My Art Practice as Enthusiasms Unbounded
“Enthusiams unbounded” is neither grammatically correct nor concise, but it’s the best linguistic capsule for my sentiment: that many aspects of being an artist can be seen as exercises in honoring curiosity.
I love my life in art because I’m constantly learning new things; I made a decision to cultivate areas of knowledge and skill, and they’re accumulating more or less every day. When I look at it this way, art practice is even more satisfying.
I’m starting to think that being an artist means studio work, as well as enacting one’s enthusiasms at will, anytime and anywhere. To borrow examples from my own recent past, this manifests via browsing exhibition catalogs about shopping, learning how to use a nail gun (powered with air: brilliant!), getting over my fear of hand-held circular saws, and savoring donut shop typefaces. My enthusiasms fuel my art practice, so as an artist, it’s my job to follow them.
An Observation on Mentality
My friend Stephanie pointed out that longevity in art can often be attributed to sheer determination. In other words, success in art is partially a war of attrition (especially for women, as my friend Jenifer would add). Stephanie vowed to make art, no matter what. I want art in my life, but I need happiness too. And I think there’s a way to cultivate both:
I suspect that another secret to longevity in the arts is good morale, which requires (at least) two skills:
1. The ability to welcome and accept all forms of validation. I think it’s along the lines of being a connoisseur, not an addict, of the tangible evidence of success. That means blocking out mithering resentments or bitterness in light of any successes, and not letting hang-ups limit the extent of one’s satisfaction.
2. A high tolerance, or the quick ability to recover. May the stings of rejection fade quickly. May the forgettable exhibitions be soon forgotten. May petty resentments pass, along with all the reasons to be jaded about the art world.
The goal, it seems, is to make optimism and happiness “sticky,” and to let all the rest roll off your shoulder. Duckin’ and weavin’. Stick and move.
A cursory look-see of downtown galleries less than stunning, with two major exceptions:
Kim Anno’s paintings on metal are pretty and formal — two things I’m not usually that wowed by. But I felt that feeling of worship that I think overcomes many art lovers when I looked at her paintings — my God, the light! The works are pure abstraction, with large expanses of white paint nestled by wisps of translucent color; they “read” quite simple and gestural and yet there are passages upon passages of textures, patterns, marks and contrasting surfaces. The whites revealed themselves to be rich in color as well. They’re works that continue to reward the act of looking. Expertly executed.
I first saw one of Bruce Connor’s miraculous black-and-white inkblot pattern drawings in Lawrence Rinder’s Galaxy at Berkeley Art Museum a few weeks ago, so it’s a treat to see more of them so soon. I absolutely adore them. There are several tiny ones on view, as well as a generous series of leaf-shaped inkblots and a few fuddy-duddy assemblages. The inkblots, though, are sublime. Completely abstract, moments of recognition appear and fade away, with a variety of textures, media and mark-making devices that result in an surprising magnitude of visual experiences — some lent the sensation of solarized photographic prints, others are clearly tactile acrylic, still others suggested small infinities. They strike a balance between meticulous compulsion and the fine art of knowing when to stop.