range of affordable artwork available, including drawing, painting, sculpture, textiles and ceramics. Other participating artists include Claudia Cano, Andrea Chung, Beliz Iristay, Bhavna Mehta, Margaret Noble, PANCA, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, Aren Skalman, Anna Stump and Joe Yorty.
It a pleasure to be in such good company. Joe Yorty and Sasha Koozel Reibstein  were two of my favorites from the group.

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Critique vs Coaching

At its very best, an art critique is a very high-level and personal conversation with professional(s) who care about your work and development as an artist. As an artist and an educator I have been present at many critiques, both as participant and facilitator. In a traditional art critique the goal is to more deeply understand the artwork in question. This deeper understanding helps art instructors evaluate the artwork, often for a grade. Critiques in art departments are frequently scheduled in advance and serve as a deadline for the completion, or near completion, of an artwork or series. Participants include the artist and the instructor. There may also be other professors, invited guests, and other artists in the class or program. Usually, everyone present at the critique is invited to ask questions and contribute to the conversation.

Ideally the artist presenting work at the critique will come away satisfied that he/she was able to adequately explain the artwork and that it was evaluated fairly. Even if this is true, critique seldom gives an artist the kind of feedback useful in improving and moving forward with a body of work. It is not the goal of academic critique to help an artist to overcome obstacles, find meaning, or to hone ideas for future work. The formal critique process ends when formal schooling ends.

Hoarder, by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media.

Hoarder, by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media.

Traditionally a coach helps an individual player and/or a team to succeed at a sport. Coaches work to improve the performance of athletes and push athletes to achieve at high levels. There is more of a focus on developing the athlete and preparing for and maintaining a productive career. Artists could benefit from the sports coaching paradigm. Here’s what I envision a coaching-based critique to do. Since coaching discovers useful and meaningful strategies for improving output, sustaining production, overcoming obstacles, and growing as a human being, and critiques evaluate the work,

I propose combining elements of critique with insightful coaching to better serve the artist. The word critique is useful, and lends an air of academic legitimacy to the conversation so I suggest we continue to use the word critique moving forward.

We could now define critique as a thoughtful analysis of an artwork or series with the goal of improving understanding of the artwork and encouraging artists towards their best, most authentic and mature work. As artistic practice is a continuum, regularly scheduled critique keeps artists going and growing, while providing benchmarks and deadlines along the way.

Stalling

The Joker, by Lee Puffer

The Joker, by Lee Puffer

One of the most baffling mysteries about artists is that when we want to do something, when we really want to, it takes so long to get started. We stall, even when we know exactly what we need to do.

We stall even when we have done all our research. We have carved out the time for artmaking and justified it to everyone who might care, including ourselves. We’ve analyzed. We have prioritized. The sink is clean, laundry done. We know that this activity, this step in the process is the thing to do at this moment.

Furthermore, we’re convinced that making art is our soul’s calling, that it is important work.

Why then, do we still stall?

There is that myth that making art is always pleasurable, and although it may be good for your soul, it is really kind of a luxury. Like getting a massage.

This is not an idea I buy into for two reasons. First, making art is not always pleasurable. Like any work, it can be challenging. It can be drudgery. Secondly, art is not a luxury. If art is important to us, if our practice adds meaning to our lives and helps us contribute to the world, it is not a luxury. For me, and perhaps for all of us, this is a necessity. Sometimes doing important work is fun, sometimes it is not.

This is a tricky position to be in. We have to find and justify the time to do an activity that, while critically important to us, might be difficult. Additionally, with art, there’s no guarantee your time spend making it will produce a favorable result. So much of what we do is experimental, problem solving, and speculative. And sometimes the problem doesn’t get solved right away. Sometimes the problem gets worse.

This is a lot of pressure. This is why we stall.