Some Answers to Some Questions

Material

1. The first material I used to make “art” was most likely some paints or colored pencils in an elementary school art class. I know I spent a lot of time coloring in coloring books as a child prior to that but I don’t think I ever thought of my coloring as art. The materials I first used were materials that I was very familiar with. I guess I taught myself how to use them. I don’t think I began creating with thoughtfulness until high school. For a little while I made some political art and then I enrolled in an arts high school for my junior and senior year and it was there that I learned to think about presentation and formulating concepts and things like that. The materials I started out with as a child made me comfortable with color and with working out ideas through drawing. I did a lot of doodling as a child and then adolescent. I don’t draw nearly as much now even though it is something I would like to return to.

2. I began using fabric halfway through my junior year. The assignment was to convey a psychological self portrait through a doll, so I sewed a pretty ridiculous looking winged creature. This was my first time really investigating the textures of fabric and stitching. I went on to create several other fabric based works during high school and it was during the creation of these pieces that I began to feel really engaged in the studio.

3. At a very young age I was intrigued by my grandmother’s crochet and quilting. Every time we visited her house I would pester her to no end until she gave me some pieces of fabric or other scraps. On one trip I remember distinctly she gave me a handful of tiny embroidered flowers. I’m not sure what they’re actually called. They are very small and you are supposed to sew them onto something, like tiny applique. I remember feeling creatively frustrated because the materials were so appealing but I had no idea what to do with them. I guess I was too young and I saw her so infrequently that she couldn’t really teach me what to do with yarn or fabric.
Now I find myself inspired by the materiality of artists like Allyson Mitchell, Nick Cave, Lee Bontecou.

4. I am of the opinion that materials are always both of those things but I understand them more as foundational. I envision an object and the materials I want it to be shaped with and then I construct additively and intuitively in order to articulate something like what I envisioned. Sometimes the object becomes what I planned from the beginning but most of the time that isn’t the case and that doesn’t bother me.

5. I find that the materials that appeal to me most and that I find showing up in my work repeatedly are materials that I want to rub on myself or that I have urge to consume.

6. I see color as something intuitive that can be juxtaposed or appropriated. When I work with color I find it on or in materials and then edit it and place it in the context of my work. I don’t usually mold or mix the color itself. I pick it up and stick it where I think it belongs within a work.

Process

7. This isn’t necessarily isolated to one kind of making but I do specifically recall it happening a few different times when I was drawing from life. I recall working from a still life in high school and finding myself in a really fluid, free mental state where the movement of information from my eyes to my brain to my hand was smooth and I felt really content to remain that way. I think that sort of thing happens in various ways once you have fully transitioned into studio mode, no matter what kind of creative process you are engaged in. In high school we read an essay by John Berger, something about a cat peeing on a drawing, oh yeah, Lobster and three fishes I think, that talked about something similar. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a material process that I would call “moving”.

8. Powerful? Maybe welding and metalwork. Metal always seems like such a difficult to alter material but it isn’t really. Making really big pieces or seeing a larger project come together makes me feel powerful. In high school we were given two weeks to create whatever we wanted and then about a month to do a senior thesis. The fact that I could come up with an idea that was completely mine and execute it all on my own made me feel self sufficient.

9. I hate plaster. It’s messy, dries out my skin, gets in my lungs, and the final product is usually boring and always fragile. Toxic processes don’t particularly appeal to me. Part of that is an environmentalist urge but I am averse to them primarily because of the unappealing smells and the distance I have to maintain from the materials in order to protect my health. Basically I don’t like processes that I can’t get physically close to. This is also the reason why video and sound processes don’t appeal to me nearly as much as object making, though I do enjoy creating videos for other reasons.

10. That’s a weird question because how does an activity qualify as art? My first impulse was to say cooking because it is creative and alchemical but couldn’t cooking be considered art? I believe in theorizing as making new ways of understanding and bringing them into the world.

11. I object to waste. I object to the excessive production of tools of destruction like bombs and guns. I object to any kind of making, art or non-art, that perpetuates physical or ideological destruction.

12. There is a extensive tradition  of quilting, knitting, and sewing that hovers over the materials that I use the most. This tradition is historically associated with women and craft and because of these associations, denigrated to lesser than status. This tradition’s place within the Fine Art/Craft hierarchy as well as the overlap with sexism intrigues me and informs my studio practice, even though my initial interest in textile materials and techniques had nothing to do with that. My own sewing skills are beginner in the context of craft tradition.

13. I think it is problematic to use live animals in artwork.  I don’t take issue with live animals being in artworks as long as the animal is comfortable and by that I mean that the animal is not suffering or under any distress. I believe it is immoral to use the suffering of a living thing to convey your idea or “express yourself”. Like I said before, I object to any kind of making, art or non-art, that perpetuates physical or ideological destruction.

14. Stitch, Deconstruct, Reinforce, Juxtapose, Layer, Sketch, Think, Reassess, Trim, Construct

15. The ideas that are hovering around my work are usually tied very closely to my personal life. I try not to let that spill out into the open too much because I want to avoid the distraction that would cause from the actual object as well as the fact that it is something I don’t feel comfortable putting on display for everyone to see. I also feel that putting personal emotions in the spotlight of a work is a form of exploitation. I want to avoid exploitation of myself and others whenever possible in my work, though I also feel that appropriation is always at least somewhat exploitative.

16. I want the viewer to be able to engage in each decision making moment along with me, or at least for them to sense and enjoy the variety of moments that have occurred over the timeline of the piece, as well as being able to step back and see the piece as a whole.

17. I don’t try to hide the amount of time that goes into what I make. I create things with an extended timeline in mind and it usually takes longer for me to realize a piece if I get to do it the way I want to. I also don’t want to lord it over the viewer that I have spent a lot of time making something. I find pieces like that tiresome and the evidence of a very very long process can potentially distract from the parts of an artwork that I believe are more important.

18. The limits on my work are always deadline or sanity related. I usually have to compromise on the amount of labor I want to put into a work because I don’t have enough time to fully realize my original idea or I no longer have the patience for the tedium. Another limit that imposes itself is when I stop feeling interested in my process. Once the process becomes stale I have to diverge from it to remain engaged.

19. I’m interested in finding other processes that can function as intuitive and additive like textile based processes that aren’t necessarily utilizing fabric. I’ve always wanted to try paper making and book making.

Meaning

20. My senior thesis in high school was a fabric sculpture made up of three humanoid forms giving birth to one another in an interlocking, circular form that implied an endless cycle. For me, the sculpture was a visual representation of the cyclic nature of human relationships and pain of realizing that those relationships would all eventually sever. That was the first time I had ever created a piece that had a lot of emotional weight for me.

21. Bodily functions and viscera appeal to me as metaphors for rawness and emotional conflict. Some of the motifs that show up in my work and sketches often include bodily elements like hair, infection, growth, disease, and the grotesque. Disruptions and malfunctions of bodily mechanisms are often signals of internal or emotional distress and these motifs convey that as well as simply offering visually interesting colors, shapes, and textures. Those ideas overlap with my interest in emotional cycles and relationships. I also use a lot of animal forms and anatomy as ways to convey aspects of the human condition. Part of that is the appeal of animal forms as well as my urge to depart from the human form in order to blur some of the separations we have put up between ourselves and non-human animals.

22. A lot of meaningful interaction happens between my objects and I when I am touching them or feeling them in my hands or on my skin. I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to put this meaning into words but it is something I sense anytime I am in the studio making things. That sensual pleasure is what draws me back to art making again and again even when there is nothing specifically conceptual going on in my mind. What usually happens in my art making process is that I begin handling materials with a vague idea of what I want to create in mind. The making is intuitive and the conceptual feeling behind it solidifies as the work progresses.
My materials are usually soft and I think this is because of the importance of that sensual relationship. A lot of my work has been soft or appealing to hold in one’s arms.

23. There are certain materials that come with a lot of baggage and clichés that are unavoidable. The impulse is to avoid these materials or processes entirely but I believe that after a time period of fermentation, certain clichés can be reexamined and understood as having a broader scope of meaning when treated properly. The first one that comes to mind for me is the attribution of feminine or masculine characteristics to certain materials and processes of making. A lot of the materials that I use have been stamped as “feminine”. I was drawn to these materials because of their sensory appeal, not because of the socially imposed gendering, but this has become more interesting to me as of late. By using these materials, I almost invariably receive comments about femininity or similar concepts during critique. I also get responses associated with children. I am aware of this deeply ingrained association that exists with the materials that I choose. It is a cliché but I see lots of potential there for renewed questioning of these assumptions through deconstruction and juxtaposition.

24. I get way more excited and engaged during the process of creating a piece. Although I do love being in crit and verbally deconstructing art work with others in order to get to the bottom of things and then turning it all upside down. I find that while my piece is being critiqued I am very impatient and listening to see if people are on the same wavelength as I am. I don’t think that they have to be on the same wavelength in order for the crit to be useful or productive, but I do have that tendency. I find that I make the most useful realizations while I’m in the studio making something. Once the creative space is set up and I become engaged(coffee helps) that is when the really exciting thoughts start coming to me. I also feel that way about critiquing other people’s work, but not so much when my piece is being critiqued, mostly because I’m too excited about something to pay attention.

25. Oftentimes I will begin creating something with no specific meaning in mind and the meaning will solidify during the process. When I try to begin a piece with a really specific meaning, the process usually loses steam and I have to alter my perception of it.

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