New Year, New Work

Not exactly ‘new’ work. Rather, slowly growing bodies of work. For some reason*, I am working on the two most tedious, time-consuming projects I’ve ever done.

*I have a notion about what the ‘reason’ may be, but I’m refusing to talk about it at the moment. I’m letting it stew.

Similar pictures appeared here a little while ago, but now the shirts have more lines and the ‘tablecloth/quilt’ is bigger. *sigh* Small victories.

"all flesh is grass," 2015-2916, men's shirts, handspan yarn, embroidery thread
“all flesh is grass,” 2015-2016, men’s shirts, hand-spun yarn, embroidery thread
"all flesh is grass" detail
“all flesh is grass” detail

And “Untitled (for now)” – this tablecloth/quilt of sewn receipts (every receipt I’ve received since leaving for Ireland.) It’s a strange documentation of this trip. Or a depressing paper trail. The thing is, I started it when I first got here, because I didn’t have any art supplies. I did have paper, in the form of receipts, so I used them. And then my art making became dependent on my consumption! I couldn’t get receipts without spending money. So, this is not only the most tedious, but the most expensive thing I’ve ever made. And I secretly feel that it’s kind of ugly. (But that could just be a phase.)

Besides the crisis of making beautiful vs. ugly art, the current studio crisis is this: I have more ideas for projects than time to make them, because I am determined to work by hand. I will need to decide, eventually, if this insistence on hand-work is important enough to sacrifice some of these ideas. Maybe this kind of pressure is good. It will force me to be very thoughtful about which projects I decide to cull. Or maybe, thinking too much will limit my creativity…

There’s a fine balance to be struck between making intuitively and thinking very hard about the what/why of a project. I think most artists will agree that ‘making intuitively’ is very generative process, but it’s an activity that is hard to justify, because it appears that you are just ‘making without thinking,’ for the pure pleasure of it. Not so. Intuition IS thinking, and it is a type of thinking that artists hone over time by sharpening their skills, growing their intellect, and broadening their experiences. This seems pretty straightforward, but articulating it on a grant or fellowship application is something else all together.

My biggest struggle as an artist has always been justifying my work. And it’s not necessarily because I’ve been criticized for pursuing it. On the contrary, my family and friends have been unwavering in their support. And last year, I was incredibly lucky to live in a supportive community where the value of my work was not questioned. But it still niggles me.

I want to make, and I want to matter.

Nothing really ‘new’ after all.

One thought on “New Year, New Work

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