I’ve been spending much of this year sequestered in my studio , focusing upon work at hand and engaging with the actual world far less . My desire to work has compromised my ability to attend openings, pay studio visits , basic human time . I have ambivalent regret about that , but the time spent at the cloister of my making is so fleeting , my life so short that I feel compelled.
Although I spend less and less actual time with friends , many talented and exciting artists, company I treasure, I do stay engaged, at least superficially. Social media keeps me in the proverbial loop , for that I am grateful .
Work in progress : The Herakles Tapestry
And through social media I am offered moments of reflection . I recently saw a post from an artist I admire very much , this post was hash tagged with “#f@ckoverthinking” ( without my censor ; it increasingly seems the “f” word is the go-to descriptor for almost anything : “f-ing brilliant “, “f-ing amazing “, etc. ).
This admonition to not overthink one’s process and by extension work , inspired thinking about my own process and the work itself . The taste for seemingly spontaneous, emotive work , where the process is an existential eruption feeds a narrative very much in fashion . Hollywood for decades has promoted the mythology of a feverish genius , blind with passion , communicating madly with their unrelenting muse ( the new film concerning Picasso has a cover image that depicts this archetype very well – handsome , paint-bespecked , exhausted ).
I confess my studio time has never been a cardio workout . In fact , contrary to my friends admonition to “f” overthinking, I think a great deal. I think, I write , I connect the dots . And while my work isn’t aesthetically feverish , it is dense with layers , perhaps too many for some, I do not know. But it is the work I find interesting , the work I want to look at and the work I want to bring into the world .
I’ve never been interested in work that doesn’t call me back for another visit . Work that makes too direct a point . The works I most admire puzzle me , tease me with elusive symbols , require my attention and my engagement. Directness is not my nature , not in life , or conversation, or even in my writing ; I am furtive , and in my studio work I would rather slip in a sly informed allegory than confront an issue directly . A flourish of meaning easily overlooked.
But I do think my approach is at odds with contemporary expectations of what art (or being) is or should be ( my calling my work “art” is an indulgence I allow myself when speaking of it , generally I refer to it as “stuff I make ” ). Street art has in a great way set this expectation : deft, ecstatic , exuberant, and most importantly, accessible. Marx would have been pleased.
My own work tends to be more obscure, more measured , the process at times almost plodding , but a joyous plodding , because the dedication to minute brushstrokes, to innumerable pencil markings or whip stitches is not unlike a prayer .
I had a wise teacher , a Russian iconographer , who insisted that every brush stroke when painting (an icon) is a prayer of gratitude. This deliberate , exacting mindfulness, the antipodes to “overthinking” , is what I seek in my cloister .
Which is where I will spend my day . Have a great one .
(I am inspired by medieval illumination, , the measured , concise focus upon marginalia . This ornamental border , my take on Marginalia, is on a much larger scale , but when finished will, I hope, convey the same spirit . I’m looking to go larger and also to employ fiber art.)