Monday, September 24, 2012

Meeting with Shellbure on September 22nd

     Shellburne said my work is more about ideas than about forming a concrete image.  I want to see what I can’t see.  And she asked do we see with just our eyes?   She said I seem to be dealing with the 'Life Force' issue.  She said it makes her think of “when dissecting a frog is the frog still there?”  Her comment made me think of a quote from a novel she had told me to read: “Fact explains nothing.  On the contrary, it is fact that requires explanation.”  Marylynne Robinson, Housekeeping, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, NY, 1997, page 217
     She said there is a sense of self-erasure in my work.  Shellburne said the way we protect ourselves is to frame our experiences.  Shellburne wondered if I was trying to break through that 'frame' in my images.  She said in my best images she has no idea what I took a picture of.  In these images she doesn’t think the source important, rather she is concerned with where the images take her, as well as what am I trying to find.  She said there is a question of Primacy in my work.  What is more important to me: the structure, or what is outside?
     Shellburne’s big question to me was: Why do I continually frame structures, that should appear sound and permanent, in ways that makes them seem fragile, or less solid, than the natural growth around them?  The best answer at this time comes from my own questioning as to why I was drawn to the Old Man.  I think what I really loved about this old man was that he and the cats and his house exposed the changeability, the fragility, and tenuousness of life.  They had all crossed a line that no longer tried to keep the harshness of nature out (he had various pieces of household furniture out in his yard that he used), but seemed to accept and embrace rather than fight the rhythms of nature.  And I felt drawn to the way the cats, the old man, and the house – no matter how seemingly cast aside or broken – supported each other, held one another up, and kept each other going.  Life is tenuous and fragile and constantly changing, and the things we construct around us to make us feel safe are as fragile as we ourselves, unless we all lean into each other and help hold one another up.  But these are all things I need to think more about.
     Shellburne also said, like she has said in visits past, my subject matter is one that treads a very fine line, and can easily become sentimental and cliche.  She said so far I have not crossed it, but I need to be very aware of this fact so that I don't.

Artists Shellburne wants me to look at: Kiki Smith, Neil Welliver, Charles Burchfield, and Charlie Harper

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