Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Idle Isthmus

The Idle Isthmus, 2013
4 1/8" x 2 7/8" x 2 7/8"
Carved stoneware/porcelain, cone 6 oxidation, underglaze, acrylic, wax
The Idle Isthmus, 2013
4 1/8" x 2 7/8" x 2 7/8"
Carved stoneware/porcelain, cone 6 oxidation, underglaze, acrylic, wax
Some new sculptural work. The Idle Isthmus, 2013, is part of a collection of roughly a dozen pieces I've been working on in 2012-2013 over the time I've been also throwing pottery for Tea Horse Studio. These pieces reflect on transition, sexual maturity and feminine identity.

Turning points and time lines

Stoneware Candy Dish on Etsy
     I have this obsession about observing an analyzing things, life, events, people, and so on. As I have gotten older, the sense of repetition becomes more prominent. I remember when I was entering my late twenties and early thirties that I had this overwhelming feeling that everything I was doing, from the mundane to the profound, in some way, I had done before. Life events were taking on the aspects of similarity to other events in my life. I began to feel unsettled, depressed, unnerved. Was that it? Was that all there was to life and learning, that you ran out of new things to experience by the time you were thirty? Oh sure, you could always travel to a new place or read a book you hadn't read before but you were simply traveling again, just the destination was different. You were simply reading again, just the words were different. Up until that point, my experiences were fresh and new to me, dissimilar to what I had done before but now it felt like I was repeating myself. [Obsessive analyzing.] What did that mean, that feeling of deja vu? What should I do with that feeling of being stopped in my life trajectory? Where to go from here?
Covered Jar on Etsy
    Then I started noticing the patterns of life events rolling over and over, changing style, changing the characters in your life, changing locations but always somewhat similar. The layers of life excited me. The patterns they created were dazzling. The moments of change were awe-inspiring. Suddenly, rather than feeling stuck, I found opportunity. The opportunity to change how I responded to any one event or idea. Like the repetition for practice to improve your skills in math or sports or what have you, repetition of life events, similar but different, gave me moments to reflect and practice. In reflection, I began to notice events in my life that were turning points, comments made to me that stuck with me, points of view I happened upon that changed my direction. As I was traveling along my trajectory, these points dropped like pins on my life line. Significant events that piled up and would pay off later on when I looked back on them. I could be sure that if I didn't learn something from any one event, sure as shit, something similar would come up again and I would get another chance to either solve the problem or enjoy the moment.
Upcoming work.
    I think about these things tangentially when I work on my functional work these days. Carved drawings reference my interests but they also reference the ancient paleolithic cave drawings and drawings. Not only am I fascinated with my personal trajectory but then I layer that thought with the trajectory of human experience. Am I that different than people before me of thousands of years ago?  Lines are marked with points stamped into them, in patterns and randomly, bunched together and far apart.
Tiny pitcher, under glazing and drawings, pre-glaze firing.
Directions of lines change. Items are layered. Colors are layered. Things circle back on themselves or... they stand alone and isolated. Our DNA is our foundation but then we burst forward in so many directions, all slightly different but still similar. Repetition, repetition.
Larger vase, pre-glaze firing, slab-built. Stamped with repetitive circles, lines and stamps surrounding carved drawings. Stamps and lines made from wire, nails and screws.
Part of the joy that I get from working is not just the act itself, but the reflection and juxtaposition with the past work I've done. Like much of change, it's slow. Often you don't see it until you stop and look back at where you are in that moment in relation to where you've been. More than that, how much has happened in between? Evolution is cool.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Clique-ety, clackity or Find Your Own Path

     Years ago, back when I was but wee, I lived in the influence of one of the great art cities of the world, New York City. How lucky was I! Or was I? Some of us yearn to climb a mountain, but growing up in the NYC area (and then finally living in NYC and in particular, Williamsburg, Brooklyn before it was that Williamsburg, the Williamsburg of hipsters, cafes, galleries, $3000 apartments and high rise condos), growing up there meant already being on the mountain top. Where to go from there?
Awe-inspiring view of the Williamsburg bridge and Domino Sugar factory, c.1985
     No doubt my informal, day-to-day art education was leaps and bounds beyond what someone from, say, Irvine, Kentucky could imagine. After all, I didn't just see an image of the great paintings and sculptures of modern art or photos and slides of great modern architecture, I could see it in person, often, on class trips, when escorting friends from out of town or simply because I was bored on a Sunday. I was fully immersed in art, The Art, The Culture. If I didn't want to peruse the giants of modern art, I could see what was fresh, new, up and coming in SoHo and then, when I lived in Williamsburg, I was on the front line, the pre-gentrifier, observer and participant of what would be next. Except... I wasn't an artist. Or rather, I didn't identify as such. I was a graphic design productionist. I was the liaison between the designer's artistic vision and the printer. The grout. Although I was there in the midst of the New Great Art Scene[tm] of NYC, I couldn't bring myself to identify as an artist. Why not? When others weren't looking, I was cutting things out and apart, drawing, painting, now photographing, designing and trying to make work on my own, hidden from anyone, everyone. Why so shy?
     One word: intimidation. I lacked confidence in myself. I did not fit into the scene, the Art World as such. I was behind the velvet rope. They spoke in a language I did not understand. I wasn't knowledgeable enough, I was not good enough. I did not get the jargon. I was not party to the wit and wisdom of the pre-hipsters that travelled the L train with me. The Art World[tm] was inaccessible. Though I was amused, attracted to, intrigued by and inspired by the art in SoHo, the Bowery, the East Village and Alphabet City and those pioneers in Williamsburg, I was not worthy. And yes, this is where the baggage of childhood makes an appearance. When you are amongst the highest concentration of cutting edge artists, high quality modern art, and a huge concentration of historically significant art in the world, if you lack confidence, you can be swallowed up by that intimidation. I envied those artists that came to NYC from near and far because they knew why they were there. Instead, I cowered. I could not find my voice. I needed space to find my voice. Even thought it was my home, as long as I stayed, NYC, the mountaintop to many, I intuitively knew I would never find my voice. I had a different mountain to climb. My path led elsewhere.
     I left for the scary, rural world of Eastern Kentucky, partially because I had a family member already here to help me familiarize and partially, because it was completely out of my comfort zone and I needed that to shake things up a bit, to help me see and hear and find my voice.
It's coming to get you...
     Currently, with the advent of modern electronic media like blogs and Facebook and such, I have the capability to be in direct touch with those in The Art World[tm], via subscriptions and comment areas. It didn't used to be that way. Breaking into that world and getting that foot in the door felt highly competitive. Now, though, I read the articles by internationally known art critics and curators, I read comments by revered artists and I am struck, particularly on Facebook, by the great equalizer of the medium. The threads of "conversation" play out like high school cliques, who can out-wit whom, who can name-drop more, &c., &c. The references, grammar and criticisms are often obtuse and meaningless. Attempts at critiquing work turn into nothing more than erudite flame wars with a large vocabulary often inappropriately used or gratuitous love-fests where those "in" with the "in" crowd pat each other on the back incessantly until you want to wash yourself of the syrup of self-love. Incestuous, myopic, masturbatory chatter amongst themselves, oblivious to anything outside their own experience. I often wonder that had I stayed in NYC, would I still be in awe of these captains of the Art Industry and their pithy turns of phrase and obviously-above-my-head observations of the Human Condition, never realizing that for the most part, a good number of these people are full of shit? And always have been? All hail the interwebs. The [Art] Emperor has no clothes. As I said to a lovely woman here from Pea Ridge who wanted to beat the shit out of me after I said it, "You guys need to get out more often."
     Fortunately, some of these same people are accessible, do have great observations, do make great art, do have wonderful insight and criticism. From them, I learn, become inspired, am motivated. Frankly, this is as much about my observations of me than a just critique of the Art World[tm]. And with the advent of the interwebs, I wonder how this will play out? Is Art [tm] still only for the collector with copious amounts of cash? Who is the collector anymore? Only the ultra wealthy? Is art as investment/commodity even viable? Isn't art as a long-term personal investment more viable? How has the internet leveled (unless it hasn't) the playing field for art and collector? Is art and art investment more or less accessible now with the expansion and the ease of internet communication? Curious times, perhaps.
Evolving,  2012
     Lost in all of this, the act of making art. While I was gnashing my teeth over the last several decades about my place in the world, what I found out was that the urge to create is part of my DNA. Literally, not metaphorically. Creating visual work, the act of making, is how I problem-solve. All the clique-ishness of the chosen few does not affect this. Deny as I might, that I was not worthy (and therefore, not an artist,) that denial did not stop my hard-wired nature to observe, analyze, find metaphors, create, and problem-solve my way through life. So I have succumbed and surrendered to the act of making. I am being myself. Found my path, found my voice.
Carry on.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I love my customers and collectors

Hello! I have a new home!
     I am ever so grateful to the people who buy and collect my things, the art things, the pottery things, the big things and the small things. They are a beacon of hope to this weird second part of my life. There is a very practical side to me. I have a tendency to eschew the frivolous for the strictly functional in life. Having worked in various retail jobs early on and design production and graphic design later on before I came to Kentucky, I sometimes default to thinking in narrow practical terms but more importantly, without realizing it, I learned to assume the role of the person doing the grout work, the connective work, the dirty work and not see myself as the creative person, the dreamer, the strangely quixotic.
I live in the Netherlands.
I live in Kentucky.
     Because of this default setting — this bad habit that must be purged from my psyche — I am overwhelmed with gratitude when collectors feel an emotional connection with my work.
Happy soap dish in California!
      Customers on Etsy are allowed to leave feedback when they purchase an item. Some have been very, very generous to me with their compliments. When I see this, I am surprised and encouraged, invigorated to continue. I am excited to wrap up my work and send it off on a new adventure. I can always make more. Recently, I received an email from a customer to whom I had sent off a piece of pottery. I assumed that there was a problem, some goof, it wasn't quite right, it broke or some other tragedy. I was reluctant to read. Happily, when I opened the email, instead, it was a gushing, happy, complimentary letter espousing my craftsmanship and artistic talent. Wow! Those kinds of letters are for my moments when I begin to doubt myself and my choices.
     Once, about five or six years ago, when I started on this weird clay adventure, a friend from back in NYC who was with me during the graphic design days chastised me when I second-guessed my choice to play in clay. She told me that the world needs people who inspire and make others happy with their work. She told me that what I did, what I was endeavoring to do, had value to others. It made me stop and consider my work, my journey, as being part of something bigger. The nice tax people, when I started this studio, told me I needed to show a profit within five years or I'd need to pick another profession as far as the IRS was concerned. I told them that as fas as I was concerned, this was it, this was my career from now on. Until I die.
     So to Faith, thanks for helping me to believe in my choices and my work. To my husband, thanks for staying steady and being my rock so I can pursue this path. And to you, those customers and collectors who have been touched by my work, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
     Now — my mentor and teacher, has begun a blog. Joe Molinaro is the chair of the ceramics program at Eastern Kentucky University. Had he not incessantly nagged me and picked on me, um, I mean, pointed out to me that I should be a ceramics major, I wouldn't be where I am today playing in mud-pies again, essentially, and damn happy about it, too! He and I lamented in my first semester in clay of how easy it is to get side-tracked by the things that pay the bills and neglect our artistic work. I have followed the progress on his newly built studio and now, besides his hours teaching at the university during the week, he is cranking out more of his own work and not just demonstration pieces for class. That feeds the soul. Besides spawning new ceramics people from EKU, Joe also makes a yearly pilgrimage to Ecuador to research the pottery methods of the people in the Amazon region. He has a love for form, deconstruction, teapots and the geometric. He is now writing a blog. Catch up with his ramdom thoughts and work here: Clay + Art + Travel [].

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