Darkness (and Char)
Long time no post… I bet you guys think I’ve been out making art.
You’re right! I have been—I made this one totally accidental (or subconscious?!?) piece of art while making homemade pita chips and setting up a hammock simultaneously.
This 2015 piece, called “Multitasking”, is constructed of aluminum and carbon, is 18” in diameter, and is available for purchase. (Though I will ONLY announce that fact right here.) So there.
Actually, to be a bit more honest, I kind of have been making art. Not my own art, but when the pause in my own art making really settled into place, I caved and immediately filled some it by assisting other people with their artwork in various ways.
Here are some things I’ve been doing or have agreed to do in the near future in support of other people’s art projects:
- Packaging, labeling and selling “art water” (like holy water, but with different properties…) and DIY art installation kits as a fundraiser for the production of a catalog for a show I helped to produce before RFAOH
- Modeling/acting the role of an FBI agent in photographs and in audio recordings for someone’s upcoming installation
- Creating two recipes and cooking them (along with a partner) in a test kitchen set up in a gallery
- Acting as an onsite (text based) documentarian for an artist while they do several very public live performances
- Assembling some videos for a temporary (pirate) TV channel
None of these are very related to my personal art practice (except the first one,) but it feels good to be “around” artmaking—helping out. (Like when I quit smoking and I still loved to hang out when people smoked and enjoy the secondhand smoke!)
And more seriously, for most of the last month not making art has put me into a funk. The activities I’m describing above were undertaken in the same way that you compulsively make small talk when there’s an uncomfortable silence in a conversation—all efforts to ward off that funk.
A funk that was threatening to undermine my whole being and modus operandi.
I am a freelancer. I live on about an 1/6th of the salary that I made at my last staff position, which I left in 2013 so that I could have complete flexibility to pursue art opportunities. Having nothing of real value on my professional resume since then, combined with nothing of real value in my bank account AND not making art can be kind of acutely psychically painful. As is paying monthly for a studio space I’m not using. I’ve started filling the void not with “making music” or “trying to write fiction” or “perfuming” but with searching constantly for extra professional gigs. I pitched a bunch of stories at the end of March and threw myself into some labor intensive journalism projects that I’ve just finished, took on more than usual for my most steady gig, and hounded a good but infrequent client until they gave me a production project that will keep me pretty busy probably all the way through to July. So now there is the sense at least that I can afford the empty studio. But the downside is that I am not sitting with the void, plumbing the depths of my creativity, and have made it so I don’t have too much time to do that.
Speaking of acute psychic pain, another thing that I realize I use art for is to process unbearable feelings about global level issues that I don’t feel like I can do anything about. Now, when I learn about human rights atrocities in Syria, or earthquakes in Nepal there’s nothing for me to do with those feelings. I have to sit with the horror of suffering that is outside of my reach to impact until something distracts me from it. Which leaves me wondering if some percentage of my art making is just activity I undertake to distract myself from the suffering of others. I always thought I was using it as an outlet for my frustration, but since it does nothing for the people suffering, it’s actually totally selfish activity. I’ve been struggling (internally, without answers) for ideas—methods—of art making that could actually have some impact on human suffering far away from. The best notions I have are pure witchcraft. Which is possibly nonsense.
Finally, I’m not answering last month’s quiz questions right now, but I do want to get back to one thing that I brought up then: the question of mentorship. Being self taught, I’ve had none. I’ve had a lot of peer support (thank god) and collaboration, but it’s not the same thing. In my soul searching here, I have to admit that I signed up for this residency thinking that I would somehow get much needed mentorship as a conceptual artist through it.
But what does that mean? What mentorship did I think was available here? And what happens here besides us all sort of blogging about our experiences?