Happy Thursday! :D
I still have birds on the brain. I was making a lot of connections with the work I chose for the feature, but since I was sick I didn’t say something about each piece. For some, I just really loved the visual effect but felt that it would not be interesting to comment with “I really love this!” for every single thing. Obviously I was in love with everything, otherwise I wouldn’t include it! For others, I had stories I wanted to tell but didn’t want to only talk about some pieces and not others, or use them as a way to only talk about myself instead of the wonderful talented person who’d made it. So I thought I’d just save most of it for later.
My friend Reed re-reminded me of one of the connections: birds and word bubbles! For our senior shows, we were expected to display work but also include an artist’s statement that talked about our work. I knew very well what my work was about, but no matter how I wrote it up it just sounded pretentious, and there is nothing I hate more in art than pretentiousness. Except maybe clowns. So instead of a written statement, I put up a print:
It was actually quite popular; a few people wanted to buy it but I’d only printed out several on the laser printer instead of the good Epson. For some reason, it didn’t cross my mind to print extras to sell. Once I start selling prints (oh, hopefully soon…) I’m going to make a point of having them. Probably like they are here, and singly in a square format.
The summer before my senior year I took summer classes to catch up after my scheduling fiasco in NZ/so I’d have less on my plate that year (the show was several platefuls by itself), and the first class was Large Format Digital printmaking. It was awesome– I think there were only six of us and Will, who was the professor and my printmaking advisor the following year. We were able to spread out across the whole computer lab, everyone had a scanner, and a few people ended up working simultaneously on two computers. Such luxury!! We also did all our own printing– during the school year there are lab monitors who approve all the print jobs (basically helps keep things from being sent to the wrong printer or from being sent 50 times because the person got impatient waiting for the printer to warm up, and they also charge you for your prints), but we got to keep track of all our work and set up the printers ourselves. (We had two drum printers including a Giclee, but I think the Epson had better color. I loved that printer.)
I worked on a piece that had those birds superimposed over a bit of pattern from a Japanese woodcut. I drew them with my tablet in Photoshop and overlaid the drawing on a piece of watercolor I’d scanned. That print was a huge flop– it really wasn’t very interesting, but I kept the file anyway because I loved the sparrows and thought I could use them again for something else. Enter the artist statement! One very nice piece of woodgrain from a free texture website and several wallpaper-filled word bubbles later, my work was very concisely and prettily summed up. I wish I could remember the instant that the idea came to me; that flash of insight is always so incredible, and remembering it later while looking at the final result is surreal. Unfortunately, I was so sleep deprived and stressed that I forgot a lot of things from that year.
I don’t think my professors appreciated it as a statement. Probably thought I was copping out, but they never really asked about it in final crits. I wish they had– I was ready! I read a lot of statements while the shows were up, and I’m glad that I went the way I did. When you’re talking about ideas and the conceptual aspect of your work it is so easy for it to sound like BS. If you sincerely mean it that’s one thing, but I feel like one of the pitfalls of art school is that you’re trained to think that everything must have a reason and a great explanation behind it, so even if you just drew flowers because you like flowers there’s still a tendency to make up this backstory about the overwhelming significance of it all. I don’t think that should be the case– you should be able to be honest about your motives. If it’s a good or interesting image, that should be enough. Even with my work, a lot of the images that I made were out of an aesthetic desire to create something beautiful using specific parameters (such as animals and art nouveau patterns), and after the pieces were done and grouped together I made most of my conceptual connections (human tendency to create artificial environments based on elements of the natural world even as humans tame or destroy it, and the ramifications of such false environments on wild creatures) . That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a viable way for me to read into the work, just that it felt dishonest to me to say that I set out to create the work with that goal in mind.
Now playing: Capercaillie – Dr. MacPhail’s Reel