Collected news stories

January 7, 2008 at 10:32 pm (art, culture, drawing, interesting, personal, thoughts)

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:

miners-sm.jpg

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:

010708sm.jpg

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.

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