Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How come you’re not in the work?

Went down to the university art department again yesterday for another artist talk:
 Tony    Martelli   whose work is said to "suspend   time and disbelief with a peculiar aesthetic tension". 
  A nice little   bit of art speak!!  And probably meaningless!  Or rather, so vague of meaning as to be 
worthy of a horoscope!  However, the work is definitely strong and provoking and he has a very distinctive
 point of view.  
He began his talk by describing how in graduate school he really wanted to "project his intellect", to appear very 
smart and knowledgeable and as a result the work was "dry, textual, monochromatic, dull" and overly 
manipulated. His studiomate said to him one day - "You’re an interesting guy, but your work is dull;
how come you’re not in the work ?"  That remark changed everything; he decided to be a different 
kind of artist and deliberately put more of himself into the work.  He wanted "to give form to his
feelings, anxieties, hopes,  and dreams as the Romantic artists had done", but he wished to do this in a way "that made sense to a contemporary audience."

 His first piece after this epiphany was an empty cardboard box, an old battered empty cardboard box 
labelled with his name.  A good title will save work from being cleared away by the janitors (yes, that 
has happened!) and the box was entitled:  “My soul-searching finally paid off “.   His aim was that the 
box would stand as a metaphor for himself: empty but ready to receive. 

Tony Martelli
Being a "newly romantic artist" he told us that he thought about "romantic tropes".  (As an aside, I've been 
dying to use the word trope which means "a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression".)
 of Martelli's most successful tropes has been his sculpture of himself as a sleepwalker.
He described how this sculpture works as a perfect trope when placed in a any boring museum settings!!

He's also done a lot of "self portraits" made from vegetables or hunks of meat (these are meticulously rendered in silicone or bronze by the way (including the flies) but look entirely realistic - more tropes!).
So he both literally and metaphorically put himself very directly into his art.   And it came alive, and much more compelling.  How can we as quiltmakers do this?  I've often been surprised by people who make pieces in a random haphazard way hoping that the colors and textures will come together to make an interesting whole.  Or even
stranger,  people who work from a photograph that they just came across yesterday and they think looks
quite nice - how can that be meaningful for you?  I think I've always tried to make work that related to my
own life  - now that doesn't necessarily mean I've been successful...but I have had that aim. For me, there's
always a story behind the quilt.  Here's a couple of recent pieces:

Brushes and Scissors

 In Brushes and Scissors,  I'm contemplating my somewhat segmented and confused life where I can't decide whether to focus on make fiber art, or I guess this is a Real Trope - if metaphors can ever be seen to be real..the scissors do seem to be in charge of the action here having cut up several of those brushes!!

Do you try to put yourself into your art?  do you try to make work about your dreams, and feelings and hopes and nightmares?
(yes some of Martelli's work was pretty nightmarish! - for example the sculpture of the "Fucked Couple"  who had had limbs torn off because a grand piano had fallen on top of them ......)

Is making one's work about one's real life important?
 Or is it better to appear smart and knowledgeable?
Opinions, please!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth 


Linda said...

Oh wow! Good article and I had to comment on the latest Brushes and Scissors. Love it! Much different from the "first" one!

Barbara said...

Love both of these pieces Elizabeth. I think that when the art has some MEANING to us as the artist, it really resonates and has impact. Whether it be an issue in the world at large or something very personal, it comes across in a different way, which is difficult to put into words, but it is more interesting to the viewer- not mundane. I mean looking at the replica of a flower doesn't do it unless "we get inside that flower" or put ourselves into it and create a flower that is a metaphor for beauty or an emotion, for example.
Thank you for the thought provoking blog.

Georgina said...

Some of my work is deeply reflective and some of it is made because I 'just like it'. I have yet to develop a recognisable, (even to me)style. Well done for incorporating 'trope' into your post - I hope one day to do the same with 'synecdoche'.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thanks Linda!! sometimes knowing the "story" makes the piece more meaningful...
thank you to Barbara and Georgina for your comments...I agree with you that Meaning is so important, I always feel a bit let down when an artist poopoos or trivializes his work. the trouble with synecdoches is that they sound too much like a surgeon - I treated a leg yesterday!!! isn't it great though to challenge yourself with new words? I love Long Juicy Words - like schadenfreude even though the emotion is not a very admirable one!!

Melanie McNeil said...

There are 26 letters in our alphabet, and yet we can vary their order in infinite ways. What makes one way interesting and another ... not so much? Many times it is the personal element. The same is true for other arts, I think.

This was an interesting look at one artist's growth. I try to include myself in my quilts. In truth they aren't all personal expressions. Some are exercises in design. But I think that is as said -- exercise -- which will help me in my growth, also.

Thanks for this. I've recently found your blog and enjoy reading. Much to think about.