Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Question

As part of the recent Pieced Together Exhibition at USC UpState in Spartanburg, SC, Tom and I each did a gallery talk. While we did have visitors other than students and faculty the talks are designed specifically for the students as a way to expose them to people who are making art on an ongoing basis and give the students an opportunity to interact and ask questions.

I planned my part of the program with this knowledge and rather than talking about specific pieces in the show I talked about my personal interpretation of what I do and the many things I have done in my art career.

The gist of this is that for me, making is Art. It is and always has been my intention no matter what materials or processes I might be exploring. The intention and attitude is that I am an artist and I make art. I said that if I could wave my magic wand I would remove the language that often partitions certain materials and process into categories which tell the wrong story. I further told them that I try to practice "enticing" people in conversation to ask me more questions about what I do by only giving them small amounts of information at a time and by not describing my work in ways that might be easy but misleading. I was very close to the audience as we were standing in the opening area of the gallery and I watched their faces. They were attentive and interested.

During the Question and Answer period immediately after the talk there were many good questions but after this formal Q&A I was approached by a very interesting student who began by saying, "I like your work and I don't want to offend you but......" That intro always gets my attention. He continued, " I like your work and I don't want to offend you but can you usually show your work in the same places that your husband shows his paintings?"

Bingo. He got it. He understood that indeed in this day and time while GREAT strides have been made, sometimes there are still divisions that have nothing to do with the work but what the work was made from or perhaps the processes involved. My answer to him was, Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. I can only make what I make and hope to be able to find an audience.

It was an evening well spent.

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  1. Sometimes that sword cuts two ways. You can't get your fiber art into some venues where painting is welcomed, but you also have had some nice success at fiber art shows where he couldn't show his paintings. Of course, the painting-not-fiber shows are probably higher status in the art world than the fiber-not-painting shows.

  2. Thanks Kathy. For me it's simply that it's all the same mental process just different materials and I find it strange to be sorted out by material. Sometimes it does have advantages and sometimes it's just frustrating.

  3. Great summation, Terry ~ "I can only make what I make and hope to find an audience." That about covers it!

  4. Great post and interesting student!

  5. Thank you Connie and Lynette. The student who asked the question had very bright eyes, a wonderful smile and (I'm confident) from a culturally modest background. It was nice to see that he had managed to pick up exactly on what I was trying to communicate. I appreciate your comments.

  6. I continue to make my art sacred marks...and enter as many venues as possible! I have been lucky and included in some interesting exhibits. Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  7. Hi Mary Helen. Yes, that is what we do.