Sunday, January 3, 2010
Ziggurat of Text
Ever since my full time job ended a few weeks ago, I've had a lot of time to work in my studio. Which, btw, is now my kitchen table, due to complaints in the lumbar department. I guess it's time to invest in a good chair - one with back support. Either that or remove the spikes from the seat of my current one. I've been working on some smaller text drawings, which I can finish in a week or less. I love the size (approximately 11" x 14") because I can experiment and be playful and try out new ideas without committing myself to months of intensive labor. Even I like to have a bit of fun every now and again.
I've started piling up the letters and creating little towers of text. When I cut up my holy books, I form passages letter by letter, which twist and turn in serpentine lines around the paper. Thus far in my process, the entire passage that I'm transcribing has been legible, should anyone choose to read it. (To my knowledge no one has, not even I). But it will be impossible to read the entire passage from start to finish on my newest pieces, due to the fact that some of the text gets buried. It doesn't trouble me much that the passage can't be read, since my work was never intended to be didactic. I'm an artist, not a pedagogue or evangelist.
Now, I realize that the new "text piles" aren't going to send shock waves through the art world. No one has called me yet for an interview. And the two or three people who have seen them haven't needed the smelling salts that they were offered as they viewed the work. Nonetheless, I am enthralled and inextinguishable. I get all goofy just thinking about them: what I want to do with the next one, how I can create more depth with them, and so on.
Some people consider my labor intensive work to be the most intensely self-soaked activity imaginable. The work of the artist has no apparent benefit, thus it's seen as an indulgence of the artist and an extravagance of the affluent. But making art is what artists do, what we can do, and what we have to do. Art as an expression of pure creativity is the foundation of our society. Most people don't realize this. They assume that the standard of good living is affluence. But money in itself is worthless. No one really wants money - they want the things that money will buy them. Which are legion, pleasurable, and vacuous.
It's not wealth that gives our lives meaning, nor is it even the beautiful things that it can buy. Underneath the strata of cultural values there runs a currency that gives meaning to our existence, and that is the role of art, writing, music, and any pure creative expression. This artistic currency is the Fort Knox of our culture - any culture - from the time we huddled around the fire at the back of a dank cave. Without this gold standard, we would have nothing to work, live, or strive for. What about family, you ask? Isn't that a worthy standard? The continuation of the species for its own sake, without access to the wealth of creative expression that I'm talking about, creates more problems than we as a society can handle. While some contribute to society by procreating, others do so by simply creating. So yes, my art is a contribution of sorts, and if that seems pompous or indulgent, just be thankful that I didn't breed. Civilization will be that much more civil without my neurotic DNA tainting the gene pool.
Please don't read the above as a defense for what I do as an artist. I don't feel the need to justify my creative endeavors, any more than a banker needs to justify the (to me) absurd occupation of handling and making piles of money every day. For what purpose? So that it can be traded for cool and beautiful things? I'll leave you with the following question:
Given the choice, which would you prefer: to make enough money that you could buy beautiful artwork, or to have the ability, vision, and inclination to make it yourself?
Above: Union of Opposites: Song of Solomon, Chapter II (from the Bible), from Mysterium Coniunctionis by Carl Jung. 7.5" x 5".
This is an example of the "text towers" that I'm talking about. The square reads from the outside to the center, and it rises up slowly in steps, forming a ziggurat of type. The innermost square is piled up a good 1/4". It's a problem to get them to scan well, since the depth makes the background blurry. Haven't figured that part out yet.