From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

a point of consideration

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The end of the semester was a whirlwind.  Somehow I convinced myself that after weeks of academic madness and performing all day on the weekends (dance is my current hobby that keeps my body from falling apart so I can keep doing art) that I would be in shape to just keep going over the break.  Then holidays and family… you know how it is.

Now I’m back with three weeks of break left and I’m back at work on a new large-scale piece  …and now a new twist is added.

basket frontI’ve been invited to do a new version of Identity Tapestry in LA for an art/film festival event at a University.  They are even covering my costs.  …but it happens during the first week of the new semester, I’m in San Francisco and I’ve had very little lead time.   On principle I would love to do it.

I love the piece, it is different every time and I love seeing people engage with it, love getting it out there.  For me there is no upper limit to the number of iterations I will do.  Even were the size, labels and positioning of the labels the same, each iteration is generated by the time, place and people who interact with it and each is unique.

Still… I am faced with a new question, one I’ve been thinking of since the third iteration of this piece.  Can I build most of it and then prepare installation instructions to have someone else install it?  Is this a work I can hand off the final installation of?

As it turns out, physically I can.  I prefer to do it onsite, responding directly to the space, etc. but when it gets down to it, if I have measurements and a drawing or image of the space I can do it.  I can sculpt and dye all the parts and then create a template for the installer to use for screwing in the posts and for which labels go where.  It’s possible, but it’s very strange to have this gap between me and my baby.  Perhaps it’s growing up.

I have thought through this for years now, knowing it would get to this point, wondering how I would handle it, asking myself the hard questions of exactly what needs my touch and attention to still be my piece and what can be under my direction.   It’s something that historically artists have wrestled with for centuries, and one that contemporary artists work with today- the role of assistants and now curators and installers in art.

In this case it’s still fairly simple- everything with my touch on it- the sculpted element of the basket in particular must be done by me.  I must also decide the relationships of the statements.  The one that’s harder is the dyeing.  Right now I wouldn’t let go of it, but I cannot say that if I were doing ten times the amount of artwork and had the budget for it that I wouldn’t train someone else to do the colors the way I would and then pick them from a pile of colors that person dyed.  I’m not there yet, but who knows?  I’ve articulated some of the hand-made vs/ assistant-made in The Roles of the Artist.

I expected this moment to happen, and I’ve been thinking about it with this piece more and more.  I’ve had many people want me to make “kits” of the piece, but I haven’t yet thought of a way to do that that wouldn’t feel wrong.  I’m working on a digital piece based off of Identity Tapestry that would also be interactive… but that’s a whole other thing.  This is me at the point where I can’t actually keep up with or attend the installation of work that I want to see out there in the world.  I won’t compromise my own vision of the piece.  For me, it’s about deciding where that line is.

Written by Mary Corey March

January 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

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