Friday, September 26, 2008

it's not easy raising the dead

Those of you following along at home may remember the mention of the death of my sculpture “Beauford” earlier this summer. If not, just pretend I placed a link to that entry here and scroll back down to July and read about it. Since I felt that I could have used the imagery better, I set about the task of disassembling “Beauford” and searching for better solutions to the visual communication problems. With a sketch and some good ideas swirling in my head I started on resurrecting the sculpture in early July.

Generally speaking, I can turn out a new large sculpture in about three weeks. Those of you familiar with my schedule will realize that does not mean 21 days of working, rather it means about 5 or 6 days of actual time in the metal shop over the course of those weeks. I am very impatient and even this relatively quick progress can seem to me to drag on forever.

But this one…this one almost killed me.

It took just over two months to complete this resurrection. I ran through all of my good ideas and realized after spending hours creating and attaching them that they were not such good ideas after all. Several dramatic changes in direction followed. A lot of steel was used. A couple of hammers were thrown in anger. I even had to venture into the research of some branches of aesthetics. And there were unfounded rumors of some sort of mild case of heat exhaustion (I maintain that I was just tired for several days).

One of the greatest experiences of this almost eternal process was the uncertainty. I’m supposed to be an artist – a professional – and yet there were so many days I left the shop in frustration fully convinced that I had no idea what I was doing. At times I just wanted to toss it all in the scrap bin and start on something I was more sure would be a success. Like everyone else, I wanted to go back to what I “knew”. Growth is overrated anyway, right? But I kept going back and kept working at it determined that I’d eventually figure it out. Each new choice I made was huge and each time I decided to try an idea, it always seemed to be an action that would either work perfectly or completely destroy the entire sculpture.

The result is “Stinky”; a sculpture that shares some similarities with my previous work in terms of its fabrication and its reliance on the design fundamentals yet it is a sculpture that stands out in stark contrast when compared to my other work in terms of color, texture and mood. It is a step in an unknown direction – a direction that I expect to explore and continue to learn from.

Will people like it? I’m not so sure. But I know that something does not have to be pretty in order to be beautiful.

There are some photos on the website, so go over and have a look and see what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

october ball

I dont want to jinx anything by talking about it.

The first playoff series begins at Wrigley Field on October 1.

and announcers: can you please go easy on the whole "it's been 100 years since the last time they won a World Series" stuff? I know you think it's a great story, but everyone who really cares has just about had enough of it already.

Friday, September 19, 2008

nobody expects the spanish inquisition

A student uttered a wonderful sentence to me recently.

She said, “I don’t know.”

I can’t get used to a scene that repeats itself each semester almost without fail. The students are trying to get a feel for my boundaries and using testing questions to see if they find me an instructor they can trust to provide them with constantly correct information. This goes on until I prove myself worthy or unworthy and always in the course of this interrogation they get around to finally saying something along the lines of “well you just know everything, don’t you?” or “are you ever wrong about anything?”. Oh yeah, it’s loaded with sarcasm but it’s also revealing something they’ve learned from or about teachers over the years of their educational experience.
I feel that it’s important to quickly let them know that I do not know everything. I am not always correct. Do I have a lot of visual art information crammed in my head? Sure. Do I have a large number of years of experience working in sculptural and drawing materials and in using problem solving to create art? Sure. But even though this is my area of concentration I do not walk around with all the correct answers to all questions sitting on the tip of my tongue. This is art. There are no handy formulas to always provide the artist with the right solution to a given problem. Each drawing and each sculpture I make is about exploring and trying new things and working and reworking to see if I can find a way to communicate a particular idea in a non-verbal fashion.

This idea seems to match up with older artists working late into their careers. I see no evidence that even those we refer to as “masters” ever arrived at such an artistic nirvana where they never had to really work at problem solving any longer. It seems that Rauchenberg, Oldenburg, and yes, even Picasso and DaVinci were involved in asking questions and trying new things long after they were established as “greats”. Perhaps this art thing is a race that one can never finish. Maybe finishing is not the point.

“I don’t know” should not be an ending, it should be a beginning. The uttering of that statement should be the point where learning actually begins. We don’t know, so we look it up. We ask someone. We try something we’ve never tried before. We take a bit of advice and run with it.
The multitudes of things that I do not know push me toward research. For several months I’ve been interested in possible connections between the Divine and Aesthetics. Following these ideas has forced me into reading about Theology in general and Theological Aesthetics in particular. Last week I sat down with a copy of The Holiness of God, a nice little extended essay by David Willis containing a chapter of interest called “The Holiness of Beauty”. My learning started fast…beginning with a truckload of words in the first paragraph I had to look up in the dictionary. I felt only slightly better about myself when several of those words proved to also be foreign to the folks at Webster. I also learned that Mr. Willis is the Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary which meant I was attempting to read far above my grade level. And let me tell you, it’s tough to get the meaning of a sentence when you have to stop and look up every second word. I think even my dog felt bad for me as he sighed deeply and buried his head in the couch. He can be very condescending.

Do I know everything? Not even close. But with the help of my dictionary and my curly-haired friend who just happens to be a PTS graduate, I’m going to learn some new things about beauty. It’s going to take a while, but I’ll learn.

And that student? She’s going to learn some things about Design.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Update on Clara

Clara won 3rd Place in the 9th Annual Will's Creek Survey!

I suppose this means that if the 2 higher runners-up are unable to serve or find themselves the subject of some internet photo scandals she could reign in their places?

See photos of the exhibit here: Gallery Tour The Allegany Arts Council

*Clara also pulled in the "Sophia Brill Art Award for Playfulness"

Friday, September 5, 2008

that clara

She's at it again.

If I knew how I'd insert a link here to the very first E-Sketchbook post, you could click it and see an image of Clara in all her green glory. I suppose you can still see it, but you'll have to work a little harder.

If you're going to be in Maryland during the next month, and come on, you know you've always wanted to on over to the Allegany Arts Council's Saville Gallery in Cumberland and visit Clara. She's there as a part of the 9th Annual Will's Creek Survey Juried Show. The show opens Saturday night (9-6-08) and runs through October 3.