(Above: The Typewriter, 6" x 13" x 13". Vintage/Antique typewriter (ca. 1930s to 40s) covered in vintage buttons with an insertion of heavyweight interfacing covered in shirt buttons. Click on any image to enlarge.)
Last week I received constructive criticism from a local arts administrator who told me that my Button Proposal "romanticized" my material and that I didn't "push the boundaries of my studio art practice". I was stunned but I also knew the words rung true.
I do romanticize my materials.
In fact, I rely on the public identifying with objects from the past. I decided this this isn't a problem and responded by creating fourteen, erotic images using buttons. (CLICK HERE for that earlier post.)
I also knew that I could push the boundaries of my studio art practice further than my proposal suggested. My mind began to spin with new ideas ... potential art projects I might never had thought of had it not been for last week's experience. I also started seeing connections with other thoughts running through my mind. I'd like to share these wonderful, tidbits of wisdom!
First, Kitty Parrott, an antique dealer in Eutawville, SC from whom I've bought a few items, once told me "If you collect intuitively, you will always have what you need". She's right! My mind saw an old fashioned typewriter covered with buttons. Amazingly, I already owned THREE antique typewriters. One became a weekend project. Thanks, Kitty! (By the way, I'm currently stitching buttons onto three 1940s typewriter advertisements ... which I already owned. I'll blog them later!)
Next, I thought about Ellen Kochansky, a most talented fiber artist and executive director of the Rensing Center. Back in 2009 with depressed about my local arts community, Ellen told me to forget about the many bumps and bruises, insults and over-sights. She said to forget, not just say I was forgetting, not just outwardly act like I’d forgotten, but FORGET. She said that when I honestly didn’t care anymore there would be a place in my mind, my heart, my soul that would open up to be filled with everything wonderful and positive. I've been trying to take this advice ever since. Last week, I managed to forget about the hurt and focus on the CONSTRUCTIVE part of the criticism. This is what allowed my mind to spin with all sort of new ideas for new work. THANK YOU, Ellen. It works! My mind is filled with positive directions for even more new work! (Much of this work is already underway!)
Finally, I thought about my recent time in Blacksburg, Virginia where the talented Paula Golden took me to Taubaum Museum of Art in Roanoke where we saw Follicular: The Hair Stories of Sonya Clark. When I blogged about it, I wrote: Sonya's dedication to a single concept investigated from every conceivable angle inspires me.
For me, this singular focus is exactly what the arts administrator was talking about ... pushing the boundaries of my studio arts practice. Now, at the time I saw Sonya's work, I commented to Paula Golden that some of the pieces were less successful than others. In fact, one of the wall mounted works looked like "fill" to me. The next day, I received an email from the Society of Contemporary Crafts in Pittsburgh where Oaths and Epithets: Works by Sonya Clark had just opened. That's TWO museum solo shows going on at the same time. That's a lot of work. That's a lot of pushing boundaries, investigating a concept from every possible angle! This is absolutely proof that I need to push my boundaries, look at buttons from every possible angle ... even if it means that some pieces are less successful than others ... even if some appear as "fill" or receive negative feedback. As an artists, it is my job to create the work ... not just "the best work" but ALL OF IT!
The Button Proposal, though looked upon unfavorably by my local arts administrator, was accepted at Homestead National Monument for a July art residency with the National Park Services. Now, because of the local feedback, the work I will produce will be better! So ... thanks for the constructive criticism! I will continue to make good use of it.
In the meantime, I've also altered an old flip phone. From "romantic buttons" to "technology buttons" to ... who knows where I'll go next!
I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber arts.