Tuesday, January 25, 2011

a limning we will go...

i subscribe to numerous "word-a-day" feeds (because i love language and words) and often discover lovely little tidbits about language and words and meaning...recently wordsmith sent me limn. a lovely word for those of us who seek to portray the world and communicate to others through these abstract and powerful gestures of art and words.

limn - pronunciation: (lim) 
1. to portray in words.
2. to draw or paint, especially in outline.
etymology: via french, from latin luminare (to illuminate), from lumen (light). ultimately from the indo-european root leuk- (light), which is also the source of words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, lynx, and lucubrate. earliest documented use: 1440. 

naturally, i had to go look up/ click on the link for lucubrate.

lucubrate - pronunciation: (LOO-kyoo-brayt)
meaning: To work (such as study, write, discourse) laboriously or learnedly.
etymology: here's a word that literally encapsulates the idiom "to burn the midnight oil". it's derived from latin lucubrare (to work by lamplight), from lucere (to shine). ultimately from the indo-european root leuk- (light) that's resulted in other words such as lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, and lynx. 

what i love about this is the connection of illumination and discipline, of drawing something out and engaging with it/ learning about it - and thinking through it. write. draw. repeat.

(btw - i highly recommend wordsmith as it not only offers great words, its daily email also links to wordgames and articles that relate to language and lexicographical information of all kinds. yum.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

another top '10

i've never done this before, but - stirred by a friend's list - i thought i might post my top picks of 2010. please let me know your own top 2010 arts experiences.

my name is asher lev by chaim potok. over the years, people would repeatedly mention this book to me and tell that I “need to read it”. It certainly gripped my imagination, and it moved me emotionally as well as intellectually. its exploration of identity (as artist, and as member of a family, culture, faith community), and responsibility (as a member of the above) challenged me and affirmed me (and i blogged about it here repeatedly between june and october of 2010). some passages stirred hope and life in me, while others were far too familiar a refrain. i didn’t accept it all, but then the book presents numerous voices and positions on art, and the use and abuse of art and its power.
honorable mention(s): book of mercy by leonard cohen. such beautiful old testament lyricism. so raw. so metaphorific. also, a re-read of larry shiner’s the invention of art: a cultural history. a rich, challenging book about the concept and use of art in western culture. a must-read for any artist. and one more -- for the beauty of the church: casting a vision for the arts by david taylor. a well-balanced collections of essays that explores the role of the arts within the church (though not in that 'white cube'), without getting overly theological (though there is theology) or isolationist or 'super-spiritual' (by which i mean it is quite practical as well).

barbara kruger at the tijdelijk stedelijk. i’d always wanted to see her work in an installation. i knew what i liked intellectually about her text pieces – the cacophony of voices, the political and social commentary, the propagandist agenda – but i wasn’t prepared for the experience of standing in the space and being both visually and  physically assaulted by the texts.

honorable mention(s): either blazzamo by kristi malakoff at latitude 53 – beautiful, precious, obsessive ‘collages’ that truly took my breath away; or storm room by janet cardiff and george miller at the art gallery of alberta. transporting.

band of brothers. as a series, it was brutal and absorbing. while the historical aspect was interesting, the real draw for me was the depiction of the relationships between the soldiers in easy company and the psychological, rather than physical, toll of war. the power of those relationships to instill hope, purpose, faith.
honorable mention: inception. while i was gobsmacked the first time around by the effects and the intricacies and the audacity, what i took away from this film was how important a father’s role is in shaping identity (an aspect of the film that i have yet to see anyone discuss). who cares about the dream(s)? (i think it all takes place in cobb’s limbo, anyway). what about the power a father has to shape and either inspire and affirm and bless or crush and embitter a son?

mumford & sons. the rise and fall and repeatedly glorious codas of their songs are transcendent (yeah, i said it). the lyrics are rich: love - it will not betray you/ dismay or enslave you, it will set you free/ be more like the man you were made to be, and I found myself hooting and hollering along repeatedly, exuberant and deeply moved.
honorable mention(s): every jesus culture CD i own (and that would be 4) was purchased this year. a breath of fresh air, ‘worship’ music with musicianship and a prophetic declarative edge. many others were listened to, but these had much of my eartime. other faves this year include janelle monae’s the arch android, with its audacious and far-ranging operatic scope, and not without generous helpings of funk and soul. janelle's performance on letterman was astounding. 

late in the year sufjan stevens’ all delighted people EP and the age of adz loomed large on my various musical listening devices. while there is definitely some growth and exploration (i'm enjoying the tinge of electronica and the wider range of singing), i’m finding myself less often connected to the music/ songs. i find that my enjoyment is sometimes an intellectual or conceptual one as he riffs on a theme or sequence (not unlike much classical music). but i’m not so often moved by it…in any case, my plan is to keep his stuff on heavy rotation for awhile.

dark matters by kid pivot. this theatre/dance mash-up utilized puppetry, projections, martial arts, humour (slapstick), theatre and, of course, contemporary dance. it was about the things we don't wish to discuss - the things we would like to keep hidden, the things that haunt us – and how these “dark matters” affect our movement and interaction. it was also a piece about the creative process as much as anything else, and about the relationship and tension between creation and destruction. an astounding production.

honorable mention(s): every version of so you think you can dance, whether united states, canada, holland…unlike all the other instant fame reality TV competitions, SYTYCD’s final 18 or 20 or 22 participants can all dance - they are skilled, passionate and dedicated artists, and there are a lot of talented choreographers whose creative visions have resulted in some truly moving pieces. every episode i watch there is a performance i marvel at. it makes me wish i had pursued dance, or choreography.

i must also mention 2 other things. at the risk of blowing my own horn, the we are artists workshop i presented with iloveartists, and my 3 exhibitions this fall/winter were hugely impactful for me personally.

we are artists was a workshop i presented around the identity and calling of the artist. it was an honor to be asked to do it, and i hope to do more in the future. not only was it great to be able to affirm and challenge fellow [christian] creatives, it was also a great learning experience for me (and affirmed me in my calling).

i’m not finished yet, off the wall, and your thoughts, like stars were a challenge to pull off as i had determined that i would try to make new work for each exhibition (which i mostly succeeded in). there were a number of experiments, and i need to rethink some of the pieces, but on the whole i was humbled by the ways in which people responded to my work. it was gratifying to know that the spirit could use my pieces to speak to some pretty deep things, and that people responded on many different levels: intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. i feel like i am able to keep moving forward, and i trust some of my planned pieces more (or rather, trust that God is somehow involved with them).

here's to 2011!

Friday, January 14, 2011

conceptual art, anyone?

i'm not sure what you think about conceptual art, but i'm a big fan. admittedly, "conceptual art" as a descriptive term is a bit of a grab-bag, but we can variously frame it like this:
  • Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns (from wikipedia)
  • A genre of art in which the transmission of ideas is more important than the creation of an art object (from wiktionary)
  • Art that is intended to convey an idea or a concept to the perceiver, rejecting the creation or appreciation of a traditional art object such as a painting or a sculpture as a precious commodity (from artLex)
  • Art that focuses on the idea expressed and the process of creating the work (from artsConnected)
  • Type of modern art in which the idea or ideas that a work expresses are considered its essential point, with its visual appearance being of secondary (often negligible) importance (from talktalk)
  • Conceptual art is based on the concept that art may exist solely as an idea and not in the physical realm (from absoluteArts)
i'm a big fan of sol lewitt's work, especially his wall drawings (mass moca has a long-term installation you can peruse here). he is a seminal and important figure in the development of conceptual art, and published numerous "manifestoes". here is one that i think has a lot of interesting ideas to contemplate regarding the process of [thinking about] making art, and reception of art works (or the relationship of the art object and the viewer/ reader). whether you self-identify as a conceptual artist or not, i'd be interested in discussing which statements resonate with you, or that you disagree vehemently with, and why.

Sentences on Conceptual Art by Sol Lewitt (1968)
1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2. Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3. Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
4. Formal art is essentially rational.
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
6. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.
7. The artist's will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His wilfulness may only be ego.
8. When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.
9. The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
10. Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
11. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
12. For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
13. A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist's mind to the viewer's. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist's mind.
14. The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
15. Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
16. If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.
17. All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.
18. One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.
19. The conventions of art are altered by works of art.
20. Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
21. Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
22. The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
23. The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
24. Perception is subjective.
25. The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.
27. The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
28. Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
29. The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
30. There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.
31. If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist's concept involved the material.
32. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
33. It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
34. When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.
35. These sentences comment on art, but are not art.

First published in 0-9 (New York), 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969

i'd be very interested in which points stand out to you - whether they ring true and strike a chord, or whether you think they are absolute bunk - and why.

Monday, January 3, 2011

be it resolved that...

i don't really make new year's resolutions. so i thought i might instead set some goals for 2011. naturally, there are a lot of personal things i want to work on: being a better husband, playing more with my boys, spending more time with G-d, exercising patience, making better use of my time, getting better at call of duty, exercising more, etc. - but there are also a number of things more directly art related that i hope to accomplish this year. so here they are:

  • last year i had 3 exhibitions - this year i would like to have 4, including at least 1 in a city where i haven't previously exhibited
  • complete 5 new pieces, whether individual pieces, installations or large-scale series (i already know that at least one will be a video piece)
  • curate 1 exhibition
  • refine my lightbooks so the light sources are easier to replace for potential buyers/ gallerists
  • develop a commercial line of my work, whether paintings, prints or even cards
  • i have developed a 3 session workshop that focusses on our identity and calling as artists -- i'd like to present that workshop again this year
  • apply to at least one grant for personal/ professional training purposes/ conferences
  • write poetry again and submit pieces to 2 magazines, or else work towards a chapbook of my poems 
  • finally start work on my screenplay/ novel
  • practice playing my guitar (i miss leading worship) - i suppose i'll write a song or two, and hopefully we'll sing one in our church
  • consolidate all my various notebooks and sketchbooks, and only use one at a time
please feel free to ask me how any of these things are progressing, and let me know if you have any suggestions for resources that relate to any of these areas. i need all the help and encouragement i can get.

Saturday, January 1, 2011