When I was in college, I had a professor who used to say, “Being an artist requires one thing: the ability to see.” For decades, I’ve been interpreting that to mean the ability to see what it is that I want to create — and subsequently having the ability (innate or learned) to translate that vision into my chosen medium. While I think he’s more or less right, I’ve recently come to believe that my interpretation is only part of the takeaway. What if there’s more to the seeing that involves where what we make ends up? That’s exactly why I stopped painting. I couldn’t “see” my work hanging in a museum or a gallery and since those were the only places I thought art could or should be seen, I quit. I was myopic when it came to the possibility of where my work could live and what my work could be, which I don’t think is (or was) all that uncommon. After all, one of the ways we learn about art is through the museum or gallery model, and so we learn to expect that to be art — to be “important” or “valuable” — that’s where our work has to be. But both of those things are not only relative, they are largely an illusion.
For a long time, I’ve referred to myself as “a designer who paints” rather than as an artist. Mostly, it’s because I don’t think it’s up to me to call my work art — that’s one of the roles of an audience. I also don’t think I’m much of a painter, at least not compared to some of my heroes, but that’s another story. The point is, when I think about my work as design, rather than “art-with-a-capital-A,” I feel a tremendous amount of relief, partially because I think I’m a terrific designer. Whereas Art feels rigid in what it has to be, design feels much broader and allows me to think in terms of what and where my work CAN be. For example, rather than thinking about my work as a piece that hangs on the wall in someone’s home, what if we expand that out to include hotels, restaurants, and corporate spaces? And what if we let go of the idea that it has to exist only on canvas on a wall or a print in a frame and instead think about textiles and clothing, home decor, product packaging, and a bunch of things I haven’t even thought about yet? With just a subtle shift in perspective (think of the kaleidoscope metaphor — small moves, big changes), one piece of work has the potential to exist in multiple forms and appeal to multiple audiences.
Paul Rand said, “Everything is design. Everything.” I think that’s true and while design CAN be Art, it doesn’t have to be and isn’t intrinsically less if it’s not. Seeing isn’t just about the work itself — it’s about the possibilities.
If you are a fan of color, you are going to love a new book from a company called The Galobart. The book is called 300 Years Before Color and it’s a gorgeous reproduction of “Traité des couleurs servant a la peinture a l’eau,” written by A. Boogert in 1692, 300 years before Lawrence Herbert founded Pantone. Only 1,692 copies of the 912-page limited edition are being produced and I would love to have one of them for my bookshelf. (via The Galobart Books)
In 2008, a collection of 51 glazed bricks dating from 700BC were found in a warehouse in Switzerland after being looted from an archaeological site in Qalaichi in western Iran. The beautifully decorated bricks came the Mannaean civilization and as a result of the finding, have inspired archeologists to reimagine their cultural significance. An exhibition called “The Repatriated Boukan Glazed Brick Collection from Switzerland” will be shown at the Haghighi Museum in Boukan followed by the Iran National Museum in Tehran. (via The Art Newspaper)
Joan Mitchell is one of a few artists that I really struggle with. I know her work is considered important — she’s regularly mentioned alongside names like Pollock and Kline when talking about Abstract Expressionism. I know I like her work. I feel it resonate with me, sometimes very deeply. I just can’t tell you why. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen it in person and just like work by Rothko, there’s only so much you can get from it on a page in a book. There’s a retrospective of her work currently at SFMoMA, after which it will travel to the Baltimore Museum of Art which is less than an hour away. Looks like I’ll be taking a field trip. (via Artnews)