Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dumbing down?

I have been to a couple of different artist talks over the past week, one by Mia Feuer at Transformer (this show closes Saturday) and one by a panel of Christian Benefiel, Michael Enn Sirvet, and Katherine Mann at Hamiltonian (show is up for another couple of weeks). All of these artists work in abstract forms that seem to directly reference natural or man-made objects, although they transform these forms via scale, placement, and strange juxtapositions into things almost unrecognizable.

Both Feuer and Mann talked about cultivating chaos in their practices, Mann by pouring random pools of ink, Feuer by trying to overextend her own physical capabilities with the scale and complexity of her work. They talked about their desire to create these chance-directed situations that they then have to clean up and respond to in order to create their work.

However, both artists shyed away from the word “intuition” when describing their processes, and neither seemed to want to give their subconscious underworkings much credit. Instead, they talked about their efforts to regain control over the chaos in very pedestrian, physically oriented, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other terms. I have caught myself in this same kind of downplaying of my mental processes when talking about my work. Now that I hear what it sounds like, I am kind of annoyed. Isn’t being an artist having this really refined visual sense that allows you to create meaning through inarticulatable (is that a word?) means? Isn’t that skill what sets artists apart from everyone else? So why do we have a hard time giving credence to that ability? Why do we do the “aw, shucks, I’m just an ole girl who works with her hands and nice things come out of it, somehow” song and dance? Why do we strive to un-intellectualize ourselves?

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