Thursday, September 30, 2010


Futzing with my I-Phone and Photoshop tonight and still thinking about whether the use of non art materials is too trendy, too gimmicky and, so too passe.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Doubts and more Doubt

I like my current project. But ... I might be the only one who does.

I wonder if other artists feel this way. When I make a drawing on paper, it's a drawing, something tangible, material, transferable. People understand it (even if, perhaps, one does not subjectively care for the image presented). Drawing directly on the wall is recognizable, though ephemeral and not transferable (though it can be mimicked at alternate sites, hence conceptually transferred). By holding to its prior identities, the work I currently am doing feels less easily recognizable as drawing, though, being comprised of objects, it is transferable.

Caffeine IV opened last night at Murphy Hill Gallery, work by 47 artists with the Artists' Breakfast Group. Good turn out, good conversations. Lots of excellent art.

I spent the week-end questioning my direction, principally as always its ephemeral essence, and the reality that I don't always succeed at achieving the impression I am after. There's probably a way to fabricate the same visual effect and balance between drawing and scupture that I am after, out of more durable materials, some sort of plastic to sculpt (without melting)? But conceptually, I would lose the prior identity of the material as a thing to push away from yet retain.

Saw a workable display option at McDonald's of all places -- an acrylic light box type display they had placed in front of the cash registers to advertise their new drinks. This looks like what they used, except they must have lowered the price by buying in bulk.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Drawing Series: Out of Bottles

Decided to fill my Artprize sketchbook with bottle inspired drawings -- actually using a pencil, here a No. 4B with the casing splitting (first pencil I found); the marks are crisper in the photo.
(text 1: "the space is undecided 9/24/2010"; text 2: "a lack of definitive choices 9/24/2010")

Artprize 2010: Variations and Lessons

I spent four days working on my Artprize installation, the first time I migrated Materia Incarnation to the outdoors. The original intended location of the work in trees/bushes, coming over concrete barriers by the trees/bushes at the site (based on photos of the site), did not work out: the trees and bushes I could get to were not strong enough to support the bottles, which when amassed end up being heavier than I had thought. So, I had to adapt. I ended up pretty far from my own aesthetic, which in itself, is something for me to think about as I look back on the experience now and later.

I had to attach the bottles to a fixed object -- or they would fly away in the first breeze. I used a light pole and brought the bottles up and around the poll. I did not have enough to go up the whole pole, or a good way to attach the bottles with gaps between them (which would be more in keeping with their intended installation), and I had to use too much wire to make the bottles secure from the weather; the form morphed with the weather -- a storm took away some bottles. Several people who saw me installing really wanted the bottles to go on every light pole -- that would have looked so much better and integrated the site more completely. I did not have enough bottles or time.

I learned so much. At first, I thought I'd never try working outdoors again; now, with a little time passing after the installation, I'll take what I learned and put it to good use for the next outdoor installation. Some parts of the piece work really well and just as I envisioned -- the bottles catch sunlight and project colored shadows when the sun comes out; adapting the work to the site produced conceptual direction -- the bottles circle a pole as a fixed center, like a sundial -- that was not present in my original conception for this migration of the Materia elements.

Art with non-art materials: The Gimmick Danger

I use so many non-art materials in my drawing and installations -- the material(s) have identities separate from art and I am interested in pushing them away from and perhaps nudging them back toward those identities, both as units and as parts of larger migrating pieces. For example, how little or much can one change a form and keep the form's original identity present? Each of us changes every moment, really, in some way, yet basically, we are who we are and were yesterday.

Because I am drawn to playing with non-art materials, I often worry about work being mere gimmick -- its impression unable to extend beyond the supposed newness that it's made of something perhaps unexpected by some viewers looking the artwork.

Such newness is illusory. Artists paint on all kinds of surfaces; found material becomes "art" in all kinds of ways. An artist can have "success" working with non-art materials -- there's Lego art, post-it note art, etc. A look through the website for Artprize 2010 -- face out of corks, giant penny out of pennies, Hokusai's wave out of recycled plastic, etc. -- confirms the fact that there is nothing particularly novel or unusual about repurposing materials into "art": lots of artists use non-art materials. Even the "new" becomes old hat.

I went to an Open Crit at the Hyde Park Art Center. Kerry James Marshall commented that a painting by an artist on a street sign, which juxtaposed the symbol in the sign with a realistic figure painted on the surface of the sign, looked like it was "trying to be art" or what art was supposed to be too much. I'm paraphrasing -- this is the way his comment stuck in my mind. One can see that working in this mode could produce some strong work through contradictory images, but is at substantial risk of being dismissed as a gimmick, as overdone, as "too" incongruous (or pushed another way, potentially too "clever" or congruous); a sign is a sign is always a sign.

In the end, it's what the use of materials embodies.

I'm drawn to the lace wheelbarrows and shovels by one Artprize artist, Cal Lane -- the contradiction between the hard material and the fragility of lace, and they maintain their wheelbarrow and shovel identity. It's clever, but more than clever; the visual and conceptual impressions endure. Makes me crave a plasma cutter -- and skill and appropriate space in which to use one -- and start playing with slicing through metal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010