I was thinking about the studio. One of the things I have done to get myself motivated is to put all my unfinished work on the wall. This is a similar idea to having a shelf for UFOs which means Unfinished Objects of my craft projects… a braided rug; an embroidered jacket.
I have put all my unfinished canvases on the wall. Some are a few years old even.
Here is one I have been thinking about the most lately – It has no title yet but I think of it as “Glass Sofa”
There are huge unfinished areas on this canvas. (more on that later)
I think it was blank in 1991 maybe. Then I started a painting of my old black & white striped sofa. Some time after that I tried doing something about birds on it, and that turned into letting my 2 year old and my 4 year old have at it and we had a fun day! (They are 24 and 27 now) I think out the window you can see happy stick figures.
Yes, I confess. I cart tons of old, half done, dried up, raggedy art supplies and broken furniture around with me through my life and across the miles. I hate to throw things away. It drives my mom crazy.
I figure, If the junk is not creating walls and aisles through the house I am not a hoarder yet – I am still in the “pack-rat” category. If (when) it is completely organized, then I will be a recycler that is saving the Earth – You’re welcome!
I have been trying to adjust my mindset for awhile about actually using my hoard…er…um…no….”collection”…yeah, collection. What do I have it all for if not to make use of it? When an object passes into my hands I think “this could be a…” or “Doesn’t this remind you of a…”
I also think of the work that went into making something, like a straw for example. We buy a cold drink, open the straw, and use it for how long? 30 minutes? Now is it trash?
A straw is a cool object aside from it’s intended function. It is a plastic cylinder, a tube. It commonly has one of the most basic and traditional designs on it – stripes. If you can get the idea of “straw” out of your head, it’s a very cool, basic, elegant form.
Then I think about the people in factories making this straw. Someone is mixing stuff in some big vat. It’s heavy. Their feet hurt. Someone is pouring some molten or drippy-chemically stuff. Hopefully they wear a mask if anything if fumey. Those are so uncomfortable – imagine 8 hours wearing this type of gear? Someone, somewhere is in a cutting department. They hear this “ca cunk ca chunk” all day. Their ears ring from it at night. The straws get wrapped into the thin delicate paper. That must be stamped and cut with some sort of press too, and then they slide into boxes; and the boxes into bigger boxes; and then into the giant box of a container. The container hooks up to a truck or train or gets hoisted onto a ship. Now it speeds along on it’s travels till we buy a soft drink and use it for 20-30 minutes and toss it.
I promise, I am not dishing out a big guilt trip here. I am just saying that I think about this stuff. I am just trying to explain why I save bottle caps and the clips off loaves of bread.
I am trying to explain why I want to use this stuff in my art. This is why it’s worth it to me to spend an afternoon sorting candy wrappers into envelopes by color or fold the pretty purple net bag plums come in and stick it in with my fabric.
This is also why it doesn’t matter that a ba-zillion other artists are making art out of trash. I still have to do it.
Last year I pulled this out and got to looking at it. The original sketch of the old sofa was still visible. This is why, when I started this new painting/mosaic/whatever, I did not prime it and get the canvas to a blank condition. I wanted to follow those lines I put down 10+ years ago. I figured all the old paint on the canvas will be covered anyway. So I just started gluing. I should have spent more time educating myself about different glues but, sometimes I get an idea in my head and I have to do it NOW. So there it is. I started gluing with carpenter’s wood glue which is what I had on hand and I hope it’s not a big mistake.
One consideration I have when working with trash and found objects is, I don’t want the material to be the main point. I don’t even want it obvious at first glance. I want that to be something noticed a bit later. “A secondary surprise” my Mom calls it when she embroiders a little bee on a flower in one of her quilts. It might be quite a while before anyone ever notices it. The recycled materials in my work will be noticed much sooner than her bee, but I still want it to be the secondary surprise. I think the work should be held to the same standard as if it were done with traditional art supplies, like paint. I never want something to look sloppy, but it’s OK because it was done with bottle caps. No! It must look as though it was not done with bottle caps. This is how I feel about it now, anyway.
Another thing that’s fun for me is to have some history in the materials. Is this part of the “Provenance”? (In my best snooty, artsy, French accent) Look at this close-up of one of the throw pillows:
there are 2 rows of shattered, tempered glass in this pillow. They are from 2 crimes! Woo hoo.
One was when the Mission Federal Credit Union’s ATM kiosk got shot at by vandals one night. The next day I came to use the ATM and saw all the glass in the grass and, you know me, I couldn’t resist it.
The other crime was a robbery. The Frazee Paint & Wallcovering store in Mission Valley in San Diego (which is no longer there) was robbed of some paint sprayer machines. Some months later I was transferred to this store and some time after that we were rearranging the displays. We moved some of the pedestals and bases and there, glittering in the sunlight and dust, were hundreds of glass shards from the robbery. I must take a moment to appreciate my ex-boss Virginia for her patience and kindness in allowing me to spend time gathering them, rather than just insisting they be swept up into the garbage.
I’m tired now, I will write more about this piece tomorrow.