Learning is Fun!

March 4, 2009

So I’ve been trying to squeeze in some time to write my usual “things learned” entry before I forget everything related to the project, but it has been difficult!  Between quitting the design job, trying to find new jobs, balancing time in studio with time tying up loose ends on Post-Processualism (I still want to collect and post a project budget for the whole thing)… well, there’s only so many hours in a day.  And I’ve been working on normal “life” things that I’ve been ignoring like laundry, dishes, cat litter and general cleaning and organizing of my apartment, computer, files, projects, art pieces, contacts, seeing friends, donating hair, etc.

I finally sat down a couple nights ago and wrote out a few thoughts…

Things Learned:

1. Birthing pains are horrific!  The last few days getting this project out the door were some of the worst I’ve experienced.  Maybe it was the toxic fumes, or causing brain damage to the cat, or the frustration of fragility, or the exhaustion of the physicality… or maybe it was because I wasn’t 100% sure of this project to begin with so when it got down to the wire, it was hard to maintain the energy and passion against the looming doubts and second guessing that was running rampant…

2. Projects of a certain scale attain a level of “being” beyond the usual sculptural object.  They come into their own and no longer require your hand to continue.  Sure, I made it, I birthed it, but it is also an autonomous child, free to move in directions I may or may not foresee.  I felt like many aspects of Post-Processualism were completely out of my control, and while that’s a totally false statement in that there was only a little left to chance, relative to my usual control freak nature, this was difficult.  Letting go was difficult.  And yet once it is out of my hands (it was the same with Paper Jungle), it is somehow liberating–maybe that’s why I’m drawn to these types of projects?  Some masochistic part of me likes being forced out of my comfort zone and allowing things to be subject to chance?

3. Be absolutely totally clear in your artist statement/proposal!  Certain heart attacks and anguish can be avoided with a little extra caution in the beginning–even if it seems clear to you, it’s not always clear to others.  BUT

4. Be open.  Shit happens, things change, but that doesn’t mean for the worse.  I was delightfully surprised to find that what I thought was catastrophe was actually opportunity in disguise, and a certain amount of forced self-reflection led to a (probably) stronger piece in the end.

5. It’s hard to work without space.  I was blessed with Paper Jungle to have access to the PERFECT work space due to connections in school.  And I’m blessed now to have access to materials and processes (like firing) that I wouldn’t normally, but damn is it hard to work without space.  There’s only so much Matt, the cat, and my sanity can take when I try to complete a big project in my tiny apartment.

6. Storage!  I haven’t learned anything yet other than the fact that I don’t have any.  What do you do with large art pieces when you’re “done” with them?  I’ll let you know when I figure it out… Right now it’s all in my car for lack of any other place to put it…

7. Self-promote, self-promote, self-promote.  No one else will do it for you.  And make your own postcards–come on RISD!  What was with those over sized postcards?!  You should know better!  I couldn’t mail those anywhere for cheap!

8.  Friends are the best.  I mean, I already knew that, but it continues to be affirmed.  Especially the ones that come to your show.  Yes, that’s a guilt trip to everyone that missed it–you better come to the next one!  If you’re across the country, or across the globe, then you’re excused, but if you’re right here in Boston or New England…

9. When in doubt, JUST DO IT.  Following my intuition has never failed me.  It’s only when I ignore it or second guess it that I find myself in trouble–artistically or otherwise.

10.  Let things percolate.  For me at least, I need as much time as possible to just think.  And study.  And write.  And look at things.  And research.  And map. And diagram.  And plan. And then think some more.  The longer the simmer, the better.  Let other ideas pop up and write them down before they float away, but always return to the original brew.

Also, I was trying to keep this to a nice succinct 10 item list, but I was thinking during my commute that when it comes to learning, a. I love it, and b. I do it with my hands.  I seem to really enjoy throwing myself into completely unknown waters, floundering around for a while, and then magically surfacing with something that works.  Learning by example or from books or even based on teachers doesn’t really do it for me–I have to dive in, experiment a lot, learn by doing and let happy accidents happen.  If I followed well known examples, sure I would cut out a lot of extra work, but then where would the random mistakes that make a project sparkle happen?  By throwing myself into things relatively unguided, I’ve become an expert large scale paper cutter, painfully thin porcelain slab roller, photocopy transferrer, sewer of teeth and crappy but functioning installer among many other things.  Ask me to do any one of those things with a different material or structure, and I probably couldn’t do it immediately without more experimentation, but I know a LOT about how to do those specific things really well…  I think for me at least, art-making has become an essential part of how I learn and that’s a big part of why it has become so important that I do it with as much regularity as possible.

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