Sunday, August 28, 2011

Breaking the Mold

(Above: Spring Experimental Vessel. I've always tried so hard to keep each coil firmly zigzagged to the one preceding it in the spiral. It occurred to me NOT to do this. I'm not wildly "in love" with this work ... but the possibilities are now endless. Click on image to enlarge.)

During the first few days here in Hot Springs National Park, I was sorting out my focus for the monteachh … setting up a work area … exploring the unique, natural environment … and coming to term with what materials and supplies I brought vs. what I thought I might actually need … plus I was feeling the pressure to create art inspired by the park but also worthy of a permanent, national collection.

Add Image
(Above: Spring Experimental Vessel, interior. As long as I was "experimenting", I poured a glossy, acrylic glazing medium into the vessel along with an assortment of bead. It took several days, thin layer at a time, to build up a wet looking "spring" in this Hot Springs National Park inspired work. There must be a better way/material to pour into one of these vessels ... an idea worth future exploration. Click on image to enlarge.)

On August 10th I wrote: My mentor, oil painter Stephen Chesley, advised me to create at least one “break the mold” piece … something “out of the box” … something truly unique, experimental, cutting edge, adventuresome, and honestly “me”. I continued with an acknowledgment that this was “good advice” but it was also not what I was supposed to be doing. My plan, at the time, was to stick to tried-and-true approaches to fiber, comfortable techniques, and time-tested talents. I went further and said I’d create a few “special ‘In Box’ series and faux-stained glass series pieces” that would reflect the ornamentation, patterns, and decorations of the bathhouses. I was, after all, drawing these details in my sketchbook. I scrapped the “break the mold” advice.

(Above: Spring Experimental Vessel on door step to my "ranger house". Click on image to enlarge.)

Well, so far I have not stuck to the plan. I haven’t created a single “In Box” or faux-stained glass piece (though I still might do this … just for the fun of it). I have, however, broken the mold! I really don’t know how this happened. To what was I responding? At what point did the departure begin? When did the hair-brained ideas formulate? Why did I actually have on hand exactly what I needed? I don’t know!

(Above: Muses, In the Blind of an Eye. Mid 17th century book page with gessoed reverse mounted on upholstery fabric; ink and coffee stains; hand and machine stitching; collage, including distressed antique photo and vintage clipped letters. The title word "Muses" comes from the title of the original book. Click on image to enlarge.)

Figuring out “inspiration” is largely a mystery but this much I can relate: The gift of time and space are magical. I don’t listen to music and haven’t turned on the television for days. I’ve been thinking. I’ve heard quite a lot of talk about “art” too … mostly from people who haven’t a clue that craftsmanship isn’t content. Art, true art, must be a dialogue between maker and material, maker and viewer, viewer and the work, the work and the world ... Art must touch the mind, the eye, the soul. Art SAYS something that words fail to capture (even if every piece doesn't say the same thing to the same people or to all people!).

(Above: Muses, Can You Hear Me Now. Mid 17th century book page with gessoed reverse mounted on upholstery fabric; ink and coffee stains; hand and machine stitching; collage, including distressed antique photo, vintage clipped letters, and snippets of original 1950s era handwritten letters and stamps from Italy. Click on image to enlarge.)

“Breaking the Mold” isn’t generally a planned activity; it is the result of inspiration. Inspiration is both elusive and constant, a rare combination indeed! I’m not necessarily saying that the pieces included with this blog post are my “break the mold” work … but the mental conversations I’ve been having with myself, my materials, and about my future have certainly shifted, changed directions, and have made the time here in Hot Springs more worthwhile than any of the art made during the month. I’m not quitting anything I’ve been doing; I’m adding the chance to try new, totally different work in the future. Hence, the mold was shattered.

(Above: Muses, The Check is in the Mail. Click on image to enlarge.)

This also happened when I was on Westport Island, Maine during the autumn of 2008 while in residency. While there, a seed was planted and art quilts resulted. Here, a seed has been planted. I’m not totally sure what will grow but it will be new. It will be art, not just another pretty picture and not a twist on an old trick. I wanted such an experience; I got it. What I needed to bring was simply me.

(Above: Muses, Secrets from the Past. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Muses, Over the Line. Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above: Muses, Touched. Click on image to enlarge. My husband Steve will get me the exact date and full title for the Muses book. We still have the title page. Please note, the book was NOT in tact when we got it!)


Cynthia Nicole said...

I love watching your process unfolding and you are certainly flowing. I really like the baskets, the new one reminds me of Ophelia's watery "grave", too. I rarely see a piece I don't relate to. What a gift to be there exploring your artistic voice.

Gerrie said...

I just love that vessel so beautiful and free form and wow, beads in acrylic in the bottom.

Julie said...

Your new vessel is beautiful and your journey over this past month is fascinating. The gift of time and space is immeasurable.

Els said...

Susan, you're shurely "breaking the mold". Though yóú might not be entirely happy with that basket, I love that it's again another try to "conquer" fiber ! Especially love the turquoise swirls!!!
(Keep on "breaking"!)
Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

I love this basket on so many different levels for you and for me. Your entire body of work this month has been wonderful. Keep up the work - and the blog. Linda of the Lake

Phillipa said...

I love every thing you have shown today.
The texture in the baskets and using the pages from a book.
I'm an avid follower :)
Regards Phillipa in NZ

Unknown said...

to grow and explore is a treasure for sure! Molds are made to be broken ( just like rules ) So much fun in the journey

Wanda said...

I believe that you were brought to Arkansas so that you could learn what you have. Tears rolled down my face when I read your, I wasn't just reading your words, I was reading your emotions and your heart. What a moving experience you've had, one that some of us only dream of. I will re-read this post and try to capture the feeling and apply it to my own work and, yes, my own life. We all have it in us, I think, but lack the time, space, quiet, opportunity. Or maybe we just don't listen. I don't know what it is but through you, I am inspired.

Elizabeth said...

This series of collage work is stunning!! Your energy and the depth and breadth of your work is stunning!!! I know that they will miss you in Arkansas!!!