Deadline

Posted: June 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

I almost always meet the deadlines I set for myself at work. 
I always meet the deadlines set for me by galleries.
So why can’t I set a deadline for this blog and actually meet it?
Maybe because I’m so busy meeting all those other deadlines.
So I think I’ll plaster a big sign right above my computer with
some arbitrary deadline for the blogs. Maybe I can make this work!

What with all the snow & cold & sniffles & whatnot, I discovered myself last week without a thing to wear. Yes, really. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to the laundromat and foraging about the back of the floor of my closet yielded nothing but a few fossilized hairballs. So, heaving a sigh, I filled one basket with Warm and a second with Cold, and set off into the wilds of Sunderland, where my favorite (because usually empty) laundromat awaits.

Because I hate doing laundry so much, I always take something along that might at least give me a tad of simple pleasure, for balance –  usually an art book or journal or just some purty pictures. This time I brought a very plump overview of what the blurbs  contend are the most majorly exciting artists on the scene today (or at least yesterday, since the book was published  in 2008).

I did like a lot of the pictures – 2008, if you’ll remember, was a year filled with taxidermy, toys, and, as usual, huge inhuman installations — but what I found most striking was the language with which these works were described. I’m wondering now if the jargon of 2008 still works today and, if so, should I be taking more advantage of it.

Here’s a list of words and phrases I found in the text which, I think, are intended to indicate that the work under discussion is Very Very Very Important and Earthshaking and Cool:
visual and visceral — appropriation — decontextualization — multiple encoding — iconic — temporal flow — not strictly ocular — juxtaposition — deliriously infantile — revealing cultural codes — strange, mysterious quotidian objects — transformational — process — post-non-representational –

And so on. I’m sure you know where I’m heading with this (don’t use a small word when a bigger or more obscure one is available), but you can’t really get the true flavor without the surrounding text, which both in style and substance declares itself an art know-it-all, with the perfect vocabulary to set itself apart from the yahoos of the world.

Possibly I can boost my own art career by making more and better use of these and other polysyllabic words & perplexing terms. People will read my artist statement and scratch their heads, but by gosh they’ll pay attention and maybe even think I’m some kind of genius.  Then again, possibly I need to get a brand new book describing in brand new, yet still obfuscatory,  jargon just who’s the hottest of the hot cutting-edge artists of 2014.

 

 

 

Dear fellow starvelings,

We last left our heroine (that is, me) talking oh-so-knowledgeably about art brut & being self-taught & stuff.
That was, hmmm … MONTHS AGO!

I’m still here, getting through this horrendous winter as best I can, draping cats over me for warmth, and hoping my gel medium doesn’t freeze.

I actually have a show up, sort of.  A group of 12 collages, all having to do with literature, all displayed in local bookstores to celebrate National Book Month.  “But,” you say, “that was JANUARY for pity’s sake!” Yes, yes it was. I was supposed to gather up the pictures the beginning of February but a combination of snow, below-freezing temperatures, and The Cold That Wouldn’t Go Away, has made me extremely late in retrieving my wayward pics. When I get them back, I’ll show you a few of them so you can get the idea of what I was aiming for.

I also have to submit my application for reimbursement of expenses (I got a grant from the Northampton Arts Council for this project), which seems backwards to me.  I needed the grant money most when I was actually getting the supplies.  Better late than never, though – and I am grateful for the grant.

If you’re read carefully up to this point, you will have noticed that I made 12 (count ‘em, twelve) collages for this deal. Big ones, too. I loved doing them, but I was working like a fool for months getting them just right. I’m still suffering from post-artum stress disorder and have been diligently working on books to re-fill the shelves of my own bookstore.  I usually work on pictures after the store closes, but I haven’t picked up a color pencil or a brush for a few weeks now.  I’m sure I’ll be all peppy & full of vim & vigor once this SNOW GOES AWAY! (< hint to sky-god).

In the meantime, in case you’re interested here’s a link to an article about the show.

http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/01/literature-inspired_collage_ar.html

You will note that the picture came out very badly. It does look better in person. It does! It does!

Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.

Dear Fellow Starvelings,

I know it’s been a while but don’t worry. I’m still the quintessentially struggling artist,
and I’m not going anywhere (except, occasionally, to my work table). Hope you’ve all
had a wonderful summer.
I’ve been a BUSY struggling artist, anyway. Last month had four pieces in the “Nouveau Brut”
show at the Becket Arts Center in Becket in the Berkshires.  The show was fun, the other artists
were terrific, and the curator was helpful & bubbly & very enthusiastic about the project.
Image

All the artists were supposed to come up with a little screed about what meaning the term “Nouveau Brut” had for them,
especially within the context of this show. Since I feel pretty strongly about what is termed “outsider” art, my piece
turned out to be pretty heartfelt. And here it is:
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The (Nouveau) Brut Inside Me

I’ve always been a little resentful of the term “Art Brut.”  Apparently Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term, meant to restrict its use to describe the work of artists so far outside the mainstream they wouldn’t even know what the mainstream is. Artists in institutions for the  mentally ill, for example, or prisoners, or lunatics at large, or  illiterate peasants living in huts far, far from Paris and its oh-so-refined understanding of Art with a capital A.

I can go along with this to an extent. Such artists do need to be recognized and appreciated. But to me the term smacks somewhat of condescension, the notion that these artists are in some sense primitive and this primitive state must be preserved in order to maintain their artistic integrity. In the meantime, their art is marketed for high prices to mainstream collectors, and the official tastemakers continue to decide what’s in fashion and what is not.

Still, I’ve always liked the idea of art completely outside convention, springing from the artist’s heart – an artist who may have heard of, say, Andy Warhol (who hasn’t?) but doesn’t want to *be* him. An artist who might be unschooled but is not entirely otherworldly. Can there even be a true “outsider” artist, according to Dubuffet’s definition, in today’s world? Or can an artist be aware of the surrounding culture and yet still be an outsider at heart?

And here we come to “Nouveau Brut,”  a perfect term, I think, for the work of artists who are in some significant way outside the mainstream even though they might know what the mainstream is up to.. Maybe these artists just don’t give a damn about tastemakers and trendsetters.  Maybe they didn’t bother to get an MFA. Maybe they’re old people or poor people or working people. Maybe they’re just driven by a compulsion they can’t easily explain. What they have in common is a passion for the art they’re creating. It comes from their hearts and minds. It does not compromise, ingratiate, or wheedle,

But every artist wants her art to be seen, praised, purchased – including me. There lies the conundrum. The driving urge to express one’s vision of the self and the world, and the hope that the viewer will some way, somehow, share that vision.

        I see that this little piece about “Nouveau Brut” is full of contradictions.
       So is art. 
       So is life.                                                                                       

                                                                                                                  Image

Dear Fellow Starvelings,

I know it’s been a long time since last I wrote, but I’m determined to hang around this time. There’s a lot I’ve learned – both what to do and what not to do.  And there’s an awful lot to write about.

The main thing about this summer is that I got to spend more time than usual with my mom. She turned 97 last month, she still lives at home, and is as feisty and independent an individual as you are ever likely to meet. She sees the portents of mortality, and she’s facing them courageously. Then again, she’s always been courageous. Shy people who stand up for themselves are the bravest people I know, and she’s at the top of that list.

I did some gardening. Mom has always been a wonderful gardener but can’t do it any more. She can, however, give very precise instructions! I did some tidying and got rid of some tins ‘way over their sell-by date to give her more counter space (she’s one of those Great Depression kids who doesn’t want to throw anything away “just in case”).

We went over old pictures, letters, newspaper articles. She told me a lot of stories I’d never heard before about her young days. This time I wrote it down, as much as I could. Every time I visit she wants me to take stuff back with me that she doesn’t want any more. Usually I say no, but this time I said yes, at least to many of these items. I realize that she wants me to have them as remembrances, She doesn’t want them scattered to the four winds or sold at a garage sale. So now I have Mom’s wedding ring. I wear it all the time and find that when I touch it I feel a sort of communion with her. I don’t regret accepting this gift one little bit. It keeps a part of her with me always.

We also sang together. Mom loves to sing. Her favorite song, she told me, is “The Rose.” So I had the bright idea of setting up the DVD player that had been gathering dust in the corner, made a call to Ken, and in a few days Mom got a little package in the mail – a DVD of a Bette Midler concert including The Rose! And by gosh, Mom just loves Bette Midler, as it turns out. We played the concert twice and had so much fun. I love it when my mother laughs.

I’ve done a few pictures for her and plan to do some more.  I talk to her on the phone three days a week. (advice to starvelings: get one of those bundled phone/cable/pc deals where you can use your land phone to call anywhere in the US and have any number of these calls just folded into your monthly bill at no extra charge).

Anyway, it’s time to jump back in the saddle. I’ll have some interesting reports in the coming months so stay on board. Now that really WAS a mixed metaphor, wasn’t it?

No wonder I call my Facebook Art Page: Judith Keefer Tingley – Mixed Metaphors.

Dear Fellow Starvelings,

This week I’m getting ready to visit my Mom in Michigan. I do this every year, and every year I want to spend more time with her.  She’ll be 97 years old soon, and I treasure every minute with her. Sure, we talk on the phone several times a week but that’s just not the same as a good hug. She has a lot of stories and a lot of wisdom to share, and this year I want to act as her secretary, taking down those stories in a manner I hope will do her justice. I’m also going to bring her a present, which she’ll almost certainly try to refuse, but I want her to have it anyway. It’s this collage I did wherein I picture Mom and me as two little girls together:

mom

Dear Fellow Starvelings,

I know all about how a true artist must follow her singular vision, not care too much what others say, make her art for herself and not necessarily for any intended audience.

But we all know how good it feels when someone praises our work! Especially when we know they’re being sincere about it.  I’ve got a smallish but (I hope) growing base of people who apparently see things through as  bizarre a lens as I do.  Or at least they like taking the occasional peep through that lens.  And it feels soooo good to hear them say so.

I’m promising myself right now to spend more time “liking” the artwork done by my friends on Facebook, and “liking” the galleries that show interesting stuff, and even “liking” the foundations that make a lot of this art-making possible. Telling people in person, too, of course, when I have the chance.

Everyone should feel the glow of praise once in a while.  Of course, no one should praise something just because she thinks she should, or because she’s expected to, or (lord have mercy) because she’s asked to. Fake praise is nothing but flattery, and flattery not only gets you nowhere, it’s also usually recognized as being fake. Which just makes things sticky and awkward.

So praise when you feel so moved. That’s my advice and, I hope, my practice too.

I’m in an especially good mood today because I’ve been selling some of my recent pieces straight off the internet. Even though I don’t intend to use Facebook as a commercial venue, and just post my pictures to let other folks see what I’m up to, when somebody says he wants to buy something  he’s seen there, what can I do??

At any rate, I think maybe it’s time to rethink having a commercial website where I can send people to browse. This is really going to be a big deal for me, and I’m going to tread carefully.  It does make sense, though, to give people a chance to see the pieces priced *before* deciding to buy them.

I do just want to mention one thing that’s even better than hearing that someone likes my stuff, or even that someone wants to buy my stuff. And that is all about making the art itself — when I’m stuck, having a sudden vision of what I have to do to make the thing right — or finishing something and actually liking it myself (I’m a tough audience, especially for my own stuff) — or just the sheer joy of applying color to paper. Those are the true moments of ecstasy for me.

And I hope for you too –

See you next week!

Judith Keefer Tingley – Mixed Metaphors