Working on the third draft of my thesis for an MFA in visual art, I continue to explore what it means to be an artist. To enter into a visual, philosophical and emotional relationship with it. A couple weekends ago I visited two art shows in Seattle, one for an artist’s talk, the other for a chance conversation.
The first was Chauney Peck‘s talk on her show Bang, Universe, Everything, at SOIL Gallery. This month she’s exhibiting new work that shares bold color, intuitive and chance constructions, dynamic possibilities with shape, line, and movement, and a deep undercurrent of meaning in relation to people, the environment, spirituality, and consumption. I viewed the show before the talk and was impressed with her use of materials and instantly drawn to certain collages and assemblages. For me, I felt compelled to look, to wonder, what were these about? The talk helped illuminate more about her process. She created Chance Cards to help with some of the decisions during composition but she also depended on intuition and her skilled eye to complete the pieces. She shared at length about the spiritual implications of giving away, of Gifting. Having read the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde, she described the intention of making, of the labor, care, and specialness she wanted to imbibe in the works, and then to give them away as an offering. Perhaps as a means to create more abundance in the universe, challenging herself to be free of expectations and wanting. The informal talk ended with questions and discussion about technology, materials use, using chance as a loose guide in making art, chaos vs. control, the fetishizing of commodities and what stories do we find that are meaningful.
Chauney Peck @ SOIL Gallery
I then walked around the block to check out the Sol Hashemi/Jason Hirata show titled Hidden Snacks, at Punch Gallery. I was fortunate that Jason was sitting at the gallery that day. He too had been at Chauney’s talk and it was nice to have shared that experience. I asked him if he and Sol would do a talk, and he said they weren’t planning to. I have been watching Jason’s work ever since an open studios at the 1426 Building on Jackson a few years ago. He’s a recent grad from the University of Washington with a BFA in photography, as his art partner Sol. Both men are working hard in the art scene of Seattle. I asked Jason how the show was going, he said, “good, some folks walk in and then walk out fast, others linger and look.” It left me wondering, what are these guys up to? People had told me about the show, “they hid snacks around and took pictures of them.” I asked Jason about it, his response was something along the lines of, “we basically hid snacks and then photographed them.” “Are these foods you eat?” “These are what we could get cheap at the grocery outlet,” he replied. We talked for a bit about the lettering on the window sign. Sol had been watching the man put the lettering up and he saw something in it and told him to stop and leave it that way. I think this was my favorite piece. In a way it states, these two men are creating and showing us the archive of a moment, a decision, a chance happening between environment and objects. Is it art? Does that translate in the images? Does it work or make sense? Can people access it and if not is it legitimate? The window sign is the most visually interesting, as was a photograph of a tomato soup can tucked in a paint rack, a sweet nod to Warhol, that I will go back and purchase (photos are for sale for $10). I also found one photograph taped to one of Jason’s hairs and then taped to the wall to be very intriguing. But overall the show left me thinking, and that is maybe better than liking a few pieces individually.
Sol Hashemi and Jason Hirata @ Punch Gallery
I am really glad that I could talk to Jason while we were in the space. Interestingly he was reading a book about the white cube gallery called Studio and Cube by Brian O’Doherty. It makes me think that perhaps what they are doing isn’t designed for the White Cube? Or even better, by putting it in there, are they creating a new challenge for the viewer? Do we have to respond visually to everything? I really appreciate the way these two communicate with each other and then share it with us, many may not understand, but I am realizing that that is not point. If there’s possibility for contemplation and conversation, I find that meaningful.
Lastly, someone recommended to a friend an art history book. Mainly, an easy to read first book, that shares about the basics in Western Art. Turns out I have the fourth edition of it in my classroom (it was used as a Middle/High School textbook at one point). It’s called The Story of Art by German writer, E. H. Gombrich. I haven’t read the whole book, but I can tell it’s references are based in the white, male, Eurocentric art realm. But it was first published in 1950, and it’s been a slow process to examine people beyond the white dudes. Philosophically he states some clear concepts in the introduction and conclusion though.
There is really no such thing as Art. There are only artists. (page 5)
The general public has settled down to the notion that an artist is a fellow who should produce Art much in the way a bootmaker produces boots. By this they mean that he should produce the kind of painting or sculptures they have seen labelled as Art before. One can understand this vague demand, but, alas, it is the one job the artist cannot do. What has been done before presents no problem for them any more. There is no task in it that could put the artist on his mettle. (page 445)
from The Story of Art published in 1950
Thankfully Both Peck and Hashemi/Hirata are not just making boots. Not to say that bootmaking isn’t a noble craft. To work beyond the shoemaker’s last, I feel gives me a stronger reason to create, discover and connect.