Today is the opening of my show, Un/necessary Objects. It’s an exhibition about memory, objects, the connection between those two, and loss/value/impermanence.
When Pat Greene asked me to be the artist for March 2020, I immediately said yes. I had never been to the space before, but I am grateful for all opportunities that come my way. After visiting the space, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Credo Conduit is a co-working space, and the shows are installed in the lobby/entrance. Because it is a quasi-commercial space, I didn’t feel comfortable just displaying my work. That seemed too prescribed, especially because the display shelves are built-in (plus, most of my work is 3D and wouldn’t fit comfortably on the narrow shelves).
I hope it doesn’t seem like I am complaining, because my best work results from limitations and I like the challenge of figuring out how to work in different spaces. It took me two weeks to decide what I wanted to do. I had a lot of ideas (as did my partner Jonas) and a lot of doubts about those ideas… until the right idea came along. Or rather, it resurfaced. I had taken a series of photos about a year ago of my favorite objects, with the idea of writing about each one. It was an interplay between object and memory, and the impermanence of both. But then I dropped the project because a purely digital project is not satisfying to me and I had no other outlet at the time.
I’ve put a lot of work into this show in the last month and a bit. I edited photos, took some new photos, had them all printed, wrote about each object, edited (both the text and what I chose to include in the show), designed, edited some more, printed, trimmed, assembled, and installed. I ended up including 38 objects, some of which are my small artworks and most of which are things I collected or was gifted over the years. I hope that when people view the work, they will think about their own objects, memory, the value and worth of things, and impermanence (due to environmental threats and human frailty). I hope the personal becomes universal.
If you are unable to see it in person, I have created a digital version of the exhibition booklet (which is part of the exhibition, not a supplement). You can view it below or click here to download the pdf.
I love pussy willows. The bareness of the long branches, the otherworldly softness of the catkin tufts, the contrast between the dark branches and the light, almost iridescent catkins, and that they signal (and perfectly embody) the end of winter and the beginning of spring. They are, in some way, sensual and erotic. I had some hanging out in a vase from last spring and well into summer. By fall, I had popped all the catkins off and placed them in one of my small ceramic bowls on my alter. There they sat for a few more months. I knew they would work their way into my art, but I wasn’t sure how.
And then one day (in December) I knew. I found the roll of metal mesh my mother had given me and got to work. I draped a piece of cloth along the bottom edge to protect my arms from scrapes, with my left hand supporting the work underneath while my right hand worked above with the small needle-nose pliers and catkins. The work reminded me of embroidery, and what Ann Hamilton has said time and again about her own work:
“My first hand is a sewing hand. A line of thread drawn up and down through cloth influences how I think about the confluence and rhythms of space and time. . . . Drawn, sewn or written, a line contains all the attention present in its moment of making, the rhythms of breath and body, the weather of hesitations and the stutter of the hand orbiting in the body’s immediate periphery. Folded, cut or accreted, the line’s incessant horizontality returns to itself and takes a circular form. It is simple work; it requires the body to be slow.”
Remembering that led me to listen to these lectures by Ann Hamilton about the process of making and her body of work:
Sometimes I work in silence, sometimes I watch/listen to movies or shows while working, but most often I will listen to lectures by or about artists. I don’t remember everything I listened to in the course of making this particular sculpture, but here are a few others:
I listened to Audre Lorde‘s “Uses of the Erotic” three times so far. I highly recommend it. So many powerful and still very relevant ideas.
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
About three quarters of the way through this sculpture, I realized it would be a good idea to more carefully choose the catkins, so I emptied the bowl to spread the catkins out in front of me. That’s when I saw it. The interior of the bowl (which I made several years ago) had the same color and pattern as the catkins in the mesh, and I felt something that can only be described as a full-body gasp. It was a visceral reaction, and to be honest I started crying. Just a little. But I didn’t dwell on it for too long and finished the work last night, the end of the first day of the new year.
When I first started making visual art, I was surprised to see that my work across mediums (ceramic, wire, textile, drawing, sculpture) was coherent and of a piece. At this point, it’s kind of freaking me out. The same patterns keep showing up, and it’s not intentional or done on a conscious level. I’m processing something, but I don’t know what.
And I love this work, this sculpture. I don’t just like it or really like it; I love it. I want to hug it, but I can’t. I want to understand it, but so far I don’t. This is a new opportunity for self-awareness, and I’m excited by it. I can’t really name all of these feelings, but I think they might be touching on joy, on the erotic that Lorde speaks of.
For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavours, my work becomes a conscious decision — a longed-for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.
I can’t really name all of these feelings I have about this new sculpture, but I think they might be touching on joy, on the erotic that Lorde speaks of. So here’s my wish for 2020: May it be a year of erotic exploration, of little leaps of the heart, of making and doing, of understanding and self-awareness, of poetry in all its forms.
I didn’t really know what to call this post (which will be part of an ongoing series), so I just picked something rather than get hung up on it… This series is about what’s been inspiring me this week. It could be anything, but this time it’s music and some artwork I found via Pinterest…
I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and I have to say it has been a wonderful source of inspiration and knowledge for me over the past year. I pin a number of images each week, but there are always a few that stay with me and I would like to highlight them here.
‘God’s Prototype: The Nature of Man: Lungs’ (2002; sticks, stones, graphite and gesso on wood) by Ian Crawley