Sunday, February 28, 2010

Recipe for a Collage Salon

For some time now I've been thinking about having a time and space where some of my artist friends could get together and make art and talk and eat and all those fun things that happen once in a blue moon. So today, on the day of the full moon and the Jewish holiday of Purim (not sure how this figures in yet) I'm opened up my studio to a number of artist friends.

In order to get ready, I took a look around the studio. Oh my. Everything must go. Not really. I spent some time arranging mediums & materials so that all of the supplies in view were usable. I wanted it to be inviting, with a sense that you could explore the shelves as if you were in a Moroccan souk or market, peering into this basket or that, taking a shiny piece of paper here, a thick colored pencil there, or perhaps sampling a brightly patterned fabric.
I added one table for tea, coffee, and things to munch on including some chocolate covered cacao beans, roasted almonds and purple grapes. I also laid out several books with good art work by collage artists. Food for the eyes.

What actually took place after the invitations were sent out and the studio readied was beyond my imagination. As people arrived, they carried in bags of brilliantly printed fabrics, hampers stuffed with choice images, baskets of pencils and tiny bags filled with delicacies such as small printed cards of botanicals and birds. Two of the women had made a trip to Chinatown in Sacramento and appeared with joss papers, incense holders (crinkly pieces of tan paper with slits for incense) and delicately cut tissue paper doilies. One woman brought a bag of fresh grapefruits from her tree. What we had was a feast for the eyes and the soul. Introductions were made over and over and people talked excitedly, catching up, discovering connections between each other, and peering at the collages that were forming under numerous pairs of hands. I found myself trying to listen to all the conversations taking place at once.
At the end, each women left with a collage (or two, or three) and, it seemed, a full heart. And, at the end, my daughter came up the stairs and the topic of Purim came up. Lizzie, my daughter told us the story of Esther. Although the few of us that were left weren't in costume (as is the custom), I felt as if the coming together of all the women and their diverse materials was its own kind of celebration.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What's the Real Story?

When I started out this series of posts, I was thinking about the different parts of an artist's statement. What, I asked myself, needs to come together in order to give the reader and viewer an insight into the work that I've constructed?

After I wrote the last two posts, I got to thinking. One of the things I've learned over the years is that for my art work to find it's way to a conclusion, I have to abandon a cognitive understanding of what I'm doing, the subject matter I'm working with and any story lines I might want to tell. I have to continually surrender to the presence and the process of the artwork, because otherwise the art has a way of becoming didactic, of becoming a one-to-one correspondence between my idea and the finished piece where there is no mystery and no middle ground where new ideas have present themselves.

That mode of working has it's downside. I realized that after many years of working this way, I don't stop to figure out what the story is that I've told. "Oh my goodness," I thought to myself, "there lies undiscovered riches." I mentioned compost in the last entry. I think that unless I stop to reflect on the finished piece of art work, I'm missing the valuable "compost" for the next.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day's End

At the end of the day, ideas gather. The hours of February 13th lay unfurled behind me and all of the things I wanted to do or dreamed of doing collect into this wonderfully rich compost. The ideas I've been holding inside of me combine with my regret that I didn't try them out--and I'm off. This is where inspiration begins.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from? I've been pondering this question in my mind, turning it over in my mind like a gem. Finally, I decided that in order to answer it, I'd break that big gem down into many smaller gemstones (and thus many new gems!) I'm looking at my subject matter first--followed by inspiration, points of departure, choice of materials and finally style--because style becomes the lens through which we understand our subject.

That all said, when I think about subject, it often feels as if the subject chooses me rather than the other way around. Often my subject is a path of inquiry that I want to investigate in my art work. When I first became interested in studying Judaism, I began exploring the religion on thick creamy sheets of BFK Rives, working with Jewish symbols long before I visited a synagogue or met with a Rabbi. My quest begins in the studio. My subject can also be something that is tugging at me, weighing heavily on my mind and heart. Most recently that has been my work at the hospital. The recent deaths of a number of children we'd served took me to the edge of burnout. As part of my own grieving process, I began work on a series loosely titled "Remembrances." Small 6" x 6" collaged panels commemorate children the children I knew and loved. As I finish this series, I'm looking around for clues about the next one. I'm not sure yet where I'm going, but trust in my curiosity and where it will lead me.