(Not) finished

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Please excuse the grainy phone picture. I can’t bring myself to document it yet because I don’t believe it is truly finished. It is a bit of a letdown to have started working on a drawing in November, switched the medium in January, and then spent half of the next year struggling through this new medium only to find that it may not have worked the way I planned.

Ultimately the problem is that I had a difficult time letting this medium be itself. I wanted it to be like chalk pastels, but it can’t. Usually when I work, I do not disguise the medium. My oil paintings have thick strokes; watercolors, bleeding edges; ink drawings, scratches and blots. I don’t mean this in the “art mark” superficial kind of way; I only allow it when it is crucial to the structure of the piece. My best work reflects a complete comfort with the medium, a synthesis of concept and material where there is almost no distinction between the two. This is very different from works where the artist is just “playing” with the material with no end result in mind. It is also quite the opposite of having the medium only as the means to make the image.

This all reminds me of listening to string music. There was a brief time when I was young that I thought it was pretty cool to have string quartets play classic rock songs (like the Beatles or something). I quickly got tired of it, preferring music written specifically for strings (Bach, for example) because it was a much better use of the medium. The composer was truly intimate with the nature of the instruments and was able to produce high quality work. A pop song transposed for a string quartet sounded more like bending these beautiful instruments into tools of pop culture. Let the electric guitars and thumping drums and raspy voices rock out their hits, because it suits them best (the rock star is equally as knowledgable in his medium). The stringed instrument deserves its own score sung with its own voice.

I am going to start another drawing, and this time I am going to let the oil pastels sing in their own voice. When I finally learn to recognize it, I will come back to the transposed-pop-song drawing and relieve it of some of its constraints.

Kathryn

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