Saturday, July 30, 2005

Icarus


Here's my newest piece. It's 6'x3' and is the one in our show at the Wedge Gallery in Asheville, which is only up for a week. It's about Icarus, and safety equipment. Don't try this at home- I don't want to get sued.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

If this is heaven…

I’ll watch movies in hell, or at least purgatory. Today was our movie-watching marathon with artist/jeweler Dan Jocz, by which I mean we had to watch 3 of the following 4 titles: The Princess and the Warrior, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Days of Heaven, and Heaven. Of these, I skipped McCabe, only because it was one of the rare absolutely beautiful days we’ve had this summer, and I had to go biking.

Well, the idea of watching all these films is that we also have to listen to John Coltrane and read a book, and by the end of August write how these things all tied together. I know that if I don’t put down my thoughts on these movies now, I’ll have forgotten them by, well, this weekend, let alone in 1 ½ months. Truth be told, I’ve never been prone to liking dramas, and these were all just too slow for me. I also found that the characters, and especially the odd romances between the leads in all these films, were not engaging or even believable. And in Days of Heaven, I was absolutely groaning at the obviousness and overplayed cuteness of the little-girl-with-the-funny-accent narrator. Of the three, Heaven was the most enjoyable, and The Princess and the Warrior was watchable (except for the street tracheotomy scene,) but none of them would I watch again.

So, I am admittedly very picky about movies (and everything else,) but aside from that, what did these films have in common? Well, the lead characters were all likable criminals. People who, although you question their judgment, you (sorta) trust their hearts. Their romances were all based on circumstantial meetings which could be seen as strong coincidence or karmic intervention, depending on your take. They were all fated to doom from the start, yet oddly enough, they ended well (if you call life on the lam well) in 2 of the 3 cases. There was, to me, a sense in these films that the director was trying to say: if you are a good person, or bad for a good reason, then falling in love can somehow redeem you. Sometimes a movie can pull this off (Bonnie and Clyde) but it didn’t work for me here. Maybe the characters were all a little too relativistic- too easily willing to yield common human values while selfishly pursuing their romances. Yeah, that’s it- that’s what bugged me about these films. I mean, I don’t really like dramas or romance films, but it wasn’t that- it was this moral relativism. Not that I even remotely mind a non-black-and-white view of the world, but these films didn’t have the strength in their characters that can make it work (like in Bonnie and Clyde.) It also didn’t help that the characters showed very little remorse for their actions, and when they did, they mostly still got away with it in the end, without having to sacrifice much- the primary losses they faced were of those around them dying, while they themselves lived on.

Well, I hope this is enough to jog my memory when I have to write about these films again next month. Because I’m not re-watching them; although maybe I should watch McCabe and Mrs. Miller; since no one else liked it, I probably would.

By the way, I am aware that the links above give all these films glowing reviews, but that don't mean they're right! Look what they said about Ed Wood- oh, wait, that's not a good example.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Criticizing critiques


Well, I think this will probably end up as the most rambly of my entries for this blog assignment. As everyone here in the WCU Master’s Program knows, it’s been a long exhausting week. So I think instead of a mini-essay like usual, I’d like to express my thoughts on critiques and their usefulness.

I have a pen pal (yes people still write letters) in Japan who is also a student, and I was trying to explain to her what a critique was, since it’s, as far as I know, unique to the art school world. I realized, in attempting to explain using non-technical terms she’d understand, that most of my description was negative. Yet I do feel that critiques are an integral and important part of art school. I’ve learned a lot about my work, how to talk about it, how it relates to other art and to the viewer… and I’ve learned how to talk about other people’s work, not to mention learning formal art terms- so is it just that critiques are difficult like an exam, and that’s why they can be so exhausting? I think as any artist who’s been through one knows there’s a much deeper issue than that. I don’t know any artist who doesn’t feel that their work is a part of their soul, an idea to which they gave birth, an extension of their own existence. Criticism will come, but it can be crushing to hear it about something so personal. Even compliments can be tough, as they can steer an artist into a sense of security- which brings me to another point.

Today in our group crits a mention was made several times of “being on an edge” in one way or another. This phrase has several connotations, and I think that in art, one edge exists between security and unknowing. Yes, great art is part instinct. Art can be mimicked by learning, but the good stuff has some intangible quality that can never be taught. So good critiques can foster a sense of security in ones direction- can teach us to trust our instincts even; but in my experience, real breakthroughs usually only come when one is entirely uncomfortable, when one is pushed to the limit of their understanding and endurance. So in some ways, bad critiques can be better than good ones…

I suppose what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Maybe that’s a depressing thought on its face, but in art, you have to be strong to stay on that edge. And the edge is where it all happens.