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.