Art & Development

Go to jail

Chance; go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200
Perhaps since I’ve thought about artists and how they are perceived at length, many of psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihaly‘s points in Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention seem patently self-evident to me. But some parts, like the following anecdote, are uncannily familiar.

Jacob Rabinow uses an interesting mental technique to slow himself down to when work on an invention requires more experience than intuition:
“Yeah, there’s a trick I pull for this. When I have a job to do like that where you have to do something that takes a lot of effort, slowly, I pretend I’m in jail. Don’t laugh. And if I’m in jail, time is of no consequence. In other words, if it takes a week to cut this, it’ll take a week. What else have I got to do? I’m going to be here twenty years.”

Since a similar thought has crossed my mind about studio practice, I get a grim kick out of this approach to self-discipline, which is so often under-appreciated by those who think that being an artist is all fun, unharnessed, self-expression.

Art & Development

Studio peaks and valleys

Sometimes, art-making is painful. Critic Jerry Saltz summed up torments this way:

the crushing loneliness of the studio and the fear, self-hate, delusion, and shame that go into making art you believe in.

—Jerry Saltz in “What Do You See?,” a review of Red, the play about Mark Rothko, by Stephanie Zacharek & Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine, April 2, 2010.

But rewards await if you push through the valleys.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been producing small works along the themes of modest ambitions and discount-culture decoration for my upcoming solo show at Sight School in May. The projects are sweet and humorous and they fit my concept. But this new work is different than my previous work and what people might expect from me. The thought of unpleasantly surprising audiences is terrifying. Plus, I was worried about how these small projects would fill the gallery space — until today.

This morning, I unmasked some freshly painted walls (Behr Premium Plus: paint the way paint should be made), fired up a new lightbox, and installed three series of small multiples.

My exhibition mock-up delimited and finessed the objects and spaces. It was coherent, yet there was enough mass, visual interest and difference to create a sequential experience. It was optical but also conceptually intriguing (to me, anyway). In short, it started looking like a show. Relief, joy and excitement washed over me.

I’ve got a lot to do before my exhibition opens in May. Mostly, I need to match my ambition with capacity. My needs include: time, creativity, labor, money, ladders, the right kind of critical feedback at the right time, balloons, huge quantities of painter’s tape, laser cut acrylic, pegboard hooks, and more. I would also like to schedule some related programming, perhaps a guest lecture for the closing event… (Maybe this is something I can delegate. Email me if you have suggestions.)