drawing

february 19

Strength: Asset or Liability? (A History of Errors)

I have been thinking very much about strength, physical strength.  I feel as though I've had a many of conversation about my body over the past number of weeks- whether its about my upcoming surgery and recovery, or what the nature of my performance work is, or just merely what it feels like to be in my body in all it's tiredness and tightness.

I had a massage yesterday and it was a huge reminder about how crunched into myself I have become.  It's an understatement to say that I am stressed.  I'm not entirely sure that i am the most stressed I've ever been.  That could be because maybe I manage stress better than I had in the past, or that I am not addressing the axis of where my stress stems from.   But I am stressed and it was never so apparent than when untangling the muscles in my neck, shoulders and back yesterday.  I cannot believe that I didn't miss the space that has opened up in my body all this time.

A History of Errors; erased graphite on assembled paper, silver leaf; 2013

I am thinking a lot about my patterns as of late.  Believe me, it relates to what I'm talking about.  I tend to cherish my strength and wear my stamina or 'stick-to-it-ness' as a badge of honor.  I tend to 'stick to it' for much longer than what could be thought of as healthy, in some people's opinion.  I question if I lack confidence that I should deserve anything better or if I am way too optimistic that I can turn a situation around with my proven dedication.  It's an on-going pattern in my jobs and relationships.  The funny thing is, I figured this out in my studio work once I nearly had the ability to make work taken away from me (due to an accident).  My 'come to Jesus' moment had its impact, fast and swift.  I spent months evaluating what path i would take and I came up with the decision that my work need not be limited by medium (much like many artists who call themselves either 'painter' or 'printmaker,' 'potter' or 'metalsmith.'  Funny, sculptors don't define themselves as medium oriented like the others I just mentioned).  When I allowed myself to call myself 'sculptor' instead of 'metalsmith,' a huge window of opportunity opened.  

As I think about how my work evolved over the past 20 years, I sometimes question if it is an asset to allow the concept to drive the medium or does it just indicate a lack of discipline?  Those are probably the moments of self doubt I frequently have.  Today I don't think that- even though I am frustrated on my lack of studio progress.  Where I am questioning my patterns is in my life choices, as of late.  It's been a tough few weeks- I've been down this path before and I used my strength and stuck it out.  It didn't result in much because some situations are a sinking ship much bigger than I.  Regardless, there are so many aspects of what I accomplished that I miss.

My pattern always starts off with a boat-load of optimism.  It's a wonderfully creative place.   I act with that optimism and eventually run into roadblocks.  I work through road blocks- many times to come across more road blocks.  The more road blocks I work through start to wear on me.  Clearing road blocks don't feel like accomplishments the more I encounter them.  I feel sour but not hopeless.  I take ALL the responsibility, even though it probably doesn't all belong to me.  I keep going, trying to remember the big picture.  Then there is the point where the big picture starts to seem like a pipe dream.  I lose hope.  The responsibility of failure begins to weigh on me.  As I have aged, the weight has its impact- I feel it in my body.  It manifests there and feels like an albatross of a reminder.  I've been down this road before- is it silly to let it run its course again?

body sized drawing

A few years ago, I tried so hard to embrace the mistakes and all the things that never went right.  That the beauty was in the journey, not the result.  I really REALLY felt that while I made my drawings, the drawings that led me to performance.  I think I now hope for a similar epiphany- or at least an understanding. You know the phrase "art imitates life"- well, in this case, I am looking for life to imitate art.  I. am. not. cutting. myself. a. break.  I am trying to figure out the path and as I wander, it becomes more and more painful.  I feel guilty to be sick even though part of being sick is probably a result of trying to be strong.  I truly believe that emotions impact our physical health.  I am desperate to realize the lesson in this experience.

I pictured a History of Errors (2013) in this blog.  I love that drawing for so many reasons.  It was the drawing that reawakened my body; it was the meditation that allowed me to honor the beauty in my flaws; it was the beginning of seeing a body less as an object for things to happen to and more as a body that experiences the world its in.  

It's sobering to realize that one has so much still to figure out.

december 13

A quick update to yesterday- While I spent most of my day grading, I did cap the evening off with a truly Icelandic experience... going to the outdoor pool.  Pools are a very big thing here and are open year round.  It seems like it is where everyone goes to just meet, hang out and talk.  Another resident and I agreed we would go together on day one (or so, but who's counting).  

 view from poolside

 view from poolside

The pools are geothermal so they are heated and around the perimeter are "hot pots" which are hot tubs heated to set temperatures.  While I loved being in the hottest one, my friend needed to moved to the next one down.  I eventually did too and we spent the evening discussing foreign languages and places to visit next.  We befriended an Icelander who was hilarious and great to have in the conversation mix.  Conclusion: we are going back!  Soon!

PS. One does not take their towel outside.  One dashes from the locker room to the desired pool or hot pot and jumps in.  It's a cold dash but I came to find you don't need it after time in the water.

As a break from grading yesterday, I decided to write a bit more about drawing.


A definition on drawing:

My recent performative work really grew out of the act of drawing and my early work in my studies that responded to the body through adornment.  

I view drawing as an act of mark-making and anyone who has ever taken a class with me knows that I value the power of the mark.  Three years ago I began to make drawings based on body proportions and measurements.  I considered them figural works, although not obviously the figure as we know it.  I had grown tired of depicting the figure with marks applied to its image.  I grew to feel that the overall imagery seemed disconnected- that the figure was still a passive object to which the artist applied marks to and around.

These newer works were meant to be more psychological and ontological.  They embraced error and the interdependence of the artist to drawing.  The artist creates the mark, intentionally, methodically while the drawing expresses the narrative.  While the drawings became more satisfying to make and felt less objectifying of the figure, the thing that emerged as most important was how it felt to make these works.

making a drawing

making a drawing

The ACT of making the drawing I noticed to be physical.  I had the same feeling creating a drawing as I did after a class of yoga.  It either cleared my head or drew attention to parts of my body I hadn't thought about in a while.  While this was invigorating, I soon grew bored of working on paper, not matter how many different ways I thought about making marks that reference the body.  

It grew into more drawings that were based on the body proportion while also involving the body.  And then there were drawings that happened just on the body.  This further grew into sculptural work- which also is quite physical but one doesn't lose oneself in a sculpture like they do a drawing (or knitting for that matter).  If my wrists weren't such a mess, I'd knit night and day.

Last winter, I made a piece that was a simple object oriented around the body.  It was rope and it used the same proportions as my circle drawings but the rope came to mean so much more.  Length of my Infinite Love is the length of my arm span but made from material that is meant to bring things together, secure them from falling apart, yet it can go too far and have a destructive quality to it.  I struggled with making other art pieces with this material that were as potent and meaningful as this one.  

the length of my infinite love

the length of my infinite love

In the Spring, I was challenged by my advanced drawing students to the "Obstruction" assignment.  This is an assignment I base off of Richard Linklater (more info here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0354575/)  to my advanced students- to each write a "rule" to consider when remaking what you consider your masterpiece.   I worked with the Length of my Infinite Love and if I remember correctly, I had to 1. use a personal item, 2. no circles, 3. no cats, and 4. use watercolor (the one that threw me most for a loop).  It wasn't a great piece (a sandbag made from a mattress casing hung from 2 ropes, watercolored) but it opened the door to a small performance I did carrying seven 3 pound weights around my neck.  The piece ended up as The Weight of These Decisions.  Three pounds is the weight of the average human brain and I wanted to mark the physicality of one's decisions- emotions that we feel in our body and know as real.  Seven of these weights represent a finite amount of time around these decisions.

the weight of these decisions

the weight of these decisions

 

While THIS wasn't a great performance, THIS was a great drawing.  This is what I wanted drawing to tackle for me- authenticity.  Why draw about something when you can draw with and on it?  I wanted a visceral connection to the work.  And this is very different than drawing ON my body a few years back.  The marks are felt.  The weight is carried.  The message is engrained.

Drawing is a vast modality.  It no longer needs to be matted and framed on the wall.  For me, my experiences can be recorded in the skin of my body, using that as my medium.  And our life is carried in that body; we express our individuality in our body, why not use our body as the source, medium, and product.