All my sketchbooks in one place… Well, not all of them, but how about 32 Sketchbook Page Turners?
As I understand it, Irwin is an artist who mainly worked with light and it’s affects on the viewer. He actually wanted to paint a painting without making a mark or a line. He wanted to teach people how to “see.” He was constantly figuring out how to make what he made look like nothing and still something.
Imagine spending a lifetime attempting to figure out how to teach people to look deeply, notice, engage, and see… what would you make to do that? How would you help people to pay attention? What would you want people to pay attention to?
A portrait artist wants people to see people (usually). A landscape artist is portraying the world, land…in some form. Irwin wanted to make people curious about what they were seeing.
I was able to see some of Irwin’s work, while studying for my MFA. What I saw defies description, because as soon as I move or blink or breathe what I would see would be different from the moment before. This is sort of like the breath of yoga during poses, no breath is ever the same. No moment in life can ever happen again. The moment exists, until it doesn’t.
Irwin began his career as a painter. He is described as a conceptual artist and yet I do not think he thinks of himself as a conceptual artist at all. What he wants is for people to figure out the figuring out of what it is they are looking at. The art world is full of art-speak and philosophical mambo jumbo—Irwin’s work moves beyond these explanations.
Conditional art, with a capital “C”, is what you might think conditional might mean—does art look and say the same thing in different situations, at different times, with different people’s eyes? Personally I wonder, isn’t all art conditional? For example, a piece of gum that I chewed and my dog peed on and the car ran over and that I then pick up and I place it in a gallery on a wall in a frame—can this be art? Sure. Is this true only if I say it is art? I don’t know. But can saying that a chewed-peed-smashed-piece of gum is art really make it art? What is art? Who says it’s art? I say it is, when I make this thing.
Many times Irwin kept working during his career and made nothing of value. Nothing that he felt he could share with an audience. He literally worked so hard to figure out how to change people’s perception that he sometimes “painted” himself into “nothing.” He called it a corner, or devastatingly “the end of his career.” The end never came to pass, he is 92 years old now, because he kept being curious, kept asking questions, kept figuring out ways to show us what seeing can be. At times he was not able to produce work that helped people to see, but he kept at it, and at it.
Art generally has a frame—you can walk around it, figure it out, there may be a literal frame, or you can study the artists intent. In Irwin’s world, art is all about seeing what you see… and then seeing what you see in a next moment… Each moment changing the last because when you see you learn something, even if you don’t know that you are. I cannot really say more, he is taking his lifetime to say what he needs to say and he is asking us to see, to notice, to pay attention.
This philosophy of noticing, of seeing, of paying close attention—we need this right now as a country and as humanity works our way through COVID-19, global warming, racial injustice issues, human issues, political land mines, and more.
Thanks for reading. Please take the time to pause and see. There might be some extra meanings in what is is I am trying to say here. Think for yourself, make art. Be curious. Make good decisions. Namasté.
Primary purposes of art are to:
What if art is combined with stories? What if these stories are then beautifully designed to share in the pages of a book with art accompaniments? I have done just this! A book called: Shhh.
Shhh: a collection of stories from women who have been silenced or who chose self-silencing.
or, maybe you’d rather view a video of my latest sketchbook. Either way, thanks for stopping by!
What if, like me, your strong point of view is that all points of view have validity and worth. I have had many conversations that lead to a natural point of me taking a deep breath and wanting to honor both sides of an argument. Never wishing to take a side.
If I have any strong points-of-view they are:
I found myself writing a whole book on this topic a few years ago. Click on image below to purchase or learn more.
Cory Huff of Abundant Artist has put out a missive for artists. He has asked that artists go ahead and make art about, or discuss openly one’s strong point-of-view.
A “no middle ground allowed” goes in direct opposition to how I think, how I feel, and how I behave.
Very often, if not always, I find myself attempting to see things from every angle. Stepping into the shoes, mind, heart of each person I meet as best as I can. I value both ends of the ubiquitous u-shaped bell-curve of statistics. Research is my friend. Asking lots of questions is a means of declaring my point-of-view.
Politics: I would remove corporate dollars, even if this means smaller platforms and action through people not companies—this is obviously not possible within our current framework.
Religion/Spirituality: I was raised catholic, the doctrine will always be a part of who I am. Now I practice outdoor mindfulness, yoga, and meditation (alone and in community). I believe in God, but I also honor and use the words higher being, universal energy, spirit, goddess, and other equivalents.
Education: I strongly believe that education alone can heal people and the planet.
Money: Money is not the source of all evil. The current distribution of money is out of balance, but there will always be richer and less rich until the day we destroy the construct of money.
Guns: I wish it was infinitely harder to own them, especially in United States.
The premise of this post was to honor the missive of declaring my personal strong point-of-view. I know I have missed the mark. I will take solace from a yoga instructor I’d like to meet one day: we can have a strong point-of-view without minimizing others. Do I need to place a lower value on my work because I believe in the value of others and their opinions? I don’t think so. Why should I, my work is my own unique point-of-view, even if I am not an arguer or a bully.
Let’s begin with a sickeningly simple explanation:
Of course, this crude distinction between fine art and fun art is arbitrary and the world of art is much more complex. My thoughts and philosophizing need so much more room than a lowly blog post. I could possibly even go as far as to say that a PhD thesis could be expelled from my thoughts on art. Maybe. Here is a simple illustration of the arbitrary distinctions I am considering.
Yet, the topic of fine art vs fun art is very interesting to me. For example, people spend more time studying and looking at illustrations in children’s books than we do liking and looking at great works of art. Simply consider the hours upon hours of nighttime reading spent with children. Or, in the days of newspapers, reading the “funnies, ” as we used to call them.
Many people find joy searching for the perfect fabric on a throw pillow, but rarely spend more than a few seconds in front of world-class art in a museum. I work to fill my life with both fine art and fun art. Then I write my thoughts on art and to drive the point home I make art.
I tend to label the painting below fine art. But is it?
The work below I would consider as fun art. I know, incredibly arbitrary.
My thoughts on art is that, for me, my dream is that my art fits in both realms. I want to create art to be art for all people and worthy of different applications. I work towards: Approachable. Meaningful. Art.
It has been 4 years since I published my first book, 3 months since I published my second book, and 2 months since I published a printed sketchbook. Life continues, and I still have signed copies available here.
Get your copies TODAY, while supplies last. These are signed editions.