In high school, I played badminton and I was great at smashing that little feathered birdie onto the opposite side of the net. Occasionally I would somehow over anticipate, my teammate would set up the smash, I would see the bird and BAM, but the birdie would just fall down in slow motion and land on my shoulder. I had rushed the birdie, jumped the gun. How often do we act too soon, get in the game before we are ready.
I am writing this because I am doing just this in my studio, at least I feel like I am. Since this blog is about learning, teaching and sharing, here is my experience:
In the book Hold Still, Sally Mann shares an excellent recommendation she says to be in the new body of work before sharing the current work (Mann p. 169). In the last years of undergraduate school painting majors build what is referred to as a body of work, which contains about 6 to 20 pieces that are alike in theme, and preferably appearance, The idea is that these pieces when shown together will communicate a concept like chapters in a book. To accomplish this we were, cheered on by our peers, coached by our mentors, guided by our advisors, encouraged, and sometimes prodded by our teachers. This is what is so difficult about being a “serious” artist. The challenge, not only to make the body of work, but fit it into the cannon of art history, use relevant painting technique, then defend it. Once an artist has mastered this; earned the degree and moved into the career of the arts, it then is done again, and, again, and again; body of work after body of work after bodies and bodies of work.
The hard thing is falling in love with the first individual piece, or the third, even the sixth and sharing it with the world. We fall in love introduce the piece then realize it really is not as good as was thought or does not go with the others. I can make all types of paintings landscapes, figurative, realistic, abstract, wet into wet, and I know very well the fat over lean mantra. I love performing all these tasks in the studio. After taking two years away from the studio to pursue a second Masters Degree I returned to find, I am back to the drawing board. It feels like being back in art school again, trial and error. My studies are spot on but the translation to painting questionable and I am jumping the gun, so excited about new work I begin to enter shows, post images; even invite curators into the studio. The work, or, should I say my relationship with the work is not solid enough yet, and I am well aware of it.
All artists jump the gun; get excited about the newest piece and fall in love with the prospect of what the audience will feel once they see it. The relationship not solidified, the problem, the artist had not dialogued enough through the process of making the work.
The resolution is to build a relationship with the work and desired outcome so clear and intentional developments can come about. Then, writing the artist statement is easier and talking about the work is clearer. Get to know your own work, write down notes, make studies, and share it with intimate friends who are willing to assist in the relationship building process. Relating to one’s own pieces is a summation of connections. Made by the choice of the finished look of the work, the subject matter and the process whereby it came about.
Slow and steady wins the race. I have been painting for more than two decades; opportunities have arisen more than once, even when I burned the bridge or blew it. I’ve gotten surer about my process, I am better at making a body of work and conceptualizing. I make a lot of work, some good, some not so good, some cohesive and some not. The truth is what has a lasting effect is often not the just the work itself, but the feeling and connections that came while and from making it. I plan to be in the Arts for the rest of my life, sharing strong bodies of work, building relationships and earning respect. The truth is I will always get excited about new work and I will probably jump the gun again.
Image retrieved from August 22, 2016: http://rp-prod-wordpress-b-content.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/2013/06/05131818/salon-style-art.jpg