Friday, February 26, 2010



airport wheels I do hate it when people say: “Oh, I loved the pieces you used to make; they were so nice!”
You know how artists get virtually branded? Oh yes! that’s a “so and so” you say as you spot their work.  It’s comfortably familiar; you can recall other such pieces by that artist and have a sense of their overall oeuvre (or “body of work” as it’s called now – never use one syllable when four will do). You may even feel as if you slightly “own” that artist, you have such a good knowledge of their work.  As human beings we always feel more in charge if we can predict things, there’s an uncertainty that many do not welcome when things look different.  Whether in our art, their art, or life in general!

And if you don’t recognize the work by somebody whose style you know well, you feel somewhat cheated.  They had the temerity to change! “Good Lord! I would never have guessed that X would have made that!” (which always sounds rather disparaging).

On the other hand, if the work seems too repetitive, I find I cease to respond to it.  The sense of “knowing” the artist and their work is poor recompense for the loss of the surprise and wonder at some thing new and fresh.   Yes, I know who made it, but I find I don’t want to spend any time with it at all.  I want some  development; I want to see how that artist would treat a different concept, situation, shape or colour challenge.

And looking at change from the point of view of the artist?  You have an idea and explore it, say a dozen or even twenty times;  the particular problems of that type of piece become  easier and easier to solve and one day you find yourself almost into mass production.   I remember one artist telling me that she made – and quilted! – backgrounds by the score and then when she felt the mood coming on her, attached a few elements to the front of the piece.  I think if that’s happening, the game is over!  something has won but it’s not the artist’s unique talent, ability and vision!  

I don’t want to see an artist repeating themselves, I want a new exploration with every piece, though not so great a change, that I cannot see the progress.  I wish the same thing for myself: inching (or even footing! or yarding – why can’t we do that?!) forward.   One journey  not a series of disconnected jumps, but neither a march in place.  We are not making widgets! 

How d’you feel when you see one of your favorites changing their work?  do you celebrate it, or deplore it ?  Is the change fresh? or disconcerting? let me know!!!

And now, back to the not-widgets!  - and,  thanks for reading. Elizabeth

PS – the piece at the  top?  Hartsfield Atlanta airport, Gate 29, concourse E.


Deb Lacativa said...

....I hate that they've put this one where you can only see it when you are leaving the country! dratted TSA.

Elizabeth Barton said...

well if you're stuck at Hartsfield for a long time you can go over to concourse E. Nearly every gate has some artwork and there's some super don't have to be flying from E to go there and wander round. Having said that, I think the airport is currently redecorating some of the gates and have taken some pieces down for cleaning (I hate to think what that means!! but I'm not asking!)

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I believe change has to happen and the surprise for me is when the work of an artists doesn't change. The part that is tricky is that sometimes, as you mentioned, the increments of change for one person may be very small while another person leaps ahead and bypasses many stages. It doesn't necessarily mean they haven't mentally investigated various ideas but they simply jump over them. The viewer is then challenged to keep up with the artists. They may decide they prefer the work from an earlier period but if the new work is good, there will be new supporters and new encouragement.

Anna C Warren said...

So were you talking with Robert Genn about what topic should be covered? Wonderful post as always by the way.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Robert Genn often spurs me to thinking about something...but sometimes I notice that we do simultaneously come up with observations on the same thing. His posts are on and are excellent.

Judy said...

UMMM: isn't that Hartsfield Jackson these days? LOL
You always provide such food for thought!
I used to be uncomfortable when I didn't recognize an artist's work because it had progressed, but as I progress, I am less threatened by their progress.

Kathleen Loomis said...

Sometimes I am very happy when an artist moves on (sometimes I have been chafing for a while wishing that would happen!). Other times I think the new work isn't as good as the old, or just hasn't matured yet. It all depends. If it's an artist whose work I am familiar with, sometimes I can easily tell when she is searching/struggling in transition.

Jackie said...

I agree with Terry that the increments may be small at times. We progress in fits and starts, don't we? The quality of the work matters most though, and I'm delighted to see new work that I can embrace as well as previous work.

deanna7trees said...

I've been saying what you said so eloquently for a long time. What a nice surprise when I see a piece of a well know artist that I do not recognize. It makes me focus more on the new piece than I would have if it was more of the same.