Firstly, one of the most unexpected pieces of knowledge I have gained through my higher education experience is an understanding of the significance of art in civilization. Most importantly, the thing that I believe, the thing that I have come to understand, is that art is a powerful voice for those who seek change. I have always questioned why art has so much less presence in academic curriculum than I recall in my grade school days. I believe there is a power in art that is feared.
The Art of Protest from INDECLINE on Vimeo.
Watching this assignment was refreshing and inspiring for me, as protest/activism is the purpose of my artwork currently. The maker of this film, INDECLINE, suggests through The Art of Protest that it is essential we do something, when there is an apparent existential threat to humanity. They tell the viewer that art is effective, and why and how art can be used in defense against something that is such a threat.
I enjoyed the collection of vignettes which painted for us the notion that there are artists taking on the charge to defend. As they shared with us their motivations and their methods, we are left to take from it the idea that perhaps there is hope. I find myself encouraged to push harder to reach out beyond my fear of rocking the boat, and grab onto the idea that status quo acceptance of divisive politics = destruction.
We talked about some relevant and interesting works that are permanently installed out in the Marfa, TX area. Works that I probably would benefit from seeing. I took that as a suggestion that seeing these installations might help me understand how the pieces were working together, and perhaps help me figure out my perceived dilemmas
I did not have any work progress in hand to share with the professor at the time of our conversation...but he still understood enough to suggest that I look at an artist by the name of Charles Woodman...and he let me know that I could reach out to him whenever I needed to follow up.
Visiting Artist: Melissa Rebholtz
The moral of the story is that similarly for us in our studios, we can examine, explore, and investigate...however, there will always be some form of risk or challenge that we will likely have to leap into. Sometimes we will learn only what not to do, and other times we may even find that we are in a happy place, unexpectedly and would not have arrived there any other way.
About artist Wayne White, who is best known for his set design and puppet work on The Pee Wee Herman Show. We get a look at White’s more recent work: he paints-in text upon found cheap landscape paintings. Pithy statements such as “We Were Partyin At The Lake And This Girl Starts Freakin Out.” Many critics do not side with the idea that these works are worthy of White's talent, however, the film seems to be bent on suggesting that the works deserve to be looked at as some of White's best work. In fact, these paintings are compared to Ed Rusha's text paintings, and claim that White's are superior because of the level of witticism. However, many other artists who are known for their text-centered artworks go unmentioned.
It's an easy going chatty biography, narrated sui generis by the man himself. In general, the bulk of the film is your standard hagiographic glaze, in chronological order: none of the people he grew up around understood what art or artists were; success is neither sustainable nor easy; his wife avows her undying dedication, giving up her career in order to raise their kids. And in the end, well...see for yourself.
/cue "Rabbit Hole"
What does this mean to me?
Admittedly, this is a late post! I feel remiss but do not regret it. I could have looked at some websites and some images and written some words that would only refer to the academic or intellectual component of my discoveries and exposures. However, I don't think that this was the purpose of the exercise; more to the point, I don't think I would benefit from leaving it at that.
I spend a considerable amount of time in 'rabbit holes,' naturally. In other words, it is my nature to investigate a moment's inspiration and discovery to an unexpected place. Unfortunately, it makes me sort of odd amongst most of my friends and family. I am most likely to be the one to point out some esoteric aspect or 'fun fact' about something. But, I love raising questions about all of what we find generally accepted perspectives on various subjects. But I digress.
I had to first respond to the idea of where to find the 'rabbit holes' I would venture down. The worldwide web is not where I get most of my inspiration these days. But I did try to find some paths to wander down. Then, after trying for a few days to find some holes to drop into, I realized that what I do spend time doing does qualify as going down these paths of connection, reference, and discovery.
If I could review my YouTube and Vimeo time, it would be scary how much time I spent in there. As my vision condition has been significantly worsening over the past two to three years, I have been more inclined to listen to books and watch videos. However, this has not represented a significant inhibitor to my inspiration and knowledge growth. There is so much educational content on those platforms. And then there is also Art21 History, Kanopy, and many other resources when I need to find something specific. I have even dragged my wife into many a 'rabbit hole' with me. I'm not sure I know how to talk about the holes, however.
Professor Vaughn Wascovich is very consistent in his effort to get his students, be they, undergrad or graduate, to seek out inspiration. Looking at work is undoubtedly always encouraged by every faculty member I've ever met, but it's Wascovich's signature conversation. Indeed, I owe my confidence in creating successful works as an artist to all of the faculty who have suggested that exercise and to Vaughn for his insistence. I don't think that I've ever needed to be cajoled regarding looking at work...but sometimes other things seem to take priority.
My most recent experience was driven by my desire to labor more successfully with presenting my body in a sculptural form. I started with my face and wanted to dig deeper. However, I was stuck in the realm of realism. That is until one day while I was watching some teaching content on creating natural or realistic busts in clay.
Interestingly, when I looked at the suggested list of videos that popped up after the one I was watching ended, I saw something that reminded me of a piece that I made in undergrad school. I had created a piece I called 'Walking Man.' I saw a video thumbnail featuring a surrealistic image of what looked like my walking man, but with head and body. A stick figure of a man walking. I had to click on it. My introduction to that sculpture resonated with an aesthetic inside me that I was unaware was emerging. It was a video about the work of Alberto Giacometti.
As I looked at video after video about the man and his work, I recalled that I'd seen a trio of his pieces, these emaciated-looking figures, with a stoic expression and an odd sense of realism despite how surreal they were, at the Nasher. He suddenly came to life in my heart, his work or the passion in it seems so much a natural part of my sensibilities...the videos about Giacometti were typically connected to videos about Brancusi, Shutte, Calder, and many others from the first half of the 20th century.
I could go on talking about the discoveries...most of which were not really new names as much as they were somehow put into a different light before me. It seems that one must continue to go back to review works and artists that they may have seen before. What appears to be happening for me right now is that the pieces are encountering a different Robert. I see them differently in many ways.
I've been thinking about and seeking a greater degree of expressiveness since 2018, when I realized there was a part of me that was locked away. Many things were going on at that time that helped me to understand this about myself. I did not want to make art to make something that may qualify as art but to make something that is art. Not to open up the debate here, but I will go ahead and share that I believe that art intrinsically is inclusive of a voice on behalf of the artist. In this way, art speaks. What does it say, and is anyone going to listen? So I set out to discover what I have to say and make my works express on my behalf, hoping that all comes together and they say something others will be attracted toward. Along those lines, Giacometti's sculptures and his drawings have sparked a sense in me that I can allow gesture to appear in my work and that I should explore that more.
Art of Rule or Risk...
So the question has been posed, and after brief consideration I realized just how little I knew of myself in the context of understanding what are my rules, and what are the risks around the art I make. It makes sense to talk about the risks first, as I believe my rules are borne out of a consideration of the risks.
There is a risk that my works will be fall on deaf ears (pardon the metaphor);
my work may be too much for those who are tired of hearing about issues they do not understand;
my work may be perceived as playing the race card;
my work refers to issues that the audience believes are not real, or are over stated;
the works will not achieve the level of aesthetic expression I aim for;
I may lose my way, not be on message and get caught up in doing a thing;
I may run out of ideas or ways that I believe I can effectively express my narrative;
I may be in over my head in trying to address a certain aspect of my key narrative;
I may not be able to adequately explain a decision or a basis for an aspect of a piece of work;
a viewer may completely misinterpret my work or its narrative.
I need to pre-visualize the resulting work.
The work needs to express details of my narrative.
I need to understand the medium in a way that makes me believe that I can control the final.
Each piece needs to have an aesthetic I believe will draw in a general audience.
Each piece of work needs to have at least one dynamic characteristic.
Each piece must relate to at least one other in an exhibition of my works (no one-off).
Each piece needs to reflect reality, or have a strong connection to the general rules of reality.
Nothing is successful if it's not successful.
I need to produce what I set out to produce as opposed to what comes out of the effort.
I need to be able to explain every choice and result.
5 Inspiring Artists...
My artist inspirations were static for a long time. However, in this past year or so, I have come to realize that there will be many inspirations, and some will only connect for me when I am in a particular creative head-space. Given that basis, these are a few of my current inspirations.
Author Sarah Knight has written this book with an apparent intention of empowering a person to become more effective in their endeavors; take control of their life in general, and work toward what they envision for their life.
With abundant use of colorful language, Knight takes an irreverent approach in defining scenarios and circumstances that may exemplify a life with which she presumes her reader will likely identify. Commensurately, she spends a significant part of her book defining archetypes and allegorical circumstances with which someone somewhere will probably fit.
The archetypes are drawn from characters that a reader might be familiar with or easily reference. She uses those characters to talk about ways people can be ineffective or otherwise fail at controlling their success or failure in life. However, she focuses on classic issues and characteristics of ineffectiveness and oversight that are mostly common to youth and general immaturity. There is no new ground broken in her discussions.
The author gives the reader a constant flow of profane four-letter words and characterizes behaviors as simply personality traits of cartoon characters. This tone is somewhat monotonous besides, at times, deriding. I am not trying to imply that everything helpful has to be fed to a reader in a coddling fashion. However, Knight suggests succeeding at being productive in a way that substantively manifests one's vision of themselves is simply the act of growing up and flipping a switch. Unfortunately, while this strategy may be appropriate advice for the average young adult, it lacks depth for any broader use.
Visiting Artist: Dina Brodsky
Painter and Instagram influencer, Dina didn't spend a lot of time promoting or talking at all about her artwork but slammed the books down on the table when she launched into the list of benefits of understanding Instagram, what she does with it, and a short-list of things not to do on it.
It quickly became apparent that she was not going to give away the farm, as she informed us that this is a primary means of income for her, presenting "Instagram for Artists " workshops... However, she did offer a portion of her guidelines regarding the correct use of hashtags and a couple of other things not to do. In addition, she was unabashedly critical of using Instagram accounts for relating your intimate thoughts on the same account that you wish to present your professional work as an artist. "No cookies and puppies," she said!
After her presentation, I was ready to sign up for the one-day event. However, this would not be a good time since I would not have time to put the new knowledge to use immediately. Ironically, it didn't matter that I could not benefit from signing up right now since she had no openings in any planned upcoming workshops. Therefore, I have to wait for the next set of scheduled events and hope to get a place in one of them.
Since she didn't speak about anything else, there isn't much else to say. In fact, she diminished her work significantly and said she didn't sell much. Nevertheless, it was still worth meeting her.
Spring 2022 Academic Plan...
aThis semester is one that I hope to be extremely productive during. The concepts and ideas are flowing, and I know I cannot do it all, but I hope to do much more than others expect of me. Also, I am aiming for my works to be more intentionally loose or formal.
If a piece is supposed to be tight and formal, I want it to reach that goal, and vice-versa. Which means I have to consider and address what factors affect that goal. Joining Dallas Makerspace is one such addressing measure I have taken.
This spring I have a goal to begin producing a collection of smaller pieces, more videos, and more photography in order to have more works which will be more practical to submit to calls for art.
Work I have already begun will produce two large sculptural pieces, and two smaller sculptures, one video, and one graphic piece. There might be a couple of other smaller pieces, as I am allowing myself to occasionally be distracted toward something, some medium that seems to present itself as an opportunity. The graphic piece is an example of that. As I was sketching out ideas, one particular investigation of a tessellating pattern and the iconography that I am introducing came together in an unexpected way. And so I will attempt to create a formal piece of work based on that sketch. Then, in the summer, I have two paintings, another video and, some photographs I will complete.
Ultimately, I am pursuing this degree in order to develop the thinking that will result in my ability to create interesting and thought or conversation inspiring works. The degree is not the thing.
Rob J Phillips