Try to answer the question ‘what is art’ and find half your audience in a narcoleptic stupor in a heartbeat. But ASKING the question and PLAYING with it in your hands and your lens and your canvas, is a fiery, soulful exercise.
If you make collage using magazine images, you can’t help but feel a little sheepish about matters of originality. When is borrowing theft? And, how important is endurance, anyway? Fade, fade, fade.
I made and framed this collage about thirty years ago. I can’t remember if it’s under archival glass or not (probably not. I was a law student paying for tuition with loans). Does the fact that I covered and cut the images of an artist’s clay masks turn them into ‘my’ work. Probably not, which is likely why I’ve kept this framed piece to myself all these years.
But now — look at the light angling across the glass! The light adds its commentary, without my authorship, and changes the stolen images yet again. Does my capture NOW make it more ‘mine’? And if paper is ephemeral, what is light passing over paper — even if captured in a photo?
“Light eats cloth” commented Mo yesterday. Fade, fade, fade.Part of me shrugs — or even yells a New Mexico YES — because maybe that is part of the point — this mixing up of signature with indices of time.
I once sent a piece of patchwork to Grace in New Mexico. I had pulled some inner knots tight and didn’t know how to undo them. It seemed a simple thing to ship cloth west. I got energized by the idea of some fabric I had pieced together being touched by her, being blasted by the desert sun and sniffed at by goats.
The exercise gave me this idea of shipping sections of patchwork around the world, and asking others to let the elements ‘do their thing’, then return them to me so that I could piece them together into a more meaningful Global Warming quilt than I’ve made to date. (Still just an idea).
Jude plays at these edges all the time. Think – Magic Feather cloth, which gathered up hand sewn bits from all over the world, stitching a community together in the process (and a masterpiece cloth). Think of her play with light and shadows. A recent post showed one of her spectacular quilts with a shadow of her hand splayed over one side. Is the work the photograph of Jude’s hand casting a shadow on the quilt? Or the brief event of the shadow? Or is it ‘merely’ the cloth afterall, but now with a memory of the shadow?
Enough words. Time for a run to a garden center. It is an absolutely stunning day and I have both boys home!! Happy Mother’s Day to me!!! And Happy Mother’s day to all of you. We all mother something — ourselves, our pets, our ideas, and some of us, children.
As I struggle today to write my first grant application and refine the letter-of-intent (its not for myself), I turn to your blog for a “brain break” and I find much more, I find all kinds of inspiration! You remind me to consider the questions more deeply that surface frequently in our artist’s work. I am avoiding Mother’s Day today – the better to concentrate on this grant thing. AND of course every Mother’s Day I ask myself: now why is it good that I never had children…? Ah and here you are reminding me that I actually do all kinds of mothering! Thank you, and Happy Mother’s Day!
Be kind to yourself. Celebrate yourself ma dear. And how can you be surprised at your capacities for nurturance as you sit down to write a grant for someone else?!!
But I get that it can be a hard day. I’m sorry about that.
Happy Mothers Day Dee, lots of good thoughts going on here!
hi again Dee have you read Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936)? here’s a link to the essay-
“The Gift” (1983) by Lewis Hyde?
his books Trickster Makes this World & Common as Air are also well worth looking at
I haven’t heard of either. Thanks for the references, Mo.
so what do you think?
Well I couldn’t bring myself to read the Walter Benjamin probably because those are not my frames of reference. But I loved what Lewis Hyde had to say enough to want to look up his work at the library in the near future. The concept of a thieving trickster is an apt insertion to the discussion of “borrowing” images from others and I appreciate the sensibility you have that would make you see that. The “Common as Air” precept that ideas belong to a commonwealth rather than to individuals also intrigues me and bears strongly on this idea of authorship. This notion of the artist as individual creative solo force is relatively new, isn’t it? So many works in the Middle Ages were anonymous, for instance. Also, while I don’t want to ‘get into it’ too much here, the notion of a commonwealth of ideas will give me more to think about in terms of writing a story with African American characters (the question gets asked, ‘whose story is it?” — the implication being that it is not mine).
Also, on a more personal note, I have been thinking about how my style of mothering is more Diana-like than Hera-like, and your comment makes me think I should shift away from female archetypes altogether right now and look at the jester — the coyote and raven — the trickster in his many guises.
is it time for it to return? was thinking that…maybe time now….? has it been a year?
a full circle of seasons?
I could look back. But maybe. A tangible give and take.
please persevere with the Walter Benjamin text it is important
this is why I focus on the idea of art making as sympathetic magic
Well I just heard an interview with Chris Hedges, I think his name is, who after being a writer for the NYTimes for 15 years and then a foreign correspondent has written a book called, “Wages of Rebellion, The Moral Imperative of Revolution”. I agreed with everything he said about how we’ve lost our democracy to corporate greed… how we’ve turned power over to those parties whose plan is to ‘exploit until collapse both human capitalism and the ecosystem’. He used the word ‘fascist’ frequently. Going back to Benjamin.
to quote my friend Wayne Snowdon artist and provocateur
“… who says art has no function? if it must look in, let it protect it’s own illusion”
love your world-wide-cloth-dyeing-with-elements-idea, so I’m in if you decide to actually do it
the bottom image of your ‘stained glass’ cloth: each and every time you post your pieces in this manner it sends a shiver of happiness and excitement through me: I love seeing them all lit up and glowing
Good to know about a possible Dutch destination! Since fence may send patchwork back maybe it’s time to send another chunk out.