Saturday, April 9, 2011

could it be me? nahhhhh.......

maybe I'm just getting a bit long in tooth,  nahhhhh..... 
maybe I have just figured out I am a potter and not so much a ceramic artist...... hmmmm getting closer.

I attended an NOC lecture tonight and I left in a foul mood.  Abby went with me and the best thing that came out of the lecture;  a mother - daughter bonding of....... whoa what the heck was that?  And did she really say she tries to achieve a glaze called....... wait for it...... "cadaver green"?  And ...... wait for it.... the lecturer actually told us how she worked diligently to achieve "cadaver green".  Nope, didn't write it down and nope not passing it on.

We entered to see the artists work arranged on a white table, all work under glass domes sitting on a wooden base..... next to the refreshment table.  Clearly some folks were taken with the work, clearly I was not.  I put my "up close and personal" glasses on and was pleased to see the workmanship was of the finest quality; if not exquisitely crafted. 
Back that bus up and focus again, what am I really looking at.  At this point I had quite a visceral reaction and took off my "up close and personal" glasses;  choosing the blurry, out of focus view. 
I could still make out a bulge of what looked to be skin and hair sticking out. Skin stitched and split over a backbone....... sheesh without my glasses  Abby offered me another cookie, no thanks I said as I moved away from the display and into the other room with friendly faces. 

 I was perplexed when the lecture started with an electron microscopic slide of a fly butt and protozoaas,  There was talk of science and art colliding.
I too had seen these images, almost 28 years ago, before I ever took a clay class.  Our good friend was one of two scientists in the country who could repair and use one of these incredible instruments. 
My Mom, forever known as the Bug Lady and worked for USDA came home with bottles of bugs from time to time in my little life. She held the vials up for us to look at and she would squeal with glee; LOOK at this kids!  Maybe if I had been a baby robin I would have been really excited.  We were a hit on Show and Tell day and secretly I wished she baked cookies and wore an apron.  I look back now and know how lucky I was, bugs were cool and so was my Mom.
I had looked at the same images and found such beauty in a world unseen by human eyes.  I have a book that has been sitting on my shelf I bought in the 80's filled with electron microscopic images that I still look at occasionally and never once did I think to make "specimans" or "oddities" from the pictures.  I saw rhythm in the repeating patterns and honeycomb in pollen granules.....  ahhhhh but then I don't have that MFA.  I guess I have the OMG degree.

 You know and I am NOT knocking the MFA degree here!  I have a few friends who got their MFA's and came out darn good artists; ceramic artists.  I know their work and I respect their work. 
I respect their struggle to get through the MFA programs and saw their work grow in leaps and bounds.

What leaves me in a quandary..........  I found so many parallels between the artist and myself.  Our interests, the way we approach work, execute work,  the minutiae of the work and yet this work left me cold, irritated and asking why?   Is this what good art is supposed to do?  The other thing I walked away with; a firm knowledge knowing what I love to produce in my studio.  I did not like this work on any level, the only word I can up with is visceral;  I cannot imagine being surrounded by this work day in day out. 

To get the crisp visual images out of our heads we blasted The Rolling Stones and tried to sing along.  When that didn't work we belted out other songs and then we stopped, turned the radio off and just had to discuss what we had just seen and heard, we felt assaulted.  So I guess something good did come out of the lecture, conversation between Mother and Daughter.

Abby, an art ed. major at Kent said:  "You know Mom I hate contemporary art." 
Well back that bus up, I can't go that far and there really is some it I "get" and like. 
We both agreed the craftsmanship was stupendous but sheesh why the composition of cadaver green bulges of skin with hair infiltrated here and there and HEY! what about that encaustic pig intestine?  The only place I want to see pig intestine is stuffed and between a bun!  The artist made up latin names to go along with the "specimans".  The artist explained at length where she got her ideas and what she was trying to achieve.  Her love of the "oddities" from the turn of the century excentric collections of the wealthy.  The horn of hair sprouting from the head of some poor soul or the largest colon in the world or the many fetal skeletons....... Do you see where I am going with this?  I wondered if she might be a vegan....... ever?  I wondered if she had been deformed or her child or sister or mother or father had been born with an "oddity"  would she have picked this particular subject matter.  This was the oddity to me........  The carnival side shows (and I remember them from the county fairs I attended as a kid)  went out of vogue long ago and for good reason.  It is in the past and for me I think it's Okey Dokey to leave it in the past. 

At the beginning of her lecture she expressed her thanks at being invited by NOC as she had just had 7 rejection notices in a row, on some level I thought maybe ceramics is not lost. 

I remember being so excited about clay and all the work I saw.  I attended workshops here and there and loved them all.  NCECA was the bomb and we sat around tables sharing what we did.  We gushed, I gushed and it was grand.
These days I have grown comfortable with my work and the less I want to venture out into the world and fritter about talking.  Be still, observe and convey.

Tomorrow, back to round pots, lots of weaving and the silence of the studio.....ahhhhhh.
Round is good....... tomorrow. 
for some, round just sucks.......
Is it art or the emperors new clothes...... I don't know.....


  1. just commented on fb....
    Sounds as if it is the Emperor's new clothes- and yet the child has spoken...look at those rejection slips.... You are a potter and an artist...sounds as if she is trying (a little too hard) to be an Artist!!

    Ah, the joys of copy and paste!!

  2. I had to laugh out loud as I read your blog tonight. The subject you wrote about seems to be a popular one lately. I wholeheartedly agree about some of this "contemporary art" stuff. I thought this blog entry (as well as its comments), and the entries made since then would definitely interest you and your daughter. Carter makes some interesting points, and so do some of the others who chime in with their 2 cents worth.

    Enjoy the conversation, and Happy Mudding!

  3. Robert! Excellent read! Thank you!

    After a good day turning over dirt in the garden and planting peas, which by the way are round; things settled out a bit and must say mugs are looking good.

    Am now having deep thoughts about how the tax system supports so much of the contemporary art out there, including the building of precious studios but leaves many of our treasured craftsmen trying to figure out where the next good show might be. I believe Japan refers to their lifetime achievers as "National Treasures".

    I will figure this out by the time I get the lettuce planted I'm sure of it :-)

    be well and stay centered!