2018-07-28T21:41:42-04:00

Better Outta Me than in Me

Better Outta Me than in Me

 

 

This past week, I brought a lot of my finished sculptures into my studio. Most of the time that’s the last place I bring finished work – it’s dusty and everything sticks to the tar gel shellac that I use to finish my sculptures. Most of the time they live at home. Since I’m at the wrap-up stage with a lot of newer work, however, I thought it’d be helpful to have old, finished work around. My working memory is pretty bad and often I find that I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel when I make a new sculpture. With older work and pictures of influences around, I can remember what kind of surfaces and color palettes I’ve used before, and what I want to continue doing or throw out.

My work takes a long time to make. Technically, clay is pretty persnickety, especially with the scale and forms I make.  I add a few inches, and then usually have to wait a few hours if not a whole day before I can add more. Also, I work full-time, so I don’t have the luxury of spending more than 2 or 3 hours in my studio most days. Because of this, I live with my work for a long time. However frustrating this is most of the time, I’ve come to realize that this level of pacing really fits my nature. I’m a slow at digesting ideas, how I feel, what I think about things. As proactive and Type A I can be, my most original, substantial thinking comes from a more relaxed, receptive pacing. Taking walks, listening to music, washing dishes, sleeping – things tend to resolve themselves without me efforting because ideas have the space to marinate naturally in my head. Solutions bubble up to the surface without me even trying. Since working in clay the way I have been yields a lot of “down time,” I have a lot of mental space to think in that slower way. I’m inpatient and it’s definitely frustrating sometimes, but it’s a marathon and not a sprint. And I’m not built for sprints anyway.

 

                                 

With the older work around, it’s clearer what I want to throw away for newer work ahead. I wanna keep the humor (I don’t think I could get rid of it even if I tried), but I wanna lean back a little on the camp. Frankly, I don’t want my work to be too hip or Instagram sarcastic. I want them to stay funny and ugly and kinda monstrous, but not be representations of monsters. The more I’ve been drawing and making newer work, the less I think of them as weird organisms like works or parasites. I think of them more as thought bubbles come to life; anxieties and desires manifest in some kind of flesh. We tend to our thoughts like pets, and they tend to stick around and grow the more we feed them and stroke them. That’s what this work feels like to me.: the feeling in your gut when someone embarrasses you at a party in front of your friends, or you see the thing that turns you own that you might not be that proud of, or the way you talk to yourself when you catch yourself in a mirror or how you feel right before you take a group picture, or the genuine love you feel for someone close to you. These thoughts and impulses are sensed through your body and embedded with all kinds of tertiary feelings, beyond just happy or sad, good or bad. I’m not sure you can feel pure lust without a little bit of anxiety or embarrassment. I’m not sure that you can be angry without being a little disappointed or heartbroken. And I’m definitely not sure you can really love someone without being vulnerable enough to be devastated by them from time to time. Or conversely, I’m might be impossible to really love someone without having the potential to be incredible cruel to them too. Part of loving something, or someone, is wanting to see them destroyed in some way. I want my work to hold all these realities simultaneously: the unsightly, but empathetic and endearing facts of being conscious and alive. I don’t want it to be all gore and gross, I don’t want it to be all humor and fun, I don’t want it to be all scholarly and high-minded. I want it to be all of me, but still not add up to everything I am or am capable of feeling. I want it to be my unique vision but experienced viscerally and uniquely by people completely different than I am.

 

 

                     

 

 

More and more, I really do think of my work in these therapeutic, kinda esoteric, kinda batshit terms. My sculptures feel like knots in my back that need to be rubbed out. It’s stiff and and uncomfortable to get it done, but it’s a good pain, a good discomfort. Like having a tumor removed, leaving a relationship that doesn’t work anymore, or hitting the gym, or cumming, or confessing, or popping a zit. It’s cathartic. Sometimes a bit traumatic, but it’s tension that needs to move, needs to be out. Or it stays inside and gestates and bounces around like a free radical, causing all kinds of other problems. I think that’s part of why my work has a lot of holes and bubbles: they’re like exhausts from something underneath bursting out. I guess they can be peeled and penetrated to, or penetrate other things themselves. A lot of them have appendages and tentacles that reach out, hook, poke into, dig roots, or “see” and “feel” around their environment.

2018-07-22T22:07:09-04:00

Reflecting

Reflecting

 

 

Since I’ve been thinking a lot about finishing up sculptures lately, I remembered that my solo show at HCC, Dale Mabry opened almost two years ago. I’ve been thinking about that work: what I want to keep up with in future work and what I think I’ve outgrown, although that sounds a little too mature. What sticks out the most to me as a future problem is the 1:1 ratio between handmade sculpture and found object. There’s always an organic, peristaltic form on top of  an object, usually very rigid and geometric (i.e. a square pizza box, crisp cylindrical paper towels, furry staircases). While funny and I think a flattering parody of Minimalism and the history of display, it might read a little heavy handed when almost every sculpture works like that. Or if not heavy handed, just a little boring and repetitive. Like a joke repeated at a party three or four times. Maybe not that bad, actually, but not ideal.

          

 

I tried to even out that 1:1 ratio by playing with 1) the heights of some sculptures and 2) the general display of others. Teenage Talk on the right, for example, is fundamentally a pretty traditional sculpture display: a sculpture on top of a pedestal, here with a nightstand being the simulacrum of a pedestal. The lollipops sashaying out of the nightstand, however, make the piece feel more integrated with the environment around it, which slightly blurs where the total sculpture begins and ends. It’s not just a sculpture on top of a display, and the sculpture and the display really are not as separate from each other or the room as much as some sculptures normally are. Parts of this sculpture you can walk over or through instead of just around. Some sculptures incorporated other objects but were only slightly analogous to sculptures, like the puppy pads on my worm piece, Strobila 1, or the baby pen in Bloomers. My first wall sculpture was made because I was scared of all the empty wall space with the filled hallway of sculptures.

 

The exhibition space at HCC, Dale Mabry was basically a glorified hallway (which I’m happy they glorified) that was completely open. It was connected to a library and several office spaces so there was a lot of through-traffic. It made for a really unique viewing experience (I really got off on the idea of people doing homework or writing papers with my sculptures lurking behind them). However, the porous quality of the room really let a lot of air in that made my work feel much smaller, a little less focused, and too general (lots of surface details get missed). Going forward, I’d like to see how I can really command a tighter room with more low, freestanding sculptures. I’d also like to be more “democratic” with the makeup of these sculptures. As of yet they’ve been mostly clay. What if they could be equal parts clay and spray foam? Equal parts inside and outside? Equal parts handmade and found objects? Equal parts open and closed? I won’t have time to totally equalize that for the exhibition in September, but it is something I think about a lot and hope to at least be considerably closer to than I was two years ago.

2018-07-22T16:45:43-04:00

Surfaces

Surfaces

 

Since I’ve (mostly) wrapped up with the forms I’ll be showing in September, now is the critical period: how will they be shown? What colors with they be? Will they have other materials like fake hair, foam, or borax attached to them? Will they be paired with other objects? This is the hardest and more exciting part of making my work, and it takes the longest. Strangely, making the actual forms doesn’t take that long, or at least it doesn’t feel like it does. It’s these presentation and color decisions that really solidify the character or quality of the pieces.

Lately I have been noticing a lot of prickly, puckering surfaces on my sculptures. I’m not sure why they’re there, but without color or context, they look like they could be soft like hair or hard like quills or teeth. I like that ambiguity: between danger and arousal or comfort. A lot of times I’m trying to figure out why I’m so repulsed and attracted to the same things. Carpet is one of them. When I look at carpet, I can feel my shoulders tense up and my teeth clench a little bit. I don’t know why. Carpet just makes me cringe a little bit. But I am attracted to it. I’ve had these huge rolls of household carpet in my studio for months, with no idea what I’m going to do with them haha. But just today I noticed that the puckered texture of my sculptures and of the walls in my studio are analogous to the texture of carpet. Maybe I can lay out some carpet on the gallery floor for an installation with these sculptures? That might accentuate the tightrope walk between something threatening and something inviting and comforting. I’m not sure yet but it’s a good lead so far.

                   

2018-07-22T16:20:57-04:00

Meeting Kirk

Meeting Kirk

The other day I met my Emerging Artist mentor, Kirk Ke Wang. It’s a little late coming since I was traveling in Israel for two weeks in early June, and he was traveling out west for the last few weeks as well. We met at my studio and talked for three hours.

It was really refreshing talking to another artist like that. I work full time in a poker room and my studio is in a ceramic gallery, so as of late I don’t get to have much time talking to contemporary artists about what they do, culture, and really just hanging out and talking about ideas without much judgment or expectation. (FYI – the people in the ceramic gallery are really kind people, they’re just usually more interested in glaze chemistry and fairs than ideas and discourse). Kirk told me all about being an artist in NYC in the late-80’s and early 90’s, a period I kinda revere and at the same time am happy I was never a part of. It was a blast! He was also reassuring about my decision to move from Boston to Tampa Bay to have more space and time to make work. As much as cities like NYC and Chicago are more exciting than Tampa Bay cities, I’m wearing of how much art I’d actually make there versus just work to pay ridiculous rent, and party in my free time. Kirk agreed, and said that’s basically what he did in the early 90’s haha.

We talked a little about my work, but just enough for the two of us which was perfect. I didn’t feel forced to present  or perform the whole time, he didn’t feel forced to ask about only more work. Sometimes studio visits can be awkward because you end up really enjoying talking about other things, but feel obligated to pull every conversation back to the work you’re making. To some extent that makes sense – most people have someone to visit their studio to talk about their work, not chat about movies and NYC. But since I’m never really looking for anything specific out of a studio visit, my hope is that I get a lot more out of it. If we really get into talking about arts criticism or crime movies or parties, why cauterize that and talk about my work? It felt so natural and fluid and that’s a huge thanks to him. It probably makes him a great teacher as well.

He gave me some helpful thoughts on presentation, which is always the hardest part about my work: should it have an object with it or not? Should it be high or low? Is it better photographed and then displayed than it is displayed purely as a sculpture? It was the fastest 3 hours I’ve had in a while. He’s big into movies so we’ve already talked about having film screenings at his studio (he said he’d provide the beer) and I really can’t wait.

2018-07-14T00:38:11-04:00

Side by Side

Side by Side

I go back and forth on whether I use it constructively or just as a distraction, but I’m always going through lists and folders of images, quotes, and songs I’ve saved over the years. Some as far back as when I was 12 or 13 (I’m 26 now). Since I have SO many files that I love and don’t know why, I really enjoy seeing them over and over again, and the best way for me to do that is 1) print them out and put them in a kinda studio journal or 2) print them out and rearrange them on my studio walls. I have to have them printed and in a physical space so that I can constantly reference them easily without having to search for files names or scroll down for ages in big folders. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind for me. Just like the cauliflower I keep buying and keep putting in my refrigerator doors and always, always, always, forgetting to eat it.

Another reason why I need them physically laid out somewhere is because I’m not sure what I’m looking for with them. Are they direct inspirations for sculptures? How? Texture ideas, possible color combinations, an affect I want to mimic or fight against? I’m never sure. Why do I like them and obsess over them? No idea. But, having a lot of them side by side presents a clearer understanding of them than any of the inspirations would alone. I actually feel that way about all art: you need context to understand, and context comes from seeing multiple sculptures by an artist instead of just one sculpture alone, listening to several songs from a band instead of just a single, watching a few movies by a director instead of just basing everything off one film, etc. And just like when I see all of my art together, primped and polished in an exhibition, together they expose a lot to me. My personal concerns while making them become loudly, proudly, embarrassingly apparent. Witnessing the evolution of my tactile, formal and personal, psychic obsessions is exhilarating and, honestly, pretty shattering too. So much that I can’t articulate in words secretes into these painted rocks that I put on display in a gallery. At the same time, I’m pretty articulate with words and have a good command of understanding wherever I’m at in my life. But then I see 11 or 12 sculptures that I’ve made over the last year and feel my brain crash into my gut and the back of my head get blown off – there was still SO much going on that I didn’t know about. Know about, at least, in the way of words.

Keeping this inspirations around reminds me of what appear to be my consistent concerns and ideas, but also how they can keep their freshness when I reorganize them around each other every so often, or not looking at some of them for years at a time.

 

 

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