Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hard-Won Revelations About My Own Artmaking Process

I have just now compiled some rules by which I (and I alone) can gauge the potential of any one of my art ideas, before committing to the grueling task of giving it tangible form.
  • If it isn’t funny (at least to me,) it’s probably a dead end.
  • If it doesn’t have an elegant internal logic (with some peripheral room for interpretation) it’s also a dead end.
  • If it relies on absurd amounts of obsessive labour just to get to the point where I can visualize it as an idea, it will never happen. (Obsessive labour is fine and necessary in the later fabrication stages.)
  • If it has the fussy/trippy complexity or "density of information" of an image that I might see in a dream, then I won’t know how to actually make it visible to others, and I should accept that I’m not the right artist to make this piece.
  • If the “style” an idea requires is not dictated by the story it tells (its internal logic) then I will change my mind so many times that I will never commit to it. I am enthralled by style but I tend to want to show my appreciation for all possible styles rather than accepting that I have to exclude most of them…
  • If I start with an abstract concept (like “animism,” for example,) and try to summon an image or object to embody that idea, I am doomed to failure.
  • Only when the image or idea arises fully-fledged as the result of seeing an existing physical object in the world and envisioning a specific alteration to it, will the piece have a coherence of materiality and concept. Alternately, if the idea arises from a word or phrase that has caught my attention, the piece may be successful.
  • If the title isn’t obvious to me and crucial to the idea from its inception, then the piece lacks clarity and is most likely doomed.
  • If a two-dimensional image is to be the final product, that image must arise from a preordained system that is integral to the concept. Generally, my own interpretation and “intuition” during the making process have no place in such a system. It is the system that saves it from being “picture-making” and makes it sculpture. I am, after all, a sculptor.:-)
  • If the project isn’t virtually impossible to realize, (with my limited means,) then it’s probably not worth making.
  • I should never agree to "edition" an artwork or to make another identical piece to suit a collector's custom requirements. I am only happy when I am problem-solving the first time around. Remaking a piece is hell, and never ends up having any benefit.

--> Other notes to self about the “physical manifestation” of an idea: -->
  • Materials testing/ testing of the fabrication process must happen before too much labour is invested in “designing” the object. The convergence of an idea and a viable means of realizing it can easily extend beyond a year.
  • If the finished piece could be (mis)taken for design, then I guess that makes me a designer as well as a sculptor.
Will my list save me from further agonizing and wasted energy? There's no telling.


Julia Bradshaw said...

The list sounds like you. I think I need to make my own list, how long did it take you to come up with yours? Twenty years of thinking and 30 minutes of writing?

Shannon Wright said...

Julia: it took three and a half months of racking my brain trying to think of what I could make that would be cool enough to qualify for a sabbatical project, would somehow synthesize everything I was thinking about before I left SJ with everything I was trying to absorb in Finland, plus all the projects that I have planned but never realized in the last seven years (my SJSU years)...This process itself calls for another blog entry. Anyway, yes, probably twenty minutes of writing once I had the idea to write it down, then 30 more to format it for Blogger! :-)