By default we think of drawing, both noun and verb, as dragging pencil across paper or the evidence of that action. That is not untrue. If we also consider drawing as anything that works in parallel to, or in preparation for, an artist’s primary practice, then these collages are also drawings. Using cut paper, and quickly assembled, these sketches allow me to record ideas for possible future sculptures. There are always so many more ideas than there is time to make them in sculpture. Some ideas are not worth pursuing further. Drawings are artworks and sometimes they are the only record of an artistic idea or impulse. What I find most interesting about drawing as a record is that it gives insight into an artist’s thought process, sometimes more than the resulting sculpture. These collages are part of an ongoing sketchbook. Some of these thoughts make their way into The Hankie Project, some into the Welcome to Oblivion or Stimulatorium series.
By default we think of drawing, both noun and verb, as dragging pencil across paper or the evidence of that action. That is not untrue. If we also consider drawing as anything that works in parallel to, or in preparation for, an artist’s primary practice, then these collages are also drawings. Using cut paper, and quickly assembled, these sketches allow me to record ideas for possible future sculptures. There are always so many more ideas than there is time to make them in sculpture. Some ideas are not worth pursuing further. Drawings are artworks and sometimes they are the only record of an artistic idea or impulse. What I find most interesting about drawing as a record is that it gives insight into an artist’s thought process, sometimes more than the resulting sculpture. These collages are part of an ongoing sketchbook. Some of these thoughts make their way into The Hankie Project, some into the Welcome to Oblivion or Stimulatorium series’. A few of these may be on exhibit at Intervention. You’ll have to go to A Ship in the Woods to find out.
I was asked to participate in a fundraiser for the Sugar Museum, which involved creating new work and donating it for an exhibition and sale. The work was to be enclosed in a jar, and artists were asked to use the idea of a jar as a point of departure for the concept and content of the work. This is how the Sugar Museum describes the exhibition:
“Sugar Museum is pleased to present JARS, an installation of hundreds of jars in the storefront Art Produce Gallery. The jars of art by local artists and jars of food donated by local vendors will be displayed on shelving with “art” and “food art” coexisting. They are both beautiful commodities in this situation. Will the buyer put the art in their cupboard next to the honey or frame the honey on the living room wall? All the work will be for sale throughout the exhibit and will benefit the community educational programs of the Sugar Museum and Art Produce Gallery.”
This sounded interesting so I agreed to participate. As artists, we are asked to donate our work constantly. I know of no other profession where services are expected for free so frequently, but that is a conversation for another day. The Sugar Museum was not asking for a donation, per se, because all of the work exhibited would be for sale with 50% of the proceeds going back to the artist. The 50/50 split is typical of commercial galleries. The Sugar Museum did ask that artists create original work specific to the exhibition, rather than curating a show from an artist’s existing body of work. Most of us find this sort of challenge refreshing and fun, albeit time consuming. It was in this gift of time and effort that we support the Sugar Museum’s fundraising.
The opening for the exhibition was crowded and fun. The artwork exhibited was amusing, varied and good. The usual suspects of the San Diego art and educational community were present in person and represented by the jars. Is this a pretty small town, or does it just feel that way?
In my research I discovered that the Sugar Museum is, more than anything else, an art project. In addition to the stated cause of sweetener awareness, the Sugar Museum appears to be the brainchild and creative product of one artist. For me, asking artists to donate art (or time) in order to raise money for an artist to make art is a bit like the snake eating its own tail. The self-referential nature of the event itself further reiterated this feeling.
I wonder if we could find a way to branch out a little more as a community. We could strive grow our influence and audience, especially with projects like the Sugar Museum, for whom outreach and education is a goal.
There are qualities inherent to each art media. We call these qualities Material Properties. These days, when artists are not bound to one medium alone, material selection for completing and artwork is challenging and important. We can choose a material because it is the one most suited to fulfill the physical demands of our vision or we can choose a material because of its inherent conceptual implications.
When I was in graduate school a fellow classmate returned to the studio after a walk in the hills with an armful of fallen eucalyptus bark she had picked up on the hiking trail. This artist had recently moved to Southern California and was unfamiliar and with this tree. She began to sew the bark pieces together with wire to form large boat-like platters. The bark was already curved to imply this form. This artist’s work has always been about nature and community. This idea; the boat form implying her recent voyage, the platter signifying togetherness, the bark connecting with nature, was in keeping with her process. Almost right away, however, the bark began to dry and turn very brittle. Within a couple of days it could no longer be handled without breaking into shards. There was no way to sew it and doing so would be an exercise in futility. The material properties of this tree bark were not suited for the project this artist had in mind.
I choose clay for the construction of human faces because to me, clay is like human flesh. When wet, clay is malleable and moist to the touch. It warms when we manipulate it. Clay gives to gentle pressure while holding its overall form. What better choice for creating the expressions made by skin and muscle over bone?
Just a few days left to see the Palomar College Faculty Exhibition at the Boehm Gallery.
Your work is not you. You are a conduit. The art that you make flows through you from the convergence of the Three Factors. Using the diagram as a tool, you may be able to analyze your own work objectively, be receptive to constructive criticism, and be capable of offering useful critique to other artists.
For many artists it is challenging to accept criticism or suggestions from others, whether they are strangers or experts. Criticism from anyone may feel very personal. It takes bravery to make art. In doing so we are making our ideas, thoughts and opinions physically manifest, and offering them for the world to see. This is a bold endeavor. There are many people who dream of doing, writing, making, speaking their truth that never work up the nerve to do so because they fear criticism and judgment from others.
If we are fortunate enough to have access to individuals who support and challenge our work by offering insightful criticism, then we must hear their thoughts. We can learn to differentiate the thoughtful learned criticism of someone who is interested in helping us grow as artists from the careless criticism of people who do not have our best interest in mind.
Because art asks us to bravely state who we are and leave a record of our experiences as a cultural legacy for all humankind, it feels very important. Because we put so much of ourselves into the work, set aside time for artmaking, put in effort, and overcome obstacles, our art can feel very personal. If we can objectively analyze our own artwork using the Three Factors as a tool, we may be able to benefit from the input of others without fear of hurt feelings. The tool gives us a common language. The tool helps us to remove ourselves from the conversation.