Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cleansing My Palate

At least once a day, someone comes into my studio/gallery at Crestwood Court and marvels: "ALL this work is yours? You did all this?"

Well..., yes. But I didn't do it yesterday. I agree it's varied: hand-altered Polaroid photos, Infrared photos, mixed media pastel paintings, everday ceramics, silver jewelry, and most recently, votive candle scupltures from hand-made paper.

The work in my studio represents years of work. I work everyday. EVERYDAY. Hundreds of thousands of hours of work. The good art goes in the gallery or an art fair or, I hope, someone's home or office.

The bad work goes in the trash. My critics may disagree, but I am ruthless in examining my work. I toss a lot. A lot. One day, I'm worried someone will find the cache of rejects and marvel with distain: "YOU did all this?" Yuck. My reputation will be ruined!

I think one of the things that people are surprised about is the variety of work in the gallery. Many artists have one style, one body of work. They are known for it. That's what they do. It's successful. They stay the course.

I have a couple of bodies of work that I'm known for -- mostly notably hand-altered Polaroid photographs. I love that body of work. It continues to evolve and grow. As long as I can find film, I will work with medium.

Sometimes I have to break out of it, though. Ten years ago, frustrated that I couldn't thrown a clay pot, I took up ceramics. I love the mud. I'm not great, but it's a medium I can use when I need it. I've been heard to say that as a potter, I'm a very good photographer! But my berry bowls and ikaebonas are very popular and I'll be putting new items in the gallery this fall.

I'm working on a special new project that demanded hand-made paper. Sure, I could buy it, but it's so much more special if the papermaking is part of the completed piece of art. Most recently, I've picked up silversmithing. I'll make jewelry, sure, if just to feed my own habit. But I want to incorporate silver into mixed media pieces. So I have to learn it.

Most of us artists have visions far beyond our abilities or talent. If we're brave, we will try to give those visions life. The more and varied skills the artist has, the greater the chances that the vision will materialize in a vibrant piece of work.

Sometimes working with a different medium -- making paper or throwing a pot instead of making photographs, for example -- is like eating a light sherbet between two dinner courses with strong flavors. It's like cleansing the palate. Creating a different art form is a way of clearing out the creative dust and making room for new ideas.

Working with more than one medium broadens my artistic vision and keeps work fresh and exciting. That means constant learning and experimenting too.

So yes, all this work is mine. It's okay for an artist to do more than one thing, isn't it? It's okay for ALL of us to be more than one thing.