The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man goes up in 8 days. I feel surprisingly good and my nerves are doing relatively okay. This is amazing. I have been working on this body of art for roughly six months. My stress level is low. I am primarily working on finishing touches and making sure that everything hangs as it should. Logistics in getting to Bangor actually look like the most difficult aspect of the week right now, so life is good. Here's the card that I put together for the show.
If you're in the area, pop in and fly the flag. It would be awesome to see some friendly faces.
I have an image stuck in my head. While waiting in the car with sleeping Austin, puttering in a sketchbook I started playing with triangles again. I had been working with a checkerboard style of shading and primarily bounding my patterns in squares. However, the sketchbook allows me to experiment more. I was looking for a way to literally break out of the box. This sketch grew organically, despite its measured geometric components. The result was a diamond. I wasn't thinking about diamonds, nor has it been something that I have visually obsessed over before, but as this was hitting the page I knew that it was soon going to be something that I would obsess over.
Thinking back, diamonds have really only entered my conscientiousness when thinking about engagement rings and in a lone short story by F. Scott Fitgerald, Diamond as Big as the Ritz. Fitzgerald is super important to me, as I read him exclusively during the rough patches at the end of my first major relationship. Diamond was from "Babylon Revisited," a book of short stories that I read on the plane to and from Minneapolis. My time in Minneapolis is qualified as both the most crestfallen and defeated that I've ever felt, but also the most able to function and live on a small means. It was interesting then, to be reading Fitzgerald's Jazz Age stories of wealth and extravagance. I think that the image of the diamond sort of sits in the back of my head as an unconscious sort of relic to that era and the subsequent breaking off of my first engagement. It is all of the things of luster, but imperfect and valueless too.
The diamond is also the perfect metaphor for the art star. The poor, struggling artist attempts to create something to live on. The story is colloquial, universal. Our stereotypes depend on it. The efficacy of the art object is lost out of prudence. We've built a society that expects artists to remain poor and so, in order for the artist to make money, not only must they develop an authentic and unique style, but they must surpass the overwhelming hurdle of precedence, and vault themselves into the land of the prosperous.
The diamond is a sign of hope, however. It starts life as just another rock and until it is discovered remains a rock. Upon its discovery however it undergoes a metamorphosis. It becomes an object of desire. It signifies love and stability. It is tainted with success.
1.) The feeling that you have at 2 AM, when you finish a piece, and you are riding the creative high is your response to that out of body experience, the act of being a painter, what some referred to as visiting with a muse, but above all else, a beautiful thing to embrace, live in and realize as a goal. It is not fair to expect other people viewing your work to experience your work in the same manner. Distance yourself from the piece before you show it.
2.) If you want to sell paintings for $100 they will always be worth $100. If you want to sell your work for more than that establish that precedent from the beginning. If people do not want to fork over the $100, your work may not have reached the quality that you are aiming for. Do not despair. Keep your head down and work.
3.) It is never okay to forget the processes and rules that you learned in school. You are welcome to break the rules and ignore the processes in the creative moment, but realize that doing so will not be without consequence.
4.) Once you have "made" it, there are still many levels to attain. Try harder.
5.) Draw all of the things that you are too nervous to draw for fear of fucking up.
6.) Make your work. You are fascinated by a bunch of artists that you hold up on a platform as having "made it." They "made it" because they were confident in their own work and they had honed their skills to a level that allowed them to establish themselves in the art market.
7.) Selling art is business. Treat it as such.
8.) Make, sign, and follow contracts.
9.) Do not accept a project that you will not have enough time to complete without sacrificing the work that you really want to be spending time on.
10.) People are quick to attach the term success to money and celebrity. Whether you make a lot of money or not, whether you are well known or not, you can still be very successful. Determine your own goals. Live by them and have faith in yourself.
I hang this installation in 18 days. I also start a new job next week. The semester doesn't end until the week after the show. I feel incredibly overwhelmed. It is no surprise to me that as one of my students was asking me to lighten up on the assignment today I relented. Why should everybody have to keep working all the time? That said, I've mostly been wishing for the ability to continue working all the time. I want so much out of this show and I'm just not sure that I am going to be able to pull it off. This isn't all bad. If I don't succeed 100% that gives me a spot to start when I am through with the show, but of course I want everything to be perfect for my own sake. The average viewer doesn't know when we fail ourselves and failure is healthy and desirable, a learning experience and a chance to change.
Yesterday I began revamping a piece that I thought that I had a clear plan on. It was exciting to cover up the old design and bring a new design to the piece. It doesn't mathematically fit together and I prefer it that way. It is exploding from the lower left hand corner of the piece. I'm not sure that it works as well as I would like but it's new and a bit more exciting.
I've also been really excited about a couple works that I am working on referencing both wallpaper and succulents. The patterns easily translate into a type of wall paper and the drawings of succulents work well in opposition, geometric versus biomorphic.
The variation in this show may prove to be difficult to work with. I haven't determined if it may be easier or if I will find difficulties working everything in together. I know that I am interested in the show being a bit chaotic, disorienting and loud, but I am not sure how much I need it to sit still to be happy with it.
I received an email earlier this week pressing me for the artist statement and title for the show in May. Quite honestly I didn't have either, so this evening I sat down with a new notebook which I had picked up from Rock, Paper, Scissor in Wiscassett, ME. I began by writing some of the things which I've been thinking over and over while creating this work, and then slowly started to develop some more coherent thoughts. Here's the artist statement in its totality.
"The Dinosaurs of Industry past loom over its creators; ineffectual reminders of bygone eras when a symbiotic relationship between man and machine seemed the answer to the meaning of life. The current decade witnesses a hopeful return to work and the Earth, a desire to mutually benefit our fellow man by keeping our money close to home. We are becoming more interested in the Earth and what it takes to preserve our habitat. Naturally, we proceed as a species until we realize effect and then we attempt to bandage the wounds after the bleeding has reached a critical level.
In contrast to the things we have broken are the remaining edifices of the planet; plants, animals, fungi, and geological environments both big and small. Our perception of these naturally occurring elements is through a lens of mathematics, a sacred geometry. Geometry, with its clear cut answers, logic, and certainty approaches the holy. We feel the aura which Walter Benjamin claims is only evident in the authentic artifact.
The Dinosaurs of Industry and the Rhythm of Man is a series of drawings, paintings and three dimensional objects, utilizing pattern as well as depictions of antiquated technology and living matter to commence a dialogue on a present day computer aided eco-friendly society."
The work is starting to really take shape. I've been cleaning work up and making it as tight as I can. I feel like this show is going to be the best example of my work since 2007. I'm really hope that it is received well.
For those of you in Maine. The show is at Central Gallery in Bangor, ME on the second of May at 7 PM. It would be lovely to see you there.
In my last blog post I mentioned feeling like an artist working hermetically in my space. The idea of the artist working in a space in solitary is very romantic. If conversations with people at art shows and sales and even when I am out and about town are proof enough, the average person seems to think of an artist sitting alone in a zen like experience, joyously skipping between painting surfaces, elated to be doing something fun for a living; but tortured at the same time, suffering to find something to eat, irreversibly poor.
As I was reading an article on "Walden, Revisited" at the DeCordova, I started to feel more conflicted by the idea of hermeticism. When I think of hermeticism, I think of an old man who lived down the road from my Uncle Roger. I seem to remember that occasionally my cousin Chris and I would venture down and talk to the man, who had crudely constructed his little ramshackle shack out of mismatching woods. He was grizzled and I have no idea what he talked about. He is just a vague image in my mind. Conversely, I think of Strickland in Maugham's "The Moon and Sixpence." He is so taken by his painting that he is unaware of love, social niceties, or even the state of his own body; he was dying of leprosy but still painted on.
The show features "Two Cabins," by James Benning; comparison between Thoreau's cabin on Walden and the unabomber, Ted Kacynski's shack in Montana. The strange correlation between utopia and dystopia becomes evident. They are both other worlds which we are in one case yearning for an in another case heading toward. Perhaps neither is entirely attainable or perhaps both are ultimately truisms dependent on the other. Maybe it is the job of the hermetic artist, one who is detached from society if only in perception, to reveal the utopia within our more dystopian reality. Utopia only exists in that we know what does not work. We have forever been trying to produce machinery and goods which will make life easier. It is a utopian ideal that life should be easier, but as we grow to find our lives easier, we realize that error of our leisure. Our leisure begets idleness which as a byproduct results in a dystopian society.
As I sit in studio visiting and revisiting mathematical patterns and optical illusions coupled with drawings of nature and the failures of our industrial society, I begin to see the paradoxical relationship of Utopia and Dystopia. The work begins to make more sense. It is more simply put an accumulation of the things we want and the things we wanted and their propensity to change in relation to what we have.
My desires are mercurial at best. I have started reading "The Sea Wolf," by Jack London. Humphrey Van Weyden is a learned man from San Francisco who is lost at sea after his Ferry boat is struck and sinks. He is picked up by a sealing schooner set for the Japanese coast. At the helm of this ship is Wolf Larsen. The two characters talk of their varying ideals of life; Larsen is a scourge and an autodidact, Van Weyden a studious scholar. Larsen yearns for adventure and the knowledge within that adventure, but only insofar as it will benefit him economically. Van Weyden is wound up in his philosophical ideals of life. He is very detached from what life actually is. He grows to value his own breath, as he could surely have been left for dead at any moment thus far in the book. And so I find the conundrum that always stings my being and my creativity. Adventure is dangerous by necessity. Without any threat to our well being there is no adventure. We must overcome threats in order to feel that rush indicative of an adventure. That rush coupled with the bucolic or the mathematical precision of a city's architecture yield a sense of accomplishment and Benjamin's aura. I yearn for both settings. I yearn for the danger and I yearn for my work. I am at once Van Weyden and Wolf Larsen. I am Nick Carraway on his ledge in New York city, experiencing life both within myself and witnessing myself.
Yesterday over lunch my friend Melissa and I were talking about creating art for the purposes of making money versus creating artwork out of a compulsion to answer a diverse array of visual problems. Both are adequate goals. To be sure creating work that is salable is a difficult problem to solve in and of itself, but it is sadly not a question that I find any interest in.
We definitely agreed that paying for the costs of being an artist were vital. In regards to that we began to talk about creating a hashtag: #rentpainting. Hashtag rentpainting refers to that painting which is created at the end of each month in efforts to raise rent money for studio. Here's the first #rentpainting from the Mighty Lark.
It is priced at $200, just enough to pay my studio rent. If you're interested, simply send payment through paypal to Mike@lewisacrylics.com. Please spread the word. Thank you.