From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Posts Tagged ‘art philosophy

Artists Discussion Panel- Endangered Languages in the Information Age next Thursday

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Tomorrow night is the opening reception for Living With Endangered Languages in the Information Age! We are also having a panel discussion centering around the role of technology in Languages and Art on the 15th.  Please join us!

EndangeredLanguagePanel

Living with Endangered Languages in the Information Age (curated by Hanna Regev)
2nd Sat Reception: Saturday, January 10, 2015 – 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Exhibition Dates: Jan 7, 2015 to Jan 31, 2015
3rd Thursday Artist Panel Discussion: Thursday, January 15, 2015 – 5:00pm to 8:00pm
Including CREATIVE STATION, free all-ages art activities in our Classroom.

More on the show here: https://www.rootdivision.org/exhibition-rd-gallery/living-endangered-languages-information-age

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Chance and Excellence

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Inspector (first stage from chance)

So Wednesday night I learned that not getting my piece into last week’s firing was actually a blessing in disguise.  The temperature regulator on the kiln broke, and so what was supposed to be 500 degrees became over 1200.  Oops.  I never did like electric kilns.  I like to see the cones.  Everything in there died, including the flower pots used to hold the glass that flows into the molds.

An element of chance indeed.

I have what many people would consider diametrically opposed methods of being.  Anyone who knows me outside of any work I do knows me as a bit forgetful, messy, whimsical, bizarre, playful… while people who know me from any work I do or classes I take (same thing really) will tell you that I’m a perfectionist, always planning, exacting to a degree, always double-checking, assessing, always on time, etc.   Except when I’m experimenting… and then the feathers (or wax or dye) tend to fly and one had best stand back.

On the one hand I want things to work the best way possible.  I want to know how everything works and make it work better.  I want to do the best job I can… and I take it all VERY seriously.  Doing anything by halves?  Forget it.   …and so generally most people look at me like I’m insane when I describe an idea I haven’t yet done or they are watching a piece in progress.  In the case of some pieces, if they are looking at a finished work and they understand what went into it, doubly so.  “Do you torture yourself on purpose?”  I feel that one must always pursue excellence as much as possible.  People of similar mind seem to be the only ones who don’t look at me like I’m mad.

At the same time, I’m a believer in riding chaos, and that one must let go of the work as one is working.  Holding on too tight to work either stunts it or kills it.  As precise as one can be nothing is certain and the flexibility to allow the unexpected creates space for new things.  There are things one can learn from chance that one can learn no other way.   Letting go, getting messy, throwing things at the wall to see if they stick.  How else to expand oneself but to explore the unknown?  If the entirety of one’s work and process is too safe, too understood I feel that it dies.

I best love work that is a response to something outside myself- it becomes an exploration of understanding.  I best love processes that I am discovering as I go.  I love the challenge in not knowing what is coming next and knowing that I will have to deal with changes.  I do love visceral work, but it almost feels too easy no matter how lovely the result- like singing or improvisational dancing  (most of the Sculpted Canvas series are very much that).  I could do many such pieces in the time it takes me to do one of the other sort of piece… but I somehow I am most caught by the work that really pushes me.

At the same time, I do tons of tests in discovering a new process, try to think of how things can go wrong, and overbuild on the careful side.  In the case of the face that is now in the kiln (and may never come out of alive) I did a backup mold weeks ago (not a complete copy, but a good start) because my ceramics experience taught me just how fickle kilns can be.  Experimentation is perhaps the line between chance and excellence.  In experimentation we are exploring the unknown, but also cataloging what we learn in order to pursue new levels of excellence (as well as all kinds of other new things).

Again- I best like the combination.  The Scales piece included over a thousand small, fast paintings as part of a larger, more methodical work.  The Identity Tapestry involved experimenting with color- dying several hundred different colors of yarn and learning as I went how to produce specific color variations.  Both pieces also involved the viewers as participants in creating the work; which took whatever order I have laid out and submitted it to the changes of the audience.  It is amazing to watch your artwork finished by hundreds of people.  The entirety of the Exquisite Corps Project was a study in chance, response and interaction.  And since Dada “Starting From Chance” is nearly an official process… one I make a point to do when I feel too methodical.

As always, I believe in a fine line between seeming contradictions- tightrope-walking a paradoxical line between methodical order, experimentation and chance.

Written by marycoreymarch

April 10, 2010 at 1:23 am

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 marycoreymarch

March 12, 2010 at 11:53 am