Friday, April 4, 2014

Wishy Washy

Earlier in this blog I wrote about paying less attention to the meaning of my work while concerning myself strictly with the way my work looks. However, not too long ago, I received a second hand compliment from a gallery owner. It was my technical abilit that captured the attention of her customers. I wasn't at the opening so I don't know which piece it was or what else was said, but this got me to thinking. 

A few years ago, this compliment would have been very flattering, as I was quite invested in becoming an accomplished sculptor. This time, however, I was surprised at my disappointment with this compliment. The disappointment, I think,  has to do with my growing interest in successfully illustrating a narrative. To be sure, most of my time is spent on the technical i.e. smoothing, refining, attention to gravity, axes and tromp l'oeil. But the technical should be a supporting actor in the theatrical drama of the conceptual. I would hope that the strength of the piece is its narrative.

This makes me question my story telling and the use of historical references. If the piece below is the one that warranted the "compliment", does this mean that my use of the stirrup spout is too vague and out of context for the general public? When I made this, I was ready to accept that only ceramic geeks like me would understand the reference, but I also thought that it could be appreciated on any number of levels beyond the formal. Do I need to be more precise in my thinking? What responsibility as a maker do I have to provide more clues into possible meanings? Is it ok for viewers outside of "the know" to appreciate this work on its technical merits alone? 



4 comments:

Dave Funk said...

I really loved reading this. I find myself feeling incredibly lucky that I stumbled across it this evening, when I was much in need.

Greer said...

Does every viewer/commenter need to "get it" on all levels? Perhaps the commenter got it also on the level you intended, but only commented on the technical? We can't know. I, personally, admit I do not know what a "stirrup spout" is!

Joy Sterrantino said...

I've thought long about this in regards to writing fiction. Often the audience gets something the writer didn't intend, and that's okay. And I think the artist can intend something that the audience doesn't get, either. I think of Georgia O'Keeffe and how her work was interpreted in a vastly different way than she intended.

The precision in your work is what makes it come to life, honestly. It's not that it is just technical. It's that the technical enhances your story telling. I admit that I don't always know what a piece means to you. I often think of asking you about one thing or another, but it does make me ponder, which is what good art does.

Dr. P said...

I think this is a completely legitimate line of thinking. Russ, here's an essay I go back to a lot about this issue.

http://www.toddpetersen.org/todd-robert-petersen/2014/4/david-byrne-on-mexican-street-art