here it goes again

Mid-term paralysis. I should have suspected. Things were going way too smoothly. My strategy so far this semester has been to pursue just about every random idea I have, having departed quite a bit from my prior "body of work," editing a half-dozen or so project ideas down to three or four and committing to those until December review boards. One thing leads to another, ideas change, and before I know it I'm creating an installation that's moved away from the wall completely, a sort of juggling act of perhaps too many elements. And I don't have a very good reason for my sudden fascination with, for example, the adirondack chair. So I'm torn between caring about meaning and content and realizing it might be time to slow down and think about that stuff, and feeling like I need to work, work, work my way through these ideas to understand what they mean to me and what kind of response I might want them to evoke in the viewer. I don't want to end up with an empty "one-liner" but I don't want to kill the imagination by over-thinking it all either. Oy.

Anyway, that's about how my week has gone so far. Tuesday was the real highlight, though, and I think the emotional turmoil may have been initiated by watching "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in the morning block of my painting seminar (I'm not sure why). I'd seen the movie several times before, but not recently, and never that early or that sleep-deprived or in a classroom setting. Even in the best of viewing situations, the movie is highly upsetting to me, for many reasons, and the entire time I was wondering why Jason Middlebrook, one of the Museum School's visiting artists and one of the "four painters" participating in that night's panel discussion, when invited to forward relevant reading materials to us to prepare for his portion of the presentation, recommended instead that we watch this movie. I've compared art school critiques to diagnostic medicine before, specifically as it's portrayed in the t.v. show "House," and I guess I could see some depressing similarities between grad group critique and institutionalized group therapy. Who knows? Maybe the film is just an influence for him.

At any rate, I think some of that experience carried over into the rest of my day. So much for taking critical feedback with a grain of salt. I love ideas, really I do, and I love talking about them, but sometimes I wish I could be like Jasper Johns, just make something and put it out into the world and let the viewer or audience do the explaining. I, as the "artist," or "cultural worker," or whatever, am not really that important. And it doesn't mean I don't think art or artists are important in general...I just don't think we know everything ahead of time. And it wouldn't hurt to get over ourselves occasionally.

And if I make a latch-hook pillow from a photo of Georgia O'Keefe, it's not necessarily "trivializing" the artist, a comment I've heard now from two different people. Is it "trivializing" because it's latch-hook? Because a pillow is a rather mundane object with some functionality (although both the latch-hook and pillow elements were, in my mind at least, elements of decoration, not of use or of function...who sits on a latch-hook pillow? have you ever seen a latch-hook "rug" on the floor?)? Because I'm including artists who've dealt with their own image in completely different ways, like Frida Kahlo and Cindy Sherman? Obviously, these artists and, more importantly, their work, are important to me and I mean them no disrespect, but the trivial comment really makes me wonder, whatever happened to the death of the artist? Are Georgia, Frida, and Cindy untouchable? What if I made latch-hook pillows from portraits of Chuck Close, Gerhard Richter, or Matthew Barney? And it's not like I'm making a latch-hook version of their work. And so what if I did? And damn you for turning a latch-hook pillow, something I've been making "for fun" as I spend too much time watching t.v. and movies, into something potentially negative. So maybe I should stop sharing this kind of work...Or maybe I like this kind of conversation and how it potentially "troubles" the image of the artist.

You know what I mean?


Chrissa said...

Wow, I love this latch hook concept. I think of latch hook rugs as kind of tacky '70s throwbacks, but you have subverted (if I may use pretentious art school speak) the fundamental kitchy nature of the latch hook to make something lovely and meditative. Trivialize that, art nerds!

Becky G. said...

Thanks, Chrissa! I should add that I'm certainly not the only person/artist/crafter attempting to invigorate the craft of latch-hook (check out Whitney Lee's take on the craft, and locals may have seen Rob Conger's large Disneyland "rugs" at MassArt's recent show "Crafty"), but this project is definitely reaffirming my feeling that craft sure is contemporary and has a lot of place in cultural practice, whether one calls it art or not. As we've discussed before, I'm not interested in elevating craft so much as I am in brining art down to earth a bit. And I'm fascinated with the idea that latch-hookers (and cross-stitchers and probably lots of other crafters) have been pixellating images long before Photoshop was available to them.

marshmallow soup said...

I was so excited to read this post! But mostly for selfish reasons I'm afraid. I just got a latch hook kit (more in the typical atsy craftsy vein) and I am having a hard time with it. Any advice?

Becky G. said...

See, the latch-hook is alive and kicking! Check out Whitney Lee's tutorial (from her main page, click on the box on the left side that says "Want to be a hooker? Learn the basics!") - it's a step by step guide to making the latch hook knot, complete with illustrative images. I hadn't hooked (so to speak) in awhile, so I went through her tutorial a couple of times, with my mesh and yarn on my lap in front of the computer. Also, I'm not sure how one is directed in a kit, but I go row by row, from top to bottom, moving right to left. Not sure why, just felt most comfortable that way. Hope that helps!

marshmallow soup said...