Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Artist mis-statements

I did some volunteer work last week, proofreading the catalog for the Surface Design Association's big show at Arrowmont this fall.  Based on what I read -- I saw only the words, not the pictures -- it looks like a great show and I will make sure that I see it in person.

My marching orders as a proofreader were to be flexible; "We would like to keep this as close to each artist's voice as possible," I was told.  If people spelled it "colour" or used varying degrees of formality, that was OK.  But I did flag misspellings (Minnesotta, anyone?) and outright grammatical errors.

I wasn't expecting to find as many grammatical errors as I did.  But what really surprised me was that almost all the errors were the same thing: subjects and verbs did not agree.  Would you believe that eight of the 91 artists committed this mistake?

I'll take off my proofreader's hat and put on my writing teacher's hat.  The reason educated people writing about serious subjects commit subject/verb errors is usually because their sentences are way too long and are way too grammatically complex.  Educated people don't say "the interplay determine how the work will look in the end."  But they might very well say "the interplay of disparate materials, of concept and making, and certainly emotion determine how the work will look in its ultimate incarnation."  There is so much padding in that sentence that by the time you get to the verb you've forgotten that the subject is "interplay," requiring a singular verb, not "materials, concept, making and emotion," which would require a plural verb.

(And if you were to take another step back, what does that sentence mean?  The idea, the emotion, the materials and the technique all influence the art.  Well duh.) 

I challenge you to look at your own artist statement.  Parse it for grammar.  Do not count on spell check to find your typos -- spell check is perfectly fine with a "limited addition" of prints, and it can't tell the difference between "its" and "it's." 

Then read your statement for sense.  Don't waste a lot of long, pretentious words telling us something that means nothing.  Think about what we, the audience, should know about you and your work.  Tell us something that will make us appreciate your work better, not something that will put us to sleep.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photo suite 183 -- Woodbourne Avenue 4

Almost every house on the older end of Woodbourne Avenue has a front porch, and guess what?  People put funny stuff out on their porches.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happy birthday!

My father would have turned 102 today so I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate by a moment of communion with one of his favorite works of art, which I have fortunately inherited.

If you've ever visited the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz you probably saw this statue in the front yard. When we lived in Germany many years ago my dad, lover of printing and typography, had to visit the museum, of course.

Sometime later my dad got to visit another of his great idols, Hermann Zapf, the great type designer of the 20th century who just died earlier this month (you probably know Zapf Dingbats, as well as Palatino and Optima).  Zapf had a bust of Gutenberg in his home, and Dad admired it.  Yes, it was the same one from the museum, by Wäinö Aaltonen, a contemporary Finnish sculptor.  Zapf said he owned the rights to reproduce another bust, somewhat smaller than the original, and would Dad like to have one?  Is the Pope Catholic?

So Dad had this bust made by the same foundry, and it has always held the place of honor in the household.

Several years before my parents died, they held an infamous "art auction" among us three children, in which we got to divvy up all their pictures, sculptures and other precious items.  (Of course we couldn't take possession until much later.)  I am the oldest and thus got first pick, which of course was Gutenberg.

Here's Gutenberg wearing a festive hat to celebrate Dad's birthday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Daily art -- why I do it

Yesterday Vickie left a comment on my post about daily collage that read: "What is the benefit you get from this daily creative activity?  I know that many artists have a warm-up each day to get their creative juices flowing.  As a new fiber artist I just want to get started on my work each day and a warm-up seems like time away from the "real thing."  Am I limiting my perspective by not exploring through other media?"

I thought it was an excellent question and wanted to respond in sufficient depth and thoughtfulness to give a good answer.  I discussed a similar question a few years ago but why not have at it again!  I've been doing daily art since 2003, and since 2009 it's been formal: specific rules set at the beginning of the year.  It has become an important part of my life and my art practice.

I don't regard my daily art as a warm-up, as Vickie described it.  I regard it as making art -- just a different body of work than my quilts and mixed media pieces.  It isn't a little five-minute sketch that I whip out on the back of a napkin on my way to the "real" studio; it takes time and thought, which I usually don't begrudge.

I keep what I make and wouldn't mind exhibiting it, although I haven't yet had such opportunities.  I think the "dailyness" of the work is part of its artistic character; some days are stronger than others, but the so-so days act as background to the focal points, just as in any other artistic composition.

When I review my work I like to note how it changes over time, as I try out new techniques and motifs.  For instance, here's a discussion of spirals, which I first explored in my hand-stitched daily art and have carried over into my paper collages.

Vickie asks if she is missing something by focusing on her "real thing" instead of also working in other materials.  I think that's a valid concern; I always struggle against the temptation to work on some peripheral piece instead of what I consider my "real work."  I try to overcome that with rules (that's probably another blog post).

But since I don't regard my daily art as peripheral, I don't worry about it distracting me, any more than I worry about my big quilts distracting me from my collages.  And I don't specifically choose my daily art to be a non-fiber medium.  In fact, in two years I've chosen to work in fiber, once by making a daily quilt square and once through hand-stitching.

Don't know if I have sufficiently explained the magical pull of daily art.  Although many people practice it, I'm sure their motivations aren't all the same as mine.  If you've had your own experience with daily art, please chime in...

(And you can check out all my daily art here.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Collage consternation

I've been doing daily collages since January 1, 2013, changing the ground rules slightly every now and then, and at the end of last year I asked myself if I wanted to keep on into 2015.  I decided I hadn't yet fully explored the format, and signed on for another year.

But by April I was feeling burned out and stale.  Perhaps it was the new rule I gave myself this year: each collage must include a word or phrase from that day's newspaper (or other publication).  I thought that would give a new dimension to the assignment but instead it seemed to put on more pressure without corresponding rewards.

The rule survived a month in Europe, during which I had no access to newspapers on some days and had to scramble to follow the rules.  Here are two from days when I used gift shop receipts.

But when I got home I found myself struggling to maintain enthusiasm.  Then to add insult to injury, I went back to the store to buy another pack of 4x6 inch cards in assorted colors, like the blue and purple on the collages above.  I had bought them at the beginning of the year and liked the variety of different colors, but now was running out.

There were none on the shelves, and the store's paper buyer maintained that they had never carried this product (of course I had thrown away the packaging back in January).  I found that hard to believe but it was another little blow to my collage happiness.  So I was back to working on white index cards.

Earlier this month I decided that maybe I should try something a little different for a while.  So I spent two and a half weeks doing "news haikus," in which I found an illustrated news story, then searched for phrases of the proper number of syllables that would condense or riff upon the story.  I had previously done a couple of 50-day news haiku projects -- because there were 50 pages in my little sketchbooks -- and enjoyed that process.

It took the pressure off the visual aspects of the collage -- most of the time I simply cut out the picture from the news story and pasted it down, without worrying about composition or complexity -- but put the pressure on to the verbal aspects.  Finding the five- and seven-syllable phrases that accurately represent the news story is tricky and time-consuming.  But it was different from what I had been doing for two years.

On this past Sunday, after spending a half hour vainly searching for haiku-able stories in the paper and finding none, I decided the respite was over.  I'm back to my "regular" collage style and at least so far have felt energy that I hadn't seen in months.  The obvious time to change rules in an annual daily art project is at the turn of the quarter, so I had thought maybe I'd do something drastic on July 1.  But I think I'll just stick with the program, occasionally giving myself a little change of pace to keep the blood flowing.  Hope it works!!

You can check out all my daily collages here.