Tuesday, August 10, 2010

....aaaaand we're back.

I had hoped to spend some of the time away writing up something coherent on some of the meaning behind this piece, but of course that didn't happen. In large part because I think that trying to to parse the "meaning" of a work of art is a fools errand, so I'm reluctant to go down that path. I'm particularly wary of what artist's have to say about their own work. It's not that artist's can't be interesting, or articulate about their work. They can be. It's just that I don't trust them.I don't trust them becase, as an artist, I have found that while I always think I know what a given piece is about, I am almost always wrong.

I come from a commercial arts background. I worked for years as an illustrator, and I learned how to be a sculptor by working as a fabricator, making custom props for commercial photographers in San Francisco. Commercial art depends on a simple equation; you make what the client wants. So that's what I did. When Haynes needed a bright pink hairbrush in the shape of their logo, I made it, and when Epson wanted a gigantic robot claw holding a magnifying glass, I made that too.

Naturally, I carried this equation into my own work. I would have an idea, and I would make it. It's a reasonable way to proceed. For someone who likes the challenge of making things (like myself), it can be very gratifying to be able to make exactly what you had imagined. The problem is that, in this scenario, the outcome is only as good as the initial idea. And, because it's an actual thing, rather than your own personal platonic idea of the thing, it feels a little diminished. It might be good, but it's almost never as good as it was in your head.Not to stray too far off course, but this is the limitation I see in all these artists outsourcing their work to contractors and assistants. It assumes the primacy of the idea.

The problem is, what I've found in my own work, and what I often see in the work of those people who are getting the work made, is that the original idea often turns out to be a bit of a one-liner. This doesn't mean that the original idea was necessarily bad - more that it never got a chance to grow into it's skin. It stops evolving when production starts. And, in the case of my own work, it often turns out to have been the wrong idea in the first place. Given a little time, and a little distance, I find that I had been laboring under a misconception - that the idea I started with was not what the piece was really about.

These days I try not to examine my motivation too closely. If an image feels important to me, I work on it and see where it leads. I think one of the breakthroughs of my creative life has been to learning to trust that the meaning is there. If I see the process through, I will discover it.

Of course, this is all from the artist. I wouldn't trust any of it.

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