Sunday, July 07, 2013

Ninety Minutes

in the presence of Barbara J. West, Ilse Anysas-Salkauskas and their work...and I very nearly succumbed (yet again) to The Mean Greenies, about which I recently wrote on the SAQA Yahoo conversation site, thus:

Having read of  recent successes...I decided a blanket -- but heart-felt -- CONGRATULATIONS! needed to be posted.  :-)

Not having time to respond to each one individually, I wanted to express how, nonetheless, I get a little thrill when I read about these events in the lives of my colleagues.

It wasn't always so...and I confess I still have to beat down the Mean Greenies (envy) from time to time! LOL! However, beat them down I do, as I have learned what it takes to enter competitions and calls for entry, and have these thoughts about it.

  1.  Not taking rejection personally is difficult. Do it anyway. It's generally not about *you*.
  2.  Celebrate with others always. One day they will celebrate with you.
  3.  Decide how you want to 'get your work Out There' decision, whether it be entering lots of shows, posting on your blog or website, having an online shop, teaching, going international with your entries or sticking closer to home, submitting to galleries, submitting to quilt shows, being part of a challenge group on line or in your area -- and BE HAPPY with your decision. Don't let the way someone else chooses to 'get his/her work out there' determine what's right for you at any given time. (NOTE: This is the Biggie for me.)
  4. Reserve the right to change your mind -- and the way you put your work 'out there'. :-)
  5. Learn from the experiences of others, but remember your Art Journey is YOUR Art Journey and can be travelled by no one but you.
  6. Enjoy the ride!
See #3 up there?  See it?

I very nearly waffled on that one yesterday afternoon, yessiree.  

"Hanging by a Thread" is powerful, provocative, occasionally poetic.  Barbara's installations are beautifully constructed, mainly hand-knit fabric combined with unusual materials, and they have an edge to them -- a mixture of tongue-in-cheek with "Whoa!", once you figure out what she's saying.  Ilse's wall pieces are equally beautifully made, with deliberate decisions re: colour and design, combined with exquisite quilting; it is in her artist's statements that you find the sub-text behind each piece.  There was a trio expressing the inter-relationships between generations of women in a family that very nearly reduced me to tears.

I had only brief opportunities to speak with Barbara and Ilse, both together and separately, as the gallery began to fill with family, friends, and other viewers for the opening reception.  They told me this work was the result of a three-year collaboration that very nearly didn't come together because, for a variety of reasons, Life got in the way, as it is wont to do.  They talked of getting a grant, doing research and conducting focus groups on their theme, which began as a study of the passing on of learning and tradition between generations.

Grants? Research?  Focus groups?

When I got home I dashed off e-mails about this process to three artists I admire and respect: Lesley Turner, Vickie Newington and my former C&G tutor, Linda Kemshall.  Lesley has a BA (Hons Textiles) from a university in the UK, as well as C&G certificate(s), and Vickie is also a C&G graduate.  I wanted to hear what each had to say about research, based on their experience and education.

Most likely due to the time difference (it's much later in the UK than it is here), Linda's response is already in my in-box.  She said -- and I quote:

"C&G are very hot on research especially when it comes to the higher levels of study. At the highest, Level 3 diploma level there is a complete unit devoted to a research project of the student's personal choice. Research is defined as a systematic study of a subject in order to learn all about it. The findings of the in depth study are recorded in some way that is useful to the user of the discovered information. Of course research can be extremely wordy but where the research is meant to inform choices in a creative pursuit it is probably necessary to make the research as visual as possible. Depending on the choice of subject I guess this is sometimes easier than others."

She added:

"The difficulty with research is the unknown! there is not much point in undertaking research to prove a theory or back up an idea you already have. You should just take a subject that fascinates you and be prepared to spend a lot of time understanding everything about it. There is no magic formula - just thorough investigation. There is also no need for much in the way of expense - your internet connection can provide lots of the information you need and trips to the library, museums or other places of interest will provide the rest depending on your choice of subject."  (emphasis mine)

And then she reminded me:

"You write as though you have never researched a subject but in fact you did that when you made the museum quilt for the course. Think of research as simply a quest for information and you'll realise it's not anything extraordinary. My own work always relies on research - I never work intuitively - it's always based on knowledge gained from prior research although that research may have been undertaken a long while ago." (emphasis mine)

Well, duh.  

And then I read the latest Guest Post over at Abbey of the Arts and was again reminded that as a "Monk in the World" and an artist, I am to follow my own path.  As Gretchen Ruben would say, I am to "BE Margaret".  

And wasn't that what I'd so recently said in my SAQA Yahoo post?

Research?  I've done that! 
Explore a topic deeply?  I've done that!
Have a subject (or two) that fascinates me such that I'm prepared to spend a lot of time understanding it?  I have that!

And grants and focus groups are wonderful things, but using those resources won't make me a better artist.  Only practice will do that.

Finally, my current Art Journey is not calling me to make thought-provoking installations, or to move someone to tears in the way the work of Barbara and Ilse can do.

Lessons learned?

Continue the Artist's Dates.  Visit exhibits that with provoke, prod, pull me outside my comfort zone.  Encourage others to do so too.  Continue to take notes, to learn, to seek advice, to study -- in directions appropriate to my Art Journey -- and get into the studio and make art!

Oh... You want to see photos of the exhibit?  I was permitted to take some, but they are for my own use, inspiration and learning.  I'm not going to share them here.  You'll just have to visit "Hanging by a Thread" for yourself.  It's up through September 28.  That's in the Feature Gallery, Alberta Craft Council, 10186 - 106 Street, Edmonton, Alberta -- Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (6 p.m. on Thursdays).


arlee said...

Much to think about Sweets,and much to do--much better than much ado about nothing--which is sometimes what we do when we succumb to the GM's :)

and research is fun--you might not use all of it, but in the end, it does inform and lead you possibly to new paths, interpretations and personal translations--and as long as you are learning, you know you're not dead :)

Wil said...

Most of the time you know more than you think you do. As you said, you have done research, maybe without knowing that you did it :-). And yes, everybody follows his/her own route. Keep going like you are doing.

Nina Marie said...

although I'm very competitive - I'm not envious or jealous. I tend to try to compete with myself which can be hard too! The way that I look at juried art shows is that the goal is really getting something done to enter - not to actually get in. For me - if I get in or -gasp!- win a prize - well that's just like winning the lottery - totally random. It has no reflection on my work because I've seen enough lousy juried shows to know that on any given day - any artist can get their work shown. This attitude has helped a ton - not to mention it does seem like my work is more accepted now that I'm not worrying about it! - Go figure - LOL!

elle said...

Great thoughts, Margaret. In lots of ways this confirms some things I have been muddling over. We all have our own way to make even when we are headed in the same direction. Thanks!

Judy Warner said...

Just found this entry, Margaret. The demise of Google Reader and the overwhelm status of Feedly is messing up my blog reading. I also read your SAQA entry but my comment was rejected for some technical reason. Really liked your post. Very timely. Will write more in a day or so on journeys and voice. :)