Ok, I don’t know if this is really obvious from the way I’ve been posting them, so I’ll just point out that the deal with these little drawings I’ve been making is that they connect, one after another, to make one long story. I’ll try and get a picture of it once a few more or done (I want this to be a big series, so it won’t be done done for a while) so you can see what I mean.
Meanwhile, I need to get the hell out of our apartment. The neighbors are having a Beach Boys marathon or something and, wow – I never realized that I know every word to every Beach Boys hit ever until their music started being forceably piped into my studio. Our neighbors are awesome and this sort of thing never happens, so I’m trying to give them their space; on the other hand, I’m worried about the music infecting my thinking, drawing and writing. I had a flash that if I don’t get out of here, there’s a good chance my girls will be surfing and having their T-birds taken away before I know it. Eek.
Hah – it’s funny for me to see my last post here talking about how I was developing a little head cold, when what what wound up happening between then and now is that I got my ass kicked by the flu – for two whole weeks. I never really understood why people spend the time/money getting vaccinated against the flu, but now I get it! It was pretty awful. I’m on antibiotics and codeine now and it is slowly taking its leave of me… but not fast enough as far as I’m considered.
So: No art from me for the last week, week and a half, thereabouts. Blah. I hope this weekend will be different and I can get back to work.
Meanwhile, laying awake at night coughing (or the alternative: dwelling between being awake and asleep, thanks to the codeine) gave me a lot of time to think about different things, time that I think I didn’t realize I needed. Maybe it’s because one of my last acts before getting my ass kicked was stopping by the craft section at B&N and looking at knitting books (my friends keep having babies), but one thing that I keep coming back to is this idea:
I have mixed feelings about my childhood, as I think most people do – I can’t say it was completely horrible all the time, nor was it some sort of Disney fantasy where everything was wonderful 24/7. It was a mixed bag, and I inherited traits from my family that I am desperate to get rid of and other qualities I am so happy they instilled in me. Falling into the latter category would be my parent’s absolute hatred for what can be thought of as “cookie-cutter culture” – whether it was fast food or craft projects for kids where you follow the directions exactly and make some sort of predetermined “art.” I remember my dad being profoundly disappointed with me when I proudly showed him a drawing I made using a stencil – it’s just copying, he said, what’s so great about that? I hadn’t thought about this in years until I visited a friend’s 9 year old daughter who proudly showed me a wood carving she made as part of a kid she got for Christmas – and the carving looked exactly like the front of the box. It took all I had to not recoil in horror.
I don’t agree with my parent’s assessment that copying (especially for children) is so horrible; copying can teach you all sorts of great skills and tools that you can use elsewhere (I learned so much from copying famous works of art in watercolor, for instance). But their greater point was that the imagination was the key, so much more important than the ability to render exactly or carve perfectly. This, I think, was the good part of the lesson and it’s the part I’ve tried to hold onto.
Likewise, the strip of 6th Avenue between 21st and 23rd is straight out of my parent’s worst nightmares: the Outback Steakhouse, the B&N, Olive Garden, Staples, Cosi, Starbucks, etc. Eating at a chain restaurant was like the lowest thing a human being could do in my parent’s eyes. The logic went: The coffee at the corner deli is inherently better than the coffee at Starbucks simply because it was made by a local business and not a corporation. This isn’t actually true – I’ve had some awful deli coffee, and while it’s funny that I developed a taste for Starbucks by freeganing through their bins, the fact remains that I like their food, period.
Ok, so where am I going with this and why is it relevant to this blog? Because I found myself picking through those knitting catalogs at B&N and realizing a disturbing trend. A book like Stitch and Bitch has been on the market for some time and seems harmless enough – it’s a knitting guide basically aimed to Gen X aging hipster women who want to knit and don’t want to feel dorky. It’s neat to flip through and see all the possibilities of stuff you can make and how you can make old patterns “cool” (along the lines of, Oh wow, knitting a skull onto that sweater is a pretty good idea). Although it elicited an eye roll from me when I came across it on the shelf, it didn’t really seem to be anything worth getting terribly upset about.
But then there’s the book Anticraft, and Punk Knits, and Domiknitrix – all designed to help remove the old-lady smell from your yarn and make it ok to knit if you’re of a certain demographic (which, horrifyingly, is the demographic I fall into, which is why this bothers me so). What started out as sort of a funnly little blip on the screen now feels much more pathological. It’s a whole mini-genre of books that act like a sheild to our inner cultural critic – No, see, I’m not old! I’m still cool! I’m knitting an anarchy symbol! That makes it ok!!
So this is what I’m getting at:
* It is inherently cool to make your own stuff, whether it is baby booties or handmade lace or (god) a luchbox purse cozy (or whatever). You don’t need a book to tell you this.
* It is simply better to make something with your own hands than to by a similar item from a corporation, meaning I’d rather see you knitting an anarchy sweater on the train than wearing one you bought at Hot Topic. But really, I’d rather see people around me coming with their own ideas of rebellion and how-to-be-different, rather than just assuming the ones that are handed to them.
* Punk rock is not a collection of hackneyed symbols warmed over from the 1970s. It’s about being independant and thinking for yourself and rejecting all that is soul-crushing in the world – not about making your dog a Sex Pistols sweater.
* What would be really awesome is if you went to the bookstore, scanned the patterns briefly, used them as inspiration and then left them on the shelf, and went home and designed your own damn sweater with your own symbols, colors, stitches, etc – something that expressed who you actually are.
Sigh. Punk rock and making things are two of the most important things in my life, so these thoughts have been burning in my head the whole time I’ve been sick. Now that they’re articulated (I could go on and on, but won’t), let’s get back to work…
I’m almost ready for school to start this week… fell behind a bit by the double whammy of a stomach virus followed by a head cold, but I’m doing better now. Just wish, as always, that there was more time to go around for all the things I want to do. Oh well.
I finished this one just before I got really sick last night…
Ok, get ready for more links in the next paragraph than I usually do in a month.
So Annie Ok posted on Twitter the other day that MacHeist was offering a bundle of Mac Applications for $49. I checked it out, not expecting to see anything that I could really use, but lo and behold…
One of the programs that the bundle tosses in is iStopMotion, software made specifically for stopmotion animation. I had been checking it out anyway way before I even knew about MacHeist, so now getting it with these other applications I might occasionally use seemed like a good idea. I sprang for it.
Shortly thereafter, I got sick with a head cold, which means I’ve been laying in bed and dreaming about stopmotion. Tonight, in a fit of… something… I threw this together:
I just had to test out the new software, you know?
Anyway, it’s a whole load of nothing right now, but I’m glad to have the new software. I need to play around with it a bit more sans-fever to understand it better, but hey.
It seems to me that there are two different kinds of artists in the world: Those who are quick to describe what kind of artist they are (“I’m a post-Marxist, Conceptual, feminist painter whose work is a inquiry into the notion of the organic…” ok, whatever) and those who just want to shrug and avoid the question all together by saying something along the lines of, “Well, I just make stuff.”
Neither answer is especially satisfying. Chances are the person who asked you “What kind of artist are you?” was doing so either just to be friendly or to genuinely gain some sort of understanding of your work. And neither the “I’m ______” answer (which sounds so calculating and cold) or the “I dunno” answer (which sounds like false naivete) really gets you any closer to understanding who or what you are.
I think it’s important that artists can articulate to themselves who they are in the studio. That said, the kind of over-articulation that can occur when someone has a laundry list of adjectives ready to describe their work can act more like a barrier to the outside world than an explanation. It can also serve to shut down the kind of dialog artists need to have with themselves while they’re working. If you believe that you’re a formalist painter, what happens if you wake up in the middle of the night with the burning desire to make a conceptual installation? Well, if you’ve told the whole world over and over that you’re a formalist painter, chances are you roll over and go back to bed, in the process letting an interesting idea go… because you’re simply “not that kind of artist.”
I bring all this up because this Friday, when I was working on my print, we had NPR on. One of the shows was talking about this idea of “the new sincerity” (in particular, as expressed in the movie Juno). Having not seen the movie, I barely paid attention. But that evening, there was an email from a friend of mine pointing out that she, too, had heard the program and that she “realized” that, “That’s you!” (er, that would be me that she’s talking about).
And I get it – I get why she would say that, I get why she would think it. And there is some truth to it. There does exist this funny sort of generation gap (funny because I’ve wound up on the “wrong” side of it) between older artists seeped in irony and younger artists who are making work that does seem more sincere, honest, or true. Much of the work I see at school that gets ripped apart by the older professors, dismissed as kitsch or as “too feminine” falls into this category of Gen Y, “sincere” artwork. The students don’t understand where the anger is coming from.
I don’t know how I feel about all this, how I feel about my place in it, if I think that my work is more or less sincere than other Gen Xers, and so on. I’m really confused by it all. So – check it out – I did what I always do in these situations. I made a drawing, just a quick sketchbook jot:
And I realized, Oh shit, I just made a drawing to help me come to terms with my feelings. Could I be any more painfully… twee? And to make matters worse, I just posted about the drawing in my blog. It’s not a livejournal, but it’s not far off either.
Good lord. So who’s going to play me in the Wes Anderson movie?
Since this blog is a record of my works-in-progress, I sometimes feel like it becomes a final resting places for half-finished work – that somehow, I start so many projects that only a small fraction of them get done completely. I actually kind of like that about the blog, as I think it’s a good record of what I’m up to as an artist, moreso than just seeing finished work.
But anyway… remember the Rutgers print? This summer, I started a print project with the Brodsky Center at Rutgers, making a 3-d multiple with lithography and hand-working. Instead of making a flat print that hangs on the wall, I wanted to make something that you could play with – basically, like a collection of toys. We had to start out with a flat piece of paper so it could be run through the press, but the paper then gets cut and assembled into each of these different things.
We finally got it to the point where a proof was made and it’s up right now in their exhibit of new works. I went out to visit the proof today. It looks good! Kinda hard to capture it in pictures, but I’ll give it a try…
Ok, so: Ideally, the first thing you’d see is this box which, although maybe it’s not so obvious when you first see it, is actually a lithograph that’s been shaped into being a box. It has three girls on it and they are looking up in the sky and the text reads “Three Variations on the Theme of Revolution.” When you open the box…
…you see there are all these little things packed into it. Those little things are all parts of the print. These are the “directions” explaining to you how each piece “revolves”…
This is a little hand-held zoetrope that has an image inside of a bird pulling a worm out of the ground if you hold it up to your eyes just right (it does actually move!)…
This is a top that actually spins (so happy I was able to capture it in motion) and there’s a little fortune-telling game built in…
Lastly, there’s a mobile which was the one part not completely ready just yet, but you can see it in this installation shot:
So, hooray! Now the trick is that it probably won’t be til summer that it’s available. But still… it’s coming along…!!
I’ve been holed up the last few days, sick with the stomach flu. Today was my first day at least halfway back and I made this:
I have a couple of bigger drawings that have been lingering unfinished since before Christmas, but I didn’t want to risk ruining them given that it was my first day back. Better, I think, to start and finish something from scratch rather than try to pick up where you left off, which is always a trickier prospect.
I think Thursday’s my next time back drawing (life/school/printmaking are taking centerstage the next couple of days). I’m exhausted from just being up all day today, but I really want to just get back to normal already.
This summer, as Jeff and I were staying in Vermont, I found myself weirdly nostalgic for the kind of more intensely political drawings I used to do. Political content is never really far from my work and it seems to always find its way in, in some fashion; but there was really a time where I felt as though the evening news, the politicians of the world, and I were all engaged in this intense sort of dialog, back and forth.
A little background: A lot of people ask me where the words in my drawings come from and, for the most part (when we’re talking about the work I’ve done over the last few years), the words are from me – written either in journals or spontaneously as I’m drawing. However in the past, I copied huge chunks of text from journals/news sources that pertained to politics. I would take these passages that described opinions that I didn’t necessarily share and copy them over carefully in my own hand and sort of forceably digest them and see how they’d sit.
I’ve moved away from the practice of copying other people’s words in recent years (the work where I did this was primarily in 2003-4), to the point where I rarely ever do it anymore. But where that practice came from (and I realize I might be getting caught up in more Amy minutiae than anyone cares to know about) was something left over from college. I had been a horrible high school student and didn’t really have any of the skills I needed to study at a college level, so one of the things I devised was copying over texts that were assigned to me to read. The purpose was twofold: Copying over the text forced me to slow down and actually read what was in front of me (something I had an incredibly hard time doing) and it also helped me to teach me to be a better writer.
It was a silly way of studying and not anything that I ever made a big deal over, nor did I copy incredibly long passages of text (althought the exceptions to this were Clement Greenberg and Walter Benjamin, but most other people it was just a phrase or sentence here and there) or anything. It was just that when I came across a paragraph that I thought was especially confusing or interesting or beautiful or terrible, I’d copy it down word by word and it helped me to understand it some more – not always 100%, but some more than I originally did.
This practice always reminded me of knitting or sewing – of making the world up just one little stitch/letter/bit at a time. I pictured the world being made up of fabric (strange, I know) and I was just sitting there painstakingly putting down one little stitch at a time, making my way through all the fabric before me. I remember sitting once in the library and looking up and just thinking about all of those letters in all of those books…
Anyway. I still think about this practice and how it helped me to understand things I couldn’t have understood any other way. I still do it, too, when I have problems concentrating when I read.
But my favorite thing about it, is that it takes someone else’s voice (experience, ideas) and forces it into mine, even if for a moment. So, getting back to this summer, I started collecting news stories that fascinated me – news stories that had passages in them that I thought were just difficult to comprehend (sometimes wonderfully so, but more often horribly so) and copying them over onto the backs of index cards. For instance:
I let a bunch accumulate and then let the project slide, having gotten caught up in other things. But I keep finding these cards all over the place and thinking I should do something with them – at the very least, I ought to continue with this practice even if nothing really “comes of” the project.
I made another one tonight:
This one probably bears some explaining in the sense that I am not a huge Clinton supporter, not do I necessarily think that her emotional reaction was rehearsed or fake. This is what makes it a compelling story for me. My reaction to it is a total mess that I have trouble articulating.
Anyway, I think I’m starting this project up again, if for no other reason then it gives me permission to obsessively watch the news.
If you take one of my drawing classes, you’re all too familiar with these sketchbooks I’ve become obsessed with, since I keep having my students buy them and do projects in them. I wish I had a better way to describe them, but one of their selling points is their absolute non-descriptiveness: they are small (6 x 7 inches, about?), with a simple solid colored cover, staple bound. The paper inside is decent but not totally amazing, but the books are really cheap so it’s ok (maybe $3.50 each? see, I’m vague on details). Basically, if you can picture one of those examination books you’d get for mid-terms when you were in high school then you can get a good idea of what I mean. There is no brand name on it anywhere I can see. The website of the store where I buy them doesn’t have any info about what they are or who makes them. They’re like the indiest indie band ever that refuses to have a name or a label or release an album, to the point where the line between “cool” and “frustrating” becomes really blurred.
Anyway. I adore these books because it’s relatively easy to get going on a little experimental jag in them and fill them up pretty quickly. Most sketchbooks have 100 pages or so in them; these have about 25 – totally doable to fill the whole thing in about a week.
So that’s what I’ve been doing – I have several of these books going at one time and it is SO fun. I’ve been wanting to kick out some simple images that would give me the flexibility to think more about my writing, as least as an experiment.
This is the one that is the most done and it’s about halfway finished. The waterline is going up and then receding and then moving back again (ok, you can see it partway through its process here). I put one of these images up on this blog before, but I think it’s better to see it in context:
Might rework that last one, not sure yet.
Anyway, there’s about ten more spreads to go, I think. But you can see the start of it here.
I’m also doing some single drawings that I really like, but the leisurely pace of winter break has given me some time to breathe, flake out, and work on books. Oh winter break, please don’t ever end…