On the drive home from the lecture tonight, a million things were running through my head. I'm probably going to ramble a bit here, but in an attempt to be more free with this blog and get my thoughts down before they drift too far away, I'm going to try to suppress the desire to edit myself.
I have been thinking a lot about the way I work and the things that seems to be the most constant are the systems I make for myself. I have always liked to organize things. I'm not sure if this is something strange or not. I know certain friends or family members have thought it funny, but I grew up in a house that was very tidy so I've always thought it was kind of normal. Even so, I know it is not something that everyone enjoys. An example: This is a picture of one of the bookshelves in my house. It doesn't look very orderly, but it's actually alphabetized by author and separated by genre. Actually, this particular bookshelf only contains fiction. Non-fiction, poetry, philosophy, reference books, etc...they're all organized separately. Most of the books are tipped over so you see the pages instead of their spines. I thought if I just had some of the books tipped upright it would be more calming and not quite so much a chaotic mess of color.
I sound obsessive-compulsive. But maybe it explains my studio work a little bit: my painting pixels by hand doesn't seem so strange when one considers that I do this type of thing with a lot of things -- some more regular and some not as much. But, in all truth, I've never really given that much thought to it. Or rather, I've thought about the fact that I like to sort things, but I've never thought about it in terms of my art. Neverthless, I feel satisfied whenever I give something order and structure and more and more of this type of thing has been creeping into my work. I think it used to be slightly more subtle -- when I was doing a lot of collage type work, I would spend hours arranging pieces within an image until they were just so but somehow, the effect was hidden under the other layers of paint or wax or whatever else I was using. Now, it seems to be coming more and more readily to the surface.
So I am trying to figure out what it is that attracts me to putting things in order and I guess what I like is creating categories and rules for things. It seems that I'm drawn to the initial categorization and clean organization. The upkeep holds less, if any, interest. Rather, I tend to spend a great deal of time putting something in order only to have it erupt into chaos at some point. Or only to have some wrench thrown in my system. But why? Emily Prince lectured tonight and spent a lot of time talking about her upbringing and how maybe that had something to do with why she liked to form systems for things. Maybe that's the case with me too... or maybe I did it when I was a child for the same unknown reasons I do it now. All I know for sure is that I used to play elaborate games that involved similarly useless forms of organization or repetition. My sister and I would play library and create card catalogs for our books, we'd play school and make calendars for every month, one summer I decided I was going to make a 1000 paper cranes after reading about Sadako in school. I don't think I made it, but I got far closer than you would imagine. I literally spent hours and hours folding them as perfectly as possible and stringing them together in long colorful chains. Basically the only progress I've made since then is that now I have actual deadlines to post on the calendars I make or actual places to show the cranes or whatever objects I produce. I don't know why I'm recounting all of this. I guess I'm just trying to make sense out of what I'm doing now. It's like using art therapy on myself to self diagnose my psychoses. I somewhat feel like I'm running around in circles.
But here's what I do know. When I'm putting things in order, whether it's pieces of paper or dots of paint, I feel this sense of calmness and clarity. It's a meditative quality that I rarely get the rest of the time. When I can put something in it's place, it's like it actually frees up space in my mind for me to think more clearly.
I saw this piece at Aqua Wynwood when I was down in Miami -- It reads: "I wish I could do something quick and spontaneous. But no, everything I do takes forever. For example, this painting took me 56 hours to make. Richard Pettibone 1965." As I paint hundreds of thousands of tiny dots by hand, I feel very much aligned with this sentiment. I've been thinking a lot about my process lately. There is something in me that feels compelled to create work involving long, elaborate processes. Perhaps it's not even so much a need as it is simply the only way in which I am able to translate my view of the world into a physical object. For now, let me ignore whether or not the object is a necessary result and, instead, focus on the reason for this process. I have little desire to document the time I spend on the work other than through the end result of the piece. Perhaps my documentation lies in the traces of my process visible in the final piece, but to make a video of me working or to involve some other time based medium in order to show...what? the tedium involved? That's not the feeling that I have when I work. The time spent is more of a personal meditation for me -- time to let me work out what it is I'm trying to address. Perhaps I paint an organized picture as an attempt to organize my thoughts.