Is the journey really better? About fifteen years ago when I had just finished graduate school I made this artist book about just that question. I was examining all the advice so freely given when seeking to find your own voice as an artist. And all the while we are making work about the things we care about, the things we want others to care about if only for a little while. Sometimes we just want the prize at the end of the journey. There are so many forks in the road, so many wrong decisions, so much work that piles up to eventually be tossed out.
Here is the title page followed by several pages of advice about the journey as an artist. Some of the best from Robert Henri and others like an old friend who sent one of his poems to me about the journey ..”Searching is the stuff of my existence. Finding has the aura of finality.”
The pages turn through such thoughts as these of others and my own. Partial glimpses of the artwork I was doing at the time also pass by, visible from both sides and forever with a view to the “prize” at the end of the book.
It is hard to shut my mind off and hard to stop my hands from following through. I am an artist.
Ten years ago I found this passage by Julie Ewington in a book on Australian artist, Fiona Hall. It seemed relevant then and it was good to find it again just the other day in my sketchbook of 2005.
“The artists life is often solitary. She dreams, she plans, she reads. She works laboriously, listens to the voice of her desires, follows wild hunches. She seeks arcane knowledge and cultivates her skills. She passes long days and weeks in the solitude of her studio, working constantly. She listens to the radio, watches TV, scans the daily temptations of junk mail. She lives in short, in the same cluttered, perturbing mundane world that is familiar to us all.”
Did she think of the prize at the end of all that work? Was the prize what drove her work? I don’t think so. We are artists who transform ideas and passions into a visual form. It is the doing that matters. It is the questioning of whether we have found the best way to say what we need to say….or should we start again? It is the caring more about the idea than what its finish will bring.
This week I found the most amazing book on the work of Aldwyth. Her book and retrospective of her work is titled, work v./work n. She is an artist who, “explores the literary and associational possibilities of found objects,” according to Mark Sloan, curator and writer. Once I picked the book up, I knew I had to have it. The cover image, the amazing body of work that flowed under my thumb at first glance. And the best part, when I bring it home and sit down to read every word and savor every image, I see that she is in her seventies….late seventies by now. An inspiration, an artist still making choices and occasional wrong turns, still working.
As Aldwyth says, “Work is what all art has in common.”
I need to get back to work myself now that the students are gone and the studio is back to where it should be.
I have started taking the clock pieces apart and looking at how they will assemble again in new configurations for the series “In Search of Lost Time.” I don’t want to lose any more time than I have to….I am older.