Archive for May, 2011

Am I Worried?

May 26, 2011

A friend and fellow artist wondered if I worry about the fact that the materials for my Ulysses Glove project, which are utilitarian yellow rubber gloves marked with sharpies, will eventually degrade.
If this question had been posed a decade ago, the answer would have been “yes”. For a while I was selling prints which are part of my Broomstick Series. They are giclee, which basically are laser prints. When this technology first came on the scene it was wonderful for artists like me, who had images many people wanted, but not many thousands of people. It didn’t cost much to have prints made, and you could buy what you needed…five or ten at a time, instead of say, a thousand. So, no storage worries, and no huge investment.
I was selling the prints for around $125.00 each, give or take, sometimes matted, sometimes not. Some stores wanted them and in those cases I provided a frame too.
It’s embarrassing to tell you how much I worried about the possibility that the inks would degrade, the print might become faded, the color might turn from a bright red to a purple-red, to a faded purple-red. I wondered how I could ever make it up to my customers should this tragedy ever occur, how much I could lose, how I could keep track.
While I am deeply appreciative of those people who have, and still do buy my prints, I have stopped worrying about what happens five, ten, twenty years down the road. For one thing, most people know that if you hang any sort of artwork in the sun, colors will fade. But really, for $125.00, some of which goes to presentation, for buying the prints from my printer, for shipping, should I worry for my entire life that this item will have a life beyond mine?
I have read about Eva Hesse, Julian Schnabel, Andy Goldsworthy, all artists who made artworks without spending one second worrying about the consumer of their product. Especially in the case of Schnabel, who was throwing plates onto oil paintings, it was obvious that gravity might do some damage to these paintings. When they did, it wasn’t the artist who was on the hook to repair the work; it was the consumer. In the case of many of the works by Eva Hesse, anytime a museum wants to mount a large exhibit of her work, they have to pay to re-create pieces that have disintegrated long, long ago.
I’m not going to be the judge of what is right or wrong about this, but I am not going to worry any longer about the ramifications of artwork not lasting forever, especially when I am selling it for a pittance.
In the case of the gloves, I am funding this project completely by myself. I am buying all the gloves, retail, and the pens, also retail. I am going to spend approximately three years making it. If some grand institution (MOMA, can you hear me?) wants to buy this work, for say 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars, it becomes their problem.
Also, this project is deeply personal and is partly about life and death. It seems appropriate that someday, the gloves will turn to dust, just as I have, just as everyone does.
Anyway, I am excited about the prospect of creating something that needs a custom made case or a specific air temperature, proper lighting, and maybe a team of people to restore the work should something happen to it. By the time it does, I hope to have spent my big money, and done it without a worry in the world.


A Big Week?

May 3, 2011

I am going to begin with a quote from Emmylou Harris, which I read in the Sunday NY Times:
“Sometimes you have to just go and look in a completely different direction and completely change your environment to break up your logjam.”
I feel like I am in a logjam. I am not sure in my case if that is a bad thing. I think it is, but the reason I’m not sure is that consistency and boundaries inform my work.
I am still adding new drawings to my slinky series. These drawings are popular and good. I have tried to break out of the small size and sometimes use unfamiliar colors, with excellent and not so excellent results, but essentially they have not radically changed over the past two years, though they have changed. I remember the very first ones I did, which were on 5″ x 7″ paper. I had no control over the slinky so they were always tilting this way and that, mostly from left to right. Now I can’t help but have control, so if I want them to be straight they are. I’m sad about that. The lack of control added an element of surprise.
I struggle every day with wondering if my work should be bigger and more, if there should be more of an idea behind them.
At the gallery that sells my slinky drawings, Carroll & Sons in Boston, there is about to be a “show” incorporating a dancer on some sort of digitized Sol Lewitt floor. I had always hoped to have an exhibit of my drawings at this gallery. My work has been in the flat files for over a decade. But I can see that regular drawings on paper have no place in the scope of what the owner, Joseph Carroll is trying to do in his gallery. He shows installations with sound, film, chanting, huge quantities of knitted fabric which the viewer can add too or take from. I mean, I could see my gloves there but so far he hasn’t offered.
If I had a show of all the slinky drawings I have ever done I think it would be a beautiful and important show. But they are dispersed in different homes, sold to different people. I don’t even know how many Joseph has at the moment. I am working on a new one now. I think I am running out of steam for these, or perhaps they are about to morph into some other series that will last me a number of years. Is it a logjam, or is it a boundary I have made for myself, that allows me to push inward instead of busting out?
Is there any place anymore, any large institution where beautiful drawings can be considered a force?
Am I too old to consider the thought of being an important artist? Should I just keep doing what I am doing, enjoy the process and not worry about where it leads?
These are the thoughts that are swooshing in my head this late morning, while the things in the washer swoosh also.
By the way, Osama Bin Laden was shot dead by U.S. Nave Seal (soldiers? guys? commando’s? forces?), the night before last. Naturally there have been mixed feelings about it. I am glad he is gone from this earth, in the ocean, also swooshing until he becomes food for the fishies. I worry about the consequences. I am glad it happened under Obama’s watch. I am slightly ashamed of being glad about that. Everything I think has a counter thought. It’s tiring.
This Friday I am having a lesson in intaglio printing. Maybe this will be just the thing to shift the logjam, but not bounce me out of orbit.