Monday, September 29, 2014

Levels of Motivation

This is the second part of two posts meant to address my process and thoughts on the development of this body of work. This one concentrates primarily on the large painted sculpture, "Stance"

So often during the sabbatical show someone would mention something that was triggered by the work and I’d feel surprised then think about it and realize it was part of another level of motivation that I hadn’t seen before. It’s been like that since I started the drawings. It’s probably the most mysterious body of work I’ve ever done in terms of how little I knew about why I was doing it. The need to do a large figure emerged as I was doing the bowls. I wanted to paint the surface,  create the illusion of decaying external layers to question the preoccupation with the external self. It took a month to hand build the figure, using coils from the bottom up smoothing and shaping and getting a sense of what I would be painting on it as it grew. I knew it would be subject to some cracking because it took so long and it was hard to keep it drying at the same rate, but just like the bowls I was welcoming whatever happened as a way to get me started, by mimicking the things that happened naturally. During the time I was doing it I was driven by the challenge to materialize something I needed to see. It was more exhilarating than anything I’d ever done because it was so hard. That might be why the attitude achieved after balancing the difficulties feels as good as it does. Understanding has been accomplished, a new perspective reached. The title “Stance” comes from something that Viktor Frankl wrote in "Man’s Search for Meaning". He said the meaning of life was in what you took from life, what you gave to life and the stance you took toward what you can’t change. That was the part I’ve been thinking about ever since. Philosophically what I was looking at while I was working on "Stance" was the transitory nature of the physical self. Now in my sixties I think about the limitations of the body and futility of trying to hold on to past selves. I use many layers and try to get the form within to strain against them suggesting that we shed the older skin as we grow like molting. That attachment to the previous skin inhibits inner growth. So my conscious ideas while working had more to do with bringing out the consciousness within.
We live in a world where we breathe the air of marketing constantly. It conditions people to put too much emphasis on the external self which is then shoved into an external category.  I’ve been using genderless gray figure since the 1980s to avoid any categorization other than person. Facial expression and body language show something of the inner life, something true of our experience. Even with the growth and change over many years, something about the internal self  feels constant, and science has given no evidence that consciousness  is  bounded by the body. 
Since "Stance" has been displayed I’ve learned much more about what I was doing that I was completely unconscious of at the time. It’s one of the best things about visual ideas, they can hold so much. In his Ted Talk Adam Savage said,“Things stick around for years before you find out why you’re interested in it” . When someone told me that they were so disturbed by the show they had nightmares, that all the trauma I’d been holdng inside finally burst out, I saw something more going on that I had to acknowledge was true even though I hadn't realized it. Seeing it is an opportunity for personal learning but also reflects how visual structures show the essential character of feeling and offer stimulus to the imaginations of others.. So whatever these long buried imbalance were that were being addressed, the ideas that grow from this particular visual philosophy are wide ranging and now belong to the viewers.

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