Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallway noise (friday afternoon)

Friday afternoons are lovely afternoons in my studio (which for now resides at the university where I teach.) There are few, if any classes, and the hallways are generally quiet, save the periodic burst of flurried movement, and today,
the drop of keys
a door slamming
a burst of deep, deep, whole body laughter reaching me from well down the hall,
rubber shoes smooshing against a concrete floor and the drop of weight in the snack machine,
my neighbor in low consultation,
a metallic crash, and far far away the beeping of an elevator or movable lift?

I am off to meet Christopher for a game of pinball.

Collage on my shoulder

The little shape hovering above my shoulder is a recent collage--and when I view it here, away from the studio, I am reminded of its making:

1. working away and suddenly sensing, hmmmmm, this is not what I expected, it's MORE than what I expected.

2. "What is this? (May I never get to the point of knowing.)"

3. "Am I the lucky one who really gets to make this THING?"

4. I really, really want to kind-of-connect the black lines that hover about the edge, and that longing is rather inane but still desired.

5. I had no idea I could expect THIS to exist.

6. What?

7. "Let me just enjoy making this and let me prolong its making to savor the potential of what might appear."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Abstraction, a compendium of definitions and thoughts surrounding the term

my thoughts:
1. that which has no name but which is nonetheless real
2. wordless
3. specific but unknowable
4. beyond the self
5. or so deep in the self so as to not be perceived
6. never seen but somehow known
7. what is wished for
8. what is longed for
9. reason for being is internally derived
10. a world in itself (possessing own gravity...physics and perhaps even biology)
11. to give new form
12. what might be
13. perceiver has no preconceived mode of approach, approach is gleaned from the thing itself
14. the thing itself
15. manifest of potential
16. beyond reach
17. could be

my students' thoughts:
1. simplification, reducing space to core elements (Karen L.)
2. nature, unpredictable (Adam V.)
3. taking something from nature and putting a twist on it (Brenda V.)
4. exaggeration of something (Lauren Pl.)
5. relative, very different, not portrayed as something seen in real life (Lauren Po.)
6. portion or part or belief that exists outside the boundaries set by what we consider the whole of things (Michael M.)
7. artist looking within (Adam V.)
8. harder to understand quickly (Lauren Po.)
9. not literal, all have different opinion (Adam H.)
10. random in such as way as to be coherent (Justin R.)
11. own point of view (Janie S.)
12. risky (Berklee B.)
13. pushing the limit, process that allows you to enter your own world, as well as others (Cassidy W.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Afternoon light

(Ah, my computer is able to be turned on again...a brand new power cord delivered just yesterday remedies and replaces the severed end of my older, dingier cable.)

I wish I could photograph the brilliant, brilliant silver light reflecting off of these blinds in my studio. Alas, it is impossible--the photo only a placeholder for my assurance to you that the light here is sparkling!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Red Scrape

As an artist, I'm interested in the idiosyncratic rhythms of any given studio--my own of course but also my students. An artists' studio (of the sort where material is bandied about that is) seems a kind of physical philosophical space. Ideas rise and fall based on adamantly materialist negotiations. Stances toward the universe, the world, a nation, or maybe just a room (a world nonetheless) flesh out into form as paintings or drawings or collages evolve, arise, appear.

I view my own studio, when it is running efficiently, as a sort of singular country, a fragile monarchy I suppose, where bits of paper and paint are endlessly contriving against their idealistic queen, who strives toward democracy, perpetually spouting out, "No, you tell ME what I'm doing here! You are after all, the-thing-itself, YOU know what you are!" And still I only get glimpses. This is MY particular studio though, and my daily flailing is only due to the fact that try as I might (and for some reason, when I am less connected to the work I still do try), I cannot head into any creative endeavor with concrete direction. (Is there anything more boring, concrete direction that is?) According to Malcolm Gladwell's very interesting recent article in The New Yorker, I am a "late bloomer." To simplify what he thinks this means, I do not head into making with firmly fixed conceptual goals; I figure/understand by experimenting.

Periodically I become attached to various experiments of mine that somehow seem significant despite their oddness or lack-of-fitting-in-to-the-rest-ness or just plain ugliness.  The image to the right, called Red Scrape, is one such experiment.  I can't quite post it on my website because aligning it with all the other finished, cleaned up images suggests it's value resides in resolve.  On the spectrum of articulation, Red Scrape is a guttural sound, a visceral motion-as-image "drawing" that calls out to me because 

I like the fact that the scraped paint took on a pattern--and a bit of an awkward one.

I'm interested in the fact that pattern is simultaneously gesture. 

I like the fact that the gesture gets undermined by the cut down the near-middle--the narrow seam ruptures continuity, doesn't quite let a gesture be a gesture.  

I like that gesture, when accumulated, takes on shape. 

I am not sure in full why all of these qualities are important to me.  But I do sense Red Scrape is a prelude to more amplified notions--it is a solitary tread into an unknown space, the first dove sent back from the great unknown.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Climax fire

I'm quite taken with this photograph.

My husband Christopher took the photo this evening while burning piles of dropped pecan leaves behind his studio. I've a myriad of close-ups which may make their way into tomorrow's post, but for now this is the one that makes me think of my own studio.

I'm interested in the image because of the burn pile's structure--wide, rounded nest of twigs and brush mounding up from our wild tangle of tough North Carolina crab grass and weeds. And then aloft the twig mound--disintegrating logs (moldy and therefore suspect for indoor fires), those pecan leaves with some rotting pecans still clinging to the branches (they spit and shoot, sending Alex inside to warn me while I stand at our stove, cooking evening's dinner), and the fire--a violent cap to the whole piling.

These are the kinds of structures I look for in my paintings, or invariably end up making--culminating masses which possess an undulating place, a seething moment portending explosion. A new friend, colleague and critique partner, the painter Jennifer Meanley, mentioned violence in the work a couple weeks ago--she perceived it in places, and I was internally astonished at first. I suppose it is the word violent that jarred--but in the end, I am drawn to these collisions of matter and light, eruptions of the most radical sort. Predicting...creating even?

"When protons crash into each other at 99.9999991 per cent the speed of light, the resultant mess is usually just that--the subatomic equivalent of shattered glass and twisted metal. But stranger things can happen. Just as it is possible to convert mass into energy--as in nuclear explosion--the reverse is also true: energy can be transformed into mass according to the Einsteinian equation E=mc2 (c being the speed of light). In this way, new particles can be produced that are more massive than those that entered the collision in the first place."

Elizabeth Kolbert, from the article Crash Course in the May 14, 2007 issue of The New Yorker

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stephanie Backes and photo 21

I am still planted in front of my computer compiling and compiling and listing and gathering and sorting through all I've done these past couple years as a teacher and artist--it is important work to do for my place of employment, and I respect the necessity of it, but...
I am looking with longing at all that is still unfinished on my studio wall (see left), all that is in mid-sentence--would so love to pick up the string and carry on.

So in the interim, a brief look through Beautiful/Decay leads me to temporary aesthetic respite:

Stephanie Backes, a German artist making remarkable and fastidious little (?) sculptures. I'm having some trouble finding more than what I've got linked to her name, but WOW!

And lastly in regards to this post's computer's photo booth function tells me the above photo is actually "photo 21"--hmmm, now what hidden meaning might I cull from this mechanical naming?

Dreaming of my studio in the meantime....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wish I could be writing here..

Well now, isn't this an arty photo?

Sometimes the life of an artist/professor requires temporary immersion in the compiling of most every thing I've ever done at my place of work--this is where I reside for now, and I have little else to post today. More tomorrow, I promise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on taking pictures, visual thinking and Errol Morris

I do not purport to be a photographer (and am made even more aware of that fact recently by my perusals of many a lovely food blog dotted with brilliantly arranged plates of luscious delight; my photos are SO anemic by comparison) but I do take a lot of pictures.

An accurate way to think of these images would be to compare them to my note-taking tendencies. Generally, in a moment of "not sure what to do now" studio flailing or "don't have more than a few moments in the studio before class starts" or "I've got to go pick up Alex, so quick, what's the fastest way I can access my studio mind and keep the thread going" I grab my teeny, aesthetically lovely camera (my criteria for camera-buying) and snap away. Usually I zero in.

To be honest I think the actual photos are secondary to what I see when I view the world through an LCD screen. In graduate school, in order to get a more "objective" view of a particularly cantankerous painting in progress, I would take polaroids. My stacks of old polaroids are not important any longer, save for the nice record of process they afford. As their initial purpose was to hand me a swift gasp of separateness--something I could get ONLY the very first moment they cleared--and I've long since lost that separateness, or rather no longer need it now that those paintings are either finished or abandoned, those images have become a bit sad in their irrelevance.

Now that polaroid film is nearly extinct and more and more pricey when I find it, I've moved to my little digital camera, and I'm still finding the actual photo a little irrelevant in the end. But the looking as mediated by the screen is not irrelevant, and for some reason I cannot dismiss the actual "taking the photograph" as irrelevant either. I am not sure right now why I think taking the photo is significant, though I am intrigued with why I would claim the action as necessary.

And too, all this musing on looking and photographs is swirling about after having read a number of Errol Morris's articles from the New York Times--they are worth a read through and are posted on his website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I am fascinated with the notion of some sort of order underlying all mess/chaos. My fascination probably stems from wanting to believe a kind of logic exists that is able to make sense of even the most incomprehensible glut of matter. I suppose there is romance in the notion, and I'm not opposed to heady ideas from which one never returns, BUT in my studio, it's really just a problem to be solved. (OK, that is a LITTLE simplistic I know, there is a lot more in play, so I promise to return here when my head isn't a muddled mess from a full day of teaching.)

I work on the problem in the studio but also when I'm away naturally--in looking over the piles of cars/trucks/motor vehicles perpetually dotting my house for instance. Endlessly helpful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Inventing a language

In June, about a week after dropping what seemed like a zillion boxes into our much-longed for place in the country, my son came creaking down our wooden stairs, big yellow-papered drawing (covered in blue and magenta embellished amoeba-like ?, little x's or crosses--some filled in and some left open, tornado-ey swirls abounding) in hand.

My husband and I, both abstract painters with four art degrees between us, were floored. Our three year old, ostensibly upstairs taking a nap, had spent his time making the most specific, most focused, most intentional drawing I'd ever seen him make (let alone myself and most of the other drawings I'd happened to see of late), AND it seemed to drop into his head and onto the paper before us with no precedence. (Make a brilliant, idiosyncratic, highly pointed and formally thoughtful drawing today? No problem, just leave a pile of old paper and some crayola markers scattered about will you?)

Before you stop reading this post (because let's face it, is this just another mom waxing eloquent about her 3 year old artistic prodigy?) let me get to my point. I'm not talking about my son because I want you all to tell me how remarkable his drawing is, or isn't for that matter. I post this image and relay June's encounter because what strikes me most about his drawing IS that Alexander made his own language. Maybe this is something all kids do, but the fact is, it sure isn't something most adults do. And given MY dedication to helping many, many people sort out WHAT their idiosyncratic visual language is whilst cultivating my own--despite all our blasted hang-ups, preconceptions, fears, prejudices, educational training/biases, ego-driven confusions, spiritual wranglings, etc.--well, Alexander's ease in making was/is merely/hugely this lovely gift of grace, the promise of what might be, what we all have, what we've never seen but know, and yes, thank you, thank you for it in whatever form it comes.

Thank you too to:

Thomas Noskowski

John Dilg

Tomma Abts

Hamlett Dobbins

Erica Svec

Amy Sillman

Rose Wylie

Hilma af Klimt

Rebecca Morris

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Positing Note-ing

1. I am an inveterate note taker, fascinated with accumulating the incidental.

2. If I record all momentary flash of thought, will I better understand what I am doing, what I am making?

3. Can those bit and pieces--a word, phrase, fragment of a whole--when gathered, approximate/better approach the fullness of my thinking chaos?

4. And then what if all those leaves of letters (when compiled) DO comprise something more. Enough. More than
enough even. More than the initially perceived whole? Part of me really wants the fragment to yield MORE than the whole in the end--because such a result leaves POSSIBILITY in play, wide open?

5. And then what if I cut all the notes apart and begin to construct an overarching structure/construct/scroll-in-a-sense piling all--allowing phrase to bump up against quote in relation to question above or below singular verb and/or noun---all different hands from different times, collapsed and in relation nonetheless?

6. "It is in rereading one's notebooks, especially the old ones, that one discovers the repetition of certain concerns, the recurrence of certain issues, certain chronic themes that are one's own." Lyn Hejinian, from A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking

7. I am interested in a word corollary (a veritable deluge of letters) to my images--not description, not justification, not in-place-of. But a corollary. If these images were not images, but words, what words would they BE, and in what order?

Katherine Sherwood interview

Here's a great little interview with west coast painter Katherine Sherwood--from Beautiful/Decay magazine.

I've also got her web page link posed under Great Artist Links...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some thoughts on collage (1)

I am something of an evangelist for collage. In addition to making sizable collages in my own studio these days, I'm also teaching a class on the history and practice of collage, AND I'm bit obsessed with following it's increasingly frequent appearance in contemporary art. (To that end I do think the New Museum's fairly recent show on collage was a pretty uninspiring "state-of-the-medium" show.)

I've been engaged in making collages since I began studying art at Penn State's School of Visual Art. My obsession with sketchbook-keeping really took off at that point, and making quick, improvisatory collages as often as I could was a major means of keeping my visual mind agile. I still make those kinds of collages as often as I can in my sketchbook, even as I've moved the medium center stage in my studio practice.

What I loved/and love about collage?

1. its propensity toward informality
2. its adamant materiality--oh I love drawing too, but collage is just a bit weightier and I respond to girth--hence my love for oil paint as well.
3. its picture plane trickery flicking us back and forth between illusion and physical actuality
4. collage's materiality necessitates figuring by making/doing. I once heard Jessica Stockholder characterize making as a "kind of thinking"--wow that comment resonated. And indeed, I am most happy/clear when I'm really mucking about in a lot of stuff--it just makes the most sense to my head and hands.
5. collage's anguish-filled relationship to painting--I'm a proponent of combativeness being a means toward re-definition in painting, antagonism coaxing out the fresh mark--collage is just enough of a threat to painting's unblemished, "unalterable" surface to send me spiraling into all kinds of wonderings about where painting could go, what it could be, etc.
6. swiftness
7. when collage is really good it has the capacity to take an object's/entity's original definition and completely re-define what that object/entity IS, fundamentally! Metaphysical brilliance!
8. Mark Bradford.

To end with Picasso's attitude toward collage:
“We must have been crazy, or cowards, to abandon this! We had such magnificent means. Look how beautiful this is—not because I did it, naturally—and we had these means yet I turned back to oil paint and you to marble. It’s insane.”
Picasso to Henri Laurens, 8 July 1948, on seeing one of his collages of 1914 (cited in Kahnweiler, Entretiens avec Picasso, 1956)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Marathon meeting day...

There is little time to write here as I'm moments away from a whole day of 30 minute individual meetings with grad students--fun to look and talk and dissect and maybe (if I'm lucky) give some helpful insight. I look forward to tonight--dinner with good friends, great conversation about the state of the world with glass of wine in hand and roast chicken in our bellies....

But to get my head ready for looking at work and in preparation for some discussion on collage I'm planning for next week's posts, a great quote from Kurt Schwitters:

“Every means is right when it serves its end…What the material signified before its use in the work of art is a matter of indifference so long as it is properly evaluated and given artistic meaning in the work of art. And so I began to construct pictures out of materials I happened to have at hand, such as streetcar tickets, cloakroom checks, bits of wood, wire twine, tissue paper, tin cans, chips of glass, etc. These things are inserted into the picture either as they are or else modified in accordance with what the picture requires. They lose their individual character, their own special essence, by being dematerialized they become material for the picture.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

They're blowing my mind today...

Last week I wrote a bit about my students--feeling inspired by their intrepid determination in tackling what I hand them with gusto, ie. barreling into a 4'x6' drawing in a mid-level drawing class with not much worry.

On Tuesday we critique the drawings they've been working on for over a month now--large scale self-portraits made of collaged drawings. These images have very much been about constructing a face and allowing the image/piece itself guide them in terms of the next step--as opposed to privileging mimetic representation.
We begin by drawing a lot--making a zillion varying contour line drawings from a mirror. After amassing a fair-sized pile of visual information (the raw material) they begin to build their faces. Some incline right away toward a more abstracted rendering, falling quickly in love with layering shape and value and mark (that would be Karen, her remarkable collage not included above) and others stay closer to the mirror (see Michael's version, above right). At some point though, the sheer massiveness of what they must make sets them loose and I can almost see them begin to INVENT--this is when our conversations (my favorite part of teaching) get really good. Misty (above left) broke into her stash of lace and thread, Cassidy posited the notion of a body slapped together in jagged, raw fragments--nearly seeming to emerge from the paper itself, and Craig imaged himself a hundred times over--his face and body receding into a roiling, Ensor-like crowd.

If charged with making yourself from scratch (or a ton of dirty pieces of gritty paper and some glue) what would you make?

What is your idea of mastery?

Another question from Twyla Tharp's "Creative Autobiography" list given to my Variable Topics in Drawing students in 10 minutes:
1. getting to the place where you know risk-taking is essential, though still not easy
2. knowing the direction and committing to going there
3. getting to a point in your work where you understand your basic questions and, regardless of how the work changes and evolves, being able to amplify those questions--delve deeper
4. being on a long-term trajectory and sticking to it--again, regardless of how the work evolves and changes
5. being able to recognize moments of grace in the studio, having moments of grace?
6. surety without complacence or stasis
7. being able to somehow rest in the magnitude of the pursuit without being overwhelmed or deterred
8. deep, deep delight in making--deep, visceral delight in making coupled with the uncanny feeling at times of the material moving of its own accord--of you just being the vehicle (see #5 again)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Website working

I wish I had more exciting things to write about today, but my "day in the studio" is fairly well approximated by the image at right.
Lots of pots of tea.
Staring at my computer screen.
BUT NOW I have a delightful new website, so I guess the rote and fairly boring work of resizing images, changes TIFs to JPEG's and making many, many incremental changes to font, color and layout was worth it in the end.

Do check out the fruits of my labor:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Studio Notes/Afternoon

1. an expanse made of ruptures

2. emptiness populated by fragments--so that the initial ground remains unmarred/empty--that which rests on top populates

3. a center sinking in

4. one emanation above/on-top-of-another

5. a pot of roastaroma

6. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as discussed on Speaking of Faith ("The spirit of the prophets, the message of the prophets is very much's the kind of men who combine a very deep love, a very powerful dissent, painful rebuke and unwavering hope." and "Prayer may not save us but prayer may make us worthy of being saved.")

7. reticence in painting the wall


To the left are two details from a large (6'x8') collage/painting currently in progress. The details show a bit of how these get figured out--through layers that are initially pinned and eventually glued together in sections. I am at a point of reevaluation though because while I used to think gluing them down seamlessly was the way to go, I am now intrigued by the evident layers apparent when they are pinned.

To back up a bit though and talk about all this sorting out in paper...I had a remarkable teacher in graduate school--a painter named Squeak Carnwath. During my first MFA year, I dispensed with oil paintings in favor of making chaotic paper installations all over my studio walls. I was not wholly sold on making my pale version of not-quite-drawing-installation-or-painting; I wanted to make paintings, but I knew I couldn't continue making paintings in the same vein. And the only clear notion I had at the time was the belief that I wouldn't break/change my painting hand unless I sorted it out in a medium apart from paint on canvas. All you learn-paint-by-painting-painters out there are cringing here I know, but I wholeheartedly believe it is possible to redefine/expand notions of painting as a medium by thinking about painting through something apart from the stuff (paint) itself.

But back to Squeak....So I was at once LOVING the making of these paper installations BUT I also knew they were an interim phase to who knows what else. Cluelessness is not a comforting state to claim when one's evaluating graduate committee is coming into the studio, but nonetheless I was clueless about the future--despite my clarity in the present. Squeak got everything completely. And with that inimitable, magical knowing great teachers possess, she grasped what I was doing more than I understood myself. She talked about acquiring knowledge of painting at a "cellular" level, and that all my wrangling with paper and physical space was not me deciding to move into installation art, but rather my means of tapping into a deeper understanding of how to make a painting--through a self-customized method.

I relay a grad school scenario because I'm wrangling with paper again. For the past three years, I've been pinning paper together on my studio walls because the ability to reconfigure, easily and literally take away, and the shifting constructed ground make more sense to me than the fixed support of a canvas or singular piece of paper. In the last week however, I've begun to get glimpses of how my work in paper is once again recasting my approach to painting. I'm thinking about the layering in particular.

Some thoughts milling about for now:
-that layering is just as much about what is covered up as what is perceived
-that layering introduces vertical movement into what had been a real interest in lateral movement--building up in addition to spreading across
-that layering in paper allows for little spaces in between, where nothing physically resides but which are nonetheless critical spaces in the accumulation--can there be spaces in a painting where literally nothing resides? What is the importance of that nothingness to the overall whole?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Inspiration at home...

As of late, weekends are not a big time for studio work in our two artist household due to an active three year old who no longer naps. While I used to dread the eventual demise of nap/weekend afternoon studio work, I've decided longing for what is no longer is simply not productive. In actuality, our recent move to the country has yielded a plethora of outdoor inspiration, and I'm just trying to keep my senses open to the constant evolution of textures, amassing, repetitions and chaotic/natural modes of ordering.

For one, my husband recently planted two large areas of buckwheat in what will be our vegetable gardens come spring/summer. Supposedly the buckwheat, when turned into the soil at the end of the season, will enrich our land even more--a good prelude to the veggies we hope to cultivate. I love the expanse of tear drop leaves cropping up with more green force each day.

To the left of the buckwheat shoots is our ever-growing stick pile--kindling for the fires we three all long for as the evenings cool.

And lastly, a shot of our first barrel of collected black walnuts--now full. We'll begin filling another tomorrow afternoon and then wait for them to rot. Already some of those turning deep, deep brown indicate the rich black walnut ink we'll be rewarded with after our wait. I'm already thinking of the drawings that will be made with this eventual ink from our own back yard.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Remarkably Wordless Eva Hesse

I've been in a love affair with Eva Hesse since about 1993--when I first encountered her work in Lucy Lippard's fantastic black and white monograph. At the time I'd just begun college and, being that I'd grown up in a rural part of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I hadn't had a ton of exposure to artists un-co-opted by those mass-marketing entities so adept at, for instance, slathering Van Gogh's Starry Night across coffee mugs and tote bags. (They've never quite gotten around to seeing the positives in disseminating Eva Hesse's visceral, atonal oddities in quite the same way thankfully.) I found Lippard's book in Svoboda's Bookstore--a remarkable State College institution no longer in existence, it's demise the result of all the usual factors of course--and though I'd never heard of Eva Hesse and furthermore, found her work incredibly jarring and hard to even SEE initially, I bought the book and read it cover to cover at my parents' dining room table over Christmas break.

I recall being absolutely astonished by the work in the midst of what also was a kind of repulsion. Its adamant materiality overwhelming and RE-DEFINING the minimalist grid--pumping blood and mess into those seemingly unwaveringly straight strictures--well, I'd never seen anything like it before. I found myself (in a way) wordless--consumed fully by their idiosyncratic visual presence. That quality of "Eva Hesse wordless-ness" continues to be a propelling factor in the art love affairs I've had since Hesse (Lee Bontecou, Mark Bradford, Pierre Bonnard, Fra Angelico, Manet's little still-lives) AND I tenaciously search for it in my own studio.

But wordlessness is elusive in the midst of making. We are all highly adept at naming and sorting out the world around us--so to remain suspended in a place where you cannot speak about what you see is endlessly challenging, and in my opinion, a major reason to keep working. My tactics toward the goal of constant invention/re-invention/surprise/visual-bafflement-that possesses-surety-nonetheless/clear chaos are varied, but here are three I can think of for now.

1. Negating originary source (I am constantly painting with a purpose in mind that is then denied when that initial painting on paper is cut up, reconfigured and forced into new definitions/new proximities, never quite allowing the originary meaning/intent to have its day.)

2. Knowing and unknowing alternate. But what is necessary is that the un-knowing be full, complete (and not be sly knowing in diguise) with all its attendant frustrations and confusions.

3. Navigating the barrage. (I tend to pile on the colors and shapes, so much so that I am lost--or hope to be, whether I always am is getting harder and harder to insure as time and work goes on--and now must make a way out/invent a way out of what should not be given the time of day anyway.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?

A bit of background: I'm literally in the midst of teaching an intermediate drawing class--Variable Topics in Drawing. I've opted to teach the class with a Writing Intensive marker--something our students need at this university--and so we begin each class with 10 minutes of informal writing. We write about our work, other people's work, issues pertinent to collage (our drawing topic), and here and there I've also been giving them questions from Twyla Tharp's Your Creative Autobiography list. Today's Twyla Tharp question: Does anyone regularly inspire you?

I've got five more minutes.


My students in this class for one--they are currently wrapping up a 4'x6' collage self-portrait--some approaching representation, some totally giving way to abstraction and fragmentation. For many this work is the most ambitious image they've ever made, and they do not balk. I am inspired by their willingness to dive off the cliff, so to speak. They may not know how big of a cliff it is--and I envy this in some ways--a blithe readiness to rupture comfort zones--with glee and gusto. Why do I feel so haggard in comparison?

This will have to be "Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?" part one--as I'm thinking too much and have now used up the remainder of the 10 minutes. Now I've got to get back to teaching/talking/looking.
the index project, 2008
(one version in the Greenhill Center, Greensboro, North Carolina)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sleepless start

My first post is the result of an unusual bout of insomnia. At 2:30 am, I recall why I have pointedly NOT chosen to drink coffee--even through the intensities of undergraduate and graduate art study. Caffeine is unpredictable in my body, and so this lover of sleep who nestled so easily under the covers much, much earlier finds herself wide awake at 2:30am--and in final decision of what I should call this pesky blogging idea that will not disappear despite my rationalizations over why I should NOT start blogging--
1. too little time
2. perhaps too consuming (THIS as I warily eye my piles and piles of journals begun when I learned to write and only slightly tapering off post the birth of my first child three years ago--yes I have a predilection to record and just how far will my impulses take me into the dratted blogosphere, that slippery slope of self creation/invention?)
3. isn't a piece of paper and the perfectly selected pen just NICER? (after all I am a painter who paints mostly because of a love affair with the stuff itself)
4. and well, what would I even call the whole endeavor to begin with anyway? (so can't get that blog going for now, better make another drawing or maybe fold the laundry)

Thank you singular cup of coffee drunk at 9am this morning. And thank you Alexander for waking me up in the first place.

I'm calling the blog studio index because I'm interested in a place to
ALL the supporting
ideas/images/flickering clarities and non-clarities/tangents/addendums/musings/notes/words/bits
that pass through my studio over the course of any given day--whether I am actually IN my studio or not--because very simply I want to know what it all means. About a year ago I tried this idea out through another gathering of images called the index project--which now physically comprises more than two-hundred pages of Xeroxed sketchbook pages, Xeroxed notes, quick collages, fragments of colored paper and other studio ephemera. You can view some pictures of the index project above. I wrote about this project awhile ago:

Indexical Record
Fascinated by the exuberant, hearty rhythms of my studio life, and convinced of
the significance of ALL studio activity (however informal) I’m many months into a
project loosely titled the index project—as it is an indexical record of my work’s
supporting imagery and ideas. the index project is an attempt to gather together and
privilege the generally private, unconsidered outer reaches of my studio life, as well as
the full range of images moving through my thoughts in the course of working.

Physically, the project comprises more than two-hundred pages of Xeroxed
sketchbook pages, Xeroxed notes, quick collages, fragments of colored paper and other
studio ephemera. The pages are not bound, thereby allowing for easy reshuffling as new
pages arise. Materially, my use of the Xerox machine is a way of unifying the
disparate pages in size, but it’s also a relevant conceptual tool. The Xerox machine’s facility in quick, easy reproduction, its informality, and its ease in making endless amounts of images allow me to generate pages swiftly—emphasizing accumulation and inclusion instead of edited selection. I am interested in the paradox of locating comprehension within the nearly incomprehensible glut of imagery and ideas permeating the index project. As more pages are generated, and the loose bundle of paper comprising Index is reshuffled, might a kind of “order” emerge amidst the scattered, fragmentary accumulation?

It seems to me that a blog format is actually nicely suited to this whole exploration--maybe a bit better actually than the Xerox machine.