From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Posts Tagged ‘art commentary

Flower installations multiply art?

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Bouquets to Art DeYoung 2009

Bouquets to Art at the DeYoung Museum did a wonderful thing to the museum space.  Each floral arrangement had the potential to rewrite the space and reinterpret the artwork.

Some arrangements  focused on mimicking representational elements of the artwork (floral pieces in the forms of dresses, or flowers arranged inside a bicycle for example).  Others took a tiny detail in the piece and called attention to it by expanding it far out of proportion (and in some cases adding color).

Many fit themselves into the pieces- capturing the color, style and movement in a piece.  Some brilliantly matched textures, and a very few were sculptures in their own right.  One or two floral pieces managed to work off of the entire room of art they were in so that they could be placed in the center and interact with the other pieces from every angle.

It was amazing.

And it put a new context on installation for me.  The floral show was in effect a collaborative installation piece which transformed not only the museum space but the art within it.  It was able to highlight, magnify, re-contextualize, frame, and comment on individual pieces and elements within them.

There is also something appealing about working with a material that is alive and yet already dying.  Transient, and yet so rich and vibrant and full of color.  I would not be surprised if living materials come into an installation piece of my own in time… as long as I don’t get seduced by the process and run off to be a florist.

The aspect of having an installation that so fully interacts with the museum around it is attractive as well.  …it invites a kind of camouflage piece.  That could be a series.  “Camouflaged Intruders”.  It follows the line of thinking I’ve had for some performance pieces I’ve had in mind for a while now.

Thoughts for later… for now, I have other work in process.  I will however go to see this year’s show when it returns next month.

Written by Mary Corey March

March 30, 2010 at 12:58 am

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What is “good taste”?

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Firstly… let’s say that what “tastes good” is a very relative thing.  Yes, there are sensory experiences that humans tend to go for universally by instinct- sweet, human faces,  etc., but culture, individual experience and the intellect can affect significant changes and variations in those raw instincts.

What I want to think about is not what tastes good to a given person or even generally, but what good tasting ability is.  In a relativistic world, I would define good taste as the ability to appreciate subtle differences.  When one chooses a preference based on a more subtle understanding, then the choice is a more refined one, whatever the choice is.

It’s no accident that we use the word “taste” to describe finely discerning.  I have come to equate learning to perceive visual subtleties with the ability to taste wine.  Give a range of wines to someone who has no experience in tasting it and they are likely to tell you there isn’t much difference.  Give it to someone with good taste in wines and they can not only describe the aromas, flavor and finish, but if they are really good they may be able to tell you the vintage. They have learned through practice (and often actual classes) to taste the different subtle notes in the wine- to distinguish vanilla, berries, woods, etc. and can more or less tell you what went into it.

People who don’t have that ability to distinguish might think that the wine snobs are making it up… but it doesn’t hold when the wine drinkers can take the same bottle of wine and taste the same things independently.  Good taste is the ability to distinguish subtly, and it takes time and practice just like anything else, even for those with a natural sense of it.

So what does that mean with art?  On a purely visual level (setting aside concepts and historical references for now) it is the same thing.  Often when I first get a student they can’t tell a warm gray from a cold one, or phthalo blue from ultramarine (for a wine taster that might be like not being able to tell a Cabernet from a Merlot).  To the untrained eye, gray is gray and blue is blue.  Given a little time learning to look more carefully though, soon they can’t understand how they ever could have confused the two.  They have learned to see better.  They have learned more subtlety in distinguishing color.

Consequently they can look at a Monet and see a lot more going on in it than when they first looked, and more importantly as artists, they can paint with more color sensitivity.  If their technique is up to matching what their eyes and mind can register, it comes through.

So what is often happening when someone without visual training (conscious or purposeful) looks at a painting and says “yeah, I know a student, kid, etc who could do that”?  I submit is often that they aren’t tasting the different flavors.  It isn’t that the difference isn’t there, it is that they haven’t got the ability to see it yet, and consequently are liable to think that there is a conspiracy of art snobs just as someone new to wine tasting might suspect there is a conspiracy of wine snobs.

On the other hand, sometimes the kid can paint it.  Then we have contemporary art where it may be a pile of ordinary candy, or a smashed car… but that is usually the can of worms known as Concept, which is another little essay on its own. On the other hand…yes, I believe that every once in a while there is a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes, but more often it’s a matter of taste.

Written by Mary Corey March

March 12, 2010 at 11:53 am