Reflecting on the art and artists featured in Part One
As I review the work I’ve done in this first part of Creative Arts Today, and gear up for my first evaluation, I’m noticing a real pattern of feeling paralyzed with insecurity as a I begin to engage with each new exercise, artist and artwork. Oftentimes, the fear turns to skepticism; none of the works we were asked to engage with in this section resemble the kind of work I go toward naturally or aspire to make myself, so perhaps this initial reaction is normal. What’s particularly interesting, however, is how that initial statement Grayson Perry made about the need to spend time, or “live with [contemporary art]” in order to deeply connect with it, rings more and more true. What I’m finding is that my reactions and feelings about the work change completely the more I engage with it, contextualize it. Often, the simple (or not so simple) act of trying to put my interpretation (however brief) into clear language affords me new insights and connections. I end up really enjoying work I would have walked right past in a gallery or museum.
Early on in the course, I was particularly surprised by my strong and lengthy response to Duchamp’s Fountain. This is a work I have often thought about, have used in high school classrooms as a was to generate conversations with teenagers about art and am reminded of every time I come across a dirty old abandoned toilet blocking my way on a narrow Paris sidewalk. I don’t like the work and react almost physically to it, yet it always gets me thinking. Early in this course, I sketched out a silly idea for a contemporary response to the piece; I was surprised by how much I had to say.
Other works that at first bored and repulsed me and then truly came to impress and seem beautiful to me are the two “still life” videos by Sam Taylor-Johnson. There was so much newness in what appears to be a simple tweak to each classic scene.
In the end, I did a lot of work, thinking and writing in the first part of this course, and I felt inspired by quite a lot of what I saw. Two artists we only touched on through the essay “Place” (Dean, T. and Millar, J. (2005). London: Thames & Hudson.) but whom I’d like to learn more about are Ian Hamilton Finlay and his son, Alec Finlay. I’m really interested in the way each of them works with text. I felt very moved and impressed by the scope and ambition of Jem Finer’s Longplayer: the idea of inventing a creative solution to what began as an imaginative limitation and evolved into a thought experiment is so beautiful. And there are so many layers of thought, interaction and community to the piece. Katie Paterson’s work is similarly ambitious, although the made result is often economical and easier to summarize than Longplayer. Often I am drawn to the artists whose work I envy, or whose style and mastery I aspire toward, but these artists inspire me because their way of thinking and making is so wildly different from my own. Comparing my work to theirs would be irrelevant; but sitting with it and just thinking it through feels both challenging and worthwhile.