Friday, January 27, 2012

Art Blog: Chicken or the IDEA?

I never have been a fan of artist’s statements. It just seems like so much blah, blah, blah. Back in my university days, the statement was imperative. You had to be able to speak about your work or you would fail. Through the years, I have been asked for artist statements for exhibition purposes and even job applications. I always come up with something to say. It is good to verbalize what you are doing art wise.

So which comes first: the chicken or the egg? Many times I have been asked how I come up with ideas for my art. People have asked me if I have a vision or just start painting or what. I always tell them it differs in every situation. Sometimes, it all comes together at the same time. I have the ideas, images, and explanation all at once. This is rare. Other times, I begin work and each brush stroke or mark starts to reveal the reasoning behind the purpose.

Most often, when I make art, I always have a rationale playing over and over in my head while I am working on a series or when I start a new work. Usually, I write the words after the fact. However, today I was hit in the head by reality. I have had this idea for a series on my mind for years. Every so often it would pop up again and again. I would brush it off and tell myself I would get to it. It is about the idea of ABUNDANCE and food. The germ of the idea came long ago as I pushed my grocery cart through the produce aisle at the store. I looked at the plethora of food we Americans have access to every day. The image colors, variety, and the sheer abundance have haunted me for years. I supposed it weighed on me too. How could there be hungry people when we have all this food available to us?

I finally started working on this idea earlier this week. Each day, I would play with ideas, mixing/matching images and techniques. I want to continue to work with a digital/drawing process I started to develop recently while working on my “Encyclopedia of Suicide” series. I put that series on hold for a while because I was getting so much resistance. That is kind of a good thing. In fact, it indicates the power of the idea. However, I want to work on something else right now because I don’t have the strength to defend that series at the moment. I need something less controversial. So, I want to work on this idea of abundance using photography, digital prints, and colored pencil.

Today, I worked on this stuff for about eight hours. I finally had to stop. I felt like I was running in place and getting nowhere. I would work, tear things up, print again, draw again, tear things up………AGAIN. It is not time wasted. It was time trying to figure out WHAT AM I DOING HERE? I want to know the why, when, where, what, and how of my artistic direction. This has made me realize one of the reasons artists need statements. As I plod along on this new series, I have to start to formulate some kind of verbal rationale in order to help figure out the reasons behind this new series. As I work and write and work and write, it will start to come together.

So what comes first the chicken or the idea?

Do you write out a statement before or after you make the art?

Today's work.
I have no idea where this is going, but that is OK!


deb said...

the statement is always after - when I am making it is such a tangle of things in my head, even after it is hard to tease out the tangles and figure it out. I work both ways too, an idea comes fully formed and I chase it (frustrating for me as I rarely catch it)or stuff calls me and I play and something shows up, but that's harder to put in words. A great post!

sara star said...

I write the statement after. I try not to make the statement "explain" the art. I avoid that as much as possible. I might instead talk about the materials, what kind of place I made the art, and my general philosophy about art.

I am fully capable of explaining my art, but I have found it is better not to, you tease out the viewers interpretations more and if the viewer gets their own read on it, they will connect better with the piece.

namastenancy said...

I also write the statement after. That's because I often don't know where I'm going until I get there. But I think all intuitive artists work this way - move color, images, formats around, do a lot of cursing, a bit of dancing until finally you feel that it's done as well as it can be. Then, comes the even more difficult job of writing about it. Carol Deil, in her blog "Art Vent" has a great piece on artist's statement. She hates art speak as I am sure you do but we all know how difficult it is to verbalize a visual image. It really is like comparing apples to a train.