Bleeding for Art

I’m a little proud of myself today. I actually bled for my art, or rather through handling it. But despite it being a small cut on my left thumb (cuts from glass are no laughing matter regardless of size) somehow it felt that I had “suffered” for my art. And as we all know, suffering is one of the great sources of insight, so I’m bound to produce something stunning in the near future.

All joking aside, I was reflecting today on the daily grind of art making: the slow, the tedious, the mistakes and the setbacks. Over the past couple months, following the completion of my MFA, I’ve realized how frightfully easy it would be to simply stop. To not produce, but simply maintain the title of “artist” as a parlor trick or an interesting side note on my resume. It is hard work, all the more when I can’t be a “full-time” artist (and I realize that the vast majority of artists are in this boat with me), and it feels like I have to slip in little times throughout my day where I can think, create, and dream freely.

And yet, it would not be easy for me to fully stop. Despite the daily difficulties, the situational inconveniences (to make not mention of the financial drain) there is something that draws me unto it. Is it capital A “ART”? No, I think not for there is too little to be gained. My only conclusion is that it is something inherently within myself that is in fact drawing itself out; something that cannot remain within and yet is one of my essential components. There is the desire, the need to face problems and dream up solutions, to find something new and unique, to dwell on something I’ve visited 1,000 times in a new way, to give fresh eyes to those around me, to dig deeper than the surface, and to search for “why’s” and “what if’s”. The words I’m using don’t quite hit the mark for what I’ve been feeling recently, I only know that I cannot stop, not in a compulsive or even obsessive way (not that it cannot be that) but rather in a way that recognizes that if I am not creating work, I am not being who this world needs me to be.

That all really went on a bit of a tangent, but I think I like it, and what is the creative process if not a string of tangents that have been given sense. What I really intended today was to pose a bit of a question, but I must set the scene first. I was making some work today (transferring images to glass, hence the cut) which is very directly related to much of my thesis work. I’m dealing with the same ideas, using some of the same images even to create a piece that has many similar characteristics of my previous work, but has some added sensibility that I feel the others were lacking. But I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I need to do something different, riskier, or unexpected. But on the other hand I know the value of creating a cohesive body of work and that there can be as much value in continually confronting the familiar as there is in facing the unknown.

I remember looking at some artists work ( I regret that I cannot remember her name) that all revolved around one image. She had found one image, “the” image in her perspective (Barthes might have said that the punctum in that photo so pricked her that she never recovered). Each piece she created was of that one image, approached and rehashed in an attempt to reveal to the viewer what she sensed. So then my question is, what is the balance between a slow and steady progression of work versus traversing the excitement of the unknown. Is one more mature than the other, or even simply easier?

In parting, I’ll leave you with one quote from Cartier-Bresson in the book The Mind’s Eye that recently resonated with me.

It is true, too, that a certain identity is manifest in all the portraits taken by one photographer. The photographer is searching for the identity of his sitter, and also trying to fulfill an expression of himself. The true portrait emphasizes neither the suave nor the grotesque, but reflects the personality.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye, p.31

Bresson’s First Leica, “for me the camera is a sketch book”
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