Saturday, November 18, 2006

Looking for a New Way of Looking at Things

A statement which has been bugging me since November 9, (but I thought it had been weeks, months!): "Authenticity is not honesty, but that is a part of it. It surely is not good taste, in fact it may be just the opposite." To this, I responded: "After reading this post for the seventh or eighth time, yes, of course, you're right, but why did it sound so untrue the first several times? I haven't had art education since 9th grade, but was I somehow somewhere grilled this?" At first I even thought him arrogant.

He also declares: ""As an artist I am searching for comfort in pure formalism, but I cannot help slip into autobiographic abstraction." To which I asked: "Is the autobiographic element what makes your art authentic? And in turn, how can I include autobiographic elements into my craft?"

Because, for now, my big question is originality/creativity. To repeat what I blogged just two weeks ago, there is nothing new under the sun as regards weaving. Textiles woven in the latest, spiffiest weaves on gazillion-shaft-computer-operated looms have been done with sticks and fingers somewhere, sometime, by to-us known weavers, and the new tools are sometimes invented to recreate old textile, quickly and with great ease to us. These restrictions are also what allows me to participate in the fringes of 'art'. If we are honest, we weavers, we only combine different elements of weaving (colors, textures, yarn types, weaves, finishes, ornaments, end-uses) and call it our own.

To him, I want to scream: "You cannot possibly leave out, or even think of leaving out, your autobiographic elements from your art!" and yet, for me, I am not sure what is mine and what is borrowed from my known and unknown predecessors and colleagues.

He is the one who started this.


  1. One is sure of the textures of the paper and the cloth.the canvass. The frequency of the colors. One is sure of the quality of the wool. When one moves beyond this into allegory, and tale-telling it becomes a physical falsehood... yet it is true on another level.

    (Sorry if I seem arrogant)


  2. Frequency, as in wave length, or occurrences? Soooo... all symbols are physical falsehood on one level? I don't have problems with arrogance, but you have to talk to me like you're talking to a three-year old!

    Say I DID want to express something in a scarf, say... a wonderful childhood memory of a day at the beach, light on moral, heavy on sentiment. And I design and weave and finish a shawl. Woven textile, when it's still just warp and weft, is netty, unstable and sometimes downright ugly. Particularly with wool, wet finishing (wash, rinse, wash, rinse, press, stretch, press, dry - or some such combination - almost like controlled felting), it becomes a cloth, a textile, so much more than the sum of its parts and actually a totally different beast, and it's at that stage that I want to see the warmth of the day at the beach, or even the coolness of the water at around 4.30pm at the beach and yet I'm refusing to come out, to appear, at least to me.

    So, when one moves beyond this into allegory (to me, that's weaving and especially wet finishing), the tale-telling it (me trying to recreate the memory via my shawl) ummm.... my intentions becomes a physical falsehood? Or the Shawl is not equal to my memory/my telling of it?

    But the shawl IS a representation - I can't, even with words or with pictures or even with smell - can't convey MY memory because that's nothing but my memory. Or are you saying I just have bad memory? Because I do; I have a memory of a dried, shriveled pea!

    Do please be a little less mysterious and use more words!

  3. First you must realize that I am as much of a child as my writing indicates. It has always been a problem, or a strength.
    Next, I approached the idea of 'authenticity' for reasons quite different than you. And probably a little simplistic.
    I have been somewhat bitter over the gentificaion of my neighborhood. I live in a place called "Cottagewood" in a 90+ year old cottage. Very much an artist's home. We have a lovely acre of woods and we are on a penninsula jutting into Lake Minnetonka. Recently the homes and lots around us are being bought up, and multi-million dollar mansions are filing in. Hardly cottages. I guess that is life. But it is foreign to me.
    At the same time I have struggled to keep my sense of simplicity in life, in music and art. I think of the sincerity of the rough childhood "garage bands". Cheap guitars, and amplifiers. Poor training if any. Mostly poor kids. Yet the music had awkward sincerety and rawness to it that I love. That is my art- except for the training- I have had plenty. So perhaps it is time I confronted this dichotomy... I am resistant.
    So I approach my art. Watercolors and brushes, or drawing utensils, on very basic (but expensive!) papers. Sometimes canvass...which I prime and treat in such a manner that you will not put an elbow through it in a mere 80 years. And I draw. Additive and reductive, I sometimes employ a knife to assualt the surface.
    I tell visual stories. But it can be pedantic and self-indulgent. - So I struggle.

    It is late.

  4. Felix,
    I'm quite surprised, because my friends have been looking for a new house and just this summer they found a beautiful place in Minnetonka, with a not-so-small, but old and old-fashioned house, and a bit of wooded area. They could have afforded it, I think, and her partner in particular would have thrived in the environment, but in the end they decided not to, because they would not have been a good match with the other people who were buying up similar properties and doing exactly what you're saying.

    On the other hand, if I recall, back when we were first in Minnesota in the early 60's, AND then when I was in school in the late 70's, Minnetonka was always at the highest end (probably even more so than Edina) so I'm a bit surprised that there are still pieces of Minnetonka left to buy.

    But then that's happening all over the place; in the last five years or so, proper farms (sheep, fruit orchard, not sure what else) have all but disappeared from the Nelson and the southern half of Tasman region, and they have all been cut up into "Lifestyle blocks". And people who can afford to do that, (in Nelson's case, mostly from overseas) can afford to live nicely, so it's pushed up the cost of living quickly. However, Nelson is such a nice place to live and people want to live here at all costs, so employers get a way with what's known as "sunshine wages". Yup, low wage, pretty high cost of living, lots of sun. It doesn't help that I'm a woman of leisure, but if we moved to the larger cities, the price of houses aren't too much more than in Nelson, but the wages are better.

    What we'll call the "cottagy" life, that of champion amateurs and wannabes if I may call it that, some of which end up doing pretty well, outside-the-square thinkers, etc., New Zealand still does very well at that, in almost all aspects of life, especially outside the main cities. Sometimes it's referred to as the Number 8 Wire mentality; this country didn't have a lot of imports until the late 80's so either companies/people made things, or they did without; Number 8 wire is what was/is used on farm fences. Though times have changed and the city streets look like any old big city in the world, Kiwis still try to make/fix things on their own first, and in fact, a wife saying "I'm paying someone to do it" is considered a big threat. You might actually enjoy living in NZ, Felix.

    I'm loosing the train of thought, or getting so far off the track I'm not sure how to get back. But in light of what you said about the changing faces of Minnetonka, I can begin to get a sense of what you said physical falsehood; but then it could be just the 'new' face of the place, and even further down the line, in 100 years, Minnesotans (if they are still called that then) might wonder what all the fuss (of development) was about, much like the cycle that dictates the development of any central city area. (Am I on track?)

    A sense of simplicity in life - again, you're not alone. I've come to view my married life as trying to limit purchases and getting rid of things as best I can - and that's not just about consumerism but there is too much physical/emotional/psychological clutter in my house, in life, and in my head, and every year I aim to simplify my life, and it seems the first measure that comes to mind is to simplify my living environment and get rid of things. I think I'm a simple, practical person, and if the room is clean and free of clutter, I feel I can concentrate better. My beloved, however, has an extraordinary ability to maintain peace of mind anywhere, any time, (he can sleep anywhere also!) that he doesn't need physical simplicity. For the last three to four years, I have not been able to talk him into cleaning the study, because we simply have too many books and computer equipment, but have not been able to because the clutter doesn't bother him. De Botton said minimalism came into fashion because there are many who seek simplicity of mind; I could have told you that 10 years ago. I know simplicity of life isn't just about the physical, but to me, at least, it helps.

    I've never been a person living in the hear and the now, so I appreciate the amount of attention required to weave; at least at that moment, I am there and in the "then", and I don't have too much energy to recall stupid things I've done in the past or plan ahead, one of my biggest vices/virtues. That ability to concentrate on the here and the now, to me, is part of what I consider simplifying my life, I think.

    I'm starting to get a bit confused now, so I'll leave you with this thought tonight. Back either in the late 70's or early 80's, someone observed life in Japan then, and said in 10 years (probably around 1970-79) we all experienced technological and social changes that used to occur over three generations or 100 years; life in the 80's would change even quicker, and that's why we were so tired, angry, and were seeing sudden death among the young. THAT was in the good old 80's, Felix.

    Having had said that, it's not all bad. I was overjoyed to discover email and chatting in the mid 80's (I used to work for a computer company, so though they were called something else, we all had these within the company) just when I was reading 1984. So there must be ways to simplify life, without necessarily returning to or maintaining "old" ways; as in discovering/creating a new kind of simplicity? (No, I'm not talking about gated communities and such!!!)

    More tomorrow, then. 'Night.


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