Influences — Too many to count

Parable (working title), 36 x 36 inches. Thread, handmade paper, and acrylic paint on panel. ©2010 Deidre Adams.

I’ve been working more on my paintings in preparation for the thesis show. Although I originally started this series from an idea about the brain and cells and memory and dreams (see A State of Resonance), that’s all kind of fallen by the wayside as I’ve been working more into these paintings. I realized that I’m falling back to my usual way of working, which applies whether I’m working with textiles or painting on panels, or any other medium, and that is a focus on process. I work intuitively, starting with some basic layers of things and responding to them as I go. All of my work is about texture and layering, influenced by the things I’m drawn to visually: crumbling walls, peeling paint, rusty hinges, and marks. There is an inherent aspect of time, as surfaces are changed over time by the environment and by human intervention.

Rereading my earlier words, this seems to be the single most pertinent thing I said in that post:

I’m still working with texture, because after so many years of working with textiles, I’ve developed an inseparable connection with the tactile nature of materials. Besides the visual texture imparted by the lines, shapes, colors and markings in this work, I’m also using thread, string, fragments of handmade paper, and other embedded objects to impart elements of physical texture to the surface. I’m still very interested in creating a sense of depth and layering here, in an attempt to create an illusion that you are moving into the piece.

In the BFA thesis class, we spend a lot of time working on our statements. The thesis statement is distinguished from the artist’s statement in a couple of ways, the most notable of which seems to me to be that it’s a lot longer and therefore full of more pontificating and “artspeak.” In attending past senior thesis shows and trying to read the statements, I’ve found that in most cases they were way too long and my mind would start wandering before I could get through the whole thing. A lot of them sound like they’re just regurgitating a bunch of theory to score points.

In writing mine, I’m trying to be as honest as possible without sounding overly academic and pompous. On the other hand, I do want to make an effort to go along with the system to a certain extent, basically so I can get a good grade. Here’s the part where I’m having difficulty. We are supposed to name a couple of influences, and each named influence must be visible in the work. I mention wabi-sabi, as the idea of finding beauty in the impermanent and the imperfect is very influential, but they also want some actual art movements and/or specific artists named.

Now I have a lot of artists in mind whose work I admire: Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse, Gordon Matta-Clark, Susan Rothenberg, Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, plus many more contemporary painters, textile artists, and photographers. But there is not a single one that I looked at and said, “I want to make work like that.” So I’m going about this in a rather backwards way, I suppose. I’m paging through all my Art in America and ARTnews magazines and a bunch of books to find something that looks similar or has a similar intent. Can’t really find anything terribly appropriate. For lack of a better idea right now, I guess I’m going to go with Abstract Expressionism, since the look of my work is somewhat similar to some of the gestural painters, although I think my philosophy of working doesn’t really fit. (Emotional intensity and self-denial? I hardly think so.) I’m open to suggestions.

One other note, specifically on the painting above. I first did this one last semester, but I wasn’t really satisfied with it in its original incarnation. Then, after I got a comment that it looked like an image of a nebula taken from the Hubble telescope, I realized that was pretty far off my intention. Here’s what it looked like before the rework:

Well, that color really was too wild, and even though a certain person is disappointed about it, I like the new version quite a bit better. I’m in charge here, after all!

2017-10-15T16:16:25+00:00 February 26th, 2010|Painting, School|6 Comments

Finally, a decision

Untitled, 12 x 12 inches, acrylic on panel, ©2009 Deidre Adams.

In my last post, I discussed my angst over having to finally settle on what kind of work I wanted to have in my Thesis/Portfolio show. A few days later, our class went to visit the site to get an idea of what the space looks like. While looking at one large wall, I got a flash of how cool it would be to have some very large textile pieces in the show. As I waited for everyone else to be finished with their mildly excited chattering and general milling around, I had a little daydream which in short order included a very clear vision of making (5) 6×4-foot pieces to be set close together, making a single statement. (Wikipedia asserts that that would be a “pentaptych,” but such an ungainly word shall have no place in my permanent working vocabulary.)

The textures, colors, and methods were all surprisingly well developed in my little reverie, and I started to make my plan a reality the very next day. I cut backs and batting pieces, and I went to the basement to go through all my old stash of random types of fabric, looking for those piles of silk scraps from the designer clothing castoff sales and the old silk blouses and shirts from Goodwill that I had once accumulated for some now long-lost idea. I spent many hours of every day of the following week cutting, tearing, ironing, painting, arranging, and basting to get my first piece, a prototype of sorts, somewhat in shape to continue. But I had only begun to put in some of the first, tentative stitches — some by hand, and some by machine. The reality of whether I would be able to complete 5 of these pieces by mid-April was seriously in doubt at this point.

Over this past weekend, I met with some friends and showed them my prototype as well as a couple of the Resonant State paintings. Granted, it’s very hard for others to get enthusiastic and be able to have a clear picture of your finished piece when they’re looking at something that’s just a bunch of scraps basted onto a backing, but the consensus was unambiguous: go with the paintings. After all, they’re pretty much done, save for some minor tweaking, so why spend the next couple of months in a state of extreme anxiety when there’s no need for that? If I really think about it, one of the biggest reasons I make art is because I find it immensely therapeutic, relaxing, and satisfying. Rushing to get something done for the sake of a deadline is antithetical to my process.

I had to admit I felt a great sense of relief once I began to let go of my new idea, even though it was, and still is, very precious to me. I’m still going to continue with these pieces in the future when the time is right. In a way, this is even better. I have all of the raw materials plus one piece pretty far along, neatly stored away for the future like a squirrel with a big pile of nuts. With this plus all the other ideas I have ready and waiting in the wings, I’ll never be stuck staring at the wall, wondering what I should work on. For me, this is better than money in the bank.

2017-10-15T16:16:25+00:00 February 17th, 2010|Painting, School|9 Comments