Monday, June 27, 2011

Art with Christine

I was in Washington DC last week, and the first day there, my sister came in from where she lives via train to meet me for a day's adventure.  It was hot and muggy in DC, so we wisely decided to spend the day looking at art INSIDE museums.  But first, we headed to the Outdoor Sculpture Garden.

This is one of my favorites.
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X
, 1999 by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Christine seated on one of the marble chairs in Six-Part Seating, by Scott Burton.  Although there are signs everywhere saying don't touch the art, this one said, sitting okay.  But only here.

Graft, by Roxy Paine.
The National Gallery of Art notes that this stainless steel sculpture was "Made from more than 8,000 components [. . . and] weighs approximately 16,000 pounds" along with the following observation: "Graft presents two fictive but distinct species of trees—one gnarled, twisting, and irregular, the other smooth, elegant, and rhythmic—joined to the same trunk. Among its rich associations, this sculpture evokes the persistent human desire to alter and recombine elements of nature, as well as the ever-present tension between order and chaos."

But when we rounded the corner and saw this. . . 
Four-sided Pyramid, by Sol LeWitt

. . . Christine recognized his work.  This idea, that artists have a recognizable pattern of working, of creating is not a new one, but for some reason it stuck in my head all day long.  Back at the hotel, I went to the website of the National Gallery of Art, where I found this: "Much of LeWitt's work explores permutations of the grid—the square and the cube—in both two and three dimensions, discarding, as he said, 'the figure, the word, and the symbol.' "

The key to LeWitt's work, the grid, helps me understand why my sister could recognize it, just like I can recognize Matisse's free-form paper cutting and shapes (above).

Christine was also able to pull these LeWitts out of the collection, whereas I had to look on the wall plaque to identify him again. 

Coupled with this experience was the one of the next day: visiting Lorton (D.C.) Workhouse, an old prison remade into an artists' colony. They had several buildings, with multiple artists in each one.  My friend Rhonda, who took me there, knew of one of the artists--Marni Maree, a watercolorist--and amazingly, Maree was there and showed us her art and her studio.  We talked also with Mary Gallagher Stout, who is an artist working in acrylic, chalk and charcoal, with stunning creations with lots of vibrancy. Her energy and infectious enthusiasm for her work was appealing, and I wished I could bottle some of that and keep it my workplace when all I want to do is sit and surf the web.  While I wouldn't be able to identify everything these women have done, I can see they have a consistency--with creative variation--to their work.  They know their skills and their strengths, and they figure out their avenues of exploration.

After doing a life's review of the medium in which I create art (quilts) I can't say I have an identifiable style.  Perhaps working in a series would help.  Or staying away from copying/making others' patterns, which may be difficult because it is probably in my creative DNA, given my entry into quilting from dressmaking.  My husband tells me that my quilts are my creative expression, and his belief in me has given me a new lens from which to view my creations.

I pointed to one painting on the wall when I was with Christine, and said "I'd love to make something like this." "Then, do!" she said, encouraging me.  But I have to say much of me resonated with something that Stout mentioned, after we complimented her on one of her creations: a rendition of the Washington Monument.  "Oh," she said.  "I almost painted over that one.  I did it and I liked it but it didn't seem to go anywhere or get sold, so I was about to paint over it, when someone from the government called and bought it."  She laughed.  "Can you believe it?  I almost painted right over it."

But she was in constant motion getting ready for a one-woman show, doing her art in a unique-to-her style.  I envied her vision, but wondered how to find one for myself.  What is my style?  Where is the heart of my work?  These questions are the same one that haunt me as a writer, as I suppose they would in any creative endeavor where I might try to get past technician, and arrive at artist.


Riel Nason said...

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for stopping by my blog today and commenting. I'm glad I surfed over here. That stainless steel tree is something else. I can imagine some wonderful potential photos playing with the light on that polished shiny thing! Cheers, Riel

Angie said...

That typewriter erasers really brings back some memories!!! LOL I fell in love with it and the steel tree---phenomenal!! Thank you so much stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. The bowl will probably set on my end table and catch scraps and threads. I'm challenged (mentally AND physically LOL) quite often by what should be a quick, simple little thing to make; it morphs and turns into a monster, and I'm just stubborn enough to keep trying until I get something RESEMBLING what it was supposed to be. :D

Susan Rugh said...

Go to Mass MOCA and you will see more Lewitt than you ever imagined. Don't worry, it's up until 2033. Thanks as always for the culture tour. Love,Sister Susan
Here's the link: