Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When is it done?

A few days ago I visited this artist to preview his Open Studio exhibit in San Francisco (I would be traveling during the opening).

I noticed his works referred more to the human figure than a couple years before as a result of a figures class he took. He explained figure drawing can be challenging for many because of the body and identity issues it accesses on top of the silencing imposed on art in childhood. The flip side is the visual power of figure.

While showing me one work, he pulled out the "studies" or sketches that had led to it and indicated parts of the "study" that were left out of this work but that he may reuse in a new one. We went on to discuss how we know intuitively when a piece is (un)finished and whether we care how viewers experience it, e.g. in a gallery, displayed over a mantle or stairs or sealed in a box in the attic.

Friday's concert invoked this topic again when I heard an uncomfortably long, slow solo piano piece by Jason Hoopes that finally exploded into vivid range contrasts in that minimalist way; when asked, he laughed that he didn't care how listeners audited it, e.g. in part, as background noise, or in concert as collective captives.

As I explore these questions of triggers, completion, and presentation in my works in progress, I realize my perspective changes as dramatically as that of the meaning of past experiences, where I am in my life, and what I seek from people around me. Maybe it's a sign that rather than hiding in art, I've made it interchangeable with my life and self, but it sure makes it hard to finish a work in progress.

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