A journal made from recycled cardboard by Helena, age 7:
"Forget confessional art. This is withholding art, evading disclosure, declining to give itself away."
Why is it that all children have a desire to create and express themselves? And why do most people stop as they become adults? And is there something different about those of us that continue to pursue an artistic career or venture in life? Or is it just simply that we didn’t lose something and others did? Or did we discover the merit and therapeutic expression only making something with your hands can give you, and others did not?
Or is it simply because it was fun as a child, before we became self conscious and insecure? Then we started being awarded and praised? Did it become a measurable act, and was no longer simply a means of self expression? Do we not want to make because we began to realize that we might fail? That there were others who might be better than us? Maybe it is only those who were praised for their artistic skills and creative minds that continued into a lifetime of art making? Did we realize we liked doing it, and others thought we were good at something, so we just kept doing it? Could it really be that simple?
Does school kill this desire to create? Does thinking too much squelch our inner voice, and our natural inclination to make? Does the more formal training a person has actually set them up for a higher chance of not creating? Does education breed doubt? Or is it just human nature to always compare ourselves to others and question our own worth and skills?
And if it really is that simple, and black and white, how can we encourage all children? How can schools and educators teach students the value of self expression without making them self conscious? How can art teachers still give out grades and not create competition? How can we take the focus away from doing something well, and instead just make it about doing?
But if this happened, how would art be evaluated? How would one improve their skills and technique if there was no good art and no bad art? Does art actually need to be evaluated and measured and given rank?
As you probably know, I have been spending the last 9 months participating as an Artist-in-Residence in rural Pennsylvania. I made the move here by myself, and have been living alone for those 9 months.
Upon my arrival, I was energized and excited. New places always do that, and I was ready to explore the area as well as excited to begin a new introspective journey as I began to create a new body of work. Moving alone is never easy, but early on I took solace in two different but interrelated quotes I happened to stumble upon:
“Isolation creates authenticity” and “Authenticity is the only way to vulnerability”.
I unfortunately do not recall the original source of either of these phrases, but they stuck with me; figuratively as well as actually scribbled down and underlined emphatically in my shiny new sketchbook. (I even embarrassingly reference these quotes in my previous post from January). These concepts are not new to me, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about and engaging in conversations surrounding the true definition of authentic, or what I like to refer to as, “honest” work. I’ve always been attracted to work that seems to come from an honest place, although I still struggle to fully define what that really means, or how one creates honest work vs. what? Dishonest work? Is there such a thing?
I believe all work that an artist creates is a reflection of the artist, based solely on the merit of being created by them, a unique individual. But there still seems to be something that catches my attention every so often. It’s that deep feeling of recognition you get or that tiny lump that forms in your throat when you look at a particular piece of work. It’s that funny feeling of recognition, almost like accidently catching someone with their clothes off, where you feel both a deep sense of that person and their vulnerability while also recognizing something in their vulnerability that you too possess. This for me is not always emotionally charged work, or highly narrative displays into a person’s past or current experiences. I’m talking about times I’ve looked at a Rothko or Agnes Martin and have truly been able to feel them there in that moment, in that painting.
This concept of vulnerability has subsequently been an important factor I consider in my own work and practice. So imagine my instant interest and connection to the two quotes paired with the new solo adventure I was embarking upon. I thought to myself, sitting in my apartment by myself at night “maybe this is just what I need, to spend time alone. To reconnect to myself and in return my work will become even that much more ‘honest’ in that way I’m always seeking”. And to some extent I do believe artists do need to be by themselves, to reflect and connect with their inner voice. I’ve always consider myself to have an intense inner life, and have always needed and valued time by myself. But I’ve also always valued the strong friendships and bonds I’ve created among other artists, particularly during my college years and the two years since graduating and floating around from residency to residency, and town to town.
During these past 9 months, I have met a lot of wonderful people and have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many exceptional artists and educators. I have also had the good fortune to travel a bit around the area on trips to Baltimore, NYC, Jersey, Philly and Boston. But for the most part I’ve been on my own, day in and day out. And I wish I could tell you those quotes were correct and that I connected with myself on a deeper level and in return created some of my best “honest” work. But in reality, I don’t believe that happened. I often found myself alone too much, and didn’t have a community to lean on when all that inner talk got to be a bit much. I often got overwhelmed and felt trapped and stunted in my own progress. Instead of learning the power of isolation and solo working and living, I actually discovered the opposite: how important community really is. For all of us, but particularly artists.
It is other artists that we need around us, to keep us going. Community actually affords us the opportunity to work alone in our studios, to be alone with your own thoughts, fears and vulnerability. We can actually create more authentic work in this way when we know that on the other side of that wall (or room or town) is another artist not unlike ourselves who is most likely wrestling with those same emotions and struggles. And to know that an opportunity, just as important as our studio time, is waiting for us later: a time to meet, vent, talk, bounce ideas off one another. To collaborate, critique and support.
If I’ve learned anything from my time here these past 9 months, it’s not about me but about other people. It’s about admitting and recognizing my personal and artistic need for community. It’s also been an opportunity to reflect and attempt to fully express my deep gratitude for all the amazing artists and friends I have had the chance to encounter on my journey thus far. This is not a new or revolutionary concept, but for me it took isolation to really truly appreciate community.
Here’s to looking ahead to new adventures, new places and new connections.
greetings from Millersville University.
I've been participating in an artist residency here since September. I decided to take on the challenge of moving to a new state by myself chasing after yet another shop in which to continue printing and expanding my body of work. I've learned a lot about myself and what it really means to be a "working artist". I've also learned quite a bit about what it means to try and start over somewhere new, and the reality that every single person you've ever known or loved now lives somewhere different.
I read somewhere recently that isolation creates authenticity.
And authenticity is the only path to vulnerability.
I had the chance to participate in the Litho 1 class last semester here at Millersville. It was really great to delve deeper into a medium that had completely scared me in the past, and I know the litho process was a really great learning lesson for all of us in impermanence. Learning to let go, and knowing that anything can change in an instant. Below are a few images of stones that never made it to complete prints due to some technical error:
I finished up my residency at WSW 2 weeks ago, today. I just uploaded some of the prints I was working on during my stay.
I'm still working through them and reflecting on my time and the evolutions I made in my work and practice.
I'm so grateful for the time and space I was granted to really delve deeper into myself and my work. All of the ladies were incredibly helpful and inspiring! They've got a really good thing going on there......
The Workshop also wrote a really great post about my work during my stay. CHECK IT OUT!
I'm about half way done already with my 5 week art-in-edication workspace residency here at the Women's Studio Workshop!
I've been working everyday in the etching studios as well as teaching intaglio to 4th graders from a local elementary school.
The experience has been almost magical! but has been flying by so quickly.
Off to the city tomorrow!
A great little project. So simple yet can reach so far.
Nothing like strangers sending love and words of encouragement to other strangers.
Through hand written postcards, none the less.
Reminds us that we're all fighting our own battles. But we don't have to go it alone.
Last batch of cards I made to sell at the Art Supply Depo before leaving Toledo.
Each of the 4 card designs was hand drawn and turned into screens. Each design was then printed in various colors.
Cards are blank inside and sold with envelopes: individually or in packs of 6!
Hand written notes hold a special place in my heart.
this is a link to a letter written to Eva Hesse from Sol Lewitt.
i've shared it before but I think it's so important.
it not only provides necessary encouragement to all of us out there who doubt ourselves (daily),
but it also reminds us how important it is to encourage one another as artists.