Friday, May 25, 2007

Once More Unto the Breach (of my painting practice)

Apologies to my one or two possible readers for my absence. I will attempt to have more to say in the future. Here are my thoughts on part of what I have been doing.

I had an epiphany in the studio a couple of weeks ago. (Normally, I think it’s cheesy or weird or uncomfortable when people talk about things like “artistic inspiration”—maybe because I feel like art is as much about learned skill and patience as anything else. But here I go anyway.)

I’ve been struggling in the studio for a while now, I guess since I got started working in my new space back in September. As I said in an earlier post, moving out here hit the reset button on the part of my interior life where my art ideas come from. So for several months now, I’ve just been drifting, being mildly interested in things like the dramatic landscape around me (it looks especially dramatic after three years on the prairie!), trying to use that tiny spark of interest in a series of mixed media works on paper, but not feeling particularly excited by or invested in anything I have been making.

I’ve had some of my old work hanging up in my studio, in part to remind me of where I’ve been, and maybe in part to try to conjure up some of that cheesy inspiration goo. This is mixed-media, painting-on-fabric stuff that I began during my last year of grad school, when I was, once again, trying to get back into painting. I had an advisor that year who I knew wasn’t going to list all the reasons why painting was dead, so I was going for it with abandon. But then at the end of the semester, I had a terrible critique of this work. The work itself didn’t get discussed, only what my possible motivations could have been: why I hadn’t done enough research about the origins of the fabric I was using, the politically-backward implications of my making such out-of-date work (although, now that I’m out in LA, home of the WACK! Show, it looks pretty hell-raising to me), why I wasn’t making installation or sculpture instead, etc. etc. So, in short, I let the bastards get me down. I put that work away, so I could focus on my thesis and getting on with life.

So, I’ve had these pieces up. Looking at them almost every day, instead of conjuring up inspiration, just made me remember that bad critique and how it made me feel. But one day, I was looking at one of them (pictured here) while I was eating lunch, and it was as if scales had fallen from my eyes (maybe it was the sandwich—I make pretty good chicken salad). I realized, maybe for the first time, that I really love that work I was making back in the fall of 2005. I realized that it felt and looked important and vital and strong to me, authentic, like it came directly from the inner voice I have been straining to hear.

I realized that this work is what I’ve spent the past few months trying to reconnect with. Is that inspiration? I don’t know. But I think I may have a tiny toe-hold on it back.

(image is Lonoke; 2005; acrylic, screen print, and thread on upholstery fabric and pillowcase; approx 3.5'x5')

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