melinda topilko and I are working on a little project… More to come.
This is about an hour long, but this talk by Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell about their Feminist Art Gallery is really excellent.
Meyer and Schapiro list fourteen possible criteria for a femmage, seven of which must be present for an object to earn the ‘femmage’ label. 1. The work is by a woman; 2. Saving and collecting are important elements; 3. Recycled scraps are fundamental to the process; 4. The theme has a woman-life context; 5. There is covert imagery; 6. An audience of intimates is addressed; 7. An event is commemorated; 8. The work has a diarist’s point of view; 9. Drawing and/or handwriting are sewn in; 10. Silhouetted images are fixed on other material; 11. Identifiable images form a narrative sequence; 12. Abstract forms produce a pattern; 13. Photographs or other printed matter are included; 14. It is both practical and visually pleasing.
I think this might be my missing piece.
Edited to add: here’s the original Femmage article, scanned by some lovely internet person.
What a relief! And this quilt will be mine, oh yes. Of course, I’m also terrified that I won’t be excited about it anymore by the time it arrives. I’m so fickle. (via 1930′s QUILT- Grandma’s Dream–Pastel Colors/White-71×80-CUTTTER BARGAIN | eBay.)
I figure posting it publicly has got to help somehow, maybe?
I don’t believe in manifesting. This is more putting this out there so my readers can call me on it later. “Hey, did you get any ideas?”
So how do I plan a body of work? I think with my previous projects, it’s either been an accidental body of work, as it were, or a very specific one. Just because it was the first example I could think of, and to celebrate the end of the semester, I spent the other day rewatching the first season of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, because the three finalists had to plan an exhibition. I know the show didn’t go too much into it, but it seemed that the best approach was to find a title that encompassed a theme, and then make the show based on the title. Maybe I will try that. I was disheartened to find that most of the contestants have disappeared off the face of the earth (although Peregrin Honig has a website, though it doesn’t include her exhibition from the show, Carnival), but obviously the winners would be winners because they made work that was good for t.v., not necessarily because it was successful artwise.
The t.v. show also doesn’t factor in just how subjective art is. Nobody is going to stand there announcing, “Your work of art didn’t work for us,” in real life. During the studio walkthroughs, I realized the best approach with my work was not to stand there in the main space and ask people if they wanted to come in and see my work, but to put on some music I liked and just wait in my studio for anyone who might venture in on their own. I think maybe they didn’t have the same expectations, or maybe having the sense of finding something was helpful. So in planning a body of work, I need to keep in mind that there is no pleasing everybody, but maybe it will touch “my people”, whomever they end up being. But creating with the intention that people will come to see it (or not) on their own seems to make it less scary. And I suppose when I go to see a show, I want to figure out what the connection is between the works, too. Work should be consistent in one way or another, but sometimes it’s hard to break through that fear of becoming boring, and boring myself, becoming “that triangle guy” or whatever else.
Lastly, I tend to worry too much about what “counts” as art and what doesn’t, and then leave out all this other stuff I’ve been doing. I either include too much or not enough, sometimes making it make less sense.
How do you figure out how to start a body of work?
After Friday’s crit, I’m definitely sure that I need to start on a cohesive body of work for my thesis show, but I have issues with planning projects. If I have something resolved in my head, it stops being interesting to do because it’s almost like it already exists. I need to create a framework to follow that still has room for surprises.
I’ve been reading a lot and figuring out what the ongoing themes in my work are, so I think the best course of action would be to take those themes and figure out which ones are the most important and how I might go forward from there. This is the opposite to the way I have been working, making several streams of work in a fairly intuitive way and then analyzing it to figure out the themes and ideas I’m interested in, which I think was a necessary start in discovering what transcends everything I do and make. Eventually, though, it’s necessary to stop and decide, and make something that I would be proud to have in the final exhibition. Scary stuff.
Plan of action:
- Finish my aesthetics paper, which is about vulnerability in artwork and may veer towards the “teen girl aesthetic” I’ve been reading about
- Complete everything of the theoretical part of my thesis proposal, except the exhibition plan, which will be the next step
- Figure out some ways of working that really entice me, and use that to form a concept for a body of work, which I will then use to write the exhibition plan
Stuff I’ve been afraid of and need to reassure myself:
- This isn’t forever. This is a year. That’s it. I don’t have to become the guy who only paints triangles.
- I can make a cohesive body of work that is about more than one theme, using more than one medium, if I need to.
- I can still work on a smaller side project if I need to, to stay sane. I don’t need to present everything as if it’s the same in the hierarchy of importance.
- I can start on a body of work, and turf out stuff that doesn’t work. Not everything needs to be a masterpiece.
So I’m doing some research on vulnerability as a theme in artwork, and stumbled on this article from a 2007 Art Journal: The Movement of Vulnerability: Images of Falling and September 11. Now, I was a bit surprised because I was looking for the artist as vulnerable, not the artist’s subject, and these are images of people who obviously could not give their consent to be photographed, and are now presumably deceased.
In particular, in regard to Carolee Schneeman’s piece, Terminal Velocity, 1 supposedly a memorial work for the victims of September 11th, images of nine people falling from the towers.
“Interesting: that presenting this degree of vulnerability was seen as exploitative and shameful.” The emotional charge was so intense that despite the artist’s explicit attempt to acknowledge the suffering of those she represents, her means was not considered adequate. Why not?
This seems so obvious to me. Why? Because it IS exploitative. I think an artist can be itself vulnerable in the work, but to try and show others’ vulnerability, as if in respect and to bring attention in this noble way is pretty gross. That’s asking for a pat on the back, isn’t it? I mean, the viewer is also often vulnerable, but I think the viewer places itself in that position, too.
1. Now THAT’S a bad pun.
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