Monday, August 24, 2009
"A Creature's Gameboard"
I was super excited to be able to see my friend Ashley Smith's newer work this week on e-mail. I rarely get to see what she's making because she has been so busy becoming an art teacher in the far-away land of Buffalo (and she is not as addicted to the internet as I am) that we are at times worlds apart. We were painting/sculpting buddies in undergrad and I still find myself wishing often that she could still be my studio neighbor.
I love the play with painting and sculpture in the piece above. I love the density of the central blob form, full of color and marks. It contrasts beautifully with the green, airy green extension that seems to float upward from the left. The color of the yellow pod-like bit and the white feather on the upper part of the central blob reminds me of a fried egg which I think is awesome! The materials really trasnform themselves which adds to the myatery of what this creature's gameboard could be made of-- I'm guessing it's made of some kind of magical semi-precious stones from the creatures secret lair... and perhaps bones of his green gerbil who died of natural causes.
"Self-Punishment is a Disease"
I was only able to see these two pieces but I can't wait to see the rest when we get to hang out again (NYC is much closer than Japan-- I'm optimistic!) I love the drawing above because it seems to mix a lot of things together into a beautiful, stylish composition: fashion, art, organic growths, science fiction, etc. When I asked her about it she talked about how it she originally made it as a plan/sketch for a sculpture. I think it is a really interesting idea for a sculpture plan but that it also stands alone as a piece. It would be really interesting to compare the original sketch to the physical sculpture. Materials often demand other magical things of the artist that we don't initially expect when making a drawn plan. The magic of making anything! (If we already knew all the answers, why would we want to make it?)
I can't wait to be able to have a crit in person. Thanks, Ash, for letting me post your work!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
("Cool as a Cucumber" eyeglass leash)
I decided to name the eyeglass leash I posted in my last entry, "Seltzer Down Your Pants" because of something my mom used to say: "a little song, a little dance, a little selzer down your pants." I'm not sure where she learned it, or exactly what it means, but it sounds like a bunch of silly fun to me and that's why I like it. I've never poured seltzer down my pants but it has been hot enough in Vermont this week that I'm considering it. I walked down to the town's slow-as-ketchup river, found a shady place to sit and stick my feet in and immediately fell asleep. Heaven! I dreampt there was a river next to our house last night. I think it might have been because my mom and I were talking about the Buddhist idea that the whole universe is inside our bodies. Mom commented that the whole universe is in her property. I have been longing for rivers in this heat but now I wonder if I am also longing to feel more part of a metaphoric river. More flow. More connected. It's a thought...
I love requests for blog entries, by the way. I forget sometimes that there are things I deal with regularly that seem mundane and routine to me but that they are actually things that all artists deal with and therefore are quite vital topics for discussion. One topic is titles (thanks Ash!).
I really like giving my work titles whether it's painting, sculpture or jewelry. It's like giving a person a name and that name gives them a personality and depth. My jewelry is easier to name because I can get away with being whimsical but not so serious. Not as much time, thought or problem solving goes into my jewelry because I have the luxury of not having to question everything; It has to be wearable, not too heavy, and formally interesting. I know not everyone likes my style, so I base ideas of attractiveness on my own taste and intuition. Some pieces are better than others.
Titles for paintings and sculptures are a different story. Some pieces have a couple titles. For example:
This piece was originally called "self portrait." I gave it that name because that's what it was in a literal sense. I looked at a photo of myself and painted from it for a while and then put the image away and just paid attention to what I had already painted while finishing it. "Self Portrait" was a totally unfitting name for a couple reasons. In the end, it didn't really look anything like me (except maybe my crazy hair) but more importantly it had become something on it's own and something much more specific that a vague "self". I happen to believe that we all have many selves. Which one of my selves is this? Once I started to look at what the painting was doing on its own, despite where I started, I realized that the paint looked really toxic and the eyes looked kind of empty or dead. It was still some sort of self, part of me, but what self was it? A toxic self. Then Michael Jackson died. I never realized that he had so many issues with his skin-- ok Duh! He wanted to be white. What I didn't realize is how much he covered himself and his children up. It was like he wanted to hide his skin or to be skinless, like his skin was toxic to him and he didn't want to be in it. My gesture in this image started to remind me of Michael covering up his face and my dead eyes made me think about how thin and sick he was when he died (or parhaps how skin might look if someone wasn't inside it. I decided this was a sort of dream self-- a toxic dream self that had no skin or dreamed of having no skin. Or maybe it was my skin after I left it. It isn't important for anyone to know that my ideas of skin come from thinking of Michael Jackson. I just like the parellel metaphores.
This one was originally untitled. The imagery is so recognizable that I was of course instantly drawn to a concrete title like. "Mikel, Tiny One, Orange Crush and I." My eyes didn't get past the recognizable imagery at first to start to see what was happening in the painting beyond that. I don't like to give paintings concrete names because I think it can be too didactic, at least for my work. The viewer is already being slammed over the head with two cats and two people. You don't need to read a title that tells them the same thing. If I wanted you to see Mikel and I with our cats I would just hang up a photo.
This is when I noticed that it looks like Crush has a tiny flower pot on his head with a long stem growing out of it like a silly, pompus hat. Tiny looks like he has tiny lips with lipstick and a grand feathery necklace. I don't know what's up with Mikel and I but we all look like we're in some sort of bliss-land where our molecules are merging together in some sort of hilarious fruit-salad-like-fiesta. Basically I realized how ridiculous we look and the fun we look like we are having (except maybe the cats?) so I ended up naming it "Sassy Pants and the Good Times Brigade" as if we are some sort of troup out to being good times to all and mix them in with our trippy fruit salad-like life. Sassy Pants is Orange Crush because of his pompus hat. He really is quite sassy in real life. Maybe it's not the most amazing painting I've ever made nor the best title, but the tile does give it a different layer of meaning on top of the visuals.
That's my basic goal in titles: to give another related layer of meaning. Words are a medium just like paint is and I like to use titles as part of the piece rather than something that just tell you what it is. Sometimes I just sit and look at a painting and say, "Ok, what is it doing? Is there a verb that goes with it? Does it remind me of something? If this were a moment in a narrative what would the narrative be saying?"
Not all of my titles are stellar, but I tend to be more connected to the paintings that have more interesting titles. I wonder what other people think about when they title art?
Saturday, August 15, 2009
This is my first eyeglass leash I have ever made and I like it! It was a request from a friend for her mom's birthday but I can't tell you who in the very improbable chance that she reads this. It was really nice to have something to do with my hands yesterday because I had to wait until 3:00 to start driving to Burlington for the opening.
The sculpture didn't collapse! Yay! I'm having a bit of a post opening slump. Mikel reminded me that this always happens. It's a bit anti-climactic to put so much thought, work and worry into a piece and then for it to all be over. Anyway, the opening was really fun. It was great to see some local friends who came out for the show and I got to meet two painters who I am totally excited to know:
Jean-Pierre Roy (www.jean-pierreroy.com)
And Christopher Mir (www.christophermir.com)
They're both art ballers, represented by Rare Gallery in NYC and are both totally in love with painting. I was so happy to be talking to them about their work that I spent two hours in their room of the gallery until I decided I should probably go down to my own piece in case people had questions. They followed me down and gave great feedback on my piece which was some of the better dialogue I've had about it. I keep forgetting how much I light up when I am in my element, able to talk and think about art, especially painting, with people who really love the process and the philosophy behind what they do. It's what I live for, I think. The longer I go without having this experience, the quicker my energy is drained. It's a sign that I am truly doing what I'm meant to do.
It is a very abstract piece so therefore some people don't know how to approach it at first. It is better seen at a more mellow gallery time, not during an opening, and with time to sit with the piece for a bit and to listen to the audio statement that comes with it. I'm not sure what to think of it quite yet beyond what I already thought (that is is what I wanted it to be). In other words, I haven't thought about how it exists outside myself and my process. Once art is shown to the world, meaning is made, usually, independently of the artist. Our art is evidence of our process as creative people but technically has a life of its own once it's out there. I'm curious now to know what that life is like.
Speaking of having a life of their own, I'm reading a great book that I recommend to anyone who like food. It's called Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life Of A Critic In Disguise by Ruth Reichl. She was the New York Times Food Critic for six years and dressed in outrageous disguises so she could dine without being recognized. She would naturally take on a different personality each time she put on a different constume and the way she writes about food is amazing-- I don't eat meat but I love to read how she describes preparing and eating it. Here's the cover:
Some final random news:
My work from 2009 is on my website now thanks to my amazing husband. Check out the more recognizable imagery and let me know what you think! I'm just getting started but I'm digging the fresh rawness of work that isn't fully abstract.
I also wanted to officially tell you what Mikel's job is because the company is SWEET. It's called Flavor Paper (www.flavorleague.com) and he will be designing and hand printing the amazing, delicious wall papers that they sell. I can't wait to see what they're working on once they get their Brooklyn building finished!!
Also, I was accepted at Kripalu Yoga Center to train to be a Kripalu yoga teacher. It is a month long course that I am taking in two two week parts starting in November. I can hardly believe I am doing it but it really seems to fit in my life right now as I have the time and energy to focus on things like yoga, art and teaching.
A year ago this week I was flying back to Japan to start a new semester teaching middle school English. It was an amazing experience but I am now basking in the glow of being here, able to do everything art and yoga related that I've been dreaming of. Mikel found an apartment for us so two weeks from this weekend I will be officially moving to Brooklyn. Yay! I have to think of all of these fun things to pull my brain out of my post-opening slump.
Have a great Saturday!!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Here's a little game you can play if you read this and go to my sculpture exhibit that opens tomorrow at Firehouse Gallery. A little art "I spy": If you can find the part of the installation that was made with part of the above sculpture come tell me (or e-mail me) and I will give you a prize. A hint is that it's broken into two parts, each are in a different place in the installation- if you find one of the pieces you can still have the prize but if you find both you are awesome and should enter a Where's Waldo competition.
It's been a bit slow on the blog front as is expected with the sculpture installation extravaganza I've had this week. I had planned to work on Saturday and Sunday and use Tuesday for final touches (the days were chosen for car availability as I am mooching off the 'rents at the moment). It turned out that I needed to mooch a bit more as I worked all day Saturday through Wednesday. I even stayed until 11pm on Tuesday. I was so enthralled and high strung about this piece that I was having vivid dreams of constructing sculptures in my sleep and of my lights within the piece exploding or breaking and me not knowing what to do. Needless to say, now that it is finished I am totally beat to a pulp. I feel like I am in undergrad again with all of the excitement and stress of making a lot of work in a short amount of time. I love it, though. Making work is what I love to do and it's been a total pleasure to be at Burling City Arts for so many days. It is a truly amazing art center. There wasn't even one moment where I wished I was somewhere else. In fact, I often wished I was back in the gallery once I had left because I was so worried about whatever I could find to be worried about. I asked my mom the other morning, "what am I going to do when I have children if I lose sleep over two 2.4 volt light bulbs?" Anyway, I am working on an audio statement that you can call in on your cell phone to listen to when you are at the show. Fancy, eh? The opening is tomorrow from 5-8:00 but I will be going in early to do final lighting and perhaps do last minute glue-gun magic to settle my nerves-- nothing big! I just can't let go...
If you want to know more about the show you can go here: http://www.burlingtoncityarts.com/firehousegallery/
I wanted to add in that I have checked out most of the other work in the show and it looks awesome. It is really a fresh, inspiring and optimistic show about our "carbon constrained future", a topic that can easily be depressing or dry otherwise. It will be open until October 24th so you have plenty of time to check it out if you miss the opening tomorrow but I would love to see you tomorrow!!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
(these earrings.... hrm. I've been thinking about them a lot lately...)
(Amazing painting I saw this week at Speaking Volumes in Burlington. This artist is really exciting. Check out Greg Mamczak: www.gregmamczak.com)
**Also, by the way, Speaking Volumes is a magical place full of art books, treasures and records. It also has the only old photobooth in Vermont. Mikel and I had our photo taken. The four shots turned out amazing! Check out the joint! www.speakingvolumesvt.com**
As I am preparing to move to Brooklyn at the end of this month my mind and studio are buzzing with a few things:
I am very excited about my upcoming show at Firehouse Gallery. It opens a week from tomorrow on August 14th from 5-8. I have a date with my glue gun and a nice guy named Tyler who will be building me a wall this weekend. This is the first show I have not had to do/build/prepare everything myself. I'm so appreciative of the help and enthusiasm I'm getting from Firehouse folks and really excited to see how the show comes together. There are more than 20 (maybe 24?) artists in the show so it should be a well-rounded dialogue about the changing landscape of Vermont (and really, the whole country!). What a fantastic show to be a part of! If you want more details about this show you can go to www.energyprojectvt.com.
Also, I am looking through all of my stuff. I know I've written this before, but it is truly amazing how much stuff we have aquired. It's not "stuff" so much as art and supplies. I have so many bins of treasures. What to do, what to do.... There is no logic in getting rid of supplies in my opinion because they will be used someday and there always comes a time when I need a green cocktail mermaid, or gold ribbon. There's no reason so buy or find this stuff all over again. The way I work requires a certain minumal amount of bits and pieces around me to play with anyway so it makes sense to keep them. By where? Mostly storage until I have a large enough studio.
I've also been checking out my newer paintings as I find safe places for them and make sure the measurements are correct to be posted online. I can't wait for Mikel to post them on my website! They are so different from my older paintings. I'm very excited about them! I can't wait to get painting in Brooklyn!
Finally, I read Michelle Summer's blog (http://michmashceramics.blogspot.com) this morning and got really jazzed to write about artist statements. I actually really like the challenge of writing a statement and here's why: It facinates me that there is such a gap between what I understand intuitively in my studio and what I can express verbally about what I understand.
Studio practice is ephemeral. Especially if it is flowing, time no longer exists to me and I hardly remember what I was thinking about or exactly what I did. All I have as evidence that I was in there is my the artwork that comes out of it. It feel like I wasn't thinking at all (which, hopefully I wasn't-- at least not in a logical, dry way.) After the work is made, that's the time to write a statement, if not for a show or website, for myself; to try and summon the words to talk about what the heck I just did in my studio and why.
I don't believe it is productive to write any statement before work it made. Making work, to me, is not about fitting it with a statement. Statements are to be fit with work that already exists. The truth is, whether we realize it or not, we are making work for certain reasons beyond the basic image we have for our practice (ie. Just to have fun, to play, experiment, relax, etc.) If we had no specific, unique-to-us reasons, our work wouldn't be worth making to us beyond just as a hobby, because lets face it: if we were just hobby artists we wouldn't be writing statements.
The basic image we have of our practice is important to acknowledge, but this is where the interesting part (and difficult, tedious, time-to-pull-my-hair-out-of-my-head-part) about writing comes in: What am I playing with? Why am I choosing this imagery? These colors? These characters? Why not other colors/imagery/characters? What does my work remind me of? How is my work related to things in the world that I am inspired by? We are usually inspired by things that we want to put into our own work: What is that for you?
If you want to get really tricky (as I usually want to do-- in case there are still hairs left to pull out) you can ask how your work reflects the way you think about the world? For example, "turning trash into treasure" is not just a fun art practice. It is an optimistic way to see the trash around you. It summons ideas about creative problem-solving and the human potential to use trash as a resource. Another example for me is all-inclusiveness. For a long time my work was about absorbing anything that was inspiring to me; any material, imagery, technique, etc. I have shifted a bit away from there recently, but I realise that by writing artist statements about this, I am more aware of why I wanted to be more all-inclusive. It was about trusting my natural process and disabling my inner critic: if everything is included, there is nothing left out and therefore nothing to be criticized. The deeper I dig into trying to make meaning and finding words for that meaning, the deeper I am able to then go when I go back to my studio. I feel like my work is really reflecting my process as an artist and human being and on my bad days, when I look at my work and there is no magic to my eyes, my statements (or sketchbook brainstorms, etc) are like miso-soup for my sick mind-state-- nurturing, stabling and concrete.
Artist statements are ways we make our ephemeral process concrete once in a while. Like swimming and them returning to the dock. Sometimes when we stand on the dock we can see better where we've been and then get excited about diving in again.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Look what we got in the mail today! Our buddy and pen pal Mud sent us this amazing envelope I like to call a "cap-elope". She is a super creative lady with a flair for recycled materials and a passion for mail.
Here is her website: http://mudly.wordpress.com (sorry, no links today...)
Speaking of websites, mine is launched once again-- altered and laboriously improved by Mikel.
The address is: www.meganbisbeedurlam.com
He will be adding my paintings completed so far in 2009 shortly since I finally gave him the official measurements. I don't know what I would do without his help. I also will finally be setting up for the Human=Landscape show at Firehouse Gallery this weekend, for which I have two flashlight bulbs rigged up to electricity and a moving motor. Again, without Mikel's help, I would never be able to rig such a masterpiece up. I like to call him Mik-Gyver.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I have a brief bit of time in which images are available to me this week for blogging. yay! I know my blogs are slower and fewer, but never fret. In about a month I will be living in Brooklyn with my hubby in a fully un-scattered apartment of possibilities.
BTW: A friend recently was wondering what happened to our plans of living a rural life and building a strawbale home, etc. We are totally still down for those plans and actually still planning on doing them. We just happen to be following the flow of our lives right now and that flow has given us an opportunity we can't pass up to live in NYC. Everytime we follow this kind of natural flow, interesting doors open up for us. We're excited to see what those doors are this time.
The painting above is related to my studio tip for today. It is a painting I started in undergrad as a sketch or study. Five years later I took that study back out and finished it as a painting. It doesn't really have the same voice that it had when I started it as I have changed a lot in five years, but the combination of my two voices, five years apart, make for a fresh feeling.
Take out an old piece of work. Even if you feel like you are far from that time in your life, use your "voice" now to have a conversation with your older "voice". See what happens.