Friday, April 30, 2010

The Why of Art

I find questions about the what and why of art silly; what does it matter? We have been doing it since we could scratch on a cave wall with a rock. I do have some thoughts about my own why and wherefore so stay with me if you are interested.

My question is why the need? Why do I feel deprived when I have to give time to marketing my work, going out for groceries, dealing with a plumbing problem or anything that steals the time I want to be in my studio? I feel robbed and unhappy. What is that about?

My answer is that while I love my life and the world around me and the people in it, none of it is perfect. Far from it. I cannot control much nor make my life or anyone else's happen as if I were directing a movie. But in my studio I can create perfection. To my own standards, of course. Whose could be better? I can make a painting that has all the characteristics that I hunger for. Today it will probably be something in flawless balance and harmony, heart-stoppingly beautiful. If I can make something that fits that description, I am momentarily complete and probably more than a little tired. If I can't create that to my own satisfaction, I will try again. And again and again. So I get up every morning wanting and needing to create perfection and am mortified if life gets in my way with a leaking water heater, a power outage, or if business matters require my attention.

Aristotle said: Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature's unrealized ends.

The image above is Moss ©2008, Acrylic & Mixed Media on Museum Board, 17 x 12". For information about any of the paintings on this site, please email Joan.

Friday, April 23, 2010

About the Bliss of Art

When I was seventeen years old in my first sculpture class, in ignorance and arrogance I chose to work on a chunk of marble. I had not the vaguest notion of working in three dimensions and even less of chiseling stone. Fortunately our instructor was intrigued with my project and guided me through it. I saw a baby in the shape of the stone and planned to make it visible. It was to be a fetus in spite of teacher and student friends considering that an ugly, unsuitable subject for my sparkly, beautiful block of marble. Life magazine had recently published the first photos (this was 1951) taken of a baby before birth and I was smitten.

What followed was my first experience of the bliss of being totally absorbed by a creative venture. I ate, drank and slept that baby. I stayed after school, got in early, spent my lunch hours in sculpture lab. It was hard not to be there. It took the entire school year and was a great success; how could it not be when it was born of such devotion? I got an A+, lots of applause and the piece was chosen for the annual school show — where it was stolen, the first robbery of its kind since the school opened in 1859.

I was proud of that. I would have been devastated if it had been taken before I finished with it, but it was over and done and well photographed. I missed the sweetness of the project but I was blessed to know it again and again later in life, though never with quite the same intensity. My only grief is not knowing who took it. All these many years later, I still want to know.

"A longing for excitement can be satisfied without external means, within oneself; for creating is the most intense excitement one can come to know"
Anni Albers

Friday, April 16, 2010

About Autonomy

What I do in my studio is about freedom. In order to get by in this culture we need to conform to lots of rules. Our civilization would go to hell without them. Everybody that I consort with is clean, polite and most of the time discreet. We try to be responsible for ourselves and kind to each other. We brush our teeth and don't go to the grocery store naked. Not often. But when we write or paint or make music, we can do it any which way the spirit moves us. It is the place where we can be everything we are, rules and toothbrush be damned.

While I value the art school experience that was mine, I have consciously discarded some of the learning which was restrictive. Of course, it is helpful to know the rules before breaking them, kind of helps you to understand what you're doing. Conflict arises when those who have become supporters and purchasers of one's work spurn it as it evolves into something less familiar. The question then becomes a choice between moving ahead or pleasing one's audience and allowing the work to atrophy — and the freedom to become captivity.

Writer John Updike said: What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit.

The image above is Biscay ©2008, Acrylic & Mixed Media on Museum Board, 17 x 12". For information about any of the paintings on this site, please email Joan.

Friday, April 9, 2010

About the Labor of Art

I have read and also been told that the shorter the blog, the more likely that it will be read. You would think that short would be easy, but no, not for me. If one is attempting to explain or describe, doing so in few words requires great skill. I beg your forbearance, herewith my first attempt at brevity.

There is the work of art and there is the labor of art. In this case the work is the result of the labor. A long time ago an in-law I was already not fond of made a comment about how easy I had it because I could paint all day. Needless to say, I liked him even less after that comment. Being a full-time artist requires discipline and dedication especially if the artist has to spend time away from her studio to market her work and do all the promotion involved in gaining an audience. In extreme cases she might even resort to writing a blog.

Of course there is also the behind-the-scenes-labor; for the painter there is preparing the surface of canvas or paper to be receptive to the media, investigating and testing materials, writing the "artist's statement", getting the studio in shape for visitors, framing or mounting, washing brushes or cleaning up whatever tools are used. We are not even talking here about the learning it takes to make a painting of any strength. I could go on and on with this rant, but I said brief, so that's all she wrote.

Maya Angelou said: Nothing will work unless you do.

The image above is Madeira ©2008, Acrylic & Mixed Media on Museum Board, 16.5 x 12". For information about any of the paintings on this site, please email Joan.

Friday, April 2, 2010

About Mixed Media

Mixed Media can mean anything, depending on who is doing the mixing. Wikipedia says: “Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media. For example, a work on canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage could properly be called a "mixed media" work."

That definition needs amending: Mixed Media now can include some of the technology I spoke of in Art and Technology. And the materials artists choose to use often include a great many that could not be referred to in the same sentence as "traditional". These days all kinds of debris is recycled in astonishing ways. Robert Chamberlain pioneered using car crash remains into powerful sculpture starting in the fifties. In addition to paints, pastels and such, some materials commonly used are found objects, photos, fibers, buttons, sticks, leaves and fabric.

The advantage of mixed media is, of course, that each of the substances used imparts some of its distinct characteristics which gives the painter a greater gamut of choice and ability to realize her vision. Or to experiment as many of us do — just to see what will happen. The collage process is of wonderful service when color juxtaposition is critical. The term "mixed media" is new but combining materials to realize the maker's intentions is not.

Another thought: While some of my friends are artists, many are not. I used to be a teacher and now I've discovered that I like to write about those aspects of art that I am familiar with or have some opinion about. My original intention was to exhibit here the miniatures I make and now I am building another site for that purpose. One of these days my computer is going to open up and suck me in as the whale swallowed Jonah.

The image above is Structures ©2009, Mixed Media on Paper 8.5 x 11" each. For information about any of the paintings on this site, please email Joan.