I was at the point where I was going to break this morning. I was feeling as though I had completely lost control and focus, and that I was never going to accomplish anything. I was so tense it was insane. And then I decided I wanted a doughnut. But not just any doughnut, I decided to have one from Donut Kingdom. So after my slog at the gym this morning, I scooted on over to the tiny joint. Oh god. It was the most amazing thing ever. I had a doughnut and coffee, and suddenly everything was OK again. Somehow that doughnut magically granted me the mental fortitude and emotional strength to get through my day. In fact I had a smile on my face the rest of the day. All because I sat down to eat that sugary, diet destroying breakfast treat at an icky Formica table. I don’t know why, but for those few, quiet moments, I experienced transcendence.
Maybe this means I should start eating my feelings again?
Then again, maybe not…
I don’t think it’s been a secret that I’ve been a little on the edge lately. I have been working incredibly hard on a number of things to prepare myself for reviews next week. Namely the videos that I worked on trying to shoot last week… *Sigh* Additionally, I’ve been putting together a scholarship application and several show submissions to hopefully get my new work exhibited some where other than Working Method.
All of this has been for the single reason that I intend to exceed my committee’s expectations completely. And no, this isn’t a joke about my crazy expectations/anxieties/failures. I’m for realz yo. At the risk of sounding paranoid and semi crazy, I feel as though there is a great deal riding on this review. I want to prove to them at the outset, during this first “official” review, that I want to be here, I deserve to be here, and that I have what it takes to achieve the goals they set for me and that I set for myself. Needless to say, I’ve been driving myself up the wall trying to do all of this.
I’ve accomplished the majority of what I planned to do. I have finished shooting and editing 2 of the three videos I planned, I did a second performance, I applied for a scholarship to attend a conference in the spring, and had have submitted works into three shows. But I haven’t finished the project they wanted me to finish, and two other things I started early in the semester have fallen by the wayside and no progress has been made on them since my last committee meeting.
In any event, new images of the performance I did last week, as well as the other things I’m tinkering about with soon. Hopefully some video too.
Do you ever feel like no matter what you do you’re thwarted? Despite the fact that you’ve made a good or right decision, or that no matter how good your intentions everything just fails? Yeah. That’s me right now.
Here. Look at some studio pics.
My studio is a disaster right now. It’s driving me crazy. It’s so messy that it’s overflowed (ha! water joke!) into the space next to my studio. I hate messy spaces. I find them distracting. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re WORKING ON SIX MILLION THINGS AT ONCE. Ok, I’m not working on that many things, but it feels like it. I’m used to working on one project at a time, and this is confusing/overwhelming for me. But my committee head thinks that this is a good thing for me. I don’t know about that. I might just lose my mind as a result. I’ll keep y’all posted.
OK, maybe not really Diane Rehm style, as I don’t have an amazing radio show to which I can invite intelligent experts to discuss things in a civilized manner, but I can do my week in review!
Awe, who am I kidding, there’s no comparison. Diane wins. But that doesn’t mean you can leave!
(I’ve always wanted to say that!)
So what did go on this week?…
I started my week off bright at early with a 9:30 am committee review Monday. That meant I had to be up by 6:30 (I am not a morning person…even with coffee) and out the door by 8. Ugh. In any event, if you remember in my last post I said I had committee reviews right then and there, but that only 1/3 of my committee would be present. Yeah. I wasn’t lying. 2 of my 3 members didn’t show up, so I had to reschedule a meeting with the 2 lazy bums who didn’t show. (Just kidding! No one on my committee are lazy bums, they just had other obligations! Don’t hit me! I love my committee!!!!) So I had that. And I feel like it went pretty well. They gave me some good feedback, and it was actually a good energizer for the week as an entirety. It also helped give some directions to a few things I’ve been floundering on a little bit.
As a result of my reviews, I had A LOT of things to think about and work through. The first of which was something I’d already been pondering, which was how I define failure, success, perfection and expectations. These are things that have been running through my mind since my studio visit with James Elkins, but my committee gave me a few more insights and ways to approach the problem. I started by going back to the dictionary and thesaurus to see what the actual definitions to these words are, and now I’m trying to trace the meanings these words back to my own interpretations to see how the line up, and perhaps find out where my versions originated. Then maybe I can understand what these words mean to me. If that makes any sense to you. I also had a professor suggest that I look at the way my family defines these terms and see how that impacts my understandings. I plan on sitting down to do that soon.
I also fried my brain reading song lyrics and poetry trying to find something to replace the excerpt from Art & Fear I used in …expectations lie… I’m looking for something that is subtle, but much more relatable (Huh. WordPress doesn’t think that’s a word. Interesting), about expectations and/or failure. The excerpt I used was, while technically appropriate, refers to a very particular, closed system, and I want something more widely applicable. My committee whole heartedly agrees. There were some crazy suggestions flying, like finding a country song, because those are all about failure…. Um, yeah. I don’t know so much about that. (I can’t stand country music). Anyone have any suggestions? I need to find something soon, because I have plans to re-shoot that video with in the next week. I want to have the new version edited and finished for my November 9th reviews. I have considered using Ben Folds Five’s song Brick, because it has always made me think of failure and expectations, but I’m not so sure. I did a couple of test shots, and it just doesn’t seem to flow well. Perhaps because it’s written to be sung, or perhaps because I think I sound weird. Who knows for sure? No, I do know… it’s less about me hearing my own voice, and more about the sound of the words as spoken units. It’s also awkward that it’s from a male point of view, and it is being recited by a female. Oh the troubles of my life…
Moving on, as Ms. Rehm would say.
I did something I love this week… Going to the library! I do absolutely love going to the library. I am a nerd like that. Libraries are totally awesome. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for pleasure. It was all business. I went to look for books on failure (which are surprisingly few) and perfection (there seem to be many). This is my current reading list:
While I love to read, and these books are really interesting… It takes FOREVER for me to get through books anymore. I barely have time to read most days. BUT I must read all of these by my next set of reviews. That is my goal. I want to glean what I can from these books and see if I can apply anything to my work.
It hit me this week how much I love making things. I realize that sounds odd coming from an artist, but I don’t often get to make things anymore. One of the things I find hardest about doing performance work, is that when I am finished, I have nothing to show for it, except maybe some photos or a video. There is no concrete, physical object. Now, I’m not saying that you must make objects to be an artist, but (for me) there is something satisfying about having a final product to show for all of the (occasional) blood, (profuse, literal and metaphorical) sweat, and (inevitably for me) tears. It also makes me fee like I did something besides think a lot and then do something that perhaps in another context would simply be a normal, every day action. Besides, it’s cool to make it look like my studio is a buzzing hub of activity. I’m trying to find a balance in my work, to where I can do performance, but there is still a object generation component as well. It’s tricky…
Needless to say, I don’t often need to make things in my studio, which is slightly troublesome, since working elsewhere is distracting. BUT when I do get to, I get all giddy and intense (like camping). I also love going to the hardware store for these projects and pretending like I know what I’m looking for/doing. And that my friends, is exactly what I did today so that I could build this:
What is it you ask? Well… It’s for a video I’m working on. What can I say, Kate Gilmore inspired me. I kid you not, I spent hours watching her videos on Tuesday. I’ll have more pictures and hopefully some video up here soon. I’ve been trying to shoot this video for awhile now but keep hitting road blocks, like reflections, EVERYWHERE. No joke y’all. I had to spray paint my tripod matte black because of all the reflections I’m getting. I literally had to leave my studio yesterday because I was getting so frustrated with it. I will be attempting it again tomorrow.
I’m working on some liquid light tests for my old friends, the Flawless prints… It’s going.. slowly, but surely…I feel like I could spend the next five years trying to make these work. I had it suggested that I should do them as cyanotypes instead of using liquid light… Damnit. Why didn’t I think of that?! Oh, that’s right, because I have next to no familiarity with alternative processes… FAIL. We’ll see what happens. I had a little brain flash in relation to these the other day, so it might work out after all.
Speaking of photo processes… Remember how I waxed poetic about how I love photography? Well… I still do, no worries there. In fact, I (finally) get to start teaching photo in the spring here at FSU. Awesome. I found out, not through an official announcement, but via an email from a non-art major student who wants to take my class. I feel like there is a metaphor for my life in there somewhere…
So that was the weekly round up. Not nearly as cool as the Friday Diane Rehm show, but I can always pretend right? Like when I pretend I am Julia Child or Jacques Pepin while I’m cooking. Everything tastes better that way.
Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long now… I’m not joking when I say I barely had time to sleep the last few weeks.
So where did I leave off? Ah yes. The performance I am temporarily titling “…expectations lie…”. You can view a 10 minute video clip of the performance here. The over all performance was about 45 minutes, and I’ve edited the video to reflect that time lapse a little bit. I’m not totally happy with the documentation, but that’s OK. I plan on recreating this as a video piece in it’s own right.
Anyway, as I discussed before it was my intent for this piece to center around the idea of expectations versus reality and some what self destructive behaviors. Now that I think back about it, the reason the 500 Days of Summer sequence was sticking in my mind was because it was an example of an internal or mental set up of expectations. Many of my pieces thus far have focused on externalphysical actions, that didn’t necessarily portray the psychological aspect of what I was attempting to address. And subconsciously I must have realized this because as I brainstormed, I began trying to find ways to impede or damage myself mentally. Well, I came up with the idea to attempt to recite something, flawlessly of course, and for each mistake that I made, I would be forced to take a shot (of vodka). For me, it was the perfect representation of frustration in action. Trying to do something, over and over again, but failing each time, and chastising yourself each time, makes it harder and harder to live up to you own expectations. So I ran with it…even though it seemed like a really bad idea for my liver. But then again, I didn’t really expect to drink as much as I wound up drinking…
I won’t bore you with the exact details, but it took me almost a week to come up with something appropriate for the recitation…I finally settled on an excerpt from a book entitled Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
It’s the tiny bit at the bottom of page 34 through to the second full paragraph on page 35. To be completely honest, I’m still not 100% happy with what I chose, as it’s a bit too theoretical and screams “Art!” I am still looking for something more subtle and applicable to all types of expectations, not just the ones that relate to art making. But it served it’s purpose well.
I also developed this idea about having an on going internal monologue calling out my mistakes and generally telling me how worthless I am. It worked pretty well… You can see/hear the results for yourself on the video. Here’s a few stills if your too lazy to watch or you’re like me and your internet is too slow.
Over all, I’m really pleased with the way the performance turned out. My anxiety level was pretty high as I planned this, and it reached extreme levels as I started the performance (You can totally tell at the beginning of the video…It’s pretty funny actually).
The fantastic thing for me however, was that a few days before the performance occurred, and I was lucky enough to have a studio visit with an amazing artist named Monica Cook. In much of her work she has this play between chaos and control going on, so I was looking forward to talking with her about that. My visit with her was completely beyond my wildest dreams! She was really supportive of the ideas I was using, and liked the performance I had planned. Her encouragement really helped me get over some of that anxiety and just do the darn thing. It was fan-tastic. I wish I would have remembered to record it… I totally forgot to turn on the audio record app thingy on my phone. 😦
I also had this really great conversation with her about serendipity and deja vu. Just the day prior, all my notebooks that I keep my research, brainstorming, and notes for teaching in got soaking wet somehow and the pens I use are most decidedly not water safe…
I really kind of freaked out. To say that I was distraught would be an understatement, and I had actually gotten so upset I threw away my notebooks. I didn’t even know what to do. But then as the night progressed and I thought about it, there was something to these notebooks. Even Eric thought I should do something with them. So I went the next morning and rescued the notebooks from the trash can in the photo lab. I showed them to Monica during my studio visit and she agreed that I needed to use them to create. We discussed how water keeps popping up in my work, and this so called destruction was actually serendipity pointing me on my way. We both look at serendipity and deja vu the same way… that it means you are on the right track and things are good. Its funny to me though, that water is somehow finding it’s way into my work. It may sound odd, but I’ve always felt a very definite connection to water, even as a child. I loved hearing it rain, and being on beaches, things like that. To go all astrological on you, I’m sure it’s somehow related to the fact that I am a Sagittarius, which is a fire sign.
In any event, I’ve been playing around with these pages for a few weeks now. But I’m still not sure what they will become. I’ve shot some photos, and I’m also working on a related video. Both are still in an awkward, undefined stage, but I’ll share the photos, as the video is completely incoherent right now.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with these, as just photographing these objects seems too easy… I also think I just like the original object more. But that might be my own biases.
I’ll talk more about this later maybe, but the other happening that kept me from writing, was that James Elkins came as a visiting scholar to FSU. I was on the planning committee for that and so spent a day driving him around, which was pretty cool. I also got a studio visit with him, which again was a great experience. I DID remember to record that one. 🙂
One of the things Elkins said to me about my work was that I needed to find more of a grey area… Where the topics of success and failure are not so clearly defined. I think this is really great feedback, but I’m not sure how to do this. He also got me thinking about how I define perfection, or the opposite of failure. Elkins pointed out that to understand the failure, I should try to understand what perfection is. I don’t have an answer for that right now, but it’s something that is rolling around in my head currently.
So… Busy times here in the studio. Lots of studio visits, lots of thinking, and lots of experimenting with stuff… Right now, I’m waiting for my committee to come in and do reviews once again. Although, apparently only one of my committee members is going to be present. And I even showered, put on nice clothes AND make-up. Yeesh. Its OK, I get to do it again in a month. Wish me luck!
Art & Fear belongs to the aforementioned authors. All of the photos in this post are mine, but the images from my performance were taken by Samantha Burns.
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