Hi. I’m going to tell you a secret… I’ve totally been putting off (AKA avoiding) writing a post. Which is why it’s been two months. TWO MONTHS! Whoops.
By the time the semester was over (two weeks after my last post), I was completely brain dead, between thesis writing, grading my student’s work, final projects, etc. As such I never got a chance to write a post before my final reviews (which went pretty well, just in case you were curious), and then the joyous month of May came. This is actually probably a pretty good thing, because knowing me, I would have posted excerpts from my ridiculous thesis draft… *Shudder* Anyway, May is my favorite because there is literally NOTHING that I HAVE to do. There are always things I want to do, and probably should do, but no pressing deadlines, no anxiety inducing readings to complete, no meetings… So I kinda took a vacation… for the whole month of May. Whoops. I went camping with friends, spent entire days on the beach drinking, went hiking, cooked and baked up a storm, sat in my backyard reading… It was pretty swell.
But here’s the thing… I was in the studio a few hours (like max 4… Shhhh, don’t tell my faculty!) for most days, putzing around, but not actually doing much. I was also doing some seriously voracious reading. In fact in the month of May I read more books than I have in a long time, and they weren’t all for fun. Bet you can’t guess which ones were for fun and which were for research!
Aaaaand, on those camping trips, hiking expeditions, and beach days… I spent a lot of time filming somethings which one day I will post up here, as well as talking and thinking about my work/practice. But I kept avoiding writing a new post, because a) it had already been a long time, and b) that meant it was time to put my thoughts into words and to admit somethings. Also I’ve been having serious guilt/anxiety attacks about NOT being in the studio. And if I’m not in the studio, how could I justify spending time writing a blog post? But you know what? Not being in the studio has been the best thing ever for me lately. My month long vacation has allowed my brain to reset and I feel like I’m in a really good place. I’ve got tons of stuff I want to research, and a few ideas for work that I’m pretty excited about.
In any event, I’ve got somethings on tap for the rest of the summer, even though I haven’t started most of the things on my to do list, like start the job application/hunt process. *sigh* I should probably talk to one of my committee members about that soon. New posts soon with actual thoughts and art in them. Even though I’m back working at Lafayette full time this summer (which is awesome but exhausting), the next six weeks should be pretty productive. The husband got a residency for six weeks at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside in upstate New York, and he’s leaving Wednesday. And everyone else that I hang out with is either going on vacation or moving away :(…. Sooooo, I’m on my own, which is a great excuse to lock myself into work mode and ignore the wider world. Love it!
Now, I need to go photograph those shoes of mine… Yes that’s still a thing. We’re on week 19. And I hate it.
Another thing that has kept me from posting recently was a visiting artist event in which I was involved. Although this one I didn’t know I was participating in until nearly the last minute…
FSU brought in Stuart Horodner as part of our visiting artist lecture series. He’s the boss man in charge at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and just recently published The Art Life: On Creativity and Career (Which was a really good book by the way), and one of the faculty arranged for public critiques to happen. Four grads were selected to have their work reviewed by Stuart, but we didn’t get told about it until a week before it was supposed to happen…
As I’m sure you can imagine, that was a little stressful. I was less worried about the actual critique then I was about figuring out how to install my work in the gallery. It was chaos for a little while… I had to go buy TVs and export videos several times, battle difficult projectors, paint things, oh and I had to read the book… But it turned out just peachy keen in the end. I showed an updated version of my Bending the Break/Breaking to Bend video, with a new audio component, and Fairy Tale Logic. Bending the Break/Breaking to Bend was pretty much installed as I had it installed at Working Method back in January, but I finally got to install Fairy Tale Logic the way I’ve always wanted to… On two monitors!
As a really awesome bonus, Craig Drennen, who is currently a studio artist at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, an instructor at Georgia State, aaaaaand the dean at Skowhegan, came down with Stuart to participate in the critiques. While my peers may or may not agree with me, I had a really great experience. The main thing that I wanted to get out of the crit was that someone, outside the hermetically sealed environment I have here at school (yes, that may be a little bit of a dramatic way to describe it), related to or understood the things I was addressing in my work. Between all the doubt and frustration I had been experiencing lately, this was really the best thing I could hope for. And I feel like I got that, as well as just positive feed back in general. For what ever reason, I found this process much less anxiety provoking than our usual reviews… Which I told to my committee head. The way that Stuart ran the reviews was critical, but constructively so. I sometimes feel that our committee reviews are not so constructive… But again, that’s my opinion.
For some more pics and info you should click HERE!
In any event, this was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in grad school. It came pretty close to the Guerra de la Paz collaboration last spring…but not quite as awesome! Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to show you how the battle scar I acquired during that installation looks now:
Why can’t grad school just be awesome experiences like these?!
Words are failing me lately. So I haven’t been posting. I’ve slowly been working on this one for about a week.
I’m still struggling with exactly what I mean when I say I don’t want to make things. And I’m still a little unclear on the specifics of some of the pieces I’m working on. I know I should just sit down and write until my hand falls off just to get it out of my head and onto paper, but honestly I just haven’t had the time. I rarely get more than an hour to work on any one thing at a time right now. This semester is just hectic in the sense that I’m bouncing back and forth between VAST and campus a lot, I either teach or have class every day Monday through Friday, and I have a lot of home work and prep work to do in general. The weekends are my only uninterrupted studio time, but those are also the only days I get to see the husband because we are running on completely opposite schedules this semester. Yuck. I’m hoping though now that the first set of reviews are nearly over, and I’ve settled into the rhythm of this semester things will calm down and I will find some uninterrupted time to sit down and write out the art thoughtz. It’s about time for me to start the thesis anyway…
As always, I have several things in the works, and I’m considering adding a few more. I had a studio visit for one of my classes last night and my professor suggested that I do some more quick, sketchbook type things using the video camera, just so that I don’t focus so much on some of the other things I’m working on, but frustrated with. I think that’s probably a pretty good idea right now because I’m finding myself just repeating the same thing over and over like the outcome is going to drastically change…
So I have two video pieces I’m working on. They might become one, who knows. One is an extension of the Bleed videos I was working on in the fall. For me its about destroying something and that destruction creating something beautiful. I’ve had a pretty fitful start with this so far. First I was shooting tests with my iPhone, then I had to build a table to shoot with, then once I started shooting again, I had to stop and troubleshoot the water that was leaking on my camera, I’m trying to master (or at the very least be adequate at) shooting video with a DSLR… It’s like this crazy new ball game to me… and so I’ve been having problems with focusing and depth of field, and then of course just to make it a little harder on myself, I’m learning a new video editing program, Adobe Premier (not that I really knew Final Cut that well…). Oh and I’m shooting something that can’t be reshot. Sometimes I can hear my mind laughing hysterically at me, saying: “Figure your way out of this one!” I’m thinking that once I do win this battle, the video will become one component of a large installation, but we’ll see.
The second video I’m working on revolves around the idea of communication and self-defeat. I’m really not certain where it’s going or what form it will take in the end, but the idea popped into my head last week and I ran with it. And that’s that…
I have a couple of performances planned revolving around the idea of saying no and setting oneself up for failure. I’m kind of keeping the details of those under wraps until I actually do them because I don’t really want people to know I’m doing a performance until after the fact. I’m concerned that if they do know, they are going to react or behave differently, and I want genuine participation, which means I may not be able to document them… I also am still really unsure of how I’m going to actually do these performances.
Speaking of documenting performances, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on that subject since the fall. I really go back and forth on it for various reason. I have a blog post I wrote for one of my classes all about it… I’ll post it on here for your edification. But basically I don’t know how I feel about documenting my performances anymore. In fact I kind of don’t like the idea, because no documentation can ever fully express the experience of that performance/happening/action/installation/event…
I don’t know. My brain is working overtime. Both on ideas and school work. Again it gets back to the idea that I need some uninterrupted time to sit down and write/think/enjoy silence. But right now I need to go update my artist statement, and maybe eat something. Why don’t you look at these pictures while I do that?
Well, it’s that time again. Re.Views. Friday morning. 10:30
Despite my stress level the last few weeks, I’ve been kicking grad school’s ass, and I’m totally ready for this. For serious. I’m on a roll. I’m focused, I’m getting things done, I’m constantly having ideas, making connections, researching. I’ve also been working my butt off for the gallery, submitting work to shows, and just generally feeling pretty good about stuff. So I’m not so worried about how my reviews will go. I finished everything I wanted to finish for them, plus a little, and I know that I worked as hard as I could. All I want to do before Friday is relax a little and get my thoughts together so I have good questions for my committee and good answers about my work for reviews.
These are the first, official reviews for the year, the ones that actually go into the binder of doom with my name on it, that resides in the department head’s office. Ok, so it’s not so dramatic as that… But there really is a binder with each grad’s name on it, into which all of our review pages go. And they do live in the head of the department’s office. According to those pages the score lies as thus: Grad School: 1, Courtney: 1/2. Yeah… I didn’t do so well in most of my reviews last year, and I think I’ve covered what a hot mess I was… I pretty much kicked it in the last review, but there were 3 others that I sucked it hard. After Friday, I fully intend for that score board to read Grad School: 1, Courtney: 2 (at least)! This is the face I will give to my committee:
Also, I had a deja vu moment today. That’s always a good sign!
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.
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.
I’ve pretty much uploaded the majority of my most recent work now. There are still a few pieces from the fall that I’ll eventually get around to posting, but for the moment, I’m going to take a break from boring you all with pictures…Instead I’ll just bore you with plain old words.
A little over a month ago, I had my last set of reviews for the school year, and ever since then I have been pondering over a question or two in regards to my own work (like the feminism thing…). I don’t know if I have the answers yet, but I’ve blindly stumbled onto a couple of ideas that intrigue me. The best part of the reviews (in my opinion) is that it gets me outside of my head and poses questions to me. These questions in turn make me think and recast the ideas and intentions of my works. It’s not so much a challenge to what I am doing, but provides a new perspective from which to illuminate it.
One of the questions that was posed to me in my last round of reviews, was what exactly am I trying to say through my performances? This, out of all the questions posed to me in my reviews, is the one that haunted me most. Many of the faculty are concerned that I’m not actually saying much, more that I’m just making fun of these caricatures I’ve created, or simply pointing out that these types of people exist. I don’t think that either of those are really it. I think it’s far more connected to who I am and how I deal with that. In this sense, I think that these performances are an attempt to take myself a little less seriously, and to a certain extent, provide myself with a safe, acceptable, way to fail in my endeavors.
As everyone in the world (except me) realized by the time they were 8 or so, as much as you want something to go exactly the way they planned or imagined it, inevitably, some aspect of it will fail. Be it the tiniest detail, or large portions…something is not quite going to live up to your expectations. This is something that I struggle with on a daily basis, along with the accompanying anxiety over attempting to make everything succeed. The prospect of failing at anything is terrifying to me, to such an extent that it can be paralyzing. I mean, for example, I spent a good chunk of the last year absolutely terrified of even perceived failure, and could barely make any art. However, because the situations surrounding my performances are designed to be about control, failure, and futility, it suddenly becomes OK to fail. The failure is what makes the piece (hopefully) more appealing to the audience. So, in a round about way, these performances are about giving myself permission to fail.
I recently discussed this idea with the husband. He, however, disagrees with me. Instead, he proposed that these performances were much more about reinforcing and rationalizing my obsessive behaviors and unrealistic expectations. I have to concede, that perhaps subconsciously this may be the case, because obviously, I have little control over my subconscious. But I feel as though simply using these performances to rationalize my own behaviors would be a little pointless. If I am cognizant that my behaviors are wrong, or unrealistic in some way, then wouldn’t simply pretending that they were right (ie carrying about my ways as usual), more successfully achieve the goal? I mean, creating these performances, which essentially point out that my aspirations to flawlessness are unrealistic, and which end in failure, can hardly make acceptable my ridiculous, sometimes compulsive behaviors. Obviously as I am me, I can’t fully answer these questions in an unbiased manner…what thinks you, imaginary reader?
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