A few years ago I was given a list with 62 questions about art to answer. One by one, each day I tackled them and it helped me get to a different place with making and looking at my own work. Below are a few of the responses, that I still feel are valid.
1. What do you expect of your work?
Truth, honesty and relief from the thoughts that go through my brain on a daily basis.
3. How do you maintain focus on your work?
I maintain focus by writing and journaling. It helps keep my thoughts organized and keeps me line as far as making sure that my work does not become mundane. It also gives me a way to get thoughts out, when sometimes life gets too busy to make, at least the thoughts are out and later I can go back and work on them.
4.How do you "push" yourself to take risks?
I am constantly experimenting with different processes and materials. It forces me to make mistakes sometimes, which can end up being the start of something new. It creates space for new ideas and perspectives.
7. How do you let go of the work?
I am not sure that I ever fully let go of the work. They are all based on so much personal experience and memory that they are always a part of me. I think that with time I become less attached to some pieces, but then there are others that become even more sacred. Does any artist ever fully let go of the work? Or is the work the way to let go of what inspired it in the first place?
10. How do you get back to what it felt like at the beginning---the real joy of doing that gets lost over time?
I have often been faced with this delema, in art and in life. How to get something to feel as good as it did the very first time. The first time a piece of art is finished and you walk away from it for the day, come back the next day and say to yourself "this is good, it is what I wanted it to be." That is ultimate gratification, when the artist themselves thinks that it is "good" and finished. So how is it different from the hundredth time that one approaches something they have made? Well for me the difference is comfort. Once I get too comfortable with something, a process, a medium, maybe a certain time of day, I need to change it. Sometimes a slight change is enough, sometimes I need to play with another medium for a while and other times it is as simple as scribbling something in my sketchbook. The changes result in that first glance of something, and the process begins all over again, recapturing that joy an artist feels in the beginning.
15. What is the responsibility of the artists' calling?
The responsibility of the artists' calling is to listen to it. In a world driven by high-powered careers and money, it would be easy to ignore the "calling" to be an artist. It is a responsibility to follow the inspirations that an artist has and make. I am a firm believer that when a civilization ceases to exist the things that future cultures study are the art and literature from the past. If artists' stop making and writers' stop writing there will be nothing left to study and the future societies will know very little about us. As it is with everything being powered by computers now and records being electronic, it is possible that more than ever, the art is so important because it is tangible, unlike a computer's memory which could die so easily.
17. Is there work that never leaves the premises (i.e. which is so deeply personal that one cannot/ought not to part with it/share it with others)?
Yes! It lives in my sketchbooks, cigar boxes, photo albums, tool boxes, art supply drawers, under the bed, on my corkboards and probably even under my sinks. These pieces are made at times when everything seems to be collapsing in on me. Sometimes it may take me less than ten minutes to make one of these things, a simple drawing, small sample of stitches on some cotton, a sketch, embroidery, sewn fabric, glued paper... Sometimes these intimate pieces are more intricate and take time, sometimes days or even months to complete. The pieces that are to intimate to leave the premises are made to work through a problem and are usually only understood by the maker themselves. I find these pieces sometimes when I am looking for a glue stick and such, and I pick up the piece and it takes me back to the place where I made it and why. These works are often small for me and hold so much revelation into my world and how I get through things.
When Degas died and his family was going through his studio they found a room full of "unfinished" works that were ballerinas made of wax that were never cast in bronze. The family decided to have them cast, even though in his will he stated that he did not want them "trapped" in the metal. I like to think that these "unfinished" works in his studio as his intimate works and it makes me sick to think that someone went against his will and cast them. I hope that my little pieces that are too intimate to show will never be toiled with.
20.To whom is the artist responsible?
First and foremost an artist is responsible for themselves, and the integrity of their ideas. An artist is responsible for putting their ideas out into the world, sometimes these ideas are part of what shapes cultural, political and religious views, making art a powerful and necessary form of work.
22. What happens if the artist only has one song?
If the artist only has one song, it does create a problem, the work becomes mundane and the viewers become disinterested. When an artist goes into a time when they can't move beyond one thing, it means that it is time for change. In the words of Susan Iverson "never become comfortable with your work, once you are too comfortable it is time to move on." I believe that change is the only way to move beyond one song.
24. Would/could you make the same piece today that you made five years ago?
No. In the words of Mr. Warhol "Time is, Time was", I could not go back to who I was five years ago therefore I could not make the same work. Time is a fascinating, it moves ahead without permission and it can never be caught up with or turned back. In art and in life it is impossible to go back to a moment except for in one's memory and even then it is impossible to have that moment back in its fullness. My work is so much about the moment and who I am at that point in time that it would be impossible for me to go back into time and create the same things I did five years ago. It's about moving ahead, sometimes I do look into my old work for inspiration and to see where I have grown but the new things I make are my present not the same things I did make. If you are the same you were five years ago, that would be a stagnant existence. The same goes in art.
28. Are our expectations too high?
No, when expectations are lowered the work and artists become lazy and the work becomes half-assed and sloppy. I believe that in any medium and in most jobs the standards should be kept high at an almost unattainable level so that the quality of the work being produced remains brilliant and fresh.
32. How important is content?
In my opinion without content it is not art, it is hobby. Things can look aesthetically pleasing and be well crafted but with out any content I do not think that it can qualify as art. That is where the difference between an artist and a hobbyist lays.
38. Do the words get in the way?
This is a joke question right? Anyone that has seen my art or heard me speak of it, knows how important the words are to my work. When I am working on my pieces there is usually an I-pod blasting in my ear or a music source somewhere blasting out words, sometimes parts of lyrics will find their ways into my works because they are related to the piece and sometimes words will form in my mind and become parts of the work. The place that words get used the most in my work, most often, is in my titles. I do not believe in untitled work, it is lazy, my own titles can be really long and tedious sometimes but they are like small windows into my mind and art. They give off just the right amount of information to view the piece and capture my views.
44. Is everybody an artist?
No. There seems to be a movement at the moment where a lot of people think that they are, but they are hobbyists not artists. An artist makes with reason, and purpose. An artist questions why they are making and constantly challenges themselves.
52. Who are your critics?
Anyone that glimpses at your work becomes your critic. Once they have seen it, even if for a moment in a slide show or walking past a gallery through the window, once it is in their memory (even if it is the depths of it) they have already judged your work on some level. We see images all day, every moment, this is the most visually stimulated culture has ever been and all daylong we form opinions of what is pretty/ugly. It is the same with art, when glimpsing at it even for a moment the mind is already forming an opinion of it; sometimes those opinions are so short that we do not even realize they have happened. Whenever revealing art to someone, it is inevitable that they will critique it, whether or not they share that is a different story.
53. When are you too informed about your work?
When you no longer have to question why you are making it, or why you are making it the way you are making it, you are too informed. Art should always make you think further and beyond what you are making at the time, when it does not do this anymore it is time to move onto a new piece and make something new, or change directions. It all goes back to the mundane. You never want your work to become mundane and boring and when you become too informed about your work it is easy for it to become mundane
59. What has your work taught you?
My work has taught me how to live, and be myself. It has taught me how to work with challenges and solve problems. I have learned how to think through things and not give up on them. My work has also taught me to be more patient, I get frustrated with things sometimes and through art I have learned to be more patient (nothing like threading a loom). Art is a release for me, a way of getting things out, so in many ways it has taught me many things about my personality. I have learned not to get too attached to things because like art life changes. Like art, when it is good know when to stop and not over work it.
61.What is the significance of repetion and compulsion? Are they essential to textile art?
Repetion can sometimes reflect habits; personality traits and sometimes they are purely aesthetic. I think that repition and compulsion can be a huge part of process when making. In certain types of textile art it is pattern is necessary, such as is in surface/pattern design. Without repition and compulsion there is not a pattern.
62. When does the ego enter into the art?
Definition EGO- the "I", self of any person
With this definition in mind, I think that the ego is indispensable to my work. Without my 'ego' there is the sense of self-lost through the work making it generic. The ego is part of what helps make the artwork, it's maker's work.