Question of the week from graduate meeting: "How is what we are reading affecting your 'work'?" Elaboration: 'work' being outlook, how we create, what we create, so a very loose definition of work. We've been reading several of Bruce Metcalf's essays, also a paper that the MFA students at SUNY New Paltz delivered at the 2002 SNAG conference. I've also started reading some art philosophy- Danto. So the readings are revolving around fairly large and abstract questions. Apparently I think out loud well, now I'm going to try to remember what I said and elaborate on that. (edit: Thanks for the notes Jan!)
I feel like these readings are bringing up some points that resonate with me, and are reinforcing some of my changes in outlook and beliefs since the start of grad school. I am looking a much larger picture, both in terms of how my work fits in and also in what our field is. Regarding my work, I feel that I am developing an understanding of how and where in the timeline of craft/art I fit, what my references are, and also where I want to fit in, where I want to be going, and where I want people to place me. For our field, I feel that I am looking at several of the dimensions of what could be considered under the umbrella of "the field" and seeing how they converge and what a possible path forward might be. I feel that my perspective is pretty open and there's not a lot that I'm ruling out right now.
One of the concepts that came up in Bruce Metcalf's Towards and Aesthetics of Craft and A Moral Theory of Craft was the idea of social responsibility (part of what he refers to as the moral aspect) in our work. This strikes me as important and also something that is gaining popular support at the moment. More on this in another post.
In addition to thinking about where I want my work to fit in, I am also thinking about where and how I want to teach. The beginnings of a conversation have been traded back and forth several times between Jan and myself of what do we keep, and what do we leave. Faced with a more interdisciplinary job market and new technologies, how do we do justice to our students and the history of the field while preparing them for the world? I feel like the readings are helping me identify the nubs, the pearls, the heart of what makes jewelry special. Once I have those, I want to reinforce and amplify that through what and how I choose to teach. If we can't identify why we are a unique branch of the design and arts, then we can't be relevant, and we won't survive- both in the marketplace as well as in the academic arena. The readings are giving me the basis/history and the beginning development of a framework in which I can teach beyond the purely technical aspects.
I feel like one of the nubs for our field is the personal interactivity of the work. While we may not make things that are intended to be wearable or even practical sometimes, I feel that it all does have a level of personal interaction. Whether that is in the materials, or the scale, or the imagination of the viewers when presented with the idea of wearable; we create things that are intimate with people.
I am using the ideas raised by the readings to make better informed decisions. While they may not directly impact the form my work takes and the actual objects I create, they do affect how I think about them- both in relation to the body and to a wider audience, as well as figuring out what they say, and what I want them to say. Helping me to identify the why, not just the what.
My undergraduate background was formal and fairly dogmatic. This has certainly shaped how I create things, as well as what are some of my strong and weaker points creatively. I feel like by taking a wider view, I am better able to identify what it is that I am looking for, and what I hope to be able to do. I want to make work that I enjoy creating and that I have a bond with. I also want to make a living off of my work. That is important to me. I also feel that by looking wider and less reverently at the history and traditional paths, I am finding out what roads I am actually interested in, how to position myself and my work to line up with the areas I am looking to pursue. I also feel that I am gaining the perspective to create a pathway if there isn't one where I want it to lead rather than picking from the options presented and forcing myself into something that only sort of fits.
These readings are giving me morethings to consider, more options. This tends to have the result of feeling like I know even less than I did before, but when I arrive at a conclusion, I feel that it is one that I can defend and stand by.
It's almost midterms, and while I don't know that I'm where I want to be, I think I've been productive. We'll see how it all goes. There is news on the exhibition front- the Trash Bling rings that Sherri and I did for our Social Design class will be in both the Towson Arts Collective's Green Show which runs April 24th-30th at TAC as well as in 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, which is an awesome book being put together by Garth Johnson of Extreme Craft (check out his blog!).
Also, my Spine piece has been accepted to the Neoteric Matter exhibition that will be at the Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia- that opens the 1st of May and runs through the 27th of June. The show is curated by Daniella Kerner of Tyler and focuses on new (late 20th-early 21st c.) processes and materials.
As an addendum onto the pics from final crit, I wanted to post up the text of the Artist Statement that we each wrote that helps to give the backstory and context to the work we're producing. Grad school(as I see it) is not just about the physical objects, but also about the underlying context, intent, and meaning. I heaven't read this since I wrote it, so I can almost guarantee that it needs much work, but it's a start.
The work that I did last semester, with its relationship to the body and the unconventional way in which it was designed to be worn, was the starting place for my work this semester. I wanted to tie the forms that I was using to the body in a less generalized way. I began to look at anatomical references, as I was curious as to how imagery of the body on a microscopic scale could be used to form the decorative language for my work. I'm interested in the idea of removing the concept of jewelry from it's traditional forms of ring, necklace, etc., and displaying the work where it seems most appropriate on the body. The idea of body as site combined with body as visual language formed the basis for the work this semester. I also took a more medical and science-based approached to my imagery. Instead of creating forms that go with the body as I see it, I took imagery from scientific photography and then reworked aspects of those images in to three-dimensional forms. I then reworked and reinterpreted those forms to abstract them further from their original site. For example, I took the form of alveoli lung sacs and created a vac-u-form mold. I then cast plastic into that mold, cut the plastic casting into slices, then pierced them out so that they had a lighter and more cellular appearance bringing the sliced form closer to the original physiological form. I am interested in taking the visual language of interior anatomy and using that as exterior ornamentation of the body. Microscopic imagery of the body has a real beauty to it in the visceral quality as well as the patterning created by the body's structure. By combining this language with nontraditional material choices, I am attempting to augment and expose the interior of the body as ornamental. I am also interested in the way the jewelry is worn. Any object placed on the body develops a relationship with the body and the wearer. Not just from a site perspective, but also from the interaction or restriction on movement that is created by choosing to wear that piece. This can be behavioral, direct or abstract, or purely physical; but the way that we change what we do simply due to what we are wearing is fascinating to me. Not only are we choosing to limit or augment ourselves by what we adorn our bodies with, but we are also deciding to portray a facade or a specific portion of who we are. Making those choices affects how those around us interact with us as well. By tying this back into that anatomical references we are making choices about ourselves and what is inside of us in a direct way.
The semester that was: It was in retrospect a good semester. It was messy and difficult and occasionally tearful. There was lots of feeling adrift and wondering how/why I got there in the first place. I found one of my hard limits, and crystallized where priorities stand for me. I think I have managed to exit with a better sense of me, where I'm headed in my work, and looking at a better balanced picture of how what I do fits into who I am.
So what happened/ what I learned: I need balance. I need my life outside of school. When I was in undergrad, I lived in the studio. My friends (with the exception of my husband-then boyfriend) were artists. While I don't regret that time, it will not and doesn't work for me now. Being solely focused on art and the field makes me less productive and happy. I fall down the rabbit hole and lose perspective on life and what is important to me. Making work and being in the field I am in, and being involved in the what's going on in the world in relation to craft academics and current craft work is important to me. But it's not all that is important to me. I need the time for relationships and friends and living life outside of the bubble of school. This time not only grounds me, but it gives me the perspective on the daily frustrations and problems so that I don't get lost in and dragged down by them. It helps me be a better person, a happier person, and a more productive and better artist.
I also need a constant outlet or part of my brain to be devoted to my school work while I'm here. I lost that over the summer and I feel like it took a while to get back. Not that I wasn't thinking about my work, but it was in the really wide view of why do I make things, and why do I create rather than the specific, or even object-related aspect of it. I think I wind up tackling those huge questions when I feel lost as then I avoid the immediate issues at hand while still feeling like I'm "making progress". By sidestepping what I want to be making for me and tackling the intangibles, I'm not forced to come up with an actionable answer or decisions. By having deadlines and a schedule for working I avoid that to a large extent. Not all the way, but it helps me remember to not get lost in the clouds and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
It's okay that I don't know. And it's okay to make mistakes. This is hard, and harder than it seems like it should be. Somehow I feel that since I've been out of school and chosen to come back, it translates into "Must always know what I'm doing." I came in with a set of goals, and some of those have been discarded, some have changed, others I'm working towards. But I feel the yoke of having "been out" around my neck, and perhaps because of having lived with the restriction of creating saleable creative work, I have a "can't fail" mode. Even in my experiments, I fight the feeling that all attempts need to result in something that I can turn into a product. One of the reasons I let me work take such a turn when I came in was to break that mode, and it has mostly worked. It came back somewhat this semester when I had forms and didn't know where I was headed with them. The luxury that I have now to let pieces sit until they resolve or solve themselves in my head is just that- a luxury. I worried that I was getting too used to that. There was a lot of not knowing this semester, being uncertain of what my work is about, developing the fledgling ideas around that, the uncertainty of the future and what it maight hold once I leave here. That tends to get me spun around and unable to tell up from down and worrying that I need to know where I'm going before I can begin the journey. Especially when it is a journey I feel like is a gift to me rather than something I earned and consequently mine to steer. But that isn't the case, or more accurately, it can't be the case. If I wait until I know it will be too late. If I don't take the chance it will pass and I won't ever know if it would've been good for me or not. I'm trying to remember that.
I am human. I can't do it all. And that is okay. This semester was the first time that I really bit off more than I could handle. I know I tend to complicate things and make them hard on myself. If it's too easy I don't think that it's worth doing. I know that isn't actually true, but I have to remind myself of that constantly. It feels like if it is easy, then I should be able to figure it out without needing to pay for the education. I feel like I get stretched thin a lot, and I feel that some of it is for good reasons, and most of it I recognize when I commit to things. I have a limited time here at school. Since I've been out and working for so long in many ways this is like a surprise gift of time and freedom that I feel like I need to make the most out of. I have a pretty decent hang-up about money and self-reliance. I don't like needing people to support me. I know that this is completely unrealistic. However, going from earning a living (not a big one, but one nonetheless) to being a full time student has done a good job of feeling like I have an expectation to live up to. I know that the actual expectation is for me to get the degree. Period. That's it. The expectation in my head is a lot higher. That expectation is more along the lines of getting a reprieve. That this sacrifice is being made for me, and if I don't have a clear road map and am taking all the opportunities and creating things that are clearly in line with furthering my career then I have failed. Which does a neat job of excising a lot of the experimentation and leaving me feeling like I am looking at a path littered with landmines. As if I spend time on experimenting and it goes nowhere I have wasted time.
I am learning to explain myself better. Not just in crits, which is certainly true; but in life. I am learning to explain my outlook on my education to people not predisposed to understand it intuitively. I am learning to justify myself. As I explained during the semester, I have thrown many of the limitations placed on me when I am working aside while I am enrolled. I haven't managed to throw them all off, and I think that there are still a few to go, but by and large they have been cast off. This isn't permanent however. Once I graduate and begin working for a living again with me art, many of those will come back into play. But this is the time when I don't need to have them. When I can develop the vocabulary and do the exploring that will result in tweaking those limitations to create sell able interesting work. That will help me not be just another jeweler out there, that give me the chance to be great not just good. Now is the time for me to get it wrong, to lean too far one way or another. (Which is much easier when said than to accept when I'm doing it) I don't know what post-MFA life will look like. I do still want to teach. I'm rethinking my ideas of teaching and the future of craft education. I am also 99% certain that I do not want to do shows again. I don't believe that what is out there fits in for me. I would rather spend my time coming up with a solution that is better than the existing ones than shoehorn myself somewhere that I don't think can last. I'm interested in selling my designs to be produced, but I don't know how feasible this is. I want to figure out how technology can help us move forward and not get left behind in the sales area.
I learned that people think what I do is important. And that makes a huge difference to me. I know that what I do makes me happy, and that there is a large part of me that needs to make in order to be me and feel fulfilled. Making equalizes me and gives me an outlet when words fail and I don't know how else to get something across. However, I always thought that is was tolerated and looked upon as that thing I do. Not something that makes a difference in the world and to people on a real daily level. But it does. And that knowledge gives me a much stronger belief in myself and my work. Which helps to get through semesters like this one intact.
This semester went by in a time warp- it seemed both too fast and neverending at the same time. The blogging got pushed aside in favor of getting other stuff done, but I'll attempt to post the thoughts and musings from this semester to give it all more context. I got the pics of my final crit setup uploaded so here they are....