Welcome all you roving internet fiends. This morning I was working; the sun had come up. My thoughts turned to Jasper Johns. Specifically about how he refuses to talk about his work for the most part. How he stresses the importance of mystery, for the individual to come to the work with not only virgin eyes but also with virgin mind, through this refusal to write about or address his work directly. I think that is beautiful and what I myself am naturally inclined to do. Yet at other times I find that silence is a void not a mystery. We all like to peak behind the curtains from time to time. It is a place to be fascinated, to experience wonder and to subsequently translate that wonder into thought, situated within the context of your own experience and to draw personal knowledge. So I have decided to start this container, this digital footprint of my thoughts as I work. I do so selfishly for my sake, as often thoughts are fleeting and to imprint them is to offer myself future opportunities to reflect on how they manifested at the time, but also as an offering of an open veil to perhaps inspire others to wonder. So, herein shall be the sometime calm, sometimes choppy, but always boundless sea of my inner dialogue that accompanies my act of working.
So here's a gossamer strand of thoughts I had today in regards to my series, The Ship Minerva:
I named this series in order to reference Jasper Johns. I am essentially grafting components of his "alphabet" and "number" pieces onto contemporary language. His letters and numbers break down through repetition. In the social media landscape of today language itself is breaking down. The pound sign (oh what more perfect glyph could there be for a work dealing with the impact of repetition on language than this, a symbol whose primary meaning denotes a number, but now has become so ubiquitous with its new usage that this meaning is often completely forgotten when the symbol is first encountered void of context) having been transmuted to the "hash tag" functions as a stand in for language in these drawings. The use of hash tags to describe a scene have shortened the requirement for language for grammar for context. A picture of a flower wilting in the heart of summer can now be described as #sun #flower #nature rather than: 'I sit in this lonely meadow, the harsh heat of summer beating my brow like some mad coxswain delirious for the riches of battle, and look upon this drooping daisy feeling as though it understands me in a way that even I really never shall'. Anyway, the point being these symbols reference language which is both degrading, shortening, and shifting, but in a way that can simultaneously manifest as a mass of ugliness as well as moments of profound and individual worth. This hopefully is illustrated through the approach to making the drawings, where the perspective can shift easily from the individual marks to the overall composition.
Anyway, this is not even the thought I was trying to share. I just wanted to give you, you kind gentle soul with a spirit whose beauty clearly shines through your eyes - pooled portals of wonder I say. I simply wanted to provide you with some context for these drawings. The thought I had was in reference to the title of the series, The Ship Minerva. I was thinking how the origin of it was a bit embarrassing in it's thin amount of research that lead me to it. One day, while working, diligently of course, I reached for my phone to use its calculator but alas the endless potential caught my attention and I frenetically had to use the phone, simply had to do something on it. So, I pulled up Wikipedia and typed in Jasper Johns, where deep into the page, roughly paragraph one, I found that he had been named after the Revolutionary War general William Jasper, whose subsequent Wikipedia page told me had originally come to the United states as captain of a ship named Minerva. From this short Wikipedia burst, the title of the series was born, but with it's titling came a mixture of shame and pride. Pride in that it is a beautiful and poetic name perfect for a series dealing with the opacity and clarity of language in its contemporary context, and shame that it came from a few minutes procrastinating on Wikipedia*. But, alas, my thought this morning: there could be no more perfect origin for my art history referencing series titles than Wikipedia. These quick web searches for quality titles are important pins that place these pieces to this specific position on the grand timeline.
some other thoughts to explore related to this series:
-monotony- the daily grind-not only the modern work place of repetition, the ford factory hours, etc. but also on a grander scale the spring, summer, fall, winter, spring of life, of finding joy in the sameness of it all-again another reference to Camus' interpretation of sisyphus-this courses throughout all of my work- perhaps it is because I am trying to find this joy in the grinding down of life myself and I know it is to be found in the small things-i myself need to focus on this- and as an artist my work can be a colossal undertaking of often seemingly mundane, or subdued, repetition, spanning decades in an effort to ultimately stress this one nugget, one morsel, of undeniable truth in this particular consciousness we as humans find ourselves to be
-ease - the ease of repetition in the digital age, but also the ease of writing-of language. This can be a dangerous thing- see Elon Musk's recent acid fueled tweet threatening his company causing him legal problems. These sorts of behaviours are resultant from the swiftness of our communication methods now. You can no longer have the messenger murdered before they arrive at the next town. These drawings are glacial, they are examining a language - through referencing the hashtag - of social media,. A language mode that is fast, easy, and dangerous - it is fascinating and often beautiful to watch like a sky consumed by lightning - beautiful but scary. This consideration of the language through this form of drawing is done so in a glacial way, perhaps asking or considering the possibilities of both what it means to communicate swiftly and to communicate slowly.
-sewing/knitting/work- while working on this latest one, this is something I was thinking about for sure when designing the first one, but with the more broken up pattern in this one it is really revealing itself more as I work- but while working on this one the design i made for the composition is slowly starting to show itself as I draw line after line of hashtags-it really is like knitting-for the longest time it is just doing this one motion over and over and it is this abstract thing, nothing really, lines or shards of a clothing item, but as i reach a break in the design the overall composition is starting to appear. This too plays into the joy found in working. In work you are tasked with monotonous things-emails, meetings, spreadsheets in an office, blueprints, frames, piping etc. in construction. It is easy to lose track of where things are headed once you start. There is the initial planning phase, the project is designed determined and then the small tasks begin to mount. In the thick of these things it easy to lose site of the original grand design, but once the picture starts to come into focus it is endlessly rewarding. And when a project or piece is completed, and completed hopefully with success, the reward is rich. I was lucky to grow up with access to high visual arts with a mother who worked in a respected art museum for a spell. Thus, the infatuation and wonder towards art and art history. But I too was lucky to grow up in a working class family. My mother was not a curator or an administrator, she was on staff. Her family came from a small farming family in rural Arkansas. My father was in the military, his was in the military, and his worked in a Junkyard. My paternal grandmother was an orphan who went on to work in the state hospital she was raised before becoming a home maker. My maternal grandmother was a farmer's wife and her parents farmers and theirs farmers. Never large plantations, just land enough to make ends meet. Arkansas is a poor state, for most there wealth is simply to get by. Yet, my maternal grandmother was also a college educated organist and prolific sewer. She would knit this intricate patterns with ine threads that would take years to make. They would sit in abstract wads next to her chair until one day they became something complete and were forever off the floor. Quilts too, the source of family crafts are deeper than I know, new items I've never seen are constantly showing up. I say all of this because these are lives filled with tasks, check, check, check, get them done, wake, work, sleep. The military side is the extreme side of this structured existence with its coded and rigid structure. These are the halls of experience in which I was raised and are a part of my DNA, a part of most of the working class's DNA. And it is through this lens that I look when I am designing my own work, it is through this lens that I look when I am trying to make sense of the world and imbue it with good meaning. These modes of thinking and working are in this series. Yes, it is specifically about language, and a type of language used today, but it is also more loosely about finding ways to communicate, to both myself and potential viewers of the work, this desire to find meaning in the rigor and daily toil of life.
*This is not true. Nowhere on the Wikipedia page does it mention that Jasper Johns was named after William Jasper. I must have found that tidbit deeper in the tangled and fluid mesh of the world wide web.
The first ship minerva dealt directly with the concept. Conceptually the titled directly referenced the Jasper Johns painting Alphabets which inspired the initial course of thought. The painting was on view at Crystal Bridges and something that I looked at everyday and considered. Thus it served as a great jumping off point; it is where the ideas started to calcify. Yet, the first composition, other than being roughly the same size and being rectangular in form, being black and white, and being flat did not share a lot with the idea source painting nor did it being any other direct imagery in to it other than roughly being shaped like a capital "I" referencing the inherent self-absorbtion of out society consumed by social media.
The second ship minerva, and the first on what would be a more traditional american art scale, that is to say the first big one, wanted to reference the idea of labor more directly, as well as the tradition of craft. Craft is important because it implies the items is made by one master or a master leading a small, in-house, and dedicated team, but most often, when it is non-commercial, say one person who makes quilts on their own accord to beautify their lives, vs. a small quilting operation that aims to make sales, to reference craft is to reference the individual maker - this is another jumping off point in this series, and how my work does have a tie with abstract expressionism that most people seem to scoff at when mentioned or do not pick up on in the slightest if not mentioned. But the work is a record of the making ala Rothschild's American action painters. To me it is pivotal to reference the individual, the maker, the act of making by an individual, because to reference an artist is to reference a human which is to help the viewer recognize their own self, their own isolation in this vast and chaotic world, and to place themselves in a mode of refelcting on their own existience and what that means philosophically, mythically, and empirically.- But, anyway, in order to reference this craft movement or labor, the act of toiling to make this thing happen day in day out, I designed the second composition to reference more directly a basic textile pattern. It also references a window, which is important both art historically (think O'Keefe's Lake George Window) and symbolically - to peer from the interior out to the exterior and try to make sense of what is surroudning - interior/exterior of self all that jazz.
This third ship minerva, also on a grand scale, though I think the next one will be even more grand - and most likely in some way attempting to reference color field paintings alá Clyfford Still - is dealing more directly with the idea of architecture - of how language fits together - what the structures are that it moves across. Thus I wanted to reference two painters simultaneously, Piet Mondrian, which also keeps the work tied to design which keeps it tied to craft which keeps it tied to labor, and Peter Halley. The modrian reference is good as he directly pulled from architecture to create compositions such as Composition No. II. Consequently his work later was then referenced to create architecture, see bauhaus, brutalism, et al. Halley was important to reference because he himself was referencing Mondrian, but also he was dealing with the early implications of computer connectedness and the aestethics of computer culture. More thoughts, but must run....