Monday, August 25, 2008

Weasel Art

The lead essay in Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk is titled “Living Like Weasels.”
A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks? He sleeps in his underground den, his tail draped over his nose. Sometimes he lives in his den for two days without leaving. Outside, he stalks rabbits, mice, muskrats, and birds, killing more bodies than he can eat warm, and often dragging the carcasses home.
Without continuing on into more gory passages, I think it's safe to say this can become a metaphor for artists.

Artists are a little scary – who knows what we’re really thinking? Or doing when we hole up in the studio? Maybe we’re just sleeping, or having too much fun. What about the visual information we drag home, which in my case once included a fox carcass? Certainly, many government officials and the public at large are uneasy with what we might be perpetrating, but I think it is essential that as a society, we allow artists to do and show us those things that we don’t fully understand. As soon as you’re in a place that’s unfamiliar, everything becomes more vibrant. You see with new eyes. Art can do this for us – show us the unfamiliar, make us understand and accept new ideas, bring order out of chaos.

And so as an artist I try to maintain a wildness of perspective and a willingness to embrace the unfamiliar. Specifically, when it comes to making art, my installations reflect my interest in space, and my paintings are all about the process of creating patterns. I like the kind of installation art that alters space and refers to our place in the landscape. In this day and age we do not experience nature without culture, and Richard Serra, one of the great transformers of indoor and outdoor space, operates in the intersection of industrial and landscape. I also like Yayoi Kusama, whose disorienting patterns cause one to lose all sense of one’s location in space, and all sense of personal physical boundaries. It’s telling that she lives by choice in a psychiatric hospital.

My own art is not intended to be disorienting, but rather to offer a place for quiet reflection. It's process art, and I spoke about it recently at Aarhus Gallery in Belfast.

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