Friday, October 26, 2018

7 Women 7 Walls

This should be a great show at the Spotlight Gallery of the Vermont Arts Council.  The opening is on Friday, November 9, 5 to 7 PM. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Video of Artist Talk at AVA

Here's the video of my talk at AVA last week (text and still images in the previous post).

Those mirrors behind me are wonderfully reflecting the people in the audience (and cars going by outside)!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Artist Talk at AVA

Last Thursday, September 27, I gave an artist talk at AVA that I called "Why Do They Do It?". Here are a few photos and the text of the talk. The exhibit ends today.

Thank you all for coming! It has been such a treat exhibiting here at AVA, which is so similar, in many ways, to Studio Place Arts in Barre, where I have my studio. Mila has been wonderful. She did a great job of hanging the show (meaning, literally, hanging eleven pieces from the ceiling, a challenging thing to do! Thank you, Mila and Gen!

My intention is to talk for about 10 minutes, and then open it up for questions and comments, after which I'd love to take anyone who's interested through the exhibit and talk about individual pieces, if we can all wend our way through the thicket of sculpture in there! There's a lot going on in each of the sculptures, and I have things to say about the materials, the construction, and what I was thinking about in each piece.

The working title for my talk today is "Why Do They Do it?", the "It" being Art. This is, interestingly, a two-pronged question. OK,  Question number one is why do artists make art -- is there a common experience for artists with respect to their impulse to make this thing we call art, and, specifically for me, what in me or in my background might have led me to this place.

The second question about why artists do it is a cultural question -- what is the function of art in the world? Does the world want or need art and, if so, why do we do it for public consumption?

I have talked about the Artist Why  with lots of artists, and the consensus seems to be that artists feel they have to make art, it's something they are somehow compelled to do, it's something they can't not do. For myself, I have always made things, fiddled with things, put stuff  together with other stuff.  Who knows whether this is influenced by nature or nurture or both, though I've thought about it.

My mother, When she was a girl, floated down the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida in a boat she made out of a bent Coca-Cola sign,  two-by-fours and stolen tar. Later as a young mother, when my Naval officer father was gone for extended periods, she built a Heathkit amplifier and phonograph, and block-printed her own drapes. After my father died testing a plane, she remarried an artist in Santa Fe named John McKinney who was an adobe builder. He made doors and furniture out of weathered and salvaged wood. In one of his more outrageous projects, he took all the doors off the kitchen cabinets in a house they had just bought, and completely changed them by using a scroll saw to create lines, and cut shapes backed by different colors of burlap.

I describe these things because I think it's important to point out that Making -- actually using your hands and tools to make an object (whether it's a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional object) -- is the most basic reality and requirement in the production of art. As I was growing up, I was surrounded by people in Santa Fe who made things -- houses, sculptures, poems, theater, music, and food. And many, many people now seem to live in a virtual world, where there's an electronic interface between them and the physical world. Many people don't make anything at all, even dinner.

And now, the cultural question about what the function of art might be in the world. When I was growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there were three ethnic / SLASH /cultural groups in the community, Native American/Indian, Hispanic/Mexicans, and Anglo/Gringo, each with a strong visual arts presence -- the Native Americans made turquoise and silver jewelry, clay vessels, and did weaving and some traditional leather crafts. The Hispanic community's primary artworks were santos, cristos, and other religious carvings. And the Anglos, mostly imported from other parts of the United States, were those artists on Canyon Road. What was the social value for the artwork in each of these arenas? Of course commerce, the exchange of money for art goods, is the most obvious, and easiest measure to quantify, and each of these three groups had pride in their own work and found it valued in the marketplace as well.

But is it just about money and about the desire to possess objects, or is there something about this category of goods we call art that is as necessary and compelling for the observer as it is for the artist?

Yes. I believe art speaks to viewers in symbolic, allusive, non-verbal ways that bring artist and viewer together in a kind of embrace in a shared space between them. Which brings us back to the importance of Making -- the artist forming, painting, pressing a print. So, just as the physical body of the beloved is enrapturing, it is the hand of the artist, the physical hand of another human being, present in the art object, that calalyzes that embrace. This is what makes an original artwork, seen in its original form, different from a reproduction, whether a digital or 3D print or online image. It's as though there's still some kind of art pheromones attached to the object.

I have sometimes thought that the fact that so many of us live through the intermediary of digital technology and have experiences that are pretty exclusively in our heads, may explain the ascendancy of conceptual art, in which the object is of no importance in itself, and both the artist and viewer are sealed in private bubbles of deconstruction.

For my own part, I love stuff, I love picking it up, attaching it to other stuff, feeling its resistance, and then watching it rust or fray or crumble into dust, which is the common fate of all stuff, even the stuff of us. Art for me is not about eternity; it is a way of being present right now in the world. Artists make art to try to be awake and alive, and the function of art is to offer the same opportunity to others.