For me the past couple of years have been an exploration of new artistic avenues. I wasn’t particularly stuck (once I figured out I still wanted to work with clay, that is,) I just had no compelling path forward. So while waiting for that path to appear, I goofed around, tweaking old works and testing all new inklings, until I found myself curious again. Sometimes that re-working involved happy breakage. Here I explore a few rationales for both the rambling and the rupturing.
A Case in Point
Years ago I found a smallish vase by renown local potter Mattie Leeds at the Goodwill for $2.29. It had been broken and reglued, with a hole in the back created by a missing piece. But the rest was almost pristine in that at least the drooling glue lines got lost in the lively decoration. Score! I have enjoyed its presence for a long time, but lately I sensed that I had “learned” all I wanted from it. In a studio purge, I knew the vase was going to leave, maybe going back to the Goodwill to bring joy to another broke ceramics collector. And then, I had an inkling…
Two Robert Rauschenberg Points
One: Regarding a truth of creative re-directions that I can testify to as well, Rauschenberg said:
I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop…At that time I am bored or understand – I use those words interchangeably – another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore…Anything you do will be an abuse of somebody else’s aesthetics. I think you’re born an artist or not. I couldn’t have learned it. And I hope I never do because knowing only encourages your limitations.
Two: Concerning “destroying” the art of another artist, Michael Kimmelman wrote in a lovely piece about Rauschenberg after the latter had died in 2008:
Mr. Rauschenberg maintained a deep but mischievous respect for Abstract Expressionist heroes like de Kooning and Barnett Newman. Famously, he once painstakingly erased a drawing by de Kooning, an act both of destruction and devotion…But these were just as much homages as they were parodies.
Three Points to Take Away
- Remelting old candles to make new more interesting ones – so the speak – makes sense to me. And I have stood in front of the original “Erased de Kooning Drawing.”
- Smashing pottery is a visceral/psychic release.
- I have reinterpreted-by-alteration another artist’s work a couple of times before and it is always profoundly transforming. In the most dramatic case, with permission from the artist, I made a lidded jar, copying the colors and marks on her work on paper, rolled it up and with great reverence, fired the kiln with it inside. One ash flake remained.
–Liz Crain, who invites you to visit this piece and another ceramic collage,
“Ate Misteaks”, at the Cabrillo Gallery Exhibit titled “12 x 12 An Open Invitational” from November 6 – December 8 at Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Library Room 1002, Aptos, CA 95003.