A sketch is such an immaculate conception. Before colour: form. A curving mass of lines. Possibility. Perfection.
The curse of being an idea-generating machine is that no creation will ever be as perfect as its conception
I know that once I take the mathematical entity off the page it starts to flaw, to differentiate. Even now, it is a pure white ruse. It is the idea of a thing.
The debate – will you breathe life into that symbol and make it concrete? The source of all delay.
A sketch is like an object of the mind, perhaps impenetrable to others but immediately provocative to the artist. An artist looks at their own idea and sees the possibilities in flux. It is a great excitement.
An object of the mind is non-communicative. In must be translated. It must be narrowed into a coherent statement and transmitted. It must be painted with actual colours and not all the colours at once.
Because the white of the page contains the full spectrum of outcomes for that take. The terror is that none of the options are the full entity. You can never fully communicate what the mind sees in shapes. You can never fully say what you mean to say. You are compelled to try a different angle on another day. But by then you are changed.
And that is fine. And I accept that.
It is better to say something than to live and die in the sheer white of possibility.
I just submitted a few pieces to an open call for artists who have lived with mental illness. Having had some experience in that area, I felt compelled to contribute. Never mind that I saw the call on Monday and were due Saturday. I pulled it together just in time.The project is called Mindscapes New Brunswick, and is a yearly exhibit. This year it will be in Bathurst, NB. A place I’ve never been but it sure looks pretty.
I originally had aspirations of making something specifically for it, but when I started going through my old work, I realized I had a number of suitable candidates. More than suitable, even, because they dealt directly with my mental health problems/solutions.
This submission was a surprisingly engaging process. I was combing through my artwork for pieces that spoke to my mental ecosystem. How often do we organize our work by concept? It was enlightening.
It has made me want to categorize ALL of my work by idea. In this world where specialization seems to be the way to make a living, I feel constant pressure to identify my “area of interest”. But there are so many, and it hurts me where my tears grow when I think of giving up some interests for the sake of only one.
However, it might be nice to see what patterns have developed on their own. What sort of direction I am heading with certain topics. That kind of thing. Constructive categorization. I believe the study of oneself is integral to mental health.
I have long been thinking about making a private blog to store ideas. I would use a blog mainly for the ease of cross-referencing through categories and tags. My problem with the oodles of notebooks and ideas I have spilling out around the house is that I never go back to look at them. But the odd time that I do, I realize how many different directions each one could be taken. My ideas need to be under multiple headings at once, and most of all they need a search function.
Can you imagine a collective of everyone’s ideas in the whole world? Where you could be matched with people with similar ideas and borrow ideas as you pleased? What an innovative world that would be.
But I digress.
As part of the submission I wrote an artist statement that explained my history of mental illness and what part art plays in my life. It was interesting to take stock of how far I’ve come. It made me feel proud and sure of myself.
I’m feeling hesitation about putting the statement in this post. It seems overly personal, unprofessional. Somehow I feel it might make potential viewers think twice. But that just betrays how brainwashed I have been by society’s insistence that mental illness be hushed. That is what this exhibit is all about, open discussion on a difficult topic. And to be honest, if my humble trials and subsequent victories are enough to scare you away, adieu.
So here it is, my past, followed by the pieces I’ve submitted.
“For as long as I could remember, I hadn’t been capable of true involvement in my own life. It didn’t feel real, and so apathy was ever-present. This culminated in a deep paralyzing depression during my teenage years.
When I sought help, the offers I received were of antidepressants, to fix what I had considered a symptom. My body did not jive well with these drugs and I ended up trying many different kinds. Eventually one did seem to help. Unfortunately after taking it for a long time, I felt trapped by the emotionless state it imbued.
I decided I wanted to stop. Even with slow weaning I suffered withdrawals, namely the debilitating “brain zaps”, which are exactly what they sound like. Every day I removed one more tiny bead from the capsule, and at long last severed myself from this demanding drug.
It was an awakening. Having been numbed for so long, I had one of the more mentally tumultuous periods of my life. I wrote, I thought, I created art in swarms. One morning while staring at my ceiling fan, I came to a life-changing realization. In order to feel real, you have to push yourself into the world. Before that moment I had only tried to let the outside in. It has to be a two-way valve.
I believe art to be the act of putting your insides out. I try to engage myself and my viewer as much as possible by reaching for more challenging projects. There are no failures when your goal is to learn, and when I do have particular success I feel great pride in my ability to connect to the world outside.
These days I am learning to be a textile designer and mixed media artist at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. I have shown work at my college and in various group shows and art auctions, and have recently completed several commissions. I was the winner of the 2010 NBCCD Scholarship for highest GPA, and this year won the Nel Oudeman’s Scholarship for a promising art student. I am feeling mentally sound and most permanently curious.”
Piece #1 :
9.5″ x 12.5″ x 1.5″ (including frame). Mixed media sculpture pressed between glass. Includes marbles, beads, plastic canvas, acrylic gel, tubing, paper, plastic wrap, and glue. 2011.
This piece was created to soften the memory of an incident that happened several years ago. I had stomach problems from anxiety and needed a gastroscope. I was given something so that I wouldn’t remember the procedure, but it didn’t entirely work. I was aware but could not move or remember what was being done to me. It was a disturbing memory but by creating this piece I have taken away some of its impact.
Bit by bit
12″ x 25″ (including frame). Collage of magazine clippings and glue stick. 2008.
This is what I would consider my first true artwork. Around the time I found a helpful antidepressant, I started my first art class in high school. This is a self-portrait I created, demonstrating my feeling of hope. The blue circle in my abdomen references a meditation technique I found quite useful for anxiety and insomnia.
If Your Friends
12″ x 13.5″ (including mat). Letterform collage of magazine clippings and glue stick. 2010.
This piece is a good-humoured take on the act of following suit. For our own well-being we must all go our own way.
16” x 16”. Expandable soft book made of digitally printed cotton, fibrefill, polyester, embroidery floss, and metal snaps. 2012.
I believe the point of life is curiosity, creativity, and the forming of connections. In this piece I pay homage to all three. Each segment shows a different area of science. Counter-clockwise from the top we have quantum physics, chemistry, crystallography, genetics, biology, botany, neuroscience, and astrology. I have digitally constructed the pieces from scanned images of my pen drawings and acrylic paintings, as well as pages from a vintage science encyclopedia.
(I will go into more detail about this piece in another post)
Well that’s that. Quite a rewarding trip down memory lane. Wish me luck!
The saltscape city has crumbled into the sea, but I’m sure it won’t be my last fling with crystal-making.
The show I took part in at Gallery Connexion, called “The View”, came down today. It was mostly for students at my school. I had a few pieces in it that I made last year while taking the Foundation Visual Arts program:
The piece below is a ceramic lizard eye. The nice lady who runs the gallery told me it looks like a vagina. Go figure.
This one is a cross-contour pomegranate I made from pen and ink in my first ever drawing class. One of my prouder moments.
This is a piece I made for art history, inspired by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. It is probably the largest painting I’ve made, and includes gouache, acrylic, acrylic gel, and copper foil. I painted it from a photograph of my very lovely and patient boyfriend, Warren. He is not quite as creepy-looking in real life.
The next thing I have on tap is the textiles show at the college. The poster was finalized this week. Perhaps a little more pinky than I would have chosen, but certainly eye-catching. It reminds me of a fairy tale landscape.
It`s going to be a beautiful show. I am lucky to be in a small department with exclusively talented people. It raises the bar for my own work and they are a constant source of knowledge and inspiration.
Having a little trouble deciding what to put in. I can submit three pieces for consideration. My paper quilt is a given, and I`m working on a mixed media nursery rhyme collection I have high hopes for. Other than that, either my digitally printed pillow, my dino screen prints, or my blimps and balloons pattern croquis. I`ll post them up here this weekend and you fine people can help me decide.
Delightful surprise when I arrived at school this morning! My city is growing great guns and the crystals are taking up the food colour nicely. Not full-grown yet but well on their way. Hope they last `til class on Tuesday. Taking lots of pictures just in case.
I love how they puff out of the tops of the buildings.
For some reason the super blue liquid turned brown in this larger batch. Very strange indeed. Can`t believe how fast it`s growing!
Yesterday was a good day. Had some help with the making of random weave spheres for the big feature lighting commission. Deadline approaches fast! Never fear, it’s coming along nicely. Soon so soon my work will be a permanent fixture of Jeremiah’s Restaurant in Hartland, NB. I think I’ll keep the concept a surprise until the piece is finished. I’ll give you a hint, it’s super neat.
Glad my kitchen is no longer filled to the brim with dye baths. Reed is a frustration! But we are becoming fast friends. I was unconvinced for a little while but the colours came out so beautifully in the end. I had to really increase the salt with the ProMX dyes to get the right depth of shade. Ah, the power of sampling never ceases to amaze me.
Now it’s just a matter of executing the many hours of hypnotic weaving. A fine way to spend a thousand evenings.
In other news I’ve been working away on a paper quilt. One of the very most fun projects I’ve worked on in a while. It was for my Evolution of Textiles course at the NB College of Craft and Design. Very interesting project inspired by the Adinkra cloth of Ghana. My piece discusses the three revolutions of written communication. Will delve into the symbolism a little deeper when I have the finished piece returned and photographed. To whet your appetite, here is the quilt in progress.
Also, this pretty little dollar store crystal tree has inspired me. I’m thinking cityscapes and brains. Oh the humanity!