Sunday, September 1, 2013

Artistic Voice

Kilauea, 2013
Ring:  Fine Silver, Lava Rock, Black Sand & Glaze

"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them."  -Picasso

As the semester begins, I will spend a lot of time helping my students to push beyond the literal.  As they are asked to find inspiration for their artwork, they will also be asked to begin interpreting their own world.  I want them to understand how their experiences and perspectives shape their artistic voice.  I hope to empower them to develop original work that is all their own.  This is often hindered by the fact that they are submerged in a popular culture that is overloaded with simplistic graphic symbols for the purpose of appealing to mass audiences.  I read a very critical article this week on a professional jewelry blog about the ethics of jewelry artists stealing each others' designs.  When I scrolled down to see the images, all I could do was chuckle.  Two competing popular jewelry designers have come out with similar lines, but how either one can claim originality is laughable.  Each piece was based on common symbols such as lightning bolts, hash tags and @ symbols.  They were simple pendants in gold that all appeared to be maybe 2" in length, with one designer incorporating diamonds.  I think the only person who had a right to feel robbed was Max Miedinger who originally designed the Helvetica font these appear to be based on.  There was no transformation, so there was no artistic voice to protect and no lasting relevance to connect to.  
Kilauea Side View
(Photo Credits this page: Amber Jones, Studio Pura, LLC)

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." -Picasso

The images in this post are from one of my most recent pieces.  Bringing this work into class served as a catalyst for our discussion on creating relevant work by interpreting our own experiences.  I am very much influenced by my environment.  Not necessarily "the environment", but my environment - wherever I am physically spending time.  I work to capture the essence of each place that influences and subsequently inspires me by eternalizing the brief moments I spend there.  This ring gives permanent form to the fleeting minutes I found myself overlooking a smoking crater in Volcanoes National Park.  It goes beyond documenting the park and becomes about documenting my experience - being mesmerized by the billowing smoke which I have interpreted through the undulating silver, being drawn into the glow in the evening from the lava interpreted through the glaze disc and having these ephemeral sensations disrupted by the rough lava rock surrounding me.  This piece began the moment I stood before this crater.  It continued as I walked the trail of devastation and eventually followed the lava flow down to where it emptied into the sea.  It began as photographs and sketches and quiet nagging thoughts of how to process a new and fundamental understanding of the actual creation of the earth.  What I find most interesting is now writing this post, I am able to make connections to pieces I was doing a decade ago.  I hadn't visited this place and I worked on a much larger scale and in completely different materials, but there are still clear visual and conceptual relationships between my work from then and now.  I remind my students that as each of our artistic voices gets stronger, we can spend less and less time laboring over what makes our work our own because the more we use it the more the visual language we develop comes naturally to us.  This means the less and less time we need to spend worrying if it will be mistaken for someone else's.  


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