Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing very accomplished potter Peggy Louden, DesignCraft Heroine: Peggy Loudon | handful of salt , speak of her work and show slides of the beautiful objects she creates. What was special for me was to hear her become animated as she spoke of the curve between the wider, lower part of a bottle and its neck. That vision, attention to a curve, a shape, or a line is the kind of nuttiness that makes a work of art spring from ordinary to extraordinary. It is out of balance with the rest of life. As my friend Richard used to comment (somewhat paraphrased), what nonsense is this that we spend our time making marks on canvas? When all hell is breaking loose in several parts of the world, people getting shot at as they struggle for better lives, we sequester ourselves in the safety of our studios and close out the world as we struggle to get the right color or texture. The only way I can see this as any kind of reasonable operation is to remember the images on cave walls and the amazing fact that prisoners in the death camps of WWII made drawings with whatever materials they could scrounge together. The explanation, for me, is that it’s just something we do. It's built into our humanity.
Peggy’s operation as a potter is much like mine as a painter and probably like that of artists in all kinds of disciplines. It is the focusing on a vision, fine tuning, varying, embellishing, and working with it not totally formed in the mind, until it becomes real. Towards the end of her talk, Peggy spoke of simplifying her creations. What that means to me, if I understand her through my own work, is to remove from the object, the vase, bowl, bottle, painting, novel, or sonata, everything that is extraneous. Purification and cleanliness is the goal. Yves Klein’s monochromatic paintings are clean and pure and to the point. Most of us want something more from a work of art but there is something very satisfying in seeing how far simplifying can take us and some of us need to go that route even though it has been done before by others.
Many years ago when I was just beginning to exhibit my work I imagined walking into a gallery at some point in the future and seeing my own work on the walls. The idea was to raise a picture in my mind of how I wanted it to look. Well, here I am, after all this time and still I haven’t painted what I envisioned back then. What I saw in my future was a large canvas, just one, that was variations on one color. It was a deep and misty violet. Sort of smokey.
I am getting on in years. I am going to get to work on that painting. I do not want to leave it undone.
The image above is INTERVENTION, ©2002, Acrylic and Mixed Media Collage on Canvas, 31” x 35”