Friday, February 6, 2009

Reflections (on Comments)

River Reflections (16"w, 12"h)

I love getting comments to the posts, and thought I’d respond to a few of the more recent ones.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
I’ve often wondered about this old quote, and I think the opposite is truer! And certainly that is what gives work to artists!!! There are places where beauty exists but if you don’t look right you won’t see it. It always amazed me that my male friends (in my youth!) could not see the great qualities of some of my female friends – they would focus on a thick ankle or scraggly hair and see nothing else!! As artists, we can help the beholder see the beauty they might miss.

Last year in New York (and apologies to the artist whose name I forget) I saw a show of photographs of the edges of pieces of paper and their shadows..absolutely gorgeous – I had never noticed that before. And another year at the Whitney I saw drawings of shirts neatly folded onto shelves – they were scrumptious! We must bring the non-beholders to the trough and make them drink!!!

And Marina’s comment : A good artist notices patterns and translates them into composition or color harmony, concisely summarises the above.
And , unfortunately, again the converse is true – a bad artist can take something lovely and make us want to puke!!! As in snow scenes in pink, mauve and soft lemon with extra glowing windows in the olde logge cabinne!!! I often think those folk must have had a huge electricity bill to get all those lamps so bright !

In your industrial landscapes you removed insignificant details.
One of the jobs of the artist is to remove the insignificant, to present the idea in its cleanest, most precise, most concise form. I don’t agree that more is more – except for novels from my favorite writers! One of the problems with many quilts today is that people put Too Much in…I used to do that too, and some!...but was lucky enough to have several people comment on it. I once did a critique session for a guild in Alabama – they brought pieces they were having trouble with and I lead a discussion as to what would strengthen the work. In the majority of cases, it was Getting Rid of Excess Baggage.

Some body else commented on this same problem: I reach a point that I like it, sew it together and put it away to revisit later. And this is when the trouble begins, because then I want to improve it more, to perhaps cut it up, add another figure. How do we know when to stop?
This is a dilemma faced by watercolour painters – for once something is added, it can’t be taken away – at least as fiber artists we can do that! And oil painters can just paint over the top – Howard Hodgkin just paints on and on and on…layering for months – sometimes years! But a watercolourist has to know when to stop.
Two responses: one, slow down dramatically toward the end…and evaluate every step…stand well back from the piece (or get a photograph onto the computer, I find that helps me the most)…and
secondly, stop before you think you should.

I’m currently reaching that stage with Industrial Landscape #6….my sketch has a Lot more details in it, but the piece is looking so good on the wall with only about half those details that I’m just creeping along very tentatively at this point, and may stop very soon. We don’t need to follow the plan right to the end! Think, think!!!

A very different point was raised by Nina:
I would like to know how you decided to change the scale of the pieces in the Industrial series. Why was the last one so large? Did you feel like it added more to the subject matter?
A good question because it makes me think!! And I would say the reason was (and this is where the value of working in a series comes in) because I would have liked the others to have been bigger…when I saw the steel mill across the water for the first time, I was struck by the immensity of it, how much land it took up, also by the beauty. Beautiful because the structures were very intriguing shapes, and yet they all fitted together. I felt that I hadn’t conveyed that tremendous width.
As I make each piece, I’m also thinking about the next one – what did I feel or see that I’ve not yet been able to convey….

And finally thank you to Olga who reminded me of Bernd and Hilla Becher's photographs which I had seen in AinA some years ago and may have had their inspiration just quietly percolating away….to be triggered by the catalyst of sailing in Hamilton Bay last summer.

I’ll do another post about your comments in the future – it has been most enjoyable talking to you this morning!! But now it’s time to hit the (design) wall!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!

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