Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Idea for a "Conceptual" Piece

This is an idea for submission to Changing Threads exhibition, due in a month from today. First off, I have to tell you my family has a pragmatic approach to death, so if I sound callous, you'll have to excuse me.  There were a lot of deaths, all natural but sudden, in my extended family throughout my youth, and my parents were between 10-ish and 18-ish during WWII, so death was something that always existed alongside life.  (Incidentally, in one of his CDs, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole said something similar about the Hawaiian culture.)

Everyone I've ever known who have passed on died illnesses, in hospitals or hospices, suddenly or after a short illness, but they all had normal lives right up until then. So when I realized Dad was very not-OK and could not live without assistance, and yet not exactly ill in the sense a doctor could administer drugs or procedures to "fix" him, I realized for the first time there was another kind of death, that of slowly loosing previously-normal abilities and gradually fading away. That's what aging means.  (All the health complaints I've had this side of 30 and 40 and especially 50, I now know, is a natural progression and by extrapolating the decline, I will get to where my folks are now.)  I guess un/sub-consciously I began to visualize this part of Dad's life as the bottom of an unravelling cloth, with bits and pieces of warps and wefts of different sizes hanging loosely or trying to stay with the still in-tact part of the cloth. And lots of browns.

But his live wasn't always like this, and I tried to see the top of that cloth, which must have started with his birth, simple, tightly woven and structured, in orange-red, the Chinese happy color.  That's followed by the various events in his life that I know of, and don't know of, popping up sporadically in the vastness of mundane, everyday life, many, many bits forgotten or remembered incorrectly. A long and vertical timeline.

Parts are narrower, parts are wider; parts are more brilliant than others, but mostly orderly, and somewhat predictable. So, perhaps a leaf-shape.

But Dad's work, which was his true love, hit a boom late in his life, a decade starting at 62 until retirement.  (Oh, gee, I don't know when exactly he retired!) So perhaps an elongated (because he is 84 now) no garlic or onion, with few roots hanging from the bottom.  

I want to make it long so that the top is so high you really can't see the details but the colors are saturated there is no mistake there's lots happening up there.  But the mundane and the forgotten, this is where Jo's idea of gaps, of unwoven warp sections, work well, I feel.

This is as far as I got.  I don't know if I'll use material other than regular wool/cotton yarns.  I don't know if I'll embellish/distress the cloth afterwards, but I am tempted to take a blow torch for one of his experiences. I don't know if I want to keep the width universal or variable, but I am keen to pull out some warps and wefts afterwards. To tell you the truth, I don't want to make it too "arty" because that is not me, and that is so not him, but I do still want to make it an interesting piece to look at, and I don't know if I can differentiate it from "another one of those hangy things".

I have a working title of "Professor, Father, Patient", because these three seem to be the significant assignments he took up. He was an avid traveler, too, later in his life, but I haven't decided if/how to work that in; he was the kind of traveler who loved marking routes on the map; the more cities, the more mileage he covered, the happier, which is different from the kind of travels Ben and I, and for that matter Mama, enjoy.

Having written this much, recently I've become more and more comfortable with being a maker of "just" pretty things. (And that word "just" could have gone into so many different places in the previous sentence.) Yesterday during the meeting, I couldn't be bothered with "What is Art" discussion.  I'd like my piece to be selected for shows, but if what I make may not be deemed art, but "mere" craft, I'm not fussed.  And the thought liberates me to concentrate on what I make.  Which is about time.

So the most difficult part of this project is going to be how far outside my usual aesthetic I want to venture; how graphically I want to depict Dad's life.

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