Studio Musings

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why make art?

That question keeps rearing it's head in various guises.

Last week, David urged us to ask ourselves the question "why beads?" Why am I choosing to work with this particular medium, and why is this medium the one I should be using for this particular piece? As he puts it, if it can be made with equal success in another medium, then perhaps that's the medium you should use; it will almost certainly be faster. Beading is a slow, often meticulous, but surprisingly zen-like, almost meditative process and in truth, the pace is one of the things I truly like about working with beads, even when I get a bit frustrated (like now) because my mind is racing a hundred times faster than my hands can produce. I also love the play of color, and the almost pointillistic style of image/object making. I love their juxtapositions of transparancy and opacity, the way they play with light, and even their weight which is so different from that of fabric or paper, my other media.

Mary McBride, one of our guest instructors, started out as a printmaker, but segued to metals about 15 years ago. A major turning point in her art career was a question posed to her by her advisor - "Are you an object maker or an image maker?" Her immediate response was image maker; she was a printmaker after all, but it slowly sank in that what she really tried to create were objects. And thus began the slide that led to her current work.

And of course, that question has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Most of my training has been in or for object production, even the design course I took. And I love making objects: wearable arts, book arts, jewelry. But I also love image production: painting with my sewing machine, with acrylics, with watercolors, maybe even with beads. But it's a very interesting question to think about.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are slides nights, and this evening John de Wit, a visiting artist for the glass class was one of the presenters. As he zoomed through his work, I found I wanted a point of reference, so I asked about his sources of inspiration. For a moment there was complete silence and I wondered if I'd asked a taboo question, as I occasionally feel like an imposter in this artist colony. Just as I was really starting to sweat, he responded with a fascinating bit of personal history, areas of interest, and imagination. But what caught my attention was almost his first sentence "I am an object maker who makes abstract forms".

So I've added that question to the more general question of why do I want to make art. That's a question that I'm always asking, and to date only have partial answers. What I know is that I'm compelled to make art. If one type of media is taken from me, I will find another to experiment with. It is a form of play, of expression, of communication. I create what makes me smile, or laugh, or sometimes what makes me cry. A writing book I checked out of the library reminded budding writers that by focusing on the particular, you can tap into the universal. I think that can be true for all art. But right now, I think I'll be happy with simply making myself smile.

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