Here are two of the etchings from before, only with hand-coloring. I don’t have the spider web one here because I was experimenting with the sky and, well, screwed it up (the plate is fine, but I just don’t have a clean version of the image right now). But you can see the other two:
I spent some time online looking at different art sites, just sort of reading some of the latest blogs and comments people have posted to them. One thing I kept discovering is how many people very proudly declare that they don’t like personal narrative in work. I understand that this is a valid point of view, one that is actually held by the majority within the art world. I was just startled by it, because I couldn’t disagree more.
Again, I 100% accept that this is a valid point of view. But to my mind, if I wasn’t doing something involving personal narrative, I would feel as though I was doing design – not art. I would feel this sort of clinical remove from my work (which I know is something I was encouraged to find when I was in art school) that would be ok, but ultimately meaningless to me. At the point at which I think of removing the personal from my work, I may as well be a graphic designer (nothing wrong with that of course, but you’re working on assignment and the stakes are very different).
Without some kind of personal narrative – even something tangential and distant – I’m not sure what deep personal investment there can be in an artmaking practice, and without that, I’m not sure I know what the point is. I tend to view everything through the lens of the personal – I adore Conceptual art, but even that I always bring back to, Ok, why did the artist make this, why are they interested in Saussure or whatever, what lead them to this point, and what did they get out of making this work? It’s the person I’m interested in, not so much the idea – the idea is a way to get at the person, but that’s all it is. To me.
Hey, I have (along with the very generous help of my intern Katie) put together a new, self-published catalog of recent works!
It’s a collection of drawings and artist’s books that I made from 2007 – until just before the summer. I’ve had many people ask me over the years if I had a catalog available and… well, now I do.
And what’s more, the company that I printed it through is having a sale! Yes! If you go to order one and type in the coupon code BEACHREAD305 (hey, I don’t make the coupon codes!), you’ll get 15% off the cover price of $23. You have to order between now and August 15th to get the discount.
Anyway, I’m really happy with how it came out!
Ok, I’m starting to get the hang of this etching thing. I feel like I sort of get it now… not that I really 100% know what I’m doing (far from it) but more that I have a sense of, at least to a certain extent, what you can do with etching.
So, playing around, here are the keepers:
The plates are 4 x 6, so to make these tiny little lines, I had to make a tool fashioned out of a sewing needle taped to a chopstick. Actually, there are several that I made, in different size gauge needles. I like that anxious, scratchy line a lot, and the way in which you can get just so much detail.
I’m not actually printing these. I work on the plate, then turn it over to Shannon to finish. But working on the plates is pretty fun.
I recently saw the movie The Devil and Daniel Johnston and it got me thinking.
I teach a class at SVA on the intersection of drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and creativity, and the life story of Johnston has all of these things in spades. The question I am constantly asked by people both in the art world and outside of it is one that I think none of us is very comfortable with, namely: Is there a connection between “insanity” and creativity; aka, Do you have to be crazy to be a good artist?
I have certainly struggled with my mental health issues over my life, so this is a question I personally come back to over and over. Here’s my latest thinking:
I don’t think that creativity and “craziness” (whether fueled by drugs, biology, trauma, whatever) are necessarily connected in the sense that one fuels the other. People who would not at all be considered “crazy” are creative all the time – our lives are filled with a million acts of creativity, whether they’re a choice of what to wear today or what to make for dinner, or the doodles we make on a scrap sheet of paper while on the phone.
But here’s where the connection does actually come in. I think that being in that “crazy” state is what fuels the kind of work ethic, ambition, and molotov cocktail of self-doubt and self-confidence needed to actually create, in a sustained sort of a way, an extensive body of work.
So for instance, in the film, we are shown that in his early years Johnston worked a crappy job at McDonald’s, basically washing tables. For most people, this would mean total demoralization. They would go home and cry, or try and take classes somewhere to get to a better place professionally, or dull their senses by watching hours upon hours of mindless television. Instead, Johnston goes home and makes music and records cassettes of it that he gives to people he likes at the McDonald’s. He can’t afford the kind of machine you need to dub tapes, so in order to have a steady supply of tapes to give away, he has to re-record his album over and over and over again.
That is totally crazy. Not writing the music, not being a stellar performer or a gifted pianist; the act of going home and not taking the hint that the world just wants you to curl up and go far away – that is the very definition of insanity. It’s also that sort of doggedness that has made Johnston so successful in many senses of the word.
People who have mental illness issues are used to doing this sort of thing. When I think about my own life, there are so many times that I’ve been so out of step with what everyone else is thinking or caring about, that after a certain point it doesn’t matter. You know, I’m used to people looking at me and telling me I’m crazy. And I am. And really, so what? So it means that I’m free to do something without fear of getting that label.
Today is an absolutely beautiful day, one of our first beautiful days in quite a while. I am spending it indoors, methodically scratching at a 4 x 6 copper plate with a sewing needle, making something that will eventually be an etching. The entire right side of my body hurts like hell, because I have spent the last two days (all day, hour upon hour) doing this same thing. But that’s ok, because honestly? My body always hurts. It’s probably as much psychosomatic as it is muscle fatigue. And even though I know that there’s a good chance these etchings might not turn out at all (I’m a newbie and well, you never know) I can’t think of anything I would rather do with this beautiful Sunday than pour more hours into this project. A normal person would suggest to go slow – see how the first ones turn out, then proceed from there. But I’m not normal; I’m crazy. And as a result, I’m used to screwing up all the time. So if I screw this up – so what? Just another thing to pick myself up from. And maybe in the process, I’ll actually do something really good.
I started working with Shannon Broder yesterday, who is going to be printing some etchings for me. This is very, very preliminary, but here’s a sneak peak:
I’m working on a bunch of projects that are all going to come together at once… trust me on this. Ok, I don’t quite believe it myself, but it’s true. Really.
Here’s a shot of a small book I editioned which is part of all that: