Friday, August 14, 2015

the summer of waterfalls: installment 4.5 or how goofing off with my family led to a better artist statement

We had another art delivery in Greenville this week and with we couldn't resist the opportunity to walk around Falls Park and hike a little of the Swamp Rabbit Trail while we were in town.  We added Reedy River Falls to our waterfall list earlier in the summer but if you follow the river around the corner there's a nice little second waterfall ledge to enjoy.  

 It's at least worth counting as a half waterfall, though it's just as impressive as some we traveled to see this summer.  That puts us at 30.5 waterfalls so far this summer.

After a good walk and some time taking in the beauty, we grabbed some cold drinks and made our way to the Greenville County Museum of Art.  The GCMA has always been a favorite of mine.  My oldest brother took me there to see the Andrew Wyeth collection way back when I was a teenager.  The Wyeths are pretty much always on exhibit there somehow or another and they are as welcome a sight as an old friend.  These classic, realist paintings are usually well balanced with some really old stuff and a healthy dose of contemporary art.  We went a few months back and spent some time with Jasper Johns.  Jasper was present in the current exhibits as well and he was joined by William H. Johnson, Dave the slave potter, Yoko Ono, Eric Fischl and the kids' favorite, Ron Rozzelle.  They've even opened up new gallery space upstairs and I was thrilled to see my friend Diane Kilgore Condon's exhibit in the "Local Talent" gallery.  Admission is free and Greenville is one of the coolest towns around so I highly recommend you go see this museum any time of year.

I don't know any artists who enjoy writing an artist statement.  The artist statement is a necessary evil in the life of an artist.  If done well, it provides an honest glimpse into the mind of the artist as they create their work.  It declares the intention of the artist.  It answers the "why do I do this?" question that every artist has to answer for themselves.

Visual artists, however, are not writers.  We make artistic things much better than we arrange words on a page.  (See this entire blog for evidence.)  In fact, our relationship with words is a very tense relationship anyway.  Most of us feel that words are constricting.  They fit us and our purpose like a tight wool sweater, all itchy and gross.  Most of us probably agree that if words were adequate in expressing our ideas we would just spend our time typing instead of drawing.  Still, we are forced by galleries and exhibitors to wrangle some words together as a means of clarifying our purpose.  

This summer I've entered tons of shows and exhibits and most of those required an artist statement.  I fully believe that brevity is my friend in this endeavor but even so, I found myself trying to edit my old statement down to few enough words to fit the listed requirements this summer.  As I wrestled with what to leave in and what to leave out, I really started to question the accuracy of my words.  I started to see that it was time for a new declaration of my artistic intent.  Of course this was terrifying because the last thing I want to do in summer is write about my art.  And while I spent a good portion of my summer making new things, I have this general feeling that I did a lot of goofing off with my family this summer.  (See this entire blog for evidence.)  I was thinking about this one night while lying in bed and I started to see things from a different perspective.

As the full time summer babysitter, I'm not content to keep the kids busy or out of my way.  Because I'm also a parent, I feel the burden of responsibility to help my kids become good people, good citizens of the world.  The whole waterfall idea was more than just taking the kids to cool places.  It was rooted in the need to help my children learn to see and appreciate beauty.  I can certainly see both sides of this when we go.  We walk the trails and listen for the growing sound of rushing water.  Sometimes the kids can't hear it over their own chatter.  We walk and watch for every example of wildlife.  Sometimes the kids are too busy jumping to notice.  We stand in front of a divinely beautiful free fall of water and we feel the cool rush of wind on our faces.  Sometimes the kids cant really see it because they just want to eat a snack.

I've finally learned that it's all beautiful.  The sounds of nature, the wildlife, the waterfalls AND the chatter, the jumping and the snacks.  Heck, there was even beauty in the nasty little motion sickness incident.  Each place, each moment was beautiful.  

My hope is that Blue and Violet will remember The Summer of Waterfalls fondly when they are adults.  I'm realizing, though, that it may not be the waterfalls we all remember most.  Perhaps the things that will stick with us are the sweaty uphill conversations about Legos.  Or the seemingly natural way Violet gets out of the truck and grabs for my hand as she walks.  It might even be sharing the beauty of a peanut butter and jelly and some cookies on a big rock while talking about flatulence.

These are not the things I plan for us when I lay out a waterfall trip.  Yet, without these things each waterfall would be completely meaningless.  These common, ordinary moments have a transformative affect on me, on us all.

I clumsily tapped out a rough draft that night in bed on my phone.  I corrected and sured up those ideas in the weeks since and while I may not have finished a new sculpture or drawing in several weeks, I did manage to finish the new artist statement.

 Artist Statement 2015

My work attempts to find beauty among the ordinary.
Working with common materials like plywood or steel, I seek to use those materials as transmitters of sublime concepts, mirroring the idea that ordinary people can be transmitters of sublime actions.  Using everyday moments and experiences as a starting point, I strive to highlight their uncommon beauty and draw attention to the possibility of their transformative teaching.

Violet and Blue at the GCMA

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