I just watched a Netflix show "Empire of Scents". As I watched it it dawned on me that maybe there is something disappearing from our world, and we haven't thought much about it.
I was a graphic designer back in the dark ages.
I remember when cut and paste required sharp and sticky things. Back when you would construct mock-ups using what ever materials you needed to simulate the finished product. When you often had to open the windows or turn on the fans because of the vapors!
My mind reels when I remember those smells. Then sweet vanilla of Rubylith and Amberlith. The warm smell of the hot wax. The difference between the smell of newsprint, coated stock, and Bienfang marker papers. There was something between fear and potential in the smell of the markers as you started rendering. There is not a graphics person around who couldn't identify the smell of rubber cement from a room or two away. And even the metallic smell of the rapidograph ink pens was a daily incense in our studio. Those are only a few of the odors that rose - for good or for ill - from our tools.
When computers came so did sterility. There is no smell to the keyboard (well there shouldn't be anyway!!) you can not smell the marker or glue residue on your fingertips. We lost the touch of the paper and the physicality of the construction. But until now, I hadn't thought about the loss of smell and how devoid of that sense the computer process. For me (insert "Ok Boomer" here) much was lost. The visual aspect of design was still there; The process was, in many ways, freer; Efficiency was enhanced. But it was like moving into a new building - shiny and beautifully functional, but without historic memory.
Now I sew.
I have long thought that I chose this medium because of the physicality and how it echoed those "good old days" of design. I fondle my cloth as I choose it and push it through its paces. I cut, slice, slash, poke, and iron my cloth, just as I did paper in "the good old days". That is where I though my joy came from.
But now I think maybe it is also the smells. There is a distinct difference in the smell of cotton vs. poly vs. linen. I realize that I am smelling the fabric as I fold it or rummage through my stash. The mixture of fear and potential is back every time I open a package from Spoonflower and smell that newly printed fabric. My bag of yarn scraps smell of sheep and hemp, and cotton, and mustiness. The slight oil smell that my sewing machine emits. When my iron hits the damp fabric there is a vaporous aroma that is sweeter than any perfume. The glue scents are there in the fabric spray and the glue stick. Once in a while the marker smells enter with the fabric markers or when I am addressing a box for shipping.
I often am jealous of my dog when we are on walk.
Her world is a completely different one than mine is. Mine is one of sight and I am thankful for that, but hers is one of scent. Sights can confuse her, distract her and even scare her, but scent is her reality. I would love to have a moment of that reality to see what I am missing.
I wonder, as we become more and more technological, if we are forgetting how much that sense of smell has meant to humankind. Will we remember video games in the way I remember the smell of Monoply money or the metal of the pieces. Shopping on line is efficient and I embrace it, but it has been a long time since I took an olfactory lap around the perfume counter at Macy's. Our quest for clean sanitized surrounding and concern for the environment has eliminated the smell of leaves burning in the fall. I am no Luddite. I am happy with the advances in technology, but this was just one of those things that (as Arsenio Hall used to say) make you go "hmmmmmm?!"
Just came home from the whirlwind weekend at the Quilt National Show. This was my first time entering and first time accepted and for that I am honored and grateful. It turns out that about 30% of the entrants were first timers. I would love to know the reason for this (even I like statistics now and then!) Is that normal? Did the more experienced not enter? Is there that much of a surge in new art quilters? A fluke? Judging criteria? Just one of those things that makes you go "hhmmmmmmm"
I must admit that after seeing the show I kinda wondered how my piece [stylistically] got/fit in! I think in the whole show of 90+ pieces there were about five "figurative" pieces, surrounded by colorful (and beautifully done) abstracts. There was one 3-d piece. Again, please understand I am not disparaging either the judging or the accepted entries, but I am confused about the ongoing intent of the show. There are so many wonderful directions that Art Quilting has taken recently that I was a bit confused about the lack of diversity in styles, medium and content. Is it a showcase for the trends that happened in Art Quilting, or is it an inspiring showcase for possibilities! Each show venue lives with a reputation and expectations. QN is grandmother of them all, and as such has both a history to live up to and laurels to ride on.
Now for the good part! My absolute favorite of the show was Jean Wells Keenan's No Stone Unturned. It was the epitome of that which could not be done in any other media. The colors are cloth colors. The textures are stitched textures (both hand and machine), The concept is both universal and intimate. It hit every tick box for me!
Betty Busby continues to be an innovative and positive force for the Art Quilt world. Never resting on a style or technique, she pushes ahead with obvious joy and skill! One year a quilt, one year a vessel, this year a wall sculpture. BUT all recognizable on some level (color? whimsy? craft?) as a "Betty".This year it was Coloratura. A piece inspired by Opera. Thanks for all you do, Betty!
Of the prize winners, I was so happy to see Dinah Sargeant's Riverstrong get recognized. This was another piece that took joy in fabric. Each surface considered. Each stitch meaningful. One of those pieces that is not "Art Quilting". It is simply "Art".
Here are a few details of some of the other award winners. Best in Show, Karen Schultz. Upper left: Emerging Artist, Irene Roderick. Upper Right: Heartland Award, Daren Redman. Middle left: Persistance Pays, Gabrielle Paquin. Middle Right: Quilt Award Japan, Dana Ziesemer. Bottom Left: McCarthy Award: Valerie Maserr-Flanagan. Bottom Right: Outstanding Machine pieced, Pamela Loewen
You know from the minute you see the gleaming mosaics on the outside and then the giant Icarus flying in the stairwell (shown on the left) , that this is not your usual museum. The exhibits right now were themed "Parenting" and the stories told were from all sides of the coin - parent and child. Recounts of childhoods spent in danger or isolation were seen in all media. From a man who spent 30 years sculpting a "family" and then making detail costumes for each doll, to harshly scratched out drawings of a life spent hiding from addicted parents. An imprisoned father's depictions of life were shown in detailed embroideries made from the unraveled socks he could get. So many lives told.
Here are just two of her images with the accompanying texts that were embroidered at the bottom:
One of my other favorite displays ran along the spiral staircase. It was a ten yard machine sewn illustration of scenes sewn by a man at the suggestion of those who stopped by.
Here is his story, idea of what it looked like, and some details.
It was a heart-wrenching visit, saved from being overly emotional by the gift shop at the end. What a place of wonder! Every trinket, accessory and fun things you could want for yourself or to give as gifts... will definitely be back there for the holidays!
I just spent two wonderful days seeing, talking about, and walking through art! I went to several museums with two of my fiber buddies, and we then talked art over good food, and while sitting in various transportation vehicles!
Monday we went to Washington DC. We decided to try out two of the smaller museums, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Renwick Gallery, before we hit the National Gallery.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
As is often the case, we were too optimistic about how much time we would have, so it was a quick visit to the National Gallery. I decided to head over to the East Wing, and just say "hi" to the I.M.Pei building, and not worry about deciding what art to savor in only an hour. My next post will be about our next day at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.... stay tuned.
in the meantime, here is a slide show are some of my shots from the national gallery, the Metro, and one from the wonderful deli/restaurant we stopped at for lunch.
One of the great things about having my studio at McGuffey, is the chance to meet so many new people. Our studios are open to the public, so people wander in fairly frequently. I have met many other fiber artist from the area. I have met art supporters, and the curious. Meeting the public at my art shows, was one of my favorite things about doing art fairs, so I welcome the personal contact and chance to talk art with both those who are knowledgeable and those who are seeking knowledge.
And of course there are my fellow artists. The sculpture pictured here is by Jim Respess, my studio neighbor. It is a monumental scale public art sculpture in Charlottesville. Jim is both a philosopher and an artist, and we share a love of mid-afternoon tea with a dash of discussion! Another artist and I are talking about offering 'open studio' or 'fiber funday' classes next fall. Michelle is a mixed media and book artist, with a background in printing, so it could be a fun partnership.
Then there are tours!
Last week I had three groups of third graders come tour my studio. They were wonderful! The first group was so attentive and asked great questions. The second was a challenge; all over the studio but enthusiastic. The third group was right in between. A little girl stopped on her way out and said "will you please teach me?" So I said maybe in a few years, but she could come visit anytime, and she immediately looked at me and said "FRIDAY??!!" I really expected her to pull out a Blackberry to book a time!
One of the things the kids wanted to do is touch... I totally get that...it is why I have textured textiles instead of flat photos. So I told them, to never touch in a gallery or a museum, but it was MY studio and MY rules, so go ahead and touch. They did! And really got into the textures. One little guy wanted to know how many beads were on one piece and, when I said I didn't know, so he spent 10 minutes counting them and announced "153"!!
The following day, the touching got better.
Sarah, a confident and out-going young woman came into the studio Thursday. She was looking for part time work or even to volunteer to help in the studios. This is not remarkable in itself, but she was blind so it was pretty remarkable! She was asking many questions about my work, so I invited her to see/feel for herself. Her fingers traveled from stitch to stitch, and found the frayed parts and the smooth parts. She wanted to know the origins of the textures. As an artist, it was wonderful to see my work appreciated on a totally new level.
What are we missing by instituting a "no touch rule"?
The kids and Sarah really made me think about a feeling I have long held about art. I think we make it too precious. Would Rodin or Michelangelo really never have wanted the surfaces of their work to be enjoyed? Didn't they choose their materials for the feel as much as the look? Would we have even more admiration of Amsel Kieffer if we could experience the sharp and rough with our fingers as well as our eyes. Textile art is, in its very essence tactile, so why can we only touch with white gloves? As an artist, I find the term "visual art" a limiting misnomer. Art might be a far deeper experience if enjoyed with as many sense as required.
Okay, I get it, we are preserving our art for the ages. What if we didn't care about that. What if we feel that a few generations ability to experience 100% was better than eons experiencing only a portion? Should artists be able to tell museums and galleries, that [respectful] "hands on" is okay for their art? Almost every artist I know (including myself!) has been chided by guards for getting our noses too close as we struggle to see brush strokes and textures. I bet if you actually touched a Van Gogh, there would be some powerful vibes still in those strokes!
The pieces I am working on now for my February show are getting pretty intricate. There is stitching, cutting, couching, beading, and more stitching. I have been thrilled with the pieces so far, but yesterday something started to tickle my brain.... When exactly does intricacy turn into obsession? When will I know if have crossed that line? Well after few hours of pondering and I came to a conclusion, or test:
If the ART WORK NEEDS
the element or treatment to complete the composition or statement,
then it is intricacy.
If I HAVE A NEED
to do the treatment or put on another element to support some inner itch,
then it is obsession!
I am not sure I will always be able to tell the difference (after all, that creative itch is awful close to the obsessive itch!) but this does remind me to stop frequently and take serious stock in what is going on as I work.
Working in my studio at the Art Center, has been so good for this type of reflection. There is art work - finished and in progress - everywhere. I stop. I look. I silently critique... and then I am set to critique my own work. There are artists everywhere. I have discussions about color or style, or other "artsy" things that may have been back-shelved in my brain for a while. They get dusted off and reexamined. There is time and space. My work can sit out over night while I ponder. My ideas can be posted on the walls for slow infusion into my brain. My previous work is at hand to pull out and remind me of things that were (or weren't) successful in the past.
Am I making this sound idyllic? Well it is. So far so good. I can already see the effect having the art, the artists, and the time and space is having on my work. I am grateful and excited.
There has been a lot of chatter on the internet about Pantone's announcement of the new colors for 2016; "Rose Quartz" and "Serenity".
To me and many others those colors hearken back to either baby shower wrapping papers or the geese, hearts, and ribbon decor of the eighties. Neither of which do I need to re-experience!
In one day there were several posting of sun sets or rises similar to this one that I took. Each poster noted the similarity of the colors to the ones that were forecast... maybe it was late in the day, the Pantone folks were tire and wanted to move on to cocktail hour, so they choose what they saw out the window!
The discussion reminds me of a conference I went to years ago, and I thought you might be interested in an insiders look at how some of this forecasting happens. The group I belonged to was the Color Marketing Group. This is an international group that is made up of creatives and product developers from many industries including auto, fashion, home decor, paint, flooring, etc.
If you think about it when you go to remodel your house, you want to know that there will be paints that will match your sofa and carpeting and window coverings (the industry I was involved with) . When you go purchase your car, it is nice if the seat upholstery color is in the same family as the carpet and the exterior. But all of these are made by different manufacturers so how does that happen?
At this annual meeting, we all brought three groups of information. First was the sales history, broken down many ways, of the colors that were selling now. Secondly, we brought information and samples of items that we were looking to release in the next season or two. Thirdly, we brought information and supportive evidence about colors and ideas we were just starting to look at now for use in few years hence.
We then got into groups of related industries to go over this information. The discussion were not just about color. They also took into account finishes (shiny, matte, metallic, etc), materials (natural vs. plastics, new technologies, etc) and processes. It was so very interesting AND I could see where this coordination is also necessary. If the lighting industry started focusing on bright blue metals, while the carpet industry was doing something totally out of sync with that, neither would sell much. Cohesively designing a car with parts from so many industries would be impossible.
After days of discussions, opinions, facts, looking at the economy and trends, we developed color boards using the results of these discussions.
The CMG committees would then compile this information, organize it and disseminate it to their membership. This information was just that; informative. It was not dictate of what any industry should or shouldn't do, but instead was cross-industry information that they could choose to apply as much or as little to their own product design as they felt was appropriate. Many just used it as a check and balance system against their own conclusions.
It was an interesting process, and on many levels an extremely productive one. The final color recommendations were certainly not always on target but they did suggest directions.
Next time you go into a store and can not longer find that royal blue you loved three years age, or suddenly the store seems awash in an orange you never thought you would wear or see again.... this is why! But if you can't find that royal blue, just go to Goodwill, and you will probably find loads of the colors that were popular a few years ago!
Recently a friend heard I was headed to Virginia Beach. She used to live in the area and implored me to go to the Chrysler Museum of Art while I was there. I was really looking forward to a beach vacation, and so wasn't sure abut this, but decided to stop in. Boy, was that the right decision! Not only is it a beautifully curated museum with many early works and women artists with whom I was not familiar, but it has one of the largest glass collections of any museum and a glass studio on the premises.
Truth be told, I have never been a huge fan of glass artwork. Maybe because I had not seen much of it, or maybe because I am mostly ignorant of the processes involved with it (other than, thanks to Audry Handler, I learned it it takes a lot of lung power and a really big furnace!) But now that I have seen a lot of examples, and was led through a chronological tour of glass through the centuries, I am very appreciative of the art form! Isn't that exactly what a museum should do; make you appreciate things a little bit more.
There were shapes of every kind; From the earliest small vessels, through lava-like mounds, to geometric shapes to the organic. The organic shapes were some of my favorites.
(Click on any of these to see a larger picture)
The process that really blew me away was the engraving. This process involves several layers of different colors, or shades, layered upon each other, and then the glass is carved/engraved back to reveal the color that the artist want to appear. The center picture shows one of the artist's sketches for the large vase.
(Click on any of these to see a larger picture)
I have a large collection of sketchbooks and journals. All 98% empty. Artists are supposed to keep sketchbooks. I've been told, that we should be introspective and keep journals with our profound thoughts and creative musings. I am a semi-competent writer, and a better than average artist (so I have been told), but miserable at documentation.
This blog is the only journal-like-thing I have managed to keep going for any length of time!
One of my art professors, Walter Hamady, kept hand-bound, beautifully written and embellished journals. They were on hand made papers, and were works of beauty - meant to last the ages. My friend Lorie posts beautiful images from her sketchbook pages. Other friends have kept sketchbooks that were achingly inspirational; musings, sketches and collections of ephemera! I have scraps of paper, sometimes, kept in a cardboard box, and my collection of journals and sketchbooks that have the first pages desecrated with horrible attempts at self-conscience profundity.
But now I have photos. Hundreds - verging on thousands - not taken for reproduction or sales or even journalistic documentation (with the notable exception of the ones of my family). They are exercise for my eyes. They are calisthenics for my knowledge of design and composition. They slow me down and make me think and work - hard.
At first I just snapped away in 'automatic' mode with my trusty Fuji. but soon I found out that to 'sketch' the right photo, I needed to be able to adjust the depth-of-field, and pick an exposure. Just like sometimes you want to sketch in color, and sometimes in black and white - the same applies to photo sketching. So I upgraded the camera and learned more about my manual settings.
Photography is an art in itself. A laudable and incredibly diverse one. But not one that I (at least for now) find a satisfactory final artifact of my creativity. I use it as the basis of my fiber art; Sometimes quite literally when it is printed as an image in my whole cloth quilt pieces. More often, as the inspiration for the textures or colors in other pieces. It isn't about the specific photographic image for me. It is about taking that to a more universal place of color, texture, and emotion through the addition of other fabric, objects, and embellishments. In the end, I hope the photo is integrated with the fiber art to create something much more layered - both figuratively and literally - than the photo alone. Here is one example of that idea (click on either to see larger):
Here is a piece that uses seven different photos within the final piece:
There was a post in one of my Facebook groups the other day, that posed the question "what inspires you?". A question that is posed to artists a lot, and is interesting to ponder. When I first went to college (at Minneapolis Art Institute) it was the rocking and rebellious late 60s and beginning of the 70s. Statement was king. Art was 'purposeful' (but extremely strange) and what you were saying about your work was often more important that how you created it. I found a lack of profundity in my work. I made stuff because I needed to make, not say. While I had political and social views, communicating them through my work was not important to me. I reveled in color and composition. I wanted to draw, not pontificate. So I left the fine art world for the world of advertising and design. There I could use my talent to express the message of others. That was fine with me.
Now I am back in the more finer side of art! Making things - not for purpose - but for .... uhm.... well.... maybe... not really sure what 'for'! Because I can? Because I need too? Because I have the time now. But back to the question "what inspires me?" Little things. I take great joy in the world around me. I am blessed with eyes that see in compositional and artistic ways. I have only, in later life's moments, realized that not everyone sees what/how I see. So that is what inspires me. Looking around documenting what/how I see and hoping it expands the sight of others. (I still leave the politics and social statements to other artists!)
Last night this balloon went over our house. It was very pretty from that vantage point, but I knew that from my urban mountain-top perch on top of the parking ramp, it would be better. So I ran there. and watched and waited until it passed by the setting sun; there was the sight that I wanted you to see. The inspiration was the balloon, but how I see it is the picture. The Grand Canyon is awesome (in the true sense of the word) but equally as awesome can be the sidewalk shadows right under our feet, or the kid marching across the street. Stop and take a look sometime, it will inspire you.
This past week I had the pleasure of visiting The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA. Honesty requires me to admit that I went there with low expectations, and avoidance of going sledding, but was pleasantly surprised! Contemporary Art is not my favorite genre. I often find it both self-serving and pretentious and not enlightening or uplifting in the least. Well some of it was. But the experience overall was wonderful and expanding.
The facility is both innovative and wonderful. It is a warren constructed of several buildings that once housed a 19-20th century manufacturing concern. They have retained the bricks and mortar and connected the buildings with tunnels and bridges that are interesting in and of themselves.
The highlight of the museum was the Anslem Kiefer exhibit. He is one of those artists that should rarely be shown in reproduction. The monumental size and the textural richness of his work is just not done justice no matter the number of dots per inch in reproduction! There is an entire building that has been erected to house three major works of his. The Museum will house these for no less than 25 years. The three works are vastly different in both concept and execution, but each as resounding as the other. For me, there have been few works (especially in the "contemporary" genre) that have moved me as the "Women of the Revolution" The literature about the exhibit explains the work as: It takes "its inspiration from Jules Michelet's 1854 study, Les Femmes de la Revolution, which chronicles the lives of specific women. who, in their uncompromising willingness to pursue democratic values, played an important role in the French revolution."
Click on any of the below photos to see larger and fully and at full crop.
Thank you Mr. Kiefer. You have done what art should do. Your craftsmanship is impeccable and supported fully by a strong concept and point of view, with not a trace of self-aggrandizing. You made me think on many levels.
A long time ago a very wise man, and a mentor of mine, told me that an artist should be able to find inspiration from whatever is in an eight foot radius around them at any time. I believe this with my heart and soul.
As I was thinking about Walter's words, I have noticed myself carrying my camera everywhere, trying to take “good” pictures, and not just looking around and experiencing. So to solve this I am taking a two pronged approach for the next thirty days.
First, all photos will be taken within a one block radius of my home. I will have to concentrate on that which I see regularly and find something new about it. Secondly, I will not take my camera elsewhere*. I need to go back to enjoying and experiencing the whole and not worry about how everything will look through a lens or on screen. It is odd, but in some ways, taking pictures has taken me a few steps from experiencing reality.
There was one time this distance served me very well, though! Years ago we were on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands. Every day we had been safely nestled within the small islands there. The one day, we decided to head out into the ocean, beyond the sight of land. I was excited and not at all apprehensive, until land disappeared. It was then that I learned the panic that happens when one discovers a new phobia! The only way I made it through that day was to look through my camera… it took me far enough from reality that I stopped panicking.
I think I have stopped panicking again, but this time I want that thrill and uncertainty of reality. My husband was telling me about a lizard he saw the other day, and I replied that I hoped I got to see it and that I better have my camera with me when I did. It was almost like I thought the experience wouldn’t be valid unless I recorded it. That feeling both surprised me and made me think hard about what I want from my photography.
The creative process, not the end product has always been the best part of art for me. I want to express the way I see and look, but I do not want the icon to be more a priority than the experience, so time for this exercise. I find it so easy to gt enthused and excited, but also it is so easy to fall into comfortable or safe ruts. I am not taking photos for fame or profit, so I must do it for my enjoyment and expansion first, so off I am to do that. I have to see if I can focus in and expand out at the same time!
You will see the results in my daily photo posts this month. Today I have posted the last theme photo for a while (my trusty foil) and have a few more words there about this topic, if it interests you. Wish me luck both on the new activity and the withdrawal!
*unless I am visiting the grand kids, maybe!
I was recently involved with yet another 'critique' discussion in a group for art makers on Facebook. It involved someone being upset and losing confidence because of the comments they had received regarding art they had posted. I have been involved with feedback/comments/critique and such for over 40 years now... on all sides; as a customer, instructor, maker, and professional. I am continually astounded at how often comment is mistaken for critique. And how often the subjective and objective are blurred. Or when critique is asked for simple validation is what is wanted.
NOTE: I am going to ignore the added level complexity and vitriol comments brought on by the anonymity of the web, and focus on the comments that would be more universally applied in any situation.
First, when one asks for feedback they should be clear as to what they are looking for! "Do you like this?" or "what do you think" leaves one wide open for anything, and everything, from opinion to fact. A friend asked me one time what my "favorite" painting in a museum was. I replied with the name of a fairly minor work. He could not understand my response, until I explained that he didn't ask me which I thought was the best painting... just which might be my favorite.
I would choose two very different paintings to answer each question:
Favorite? A subjective, gut reaction; Do I want to live with it on my wall?
Best? An objective ranking of technical skillfulness, academic proficiency, and appropriate use of subject manner.
There are many great artworks that I appreciate, but would not choose to live with, and there are many not so perfectly composed or produced artworks I would be pleased to have in my home because of the emotions they evoke, or they simply include subject matter I identify with. I love Folk and Naive art as well as Children's art. Rarely can those work be deemed the work of a virtuoso, but they may have great merit and emotion. If asked to critique them, I wouldn't bring up rules of design, or color theory; solving or applying those issues was not the intent of the creator. I would give an answer about why they subjectively appealed to me or not.
However if someone is asking peers for critique to improve their skill or marketability, they should be ready for both the objective evaluation of the technical merits of their work as well as how people respond subjectively to the image. Each person who responds will bring with them their own level of expertise, prejudices and preferences, and all can potentially be helpful, or if not, ignored!
It is up to the artist to use or ignore the feedback they asked for, and to decipher what of it is subjective and what is objective.
A comment or even an objective evaluation is there to use or not use. If you don't agree with it, you could/should ask for further explanation or reason for the conclusion, so you can understand where the critique is coming from. In doing so you may find that it is formed from a very personal experience, or from a fount of knowledge, or just from a gut reaction...
that will give you more information to weight the applicability and universality of the comments as they apply to the work. Or you can simply ignore it.
It is up to those critiquing to understand what comments or opinions may be important and useful to the artist. So make sure you understand if they are asking for a gut check, or whether they used a technique correctly; Were they asking if their color usage was effective or if you like the subject matter? If they have not made that clear - ask so you can be more helpful.
The beauty of art is that there is a myriad of reactions involved in each piece - and that sum is then squared by the two parties involved. There is the maker's intent and the viewer's reaction. Only the maker knows their intent and communication goal. Only the viewer knows their reaction. Sometimes those are in sync. Many times they are not. This could be from an incomplete presentation or failure by the artist, or a non-receptive or ill-educated viewer, or simply two people coming from very different places. Only dialog between the two can bring understanding and additional knowledge to both parties if that is the goal (for some artist the making is enough, and the viewers reaction unimportant, but that is a whole different discussion!!). A viewer saying that Lautrec should know that people are not blue, or that Miro should draw more realistically, would probably have been ignored or corrected by those artists, because they would have known they were not a meaningful comments in regards to their intent. But that doesn't mean the comments (heard in art museums quite regularly I would assume) are not valid reactions from that particular viewer. Only by understanding the cohesiveness of the intent and the reaction can an artist and a viewer understand if the critique is useful and relevant or not.
So to be a productive critique, the artist must be specific about what they are asking, and the respondent must honor that with appropriately directed responses or bow out . It is as appropriate for a viewer to appreciate only realistic renderings, or a specific subject matter, as it is for an artist to explore the avant-garde and conceptual ideas or technique, however they must understand the differences of thought before they hope to connect productively in a critique forum.
I can not remember a time when I have not made things. I can not remember a time when my brain didn't immediately crop and compose whatever I am looking at. I can not imagine my head not saying "what if" and "what about if you"... This is not a brag or a exhalation, just a constant reality of my life, just as each of you have a constant in yours. This is also influenced by the weeks of going through all my saved possessions and artwork as we prepare to move.
A while ago the Huffington post had an article on the 18 things Highly Creative People do Differently. To see it go HERE. It is worth a read!
It got me to thinking about the Photo group I am in, and the many artists I know, and the different approaches we are all taking to the challenge of taking a photo each day.
In the article it says:
"Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement," says Kaufman. "This consists of lots of different facets, but they're all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world."
I figure anyone who signs up for the picture a day must be also exhibiting the "openness to experience"! What is interesting to me is how all of these creative minds interpret the experience we call life! The faces above are an example of one of my favorite things; a variety of interpretations of a particular, singular subject by a variety of artists.
It is not the accurate representation of subject matter that makes for interesting art - or photography - it is the artists hand and heart being evident in the documentation that makes it art. It is like hearing a particular idea expressed in a myriad of languages and accents, each with a nuance and reaction particular to both the speaker and the listener. The same vocalization can mean "home" to one and "enemy" to another, to one is is romantic and soft, to another incomprehensible.
For now, I just want to talk about the artist, not the viewer who may have his or her own criteria for enjoyment or interest. There are as many reasons for creating art as there are artists, but I have noticed some loose categories before, and they are really evident to me as I watch a oeuvre of work unfold from the various photographers in our group.
Some, like me, are The Dilettante: rolling around in something new and different whenever they come across it. For me it is the new found media, and all the facets it offers in techniques, subjects and other possibilities that makes finding a particular voice probably premature. I am sure, sooner or later, one facet will shine more than others for me, but until then, I am happy to experiment.
The Geek: Much like the painters who know the formulas for each of their colors, and the thread count and archival-ness of their canvases, and are concerned with the differences between a matter or gloss varnish, these photographers both understand and love the technical aspects of photography. They have tried every filter and filtering program. The lighting set up and the post work are as exciting to them as the subject and shoot are. They embrace every aspect of the science as well as the art of photography.
The Serial Shooter: Like Degas drew and painted dancer after dancer, or haystack after haystack, each time exploring a different aspect of the subject or scene, these photographers embrace a subject with all their heart. Some do it for a month, some for a lifetime. It is so interesting to see both what they hone in on as a subject, and what within that subject they then focus on for the study.
The Designer: These are the people for whom the composition and elements of design take forefront. They often have the more minimalist take or the most unique viewpoint. The subject matter is secondary to the impact of the design.
The Journalist: For them the recording of an event is important. The event could be monumental or momentary, but noticing it and recording it is their joy. Whether it is the genre art of everyday living, or the fleeting moment of a rainbow or sunset, or a newsworthy event; it is captured by them.
BUT no one is really just any of these, and truly great artists are all of these.
The journalist who doesn't know how to compose or capture the lighting will not make a provoking photo. The designer with no intimate knowledge of his subject will often resort to trite. and so on it goes... but there is something that starts the creative juices to move, and that is usually remains high on the hierarchy of the finished art work's presence. I am just finding it fascinating - and always have - to see how the individual stacking of these priorities creates an amazing array of creative output.
Today I, and three of my buddies, went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is an amazing building and the building itself is the most amazing piece of art.
The structure was designed by Santiago Calatrava and I applaud the City of Milwaukee for its decision to make this commitment to the arts. If you want to see a pictures of the space go to my pictures of the day for 03/01/2014.
The exhibit we went to see was the Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Folk Art. As you might remember from my blog post back on Jan. 17. 2014, I really love Folk Art.
This exhibit was more than I could have imagined. It was curated perfectly; intimate groupings arranged by theme, and truly a cross-section of the sublime to the hilarious. The soul of each of the works was laid bare with the honesty with which it was made, and there were no bounds to the media or methodology!
There is something exceptionally wonderful about art that is made for no purpose other than the urge to make it. Art that is free of theory or market. Art that is driven only by compulsion. To a great extent that is the very definition of art for many. Most artists would fear insanity if they were somehow not able to make art. I know I would be very twitchy! But somehow when one starts studying art, or showing our art, we become conscience of the audience and posterity and some purity is lost. However, saying that, I also must admit, that every painter should know color theory. Photographers should understand the numbers on their lenses, and potters need to know what will happen when the clay gets fired. To think that you can freely express yourself, while fighting with your media is daft. It is finding the middle ground, where expression is enhanced by knowledge and not inhibited by it, that is sometimes an issue.
When I was in grad school (actually not that long ago, because I was a "non-traditional" -i.e. old- grad student), I learned a great lesson from one of my younger colleagues. We were in a print class critique, and I was presenting my work and droning on about color, and process, with a few gems regarding composition thrown into the presentation. Suddenly, he said "I am so !#@%! sick of hearing about all that, just make art!". Well as someone who at that time was teaching design and color, I was initially offended, but then thought about it.
I had thought of his process as "monkey art" - you know, the old 'if you put 10,000 monkeys at a typewriter, sooner or later they will write Shakespeare' type of creation. I had seen him in the studio - music cranked, ink flying, paper grabbed, seemingly without intent. It was a Friday, so over the weekend I went to the studio, cranked up the music, let the ink fly and grabbed endless sheets of whatever paper was there... It was bliss. Complete indulgent, unabashed bliss.
On Monday, I thanked him for reminding me about the art urge.
So, as I see it "art" is twofold. There is the artistic experience of making, and the art experience of viewing. The ratio or import of each will vary. The correlation between the artist's experience and the viewer's experience may be incidental or profound. As a graphic designer, there is a wealth of experience as you work to make both concept and marketing goal work while combining a multitude of design and color theories. The result is a very transient artifact, that will most often not be appreciated for its aesthetics - even though they are the reason it works or not! The experience of making the ad may be profound to the designer, but [conscientiously] inconsequential to the viewer. While I may choose five different fabrics to make into a sweater and spend a lot of time making sure the textures and weights work together, the buyer may love the comfort and the fact it matches their new jeans. That does nothing to lessen my experience during the creation.
Some of my favorite forms of art are folk art or naive art or kids art. Art that is made because the artist had to get it out.
Tomorrow I will talk a bit more about that.
For me, that was a very meaningful experience. We often hear things like 'be in the moment' or 'learn from experience', etc. but this was more than that for me. It explained the difference between the personal experience of art and the public artifact of art. At times they coincide, but many times they are quite separate events. I may have a total 'artgasm' experience while creating something, but the final artifact may not move anyone else. One the other hand, an artifact may be created with a rote hand and is beloved by the masses.
This is why there is both a huge universe of that which we call art, and why art is undefinable. Is it the making or the made. Is it enough for it to be personal growth, or must it be communicative? Those answers probably differ as much as the art created by each artist. That is the wonderment of it all. That is the angst of it all. That is the core of it all.
For me (and I do mean "for me" - not "how it should be"), it is the experience. I have never made art with a conscience effort to change the world, or even one single mind. I have no want to be validated through gallery sales or fame. It is enough to feel the well up of the creative force and the visceral relief when it escapes from me. Whether it is then enjoyed by others is both a bonus and a wonderment, but never a necessity.
The above assertion may seem either contradictory, or a bit of downright hypocrisy, coming from someone who has made their living based on their creative endeavors for almost four decades, so tomorrow I will address that. Stay tuned!
A few days ago, I posted this photo on my Facebook page. It shows how Etsy - which was a unique outlet for handcrafters and artists - has become an outlet for mass producers. I need to acknowledge that they are not alone in this trend or the trend of the non-original idea.
To be really fair, I also have to say it occurs in both camps - the makers and the manufacturers. For every manufacturer that rips off a design or idea from an artist, there is a maker capitalizing on Dr. Who, Disney or Hello Kitty on their site. I find both practices equally as abhorrent.
Has the internet made ownership so fleeting and piracy so easy that it is now the "norm". In just the last month, besides the continuing Etsy issues, I have had two other very personal events that bring this all close to home, and make me angry!
What has happened to originality and respect?
The saga of the boots....
I had been drooling over UGG boots for a while. I had been to their site often, and was waiting to see if any would go on sale around the holidays. Of course, that meant that my Facebook page was now regularly plastered with boot ads. One day one appeared for UGG boots on 30% off. YIPEE. it was "officialUGGonline.com" so I went there. sure enough it was the UGG site - the same one as I had seen many times before, but with "sale" banners! So I ordered some boots. SCORE!
I bragged about this to an on-line group and another person went there and came back to tell me that when she went to pay she noticed something fishy. I checked my Credit Card, and saw the charge was NOT from UGG, but from "EnjoyShoppingCenter, Beijing China". Turns out they had cloned the UGG site and were selling counterfeits. I confirmed this with UGG and called my credit card company. They said they had had MANY such calls and the counterfeiters were on-line in full force during the holiday season. All is now settled, and my CC company has been fantastic. But UGH!
And now to today's story...
I am not naive enough to think this will stop, but it still ticks me off! Globalization makes enforcement of copyright almost impossible. I also know that sometimes the same idea happens two places at the same time. BUT I am also old enough to remember when product design and development involved hiring someone to research and come up with original ideas for the marketplace. Many of those jobs have virtually disappeared (pun intended) as the internet makes searching and stealing so much easier and cheaper.
I grant you that I am becoming a crotchety old woman. I will also grant you that with all technological advances come challenges. But if we as citizenry do not require better of ourselves and our society, we get what we deserve. We can not all do the right thing all the time every day, but think about it the next time you get a "deal" or create something base on another's idea. The line is fine sometimes, but when you can see it try not to cross it.
Steps off soapbox for a cup of coffee.
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !