The Focus Pull

In the world of filmmaking, when the camera changes focus during a single shot, (say from Mrs. Robinson’s half-stockinged leg to Benjamin in the background, conflicted and staring) it directs the viewer’s attention in a powerful narrative manner. I want to borrow this focus pull concept and play with it a little in the realm of this blog. Let me steer our collective attention beyond the deliciousness of thinking, making, showing and blathering about ceramics and creative process for just a bit.

You see, I went and signed up for another of Alyson Stanfield’s oh-so-valuable online classes: Blog Triage, and it started today. This class is different for at least two reasons right from the start: One is Cynthia Morris, the co-instructor, who adds another mindful mother lode of experience to the work at hand, and Two is the fact that the class assignments will, like as not, play out here with all of you, dear readers, and not just in my private office or studio.

Case in point: the first assignment asks for me to essentially pull focus and blog about what I expect to get from blogging and just who I would like to be reading my posts. This request creates a heady funhouse mirror effect on me, but I know the point of looking at things from other perspectives is to be more than self-referencing, that the meta-awareness generated is gold for the narrative comprehension.

I have read and followed some blogs for years…I just did not know they were blogs! I guess I thought they were highly entertaining, active and personal websites, which, after a fashion, they were. As a blog consumer, I enjoy warmth, humor, community and an artful turn of phrase, even profundity, in the writing. I usually want to think or learn something too. I want to connect and feel moved, to sense the passion and pulse of that living human on the other end. Even if I never comment! Please don’t ask me to separate the trivia from the minutiae: if I read about your capricious kid, your trip Down Mexico Way or your braided body hair, I want to be invited along with you and not merely asked to stand and admire! P.S. You are allowed, nay, encouraged in, your detailed techie-nerdy passions, though. Su embebecimiento es mi embebecimiento.

Now that I have a blog of my own, I’m expecting myself to generate at least the level of excellence I find engaging as a blog-sumer. I need to keep me entertained! It is harder than I thought, too, but not because I bore easily. I figured my understanding and meaning-making would come in the doing, and it has.

Here’s what I like so far about SoulCeramics:
~I am gaining a much clearer and confident artistic voice! I prefer to play with words and ideas, layering many concepts and kinda quirky references into my writing, and, funny thing, I like doing that with my art too. Neat!
~Love, LOVE, LOVE being able to make hyperlinks to some of my obscure observations…..it fosters greater understanding all round. (Thanks to my phenom-son Roger!)
~I am forging a powerful community of readers and commenters who tell me in many specific ways how they enjoy and benefit from my musings. I am meeting like-minded folks, not all artists, a lot of them bloggers about hiking or beer brewing or Silicon Valley in the Early Days.
~I am proud to invite others to my blog…and I had not thought that was the case until today.

But, who do I want to attract here? Can I even describe this micro-demographic? Starters are starters, so here is a first, impromptu attempt:
~Family, friends, colleagues….everyone I already know.
~Ceramic artists, heck, all artists, really. I love cross-pollination.
~Thinkers and readers.
~Lurkers and Laughers (having been one at times.)
~Pranksters and Cosmic Thieves (put these in to wake you up….if you’re still reading… I know this is a long post….)
~Folks who can give me good support and professional connections, whoever and wherever they are now.

So, some things once seen cannot be unseen, and pulling focus has revealed a plot twist. Blogging about blogging has changed my blogging. Good for us!

Art Reception Food

June is a good month for outdoor arts events and receptions and I have been to plenty of them in only the past few weeks: First Friday in Santa Cruz, The Santa Cruz Art League’s 90th Anniversary weekend, Capitola’s Art at the Beach, and two sponsored by the Pajaro Valley Art Council of Watsonville, both devoted to sculpture: one in the gallery and one of garden sculpture at nearby Sierra Azul Nursery. (And I am honored to be included in both of their exhibits.)

I am not a veteran of the art opening reception circuit, because they were always an acquired skill in my book; one I just had no compelling need for. First off, an artist makes art, and I have been way too distracted by that alone for decades now. And, while I have looked at plenty of art in plenty of cities, visited artists, attended salons and dutifully read my art history and biography books, I kept forgetting to get to the Openings.

What I have learned by steeling myself and actually showing up at these functions (rather than taking the introvert’s way out and being ‘busy’) is they are only very subtly about the Art. HA! I knew it! They are really about people getting slicked up and celebrating themselves. Food, Drink and Music are always involved. The Art attends and then just sits mutely in the corner, avoiding the crush and watching the avocado dip turn black (as Dick Cavett once said he generally did.)

Depending on the venue, the reception food and drink can either be for purchase, totally or partially catered, sponsored by varying donors/advertisers, or even consist of a potluck brought by the artists themselves. Sometimes it is a combination of them.

Well, when I signed up to bring sushi to last Sunday’s mostly-potluck reception, I really intended to bring honest-to-goodness California Rolls. They are not expensive and it’s possible to whip out a huge trayful in no time. But it is so done. So when I Stumbled Upon (and it looks like you’re getting lots of sites to click over to in this post) a blog about a kid’s birthday party where both the activity and the party favors were faux sushi made from Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats (and I probably should add “TM” after that and all the rest of the ingredients) which are then rolled around Pull-n-Peel Twizzlers, Rainbow Twists, Gummi Worms and wrapped in Tropical Tie-Dye Fruit Roll-ups, I was enchanted and immediately changed my offering. It was still “sushi” right?

Be honest, were you fooled by the photo up top? Or did it look a little garishly photoshopped, even though it is not? (And you should see it when it is posterized, highly saturated, extremely hued and contrasted! Positively bilious.)

A platter of Faux Sushi is a sticky sticky sticky affair to manage, but pretty in a Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 6 and Yellow 5 sort of way. If you have extra lumps of RKT mix you can make the nigiri with Swedish Fish wrapped to the top, as in the foreground. Not surprisingly, they tasted really sweet, too. One almost needs to wash them down with Fruit Punch, for the full kid’s birthday party effect.

So, how did they go over? I thought they were an artsy party funfood offering, but I don’t really know. I arrived with the early crowd, set them on the dessert table and never went back. I spent more time looking at the art, talking to friends and associates, and moving away from the too-piercing flute of the live jazz band to find out.

Artist’s Statement

I am in the throes of forging a new, for-the-time-being manifesto, commonly known as my Artist Statement. What defining words are possibly the truest and most adequate for telling anyone about my current art and my process?

The latest version literally has more questions than statements. I have asked several diverse, sensitive and dedicated groups for feedback. I am grateful for what they have responded with:

1. Could be shorter. Hmm, a lot shorter in the main section, really.
2. Not so many questions!
3. Love, love, love the concluding paragraph! (Paranoid me wonders if that is because it is finally over.)
4. You sure can write some heady stuff!!!!

This is great to know. I can do this. Better to shorten than to fluff and all that. Do the words sparkle? Are the concepts true? YES!!!! I just need to wrangle them into a smaller, terser corral. Practically done.

What’s left is the greater question of what the hell is an Artist’s Statement? It can be nearly anything. There are guides out there to help us write them: Alyson Stanfield and Ariane Goodwin, to name some VERY helpful contemporaries. Even with rules and suggestions, they don’t whisper a word about it being easy.

Harder still is to come to terms with why do we write Artist’s Statements? Just because that is what’s done? To springboard off of Elizabeth Gilbert from her recent profoundly wonderful TED.com talk on genius, (http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html): You don’t see Chemical Engineers struggling over their Engineer Statements! Why is that?

A slight glimmer of why Artists write Statements: provided they are well written and ring true, their friends, collectors, interpreters, the general public and me often find them just as fascinating as the work itself. It Explains A Lot. I know I have been able to go much deeper into many an artist’s exhibit with a good written revelation of both thought and process.

Work that usually springs from that wordless place in the brain gets better in valuable ways when it circles all the way to the forebrain and back. So, short answer: We write so others can more fully understand us…but in doing that writing we can more fully understand ourselves!

So struggle away. Write your truth with vigor and honesty, knowing that we all benefit from it in ways beyond and in addition to the words, words, words, words.