Processing Faces

Face drawing process

I’m going to open this by repeating the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and then pump the breaks. I pause because I cannot remember if the number was a thousand or ten thousand words now. I get confused as I say it. I do understand the meaning behind it and how the phrase blew up in the 1920’s. Wait was it the 1914 and was it “a look?” My mind said to me once “A look” referred to real estate advertisement or was an ancient Chinese or Japanese proverb. Fred Bernard pops into my mind as I wonder what his face looked like as well as the faces of the proverb writers. Due to the proud fact that I have never written a ten thousand, a thousand, or even five hundred words about a picture that I was fond of I have issues relating. What did their faces look like? 

Fully confused by the connect the dots picture gone wrong now in my mind, I would like to add a new phrase into this world of knowledge. 

I would like to add a “A look,” wait scratch that, “The face is worth ten thousand written pages of a false history if one cannot remember the face that represents its culture”. 

drawing in progress

“Your welcome and if someone has already stated my quote then that means they were at least as smart as me,” is how I would follow my new phrase. This, to you that do not know me well, is how my brain thinks. Always rapid and most of the time lots of imaginary nonsense  presented as fact to myself. Yes but how does this fit in with the body of work Weighting to Rise your asking yourself?  Creating the faces fell into a couple of categories in my mind. 

For starters the look of Weighting to Rise in Kate’s mind and in my mind had to be set. Yes our work would respond to each other’s and physically change a little but the basic structure was hashed out before I ever started a face for the show. The faces to me are just as important as the vessels or the wall hanging that they are mounted on. The feeling of the cultural belonging is more important than the individual always runs through my mind as I am painting or drawing a face.

clay painting process

 Secondly, the faces should not dominate the space that surround it. A little bit of emotion in the face is ok but the eyes can not reveal to much. I need the work to feel coveted to the point that if you were to polish it one more time the face will be lost forever. The faces have rules just like every other artistic project I work on. The ideas of loss is not only in the content but also in the firing proses. When drawing onto green ware or bisque with my underglaze pencil I always expect to loose atleast %30 of the rich black. I have a couple secrets about that pencil and that’s why the loss is only %30. Sadly, muhahaha, I will not speak of such secrets. When it come to loss of the underglaze pencil work when the low fire glaze is happening, the ideas of predicting what I will get out is very bothersome.

finished wall hanging

    Then Gwaby, then with tears running down his cheeks into his beard, put his hands into the air and shook them passionately while shouting, “why glaze, why must you eat all of my work!!!” The glaze bucket, in response then said to Gwaby, “wow… tantrum much? Dude your the one who made me.”

Gwaby taken back by this experience wiped his tears and said back to the glaze bucket, “word.”

Underglaze- and mason stains

clay painting process

Thirdly the face needs to be a basic face. Let’s say you did know the person whose face is depicted. You  could write ten thousand pages about that persons face and in the end it could be summarized and he or she had a very average face. I find it very difficult to create this work. Fighting the impulses to make each face as tricky and visually dynamic as possible is so hard. Working in slips and mason stains is an art and props to he artist of the world that can do it perfectly. One of the way i can work through compulsive perfectionist issues has been to do a three step deconstructive process. I work on paper as loose as I can let my self. I’ll render a face in my favorite lighting, hair styles, and value changes. From there I will make a reverse transfer that will go onto the clay. This transfer is a very stripped back version of the drawing. This process helps me to to get to just the basics of a face versus sitting down with a brush and a slab and going nuts with it by doing all the detail I could possibly think up. I put myself in the head space of and artisan of their time. The essence needs to be captured and nothing more. 

transfer process

In my mind Weighting to Rise deals with the passing of life and how Kate and I choose to depict an imaginary version to be. The faces are a way for those people to simply remember their dead. The face, to them, implies that the after life journey is not done yet for them.  If these people could not remember the faces then some how the culture and history would be lost. 

Clay bodies and Slips for Weighting to Rise

Our newest installation, Weighting to Rise, engages our interest on many levels, including our love of ancient art history, conceptual evolution of religion and a contemporary understanding of archetypal imagery. The foundation for all this speculation however, is clay.

In the earliest concept drawings for this show I was thinking about terra-cotta red. I love the color but I also wanted to focus on lower kiln temperatures for this show.  The red clay reinforces the connections were making to ceramic objects of a certain age and there is no need to focus on durability or use for these forms as their true purpose is visual contemplation.

Initially we wanted to source the clay locally, from summit brick, but in cleaning out the studio in preparation for this new work we discovered a reclaim emergency. We hadn’t done any major reclaiming in years and there were hundreds of stashes of future intention in every corner of the studio. Organizing and reclaim all this detritus reframed our thinking on the project. The show is in many ways about beginnings and endings and there were so many of those in our lives when we were conceiving this show. The end of Grad school was one of the larger of these transitions and it was partly the deadline challenges of the student lifestyle that left so many bags abandoned. We just didn’t have the time for so much of what is normal studio maintenance. It seemed right then to use what we could of what we had and reclaim all the rest into a new studio body for the coming year.

Some of it we could rehydrate in the bags and wedge back to life. This is a lot of work but the clay does not have to age as much and so is more immediately useful. We slaked the rest down in buckets and mixed with dry. This clay must be aged for some time to enhance plasticity so we did the reclaiming early in the year to accommodate that need.

Reclaiming clay is heavy and demanding work so its great to get help, Gabe’s girls ran the pug mill for a day and really helped us out.

The rest of the hand wedged stuff was random small batches of the clay we had used in the studio for the last four years. There was a little more than 150 lbs of the 200 we mixed when we first moved in to this studio, about 500 lbs of reclaimable White Stone from Laguna of which we bought a ton in late 2013 and a number of clays we only had a bag or two of. These  clays were for special projects or bits friends gave us to try. It was in this last batch that we had the red clays. The one we started with and held to for the entire project was Laguna’s R2 with grog. we had a box of this from my mom who bought it and didn’t use it so it had gone hard in the bags. We started using this as a sculptural medium in the earliest pieces for the show but we found it couldn’t handle water as well as some of our preferred clay bodies so we decided to use it a slip for surface treatment and not the structure of the work.

We were especially focused on its interaction with another Laguna body, Babu porcelain. we’ve used this for years as a slip in the studio for its very smooth texture and titanium free white color. It was the interaction of these two clays that we intended to build the bones of the show.

While I focused on the structure and build techniques we would use, Gabe began experimenting with using clays alone for building up 2 dimensional images.

As the work continued we considered what to do for black and for firing temps more and more. The black we started out using was a commercially prepared engobe that needs a clear glaze over to develop the color fully. While we really liked these results the surface shift with the gloss was not something we wanted to see everywhere and the terra-cotta looks best a little warmer (Cone 01) and the glaze was 06 making once firing impossible.

From here we went off the rails a bit playing with slips and firing temps. We had a small chunk of clay we brought back from the Rain Harris workshop that I really wanted to integrate. She uses the most beautiful black clay from Aardvark, Cassius Basaltic is a cone 5 clay that is very black with a vitreous surface that is beautiful when used as a slip. Using this would eliminate the need for a clear on the black and the porcelain at least can handle the higher temps.

This switch did require a switch in red bodies. For that we wanted to go with a clay that a friend from grad school in Kansas was mining. It’s a midrange clay with a dusty red finish at cone five and we had about 30 lbs of it, plenty for slips. We really loved many aspects of this look, but the higher temps were often too much for the sketchy assembly techniques and so were abandoned. This wall hanging is the best of that combo, before and after firing

wall hanging with face
wall hanging with face fired

It was really the bull that forced us to get real about the firing temps. The technique we used to put that together was risky enough, asking that hot mess to make high temperatures seemed like a recipe for disaster so we brought back the R2 and began looking for another black. We settled on barnard clay for that, straight out of the bag. On its own its very saturated at cone 01 and was a decent compromise.

From here we began using mixtures of various strengths for developing color in the show using the 3 main bodies as a base: Babu porcelain, barnard clay, and R2 terra-cotta

As mentioned earlier we wanted to use what we had around the studio for most of the project but there were a few pieces we wanted science on our side for. After all the struggles with using white stone for slabs that we ran into with The Magic Box, we chose to put some of the trickier aspects in a clay we knew we could rely on. Laguna’s soldate 60 is a work horse for our studio. While not the most beautiful body, its durable, fires well and so forgiving both to students and sculptors who must push edges.

Part of this winning formula is the 200 body we get from the local brick yard as an attaching slip. So much of the insanity of this show is possible because the perfect combination of Soldate with 200 binding it.

Beginning A New Installation

The Magic Box was an enormous and all-consuming project that took up huge portions of our lives over the past three years. Its ben very difficult to nail down the next installation project for Foxy-Wolff. We have been kicking around several ideas since before completing the last, and while there were elements of each idea that we found compelling, not one of them really cried out for making.

Initially we played around with a few possible sequels to the Magic Box, focused on Bob the Unicorn’s childhood, but the rigid control of the rules of that world were too constraining. Also being able to complete an entire installation in a year or less seems an interesting challenge with the potential to dramatically impact its over-all outcome. We were hoping for a work that might be less text dependent, allowing its visceral, emotional content to come to the surface.

An entirely new work seemed in order, so then it was time to begin sifting through ideas.

As one might guess, actually getting to work in the studio brought the best of these to the surface. The last post outlined the evolution of the structure and aesthetics of the upcoming work.

Process and Inspiration

Over the weeks the clay shaped up Gabe and I were refining the overall direction and intent of the installation, with Gabe providing drawings to aid in the conversation.

The concept of the show engages our fascination with ancient funerary art, and religious practices directed toward the dead. Each individual element in the gallery represents a families remembrance and the living process of creation that is the natural product of such a process. We concern ourselves  with the boundaries between worlds, feeling that riding that edge is the place where creativity rises.

Funerary art is also some of the most readily available records of extinct cultures. The pseudo-historical potential of work like this allows construction of a narrative without having to outline a specific “story”. The show marks a significant transformation of both the project (Foxy-Wolff) and our personal lives and so thinking of burial to mark that transition makes a weird kind of sense.

Elemental transformation is also a key concept for this work. the geological transformation of the rock cycle referenced through the clay mirrors the transformations of life and death; family member to ancestor. The technological aspect of the show will emphasize these by allowing us to light the gallery with fire and water  without having to work with building rules and insurance policies.

With this show we are making an offering to those who come to experience the work. In turn we give those an opportunity to offer something back to the work. By giving sand to the images and objects in the gallery, the viewer brings soul from the earth and allows it to rise, much like the fire and water of the videos.

Weighting To Rise gives us an opportunity to share our passion for the strange and beautiful, to mine the great well of myth and belief that surround death and to invite the viewer to share in the process of making the space and the installation live via their participation through action. The finely rendered paintings, made from the same material as the rest of the work  are the center piece of the show and add precision and emotion to the elemental presentation.

 

Community Revisited

Gabe and I started Foxy-Wolff when we were both working at the Art Center, Gabe as assistant Curator and myself as resident artist in the ceramic studio. That meant that the work of the first couple years of the project came out of a community studio. While much of our time working on those early projects was outside of the studio’s regular working hours, there are still considerations when working with others that just don’t come up in a private studio environment, such as putting things where others can find them and giving and receiving awkward hugs (Gabe’s favorite).

On the upside, having people around forces clearer communication and invigorates stagnant ideas with new perspectives, plus its more fun.

Our latest round of classes were an exact balance of all the goodness and just enough hugs to keep us on our toes. We hosted a small group that included friends from work, our kids and a few notable drop-ins’. The classes had a very loose structure and wound up running most of the day on the Saturday, with a fluid movement between wheel and hand building with lots of inspiring conversation throughout.

And the results? Pretty fantastic really. In addition to the batch of great ceramics we made during the 6 weeks, we are building a community that will continue our Saturday’s and the conversation.

 

Process and Inspiration

I love coiling. Making coil pots is really one of my most favorite ways to spend time in my life. I also believe coiling is an inefficient and time-consuming way of working, making it unsuitable for almost all projects.  Because of the pressures of time the second consideration almost always wins over the first. The one notable exception of this rule is The Bird Monster.

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I began working with the crow in my ceramic work over 20 years ago during undergrad. Combining a bag of locally mined clay, persistent bird obsession and a Maria Martinez video gave birth to the first, which was heavily influenced by totem pole birds and burnishing leather hard clay. This first piece did not survive its near the firebox placement of the wood kiln, also an emerging skill, but the coil pot combined with sacred avian images had me hooked, it’s a piece I have revisited many times over the years.

Most often I choose to make a Bird Monster when I have the urge to coil. The process is deliberate and requires attention at every step which makes it the perfect activity for times of transition in the studio. At the end of a large project or after being absent from the studio, cleaning everything up and building a Bird Monster is a great way to check in with myself, my skills and my space.

The years spent working on my MFA left no time or head space for a check in, and then there were several months to rest and refocus the studio. Aside from some functional commission work I had been almost completely out of the making loop for most of the past year.

So when the studio was finally clean and the Magic Box safely stored I decided to spend a few days on a bird monster. There were several random clay bodies hanging around and I chose a box of R2 with grog, a terra-cotta from Laguna that I had long been interested in for its color, for this particular piece.

One of the reasons the piece was in my mind is that I sit next to one of the most recent at work, done as a demo a couple of years ago while teaching at PCC. It’s a really good example and I love the paint job but looking at it closely every day had me pretty dissatisfied by the way it met the table. The work on The Magic Box had me thinking about the pedestal and the role it plays in gallery work. Contrary to contemporary thinking I really love what elevation does for am object’s significance. My hope is the looking at an elevated thing or idea does the same thing to the mind that considers the work. Even if we don’t agree on content or meaning, were thinking outside of the feed, and that can sometimes spark ideas.

A long absence from the studio, a formal consideration and an unfamiliar clay body began the latest. These forms usually begin as a blank, a rough shaped bust/bubble that is pushed in many directions. This piece was the same but added a base blank to the process. The long absence had my skills rusty and the clay had been in the box for a long time and so was a little hard. This combo had me working even more slowly than usual on the two blanks. In spite of the slow start they came together well. The clay was really a pleasure to use and the color delightful,  which may have caused my error.

I decided to do a mishima surface using very loose grolleg porcelain slip. Unfortunately this added more water than the clay could handle and I came in the following morning to find the head lying on the table.

Initially I saw this piece as pure experimentation, so this set back was pretty minor, I cut off the torn bits, altered the shape and stuck it back on. After scraping off the extra slip and making a few slabs it was time for the good part. The blank is an incredibly fluid way to work once all the pieces are ready, the limits of the clay and imagination are the only rules that can’t be broken and even those become flexible under the right situation.

Adding the pedestal changed so much of the feel of piece that I no longer wanted to add the screaming beak that many of the bird monsters have. Instead I decided to test an idea that Gabe and I were discussing for a future installation. Initially the idea involved putting masks on sort of blob figures but as this piece became more compelling it seemed the perfect place to play with the idea.

We decided a skull would be the perfect image for the first mask as it tied in to some of the funerary ideas growing with the concept. I was dissatisfied with my first few attempts so I asked Gabe to step in and see what he could come up with. Using his skills and the materials we were already using in the piece he came up with a great solution to the problem that we were both really pleased with. I was possibly too pleased.

 

Rather than call it a day as I should have I returned to the studio that night to attach the mask. I had what I felt was a good plan and I worried that if I left it too long the clay would not take the attachment. One moment pressing too hard on the “face” while taking a measurement for the attachment pieces and the entire head was laying on the table, broken at the weak re-attachment point.

this kind of thing is not un common in the studio and I’ve learned to cut my losses after a major set back of that nature. I stayed in the studio just long enough to wrap things back up and then left the thing alone. I was strongly tempted to abandon the entire top piece but I was unsure if I had enough of the R2 to replace the upper piece and honestly the conversation around the emerging installation that was springing from this piece was steadily moving away from the figure.

To finish it, I chose to cut the head into pieces and focus on the object as vessel. I used an attachment technique that my son and I used to play with using old bits of slab that were too hard to attach in the usual way. Rather than a slip and score the nearly leather hard pieces, I dipped them in heavy slip and held in place until the drying clay pulled enough of the  moisture from the slip for it to stick the pieces together.

the rough aggressive feel of the attachments and the broken nature of the body adds to the ancient feel that we’re moving toward in the installation.

Over all the shifting currents of this piece make it hard to read. We’ll let it sit on the shelf for a while so we can consider what its given rise to and how the work might come together for the coming installation.

Classes with Foxy-Wolff

I love to teach, it’s really fundamental to my identity as an artist since I learned to do both things at pretty much the same time. With the pressure of grad school and moving my life and studio around significantly I’ve not taught a good community class in years. We kept putting it off until we were “less busy” and a class never came together.

The time has finally arrived! We’ve been cleaning and planning for a while now and have set a date.

Saturday February 4th with two, two-hour sessions, one at 10:00 am and one beginning at 1:00 pm. We’re limiting enrollment to 10 per session. The class costs 120.00 and includes all of your clay, firing and materials. We will meet for 6 weeks ending March 11th, with pots and sculptures picked up in a couple of weeks after that.

The class will center around clay primarily but will have a decidedly intermedia feel. Gabe and I are really looking to build a dynamic and collaborative structure to the classes, allowing each student to follow their freak while learning some fresh technique.

Any level of experience is perfect, you don’t need to know anything coming in to the class unless you want to work with the wheel. We have 3 and would prefer those spots go to people that already know how to center. teaching and learning to throw is a close connected process and I prefer to start people out with a few private lessons or a wheel only class.

This class is for adults and serious art students of any age.

Cleaning Up at Foxy-Wolff Studio

With school and The Magic Box complete we are moving back into projects and ideas that we had to leave behind because of the limits of time. First up is the heavy cleaning/rearranging of the studio for a series of classes coming up beginning in early February.

The studio is above all a functional space and changes a great deal to suit our current project, most recently, aside from a small space for us to fill some christmas pottery orders it has been a storage space for The Magic Box. Also we’ve been so focused on that project that some of the unused corners of the studio had filled with unconsidered objects.

My grandpa loved games and puzzles and there was one he had that I played with often. It was a small plastic number slide game.

Rearranging a small space is exactly like playing this game, it’s all about how you begin. For us this meant moving the boxes, pedestals and art from The Magic Box into storage until it shows again. So the storage room was the place to start for us. Gabe is an animal about this kind of work, and he had all my personal storage lined out in an afternoon and the pedestals and the rest put away in the next few days.

While he worked that out I had to make sense of the working area. That space has a tendency to get cluttered with the remnants of works in progress, including old clay bits in need of reclaim and tools misplaced on shelves. A clean studio is not always the highest value but its great to get a clean reset before the beginning of a new project. I think it helps to keep ideas fresh and forces us to deal with the dust fairly often.

This freed up the center space, leaving only the Kuan Yin of the Magic Box on a table in the center of the room. More heavy lifting cleared a space for The Great One and we hung her where she can watch over the large front room.

The glaze room was the next priority, that involved clearing the old front office space of everything and then gathering all the materials and tools used in surfacing the ceramic in the kiln.

Critical to inviting other people to the studio to make art was lighting all of the work space. Gabe to the rescue again. Heres a funny little video he made to celebrate getting up on a ladder (again).

Look for posts coming this week with details on the upcoming series of classes.

Maps of Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry, born in 1960, and winner of the Turner Prize in 2003, is one of the best known and influential artists living today. Primarily known for his ceramic jars and his self-identification as a transvestite, his work over the last few years has branched widely to include television series, tapestries and maps.

fun-claire-grayson_3079918c

I chose to focus on these other works for this post, partly because I’ve written about his pots before and partly because I find the maps particularly inspiring. All of his work features images and the collage of ideas combined with a sense of history and craft of medium filtered through self-examination. The maps do all this but with a commitment to research and historical accuracy that seems to balance the self-expression in an art historical context. Seen in the image above, Perry’s sense of color and composition are a uniting theme in his work and himself as a work of art. Interestingly he suspends this way of working in the maps, so that the reference remains clear, though they are explicitly self portraiture. It seems the artist sacrifices his style for these works to know himself more completely. Map making requires a certain degree of stripping away and precision so that the directions can stay clear.

Bild 719

Perry was inspired for the etching titled The Map of Nowhere, from historical map of the earth centered around the body of Christ. Instead of the son of God, the artist has placed himself as the center of the world, with light for the seekers of higher consciousness shining straight from his “bum hole”.

This is a wonderful write-up of the work from the British Council collection where the piece is collected.  Below is a brief video of an interview with the artists on the creation and inspiration for the work. http://collection.britishcouncil.org/collection/artists/perry-grayson-1960/object/map-of-nowhere-perry-2008-p8194

Another significant work in this style is the Map of an Englishman. Printed on four large plates to give the work the look of having been folded, extra ink was also allowed to stay on the plates to give it the feeling of period authenticity.

gp114_map-of-an-englishman_1_2004

This blog post below has some wonderful images of the map close up and a solid discussion of the work itself. The maps are both achievements of scale and intimate drawings, revealing more and more with closer study.

A phrenology of the artist’s mind: Grayson Perry‘s 2004 “Map of an Englishman”

Map of Days is a self-portrait based on maps of the fortified towns of renaissance Europe. In discussing this work Perry likens the self to a walled city, separate from its surroundings, but dependent on them.

map of days

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw260594/Map-of-Days

The video below is from a British television series called All in the Best Possible Taste that Grayson Perry hosted in 2012. In the series he explores the taste standards of the classes in England as he prepares to make 6 large tapestries on the subject. I’ve included it here because it shows the artists meticulous process and his drawing as he considers composition of the tapestries.

The Artist’s Project from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For the past couple weeks I have watched a web series titled The Artists Project. This series, put together by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is in its fourth season and continues to offer a fresh perspective on looking at art. Each of the short episodes features a contemporary artist looking at their favorite work in The Met’s collection. From masterworks by George Braque to objects made by unknown ancient craftsmen, the work discussed in the series covers the breadth of the vast collection, and the commentary provided by the artists brings a personal understanding of the work that often transcends the conventions of art criticism and history.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/jane-hammond/

One compelling look beyond what is traditionally considered art, is an examination of snapshots from the collection donated by Peter Cohen, by artist Jane Hamond. Hamond is examining images never intended as art, but she brings the expansive possibilities of Duchamp to contextualize the images into a sort of ready-made for her own work. The video encourages  the viewer to see these snapshots in a new context, clean and clear on a matted background in high res, transforms the images from scraps in grandmothers drawer to mid-century masterpieces. She notes that one of the things that make these images so compelling is the total lack of professionalism and artistic intent, rather seeing the photos as a sort of taxidermy to collect moments of significance in the lives of those represented. It is then for us to use our powers of observation to appreciate the bold narrative and sometimes revolutionary composition.

Accompanying each of the videos is a short bio of the artist and an image of their work. If they, like Hamond, have a piece in The Met, a link is provided to the museum page of the work where the viewer can more fully consider the work being discussed on the artists own work. Its ready-made connection making that links the topics discussed in the video directly to the viewer, combining all in a conceptual whole.

jane-hammond-String-Men-600x600

One of the things I especially love about the series are the diverse voices represented. One such voice, is that of Paul Tazewell, an American costume designer for dance, theater and opera. Tazewell discusses the portraits of Anthony van Dyck.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/paul-tazewell/

Here Tazewell focuses on the precise rendering of the images, especially that of the clothing as the basis of his appreciation and inspiration. This rendering, notes the designer, supports a character and their narrative within the work. He notes the idealized and feminized garments express a different sort of masculine power than that of contemporary culture and sees affectation and character in the portraits themselves that feels very much like theater. He then offers a very frank appreciation of a self-portrait of the artist for its sensual qualities.

anthony van dyck

Through Tazewells eyes I see van Dyck’s work afresh. Rather that the stifling formality I have long associated with this type of painting, I can sense the vibrant world that the precision reflects and the designers joy in regarding the images is somewhat contagious.

Dia Batal is a Palestinian multidisciplinary artists who uses traditional text and formats in contemporary context. Her examination of a Syrian tile panel with a calligraphic inscription in another opportunity to see art outside of my own cultural context.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/dia-batal/

Originally born in Beirut and now living and working in London, she didn’t like seeing these objects removed from their homes and taken out of context in a museum. With the recent war in Syria however she has come to value their presence there so that they might be preserved.

Syrian Tile

The panel is not a work that would have attracted my attention without Batal’s introduction. I think this is likely because of its reliance on a message that I can not decode. Her reading the inscription aloud in the video opens the ear to the poetry contained in it in a way that a translation on a wall just couldn’t do. It opens the doors of a cultural context in a way that travel does, allowing a more intimate view of the words contained in the work.

The editing of the video is that of a slide show of portraits of the artist looking and photos of the art being considered, including closeups. As she discusses color composition on the piece, the closeup allows me to see the oxide cracking over the tin glaze of the tile and provides an entry for my appreciation of ceramic craft and history. This window gives me a genuine insight and appreciation for a work that before Batal’s discussion I found opaque.

Production is part of the reason this works so well. The slide show format combined with the voice over provided by the artist hold the cathedral-like space of the museum intact. As she imagines the tile in context of the mosque, imagining the dome and the light, we are given the open clean lines of the display, that echo the sacred intent of the  space. This allows the viewer to contact the art in a fresh unhurried way that mimics actually being in front of the work.

One of the things I found most fascinating about the videos is to compare the work they make to the work they appreciate. My favorite example of this was Wilfredo Prieto’s discussion of the sculpture of Rodin.

Rodin's Hand

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/wilfredo-prieto/

Prieto is a Cuban conceptual artist, and he uses his time in The Met to study. In the work of Rodin he finds inspiration in gesture. His careful examination of the studies on view share not only his understanding of the great artists technique but also the qualities he is looking for in his own work. He notes that Rodin believed to find expression in the material he had to dominate the material. Prieto takes this maxim into the conceptual realm with his work Yes No. Rather than dominating clay or plaster as Rodin did, he dominates objects, in this case fans, to replicate human gesture. His discussion of the masters work provides great insight into his intention with his own work. The static movement of Rodin’s figures informs the literal movement of the inferred figures in the fans.

I was not familiar with many of the artists in the series, one notable exception is Swoon. I’ve been a fan of her work for many years, yet I was initially surprised by her choice of art work to discuss. Swoon is a street artist working in some of the most non art venues in the world. Her choice of The Third Class Coach by Daumier struck me as inconsistent, being a heavily framed oil painting from over one hundred years ago.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/swoon/

In hearing the discussion however this choice becomes understandable. Swoon has looked closely at this work since she was 15. In it she finds its depiction of daily life speaking directly to her as she stands before the canvas, person to people and artist to artist.

Daumier

Her discussion of the brush work in the face of the mother looking at her child really brings a painting I’ve seen many times into fresh focus, and her knowledge of Daumier’s biography and training gives insight into the choice of subject and motivation behind it.

It is in this motivation that we can clearly see this work as having a strong influence on Swoon. Both she and Daumier being passionate observers of cultural inequality and injustice. The two artists presentation seems so radically different when first considered, when taken in the context of the compassion that both artists base their view of the world on, the similarities become obvious, despite one hanging in one of the premier museums in the world and the other being wheat pasted to a wall in Brooklyn.

3_Swoon