Can You Make Too Much Art?

For me, the desire to make is always there, and it’s especially pressing after coming into contact with the creativity of other artists, whether in the theater, a museum or book. But to actually make something I always have to scale a few obstacles.

#1 It feels wasteful to make more than I can storeI because I live in an apartment, use one room as a studio but storage is minimal and I’m a frugal, recycling kind of person.

#2 The feeling that art-making(includes all art forms) can’t possibly matter in a world so full of suffering.

I recently heard the Turkish writer, Elif Safak, tell a story on The Moth, where she mentions her struggle with #2, that push pull of whether or not to make art.  It’s always heartening to hear another artist mention it.

So is there ever a need to refrain from making? I don’t know. I can’t answer for others I just know it’s a question I ruminate over.

This world of dew is but a world of dew and yet…

This haiku was written by the Japanese master, Kobayashi Issa, after the death of his infant daughter. Everything in 12 words. A poignant expression of the constant tension between knowing the truth of things- the insubstantiality of all experience and the need to live deeply engaged.

Below, four new works.

The Joy of Impulsive Making

I’ve been in the middle of a job search–or a search for work (they’re not necessarily the same thing)–so posts have been irregular as I try to figure out a regular source of income. The one place I post fairly regularly is Instagram and have noticed an uptick in likes and comments the last few months.

My main art practice process is making marks without “thinking” or planning–to take whatever materials are close at hand and make an image– usually in less than 20 minutes. I deal with all sorts of negative questions as I work: “this is ugly, you should do something that takes longer (it’s not real art if it takes so little time to execute), etc.” 99% of the time I love the finished piece.

The piece below was an “ugly” piece in the beginning with lots of negative thinking to accompany the making. But it surprised me–as those piece almost always do–layers of unconscious meaning stared at me when I finished.

 

 

Collage Series, February 2016

I set myself the task of doing a collage a day and almost got to 10 days but life intervened. Now that I’m back in the studio, I plan to begin this process again with the goal of increasing the size of the paper/support. I’ve long wanted to work larger. My studio doesn’t support huge but I can certainly do larger than these which are all about 7″x9″.

Each was created in under 30 minutes, with materials at hand. I simply wanted to see what would come of the process since I hadn’t worked that way with collage in a while.

Narrative Themes

I have an idea to create a series of narratives based on themes, like the Seven Sorrows of Mary, or themed sequences, like the Stations of the Cross. Also to look closely at the gestures used in these paintings. I discovered a book called Gestures of Despair that examined shared gestures across medieval and renaissance art. Symbolic gestures were developed in part because, though few could read words they could easily read gestures. Gestures fascinate me. We forget how rich and utterly human they are.

I recently heard a woman who receives dialysis tell a story. One day, while in the hospital, alone in her room and in great pain, a nurse came in to check the machine–her brusque manner made plain she was very busy. She barely looked at the woman and didn’t speak, but on the way out, she stopped, turned around and went to the woman’s bedside. The woman’s voice broke as she described the nurse wordlessly, gently brushing the hair from her face, and for a moment cradling the woman’s cheek with her hand. I was in tears listening. An example of the power of gesture.

The Cross as Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a vivid symbol in almost every culture. Trees are revered as life-giving, and signify renewal and regeneration. They are beneficent as well as wise. The crosses I’ve been painting and drawing are sprouting leaves, like Daphne the nymph who, in her desire to escape the amorous attentions of Apollo, asked to be turned into a tree. The rose cross was inspired by the Rosy Cross which is a symbol of the esoteric sect of Rosicrucians though I know little about them. I was more inspired by the phrase “rose cross” which made me think of adding flowers to the vegetation springing from these crosses. Some have female forms others do not. This is a rich and layered exploration of christian symbols, archetypes, and feminist art.

Madonna del Parto

There are several paintings I return to over and over, the glorious Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca is one of them and probably my favorite. It is at once simple and complex, modest and bold, reverent and earthy. The teenaged Mary steps forward as two angels hold back heavy brocade curtains, the tips of the fingers of her right hand inserted in a slit in her dress. That gesture, at the center of the picture, references the act of incarnation that Catholics believe is “immaculate” or sexless.

Madonna del Parto, Piero Della Francesca

Madonna del Parto, Piero Della Francesca

Piero painted this for the church of Santa Maria di Momentana (formerly Santa Maria in Silvis), in the hilltown of Monterchi. It was difficult to explain this sexless incarnation to peasants who toiled next to life and death all day and knew exactly how all manner of beasts and babies were conceived. Many painters from Fra Lippo Lippi tried, but perhaps this earthy, gravid young madonna, with her suggestive gesture, was comforting. Perhaps it gave the nuns something to smile about.

Some images influenced by the Madonna del Parto.