Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sketchbook notes

"Aesthetic Dogma", 2011, water-based writing media on paper, 22" x 22"
text: "Maybe I'm getting too bogged down with a self-imposed aesthetic dogma"

"Failure of Creativity", 2011, water-based writing media on paper, 22" x 22"
text: "Maybe it was a failure of creativity on my part, maybe not. I was tired of the work I was producing and needed to move on"

"I've Painted Myself...", 2011, water-based writing media on paper, 22" x 22"
text: "I've painted myself into a corner and I'm not having much luck finding a way out"

"The Main Thing", 2011, water-based writing media on paper, 22" x 22"
text: "The main thing I have to do is to keep making the work."

The first thing that I want to say about these pieces is that they represent a major leap out of my comfort zone. As a viewer, I have had a very difficult time with a lot of text-based artworks that I have seen over time. A lot of text-based art just isn't that interesting aesthetically, so most of it fails for me on that issue alone. I think that my issues with it stem from associating text works with political/social statements and at the other end of the spectrum, completely vacuous, bad attempts at irony and stating the obvious in uncreative ways. However, there is a sweet spot somewhere between those two extremes, where the work of people like Glenn Ligon exists. Ligon's work deals a lot with specific racial identity issues, but his approach to the aesthetic realization of his text-based pieces makes them much more interesting to me as art (more about Glenn Ligon's work here). 

I have been in the practice of keeping journals for sketches and notes since I was in school. In fact, I've been told over the years that parts of a student journal I kept during my time at Temple has been used as a teaching tool for students there on how to approach keeping an art journal. The first time that I heard about that, I was flattered, but felt a little self-conscious about it at the same time because I know that a lot of the writing in that journal left a lot to be desired. That said, the habit of jotting down notes and references for myself has remained a big part of my studio practice. 

Over the years, I have thought about making text-based work, but could never find a way into it that seemed logical for me in terms of what I was doing otherwise in my painting. I had a very tough time getting past that disconnect until last year. What changed for me was that last summer, I was into the second year of investigating the possibilities of going down multiple creative paths at the same time. I had begun altering my thought process to "allow" myself the freedom to seriously (and not so seriously) pursue ideas that I might have rejected outright in the past. Making text-based works was one of those reject ideas that I viewed with fresh eyes and went for it.

The pieces reproduced above contain direct quotes from different sketchbooks of mine that span the last 5, 6 years or more, even. Although they spring from a visual art practice, I think that the content of these quotes is applicable to any creative practice and at least one of them covers broader ground. I chose these quotes because they stood out to me as being fairly representative of some of the thought processes that creative people might be able to relate to in one way or another. Even though the thoughts are somewhat universal, it was important that I made them more personal. I wanted to keep the feeling of my actual journal in the works, so I chose to use thick water-based pencils to write with and wrote in my own handwriting, leaving crossed out mistakes and all (see "Aesthetic Dogma" above). The crossing out occurred on the actual piece, not in the original sketchbook, but that sort of thing happens all of the time when I'm writing in the journals. I'm always crossing out wrong words, false starts and other writing gaffes. 

This is part of an on-going series, although these are the only four, so far. I think that I might like to do a large installation of these "sketchbook notes" in some form or another. 

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