Thursday, January 17, 2008

Following Up & Following the Breadcrumbs

As I said before, the trip to NYC was great, incredibly productive. Here are a few shots from the opening at 31GRAND.

Here I am with Heather, one of the 31GRAND gallerists, and Carol "Riot" Kane:

Here are a few installation shots of my work before the crowds got there.
Dogs, female warriors, and my handsome brother:
For pics of the opening in full swing, you can go to Carol's blog.

It seems that during the last few business trips I have made, opportunities have sprung up out of nowhere, and I accomplish far more than I had previously planned. Back in November, I had seen on the NYFA website that there were 50 minute career consultation sessions (called NYFA Live) available during the days I was going to be in NYC, so I lined that up ahead of time. I can't recommend them enough for those of you in NY. They were extremely informative.... how often do you get to write down specific questions about your career and get all your questions answered?
I saw Orly Cogan (showed with her in KC a few months back, then at MAD, now we are both in the show at 31GRAND) at the gallery, and she asked me to join her at MAD the next day to talk about my work to a curator who was walking a group of collectors through the show. Over the 4 day period, I had several other meetings with friends where we exchanged lots of information: I came home with a full Moleskine.

It is so rare that I come back from a trip without another trip lined right up behind it, or an impending deadline. It was great to be able to come home, go through all the information I collected, and follow up right away with everything: thank yous, follow up emails, packets. Most times, I do the urgent followups, but then let the less urgent ones get pushed aside, and they are done only after the next deadline passes or the next few trips are over. I have been so jazzed to follow up and start on ideas for new work that my blogging has become sparse and lame, and for that I apologize.

After the that work was completed, I moved on to what I call "following the breadcrumbs"... an often stream-of-consciousness activity that tells me what needs to be made next. It involves reading, working in my sketchbook, paying extra attention to dreams, watching films, etc, paying attention to overlaps, and following when one thing leads you to another. Serendipity plays a large role in reaffirming my gut instincts about future direction. Through this process, I divine what comes next in my studio, or, at least, figure out what I need to play with that will lead me to my next work.

This time, I did something I have never done before: I went through my sketchbooks of the last few years, including all the little moleskines I carry with me everywhere. Combing through them, I determined which ideas or fragments of ideas were relevant to me now, and created a concise list. It turned out to be 8-9 pages of one-to-two line descriptions: sometimes the description is about imagery, sometimes a concept, sometimes, materials. I am tremendously excited about this process: I have always had way too many ideas for new work: often, different ideas overlap, and I believe this process will help me distill and process the ideas to make the strongest possible work. It is an organizational process that will not take the place of "following breadcrumbs", but will help flesh out that process.

Yesterday, after completing my list, I pulled out two xeroxes I found in my sketchbook that I wanted to reread. One was excerpts from an interview with Marion Woodman (hearing her speak a few years ago was the closest thing to a religious experience that I have ever had), and the other xerox was one chapter on textiles from the book New Feminist Art Criticisms.

Last night, I had a great inspirational dream. I will spare you the complete details, but the setting for the dream was a kind, benevolent, but eccentric professor's office. It was like a library room lined with shelves of books on all sides, and he was conducting a type of graduate seminar in there, very informal, with all of us in easy chairs scattered about the room. In the center of the room was a very large table with strange objects on it: it was impossible to keep myself from picking up these seductive objects. Some of them were amorphous and lumpy, like coral or sea creatures in texture (note to self: go look at the underwater sea creature book that you ordered a while back because the forms & light seemed so inspirational, the one you have not yet had time to really look at), and some were like palm-sized flat snowflakes or crystals, but with no center, so they were wheel-like with decorative borders, about an inch thick, made from beach glass: all the objects, whether opaque or translucent, were beautifully colored.

This morning, I read the xeroxes. The Marion Woodman piece had all kinds of great wisdom on creativity and "freeing up the soul so that it may act in union with your creative instrument", but the phrase that I added to the end of my eight page list was "God (whatever your definition) can be manifested though light in matter... that's what the Impressionists were trying to paint, and that's what the Romantics were trying to write music about." (reiteration of one of my central themes, light....). Next, I read the chapter on textiles written by Janis Jefferies in New Feminist Art Criticisms. One of the pieces illustrated there was an amazing metal and red velvet piece (not the piece below, but another one.... red velvet.... one of my obsessions),
done by Cathy De Monchaux. I looked her up for the first time. The piece in the xerox was old, but some of her current work looks amazingly like the pieces in my dream last night. Some of it even has hair:
There are no large images of those pieces to show you, but there are large portfolio images of other great work here. All books & catalogues on her seem to be out of print : (
The De Monchaux google search led me to this interview with De Monchaux, conducted by Ana Finel Honigman, which addresses some of the issues I am grappling with at this particularly busy moment in my career. And so it goes....

Today, there are ice storms in North Carolina. I am hoping that the rain will stop this evening, and we can go out for a walk and take pictures of the ice-covered trees at night.

Parting words : "I will make this clear as I speak: The tax money that is being withdrawn from arts programs in schools will be spent on prisons." - Marion Woodman



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