Quality Control

work-in-estate-sale

Every artist has some personal measure for a quality control standard to aspire to. Have made references to this standard in describing my work. To be blunt, my goal is to craft something, in some media, that is made well enough to survive through the third garage sale cycle beyond the original buyer. To create something compelling enough to pass into new hands through that first garage sale, and again to pass into new hands through the next one, and the one after that – is an indicator of quality. Most especially so if the person buying the work knows nothing about the artist or the details of the aesthetic involved. Artwork in museums and corporate collections are not immune from this dynamic. Deaccessions in collections happen all the time.

Walking into a gallery of art on display, I search for works that would survive that ‘third garage sale’ test. Most of what we create will end up in a landfill somewhere. Stages of growth and Sturgeon’s Law applies to all artists, and this demands making a lot of work before the mature stuff can bloom. To be sure, that is a long-term goal – but why settle for less from yourself?

What felt odd today, was spotting the first stage of that test playing out with a small blue drawing posted online in someone’s estate sale….

This drawing from 1993, “Max and the Blue Church Men” was created for’Cuentos’ an exhibition put together by Galeria Mesa and Desert Caballeros Western Museum. A writer-in-residence worked with students in two schools to produce personal short stories which were then given to a group of artists for visual interpretation. The story from student Max Hobson contained this sentence: “They don’t notice you if you’re small or if the church is black or blue.”  Bon voyage little Max.

 

Words To Remember

“When gold paint flakes from the arms of sculptures,
When the letter falls out of the book of laws,
Then consciousness is naked as an eye.

When the pages of books fall in fiery scraps
Onto smashed leaves and twisted metal,
The tree of good and evil is stripped bare.

When a wing made of canvas is extinguished
In a potato patch, when steel disintegrates,
Nothing is left but straw huts and cow dung.”

These stanzas are from the poem “The Spirit of History”
by Czeslaw Milosz, published in 2001 in “A Treatise on Poetry”

Playing In The Ruins Indeed

“If you do not trod on others and you help see that others are not trod upon – you’re doing well. If you actually live that way you’re doing better than many Christians. But you are a child playing in the ruins of a great civilization and many of your ideas (like not treading on others) are the legacy, an echo of that civilization. You have an instinct for kindness, but that very instinct is a legacy of a Judaeo-Christian ethic. I’m glad it’s working for you. Your children and grandchildren will not be so fortunate, as the legacy begins to wane. There is already a quiet and tolerated holocaust going on around us, but, hey, we all die.
 
No civilization has existed without transcendence. Even Carl Sagan was looking for extraterrestrial substitutes for the transcendent before he died. Hitler had his racial theories that served as his transcendent. Stalin claimed to be following Marxist theories of history. Our grandchildren will find something if it’s not God. Their “gods” may not be so kind – time will tell. By then you’ll be dead so it won’t actually matter.
 
For myself, I believe that meaning is dependent on something outside itself – something that transcends it. Those who do not think this are treading on the safety of my children and my children’s children. Their self-referential cultures have murdered nearly 100 million in the 20th century. So, no thank you, I do not agree to stop suggesting that the lack of transcendence is meaningless and that meaninglessness results ultimately in mass murder. Seen it all before. No thank you.”
 
comment by Fr. Stephen Freeman, 5/31/12 RE: blog post “What is Man,” from blog Glory to God For All Things

Drive-Bye

YellowThis is my first blog attempt after a handful of unfortunate events partnered up; Cox dropped my webpage, my hard drive and auxiliary hard drive crashed, plus a few assorted non-technical events. Putting something back together from the pieces has been strange in unexpected ways…

In the process of tracking down an article date to verify it, I ran across an auction site that had an older work up for bidding – one that I hadn’t documented. A lot of time has gone by since then.  Was kinda shocking to sit back, and remember making this thing, this moment, this place to stop, to put things together for a while.

Why make art about/from old Arizona motels?

Honestly, there isn’t a simple answer to this question. This isn’t nostalgia, wanderlust, or escapism. It’s a mystery to me. The colors, the shapes, the history, the surrounding Arizona environment,the cheerful tackiness of it all, even the decay – especially the decay, have captured my attention for well over twenty years. And it’s not just any classic period motel that will do – it is the Arizona ones that got caught in my eye.

This aesthetic exploration took an unexpected direction in the late 1990’s with the inclusion of beadwork, hammered copper and or recycled aluminum. The larger exclusively beaded works usually require a minimum of six months to bead.

Part of the humor or irony in this latter development dwells in the concept of time. The “classic period” motels themselves were designed for short stays, and are rapidly disappearing. As cultural artifacts, not destined to survive very long. Yet they have inspired this contemplative and vastly time-consuming beadwork; which is then viewed by a contemporary audience with an attention-span that is measured in seconds. . . .

Beading

Prior to the incorporation of beadwork, the paintings were typically a minimum of 48” x 60” in size. Here, the Arizona motels became darkly magical and threatening places within the Sonoran Desert environment. Cacti, desert creatures, rocks and that harsh desert light populated a colorful motel world. The motels themselves provide much of the color palette; every element in each work was exploited for it’s metaphoric potential. Each one was a multi-layered look at contemporary Arizona weaving together local natural history and sharp observation, through the lens of imaginative interpretation. If you’re looking for labels to describe my work, it has been christened “figurative expressionist with surrealist leanings and an abstractionist bent.”

Given the connotations of the word “large” today, I hesitate to use it; the current works are so much smaller than these earlier paintings that it’s necessary to use “large” as a comparative term when referring to the body of work as a whole. Originally an oil-on-canvas painter, chemical sensitivities forced a switch to acrylics. Technically, the move made me a better painter, but lacks the pleasant aroma of the turp can, and lush textural feel. Had to eliminate the solvents from printmaking processes also. I love working with my hands, and am trying not to poison myself or the ground with chemicals.

Check out the ‘Joe Doe’ page for kind of an explanation about the motels.

Please forgive the clunkiness here in my little parlor; am not technically savvy. Am just an artist trying to clear the darkness out of my eyes in order to pay attention and learn something about this strange and wonderful place, this gift of place, and time, and love.

Oh, and BTW, here’s a nice article on classic Van Buren in Phoenix
Arizona Motels