Richard Serra, Between the Torus and the Sphere (Toruaren eta esferaren artean), 2003-2005
Since I am in process of creating a return to the art world for myself, and have much on my mind, just for fun, I thought I would interview myself. As my thoughts expand, I imagine I will be adding to this conversation.
What do you think of the much discussed idea that artists must create a “brand,” “image,” and/ or “persona” to be successful?
What is the purpose of art? Why make it? For me it is one of the best, truest, most satisfying ways I can express myself. Beyond that, I view art as a playful arena in which I hope to create experiences which are new, fresh, never seen before. These ideas: “branding”, “image”, the projection of a “persona”, are in complete opposition to the expression of the true self, and have nothing to do with true creative play.
Every time I think of these ideas/issues Richard Serra comes to mind. I mean, God forbid he would ever wake up one morning and decide he wanted to knit. This would be career suicide for him. But what about his art? What about his own thinking and creative process? Perhaps working with a medium so completely opposite of steel would expand his own process in unimaginable ways, that would bring it to an even higher level. Don’t get me wrong, I love Serra’s work, but for me the fact that his success has been built on a such a singular medium presented in such similar forms, is a carefully crafted prison.
I am painfully aware that these ideas of “branding,” ‘image’ and “persona” are the bedrock of conventional wisdom, and are tools that many an artist has used to create a career or themselves. Regardless, for me I see them as enemies of any artist’s highest, and most complete expression, as well as enemies of the true self at the core of the artist themselves.
Andy Warhol, Cow, 1966
Seriously, Serra? Why not Warhol, or Jeff Koons? Perhaps even Thomas Kinkade?
Yes, those would be the more traditional choices. It’s tempting to blame Warhol for this whole obsession with branding and persona, but obviously it’s root and expression within the art world is far more complex.
Perhaps I’m responding to the singularity of the medium and form Serra is best known for: massive rectangular sheets of steel in various configurations. This is a pretty narrow spectrum to work with. Even the drawings I’ve seen of his are large black slabs on paper. When you see a Serra you know it’s his. I just wonder if some of the simple joy of creation has been lost in the process.
In your current work you are exploring a variety of styles. Why is this?
James Turrell once said that taste was a form of censorship. I believe style can be the same. Since I am returning to the act of art making after so many years, I am making great strides not to censor myself. One of my dreams has always been to be in a place where I can fully explore each artistic idea that comes to me. I find that I have so many more ideas than I have time, energy, space, and resources to create. If I where to limit myself to a singular style this would further inhibit me.
Picasso Three Women at a Fountain, Study, 1921
Having said this, in the process of allowing myself to vary my style so widely, I am beginning to see the wisdom of Picasso’s strategy of mastering one style and then moving on to another. For the sake of technical execution, simultaneously working on a number of styles is somewhat counterproductive. I expect that I may have a higher failure rate due to the variation within my work. I am working on being at peace with this. Willingness to push up to the edge of failure, and sometimes go sliding or crashing over, is necessary for true innovation.
Picasso, Nu Couche, 1932
You say you want to create something new, something fresh, yet you are working in a very traditional medium (pastels), and your styles are not yet unique, can you explain this?
In order to venture into the world of the new, one must begin by doing things that one hasn’t done before. Yes, one can see all kinds of references to other artists in my work. Nevertheless, with each piece I seek to create something that I have never done before. There is value in re-creating what others have done in order to expand and perfect one’s own process and technique. It is my aim to continually look at each work as a chance to make something new to my own hand. If I sincerely follow this process, it is my hope that in time my work will become truly “new” in a broader sense, not just in the vocabulary of my own hands and eyes.
As for the traditional medium of pastels, it is something I kind of stumbled upon due to random circumstances. However I find it a joyful medium, and am enjoying working with it in non-traditional ways. Most pastel artists are also realists or Impressionists. I am using it to create abstractions, which is not a common practice.
Why did you become an artist? Why are you deciding to return to the field now?
Untitled Pastel, Melissa Prichard 2013
I love the process of creating with my hands, I love the physicality of it. I love building things. I have always associated the art making process with the ultimate expression of freedom. Of course when I went to art school I soon discovered that the art world has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, which is one reason I stopped the pursuit of an art career many years ago. Now that I am older, I realize the complete futility of allowing the mindset of others to shape my choices. I seek to return to this field with a joy and lightness, knowing that this is what I want to do with my life at this moment. What could be better than playing with color and form?