Friday, January 13, 2012

We're not in Arkansas anymore...

 View over Edinburgh, Scotland January 2012

As I predicted last week, here I am this week, writing my blog from a borrowed laptop while sitting on a green Ikea sofa in Edinburgh, Scotland. As you know, this blog is mostly about art, but for the next several months it will also serve as my travel journal, but as I plan to see and make a lot of art it should fit both of my needs. I hope you will enjoy following along on my adventures.

I left Arkansas on Tuesday and arrived in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn. This was my first solo journey by plane, the first time I had been on a plane since 1997 and my first time out of the country. The journey was smooth and really very manageable. So far I don't really seem to suffer from jet lag and in general I feel a sense of peace about me. As I have seemingly just conquered one of my biggest phobias of the past.

This is much more than just a trip for me. I can't even begin to explain what this trip means to me. I support myself off my art and I was able to buy a ticket and get myself here. I managed the system of travel and I managed my fears of the unknown. I thought my mind might race or take me to dark places, but it was completely still and has remained mostly still since I left Fayetteville Tuesday morning. The reset button has been pushed completely at this point. I am back on a trajectory that was set a long time ago when I was young and fearless. The options before me are endless. The options may not be easy, but they are guaranteed endless. I have a new confidence in myself now that I have made this journey. I have been building this confidence steadily over the years through my art. If it wasn't for my art I wouldn't be where I am today literally.

Edinburgh is a bustling city, the light is low in the sky during the winter. In the late afternoon the sunshine reminds me of what it looks like at 7a.m. in my part of the world, low and filtered. I don't mind the short days. It is cool, but not uncomfortable. I have been walking for miles each day, for a total of sixteen in the first 3 days. I enjoy the walking and do not miss my car or driving one bit. It is a great way to see the city and get a feel for where things are and how it all connects. I like how it is layered and stacked. A gradual incline up a street and before you know it you are looking down on another part of the city or even walking across a bridge that you would not expect.

As far as art goes, it is everywhere from the architecture to the bending reaching trees, to the sky and the views of the city. But as far as formal art goes, I have been to the Scottish National Gallery of Art which has a beautiful and far reaching collection. In the National Gallery, I saw a painting I had a relationship with in art school. It was Gauguin's painting, Vision of the Sermon. In art school I wrote a paper about this particular piece and even did a large copy of the painting. It was good to see it in person. It is a strange painting and I wish I had the paper I wrote with me, so I knew why I chose it and my thoughts at the time. I look forward to revisiting this gallery again soon, there were some textile pieces that were quite breathtaking, as well as a painting by John Duncan, called Saint Bride that I was entranced by.

Today, I visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. I will remember it mostly because of the beautiful walk to get there. I am not saying the art wasn't worthwhile or memorable, it is, but more for the rock star element of who created it than what it says or how it makes me feel. It is an impressive collection, but these kind of collections are the kind that one typically reads about in the magazines I typically try to avoid such as Art in America or Art News. The collection currently is comprised of art that might awe one with the scale of execution, or conceptual art that takes big money to produce, this is the art by the big names. But before I drop any of those names, I will mention the work in the collection that did move me. I saw two Kurt Schwitters' pieces that I enjoyed. His skeletal book spines threading across the paper collage in conversation with his design sensibilities. I also saw two pieces by Barbara Hepworth. The two wood sculptures were curved, soft, rich and organic.

For those interested in the flashy names. I saw A Girl by Ron Mueck. I had seen this work in the magazines mentioned above in the past as I flipped through them while waiting for paint to dry. To see A Girl in person is amazing as the execution seems flawless and the scale impressive as it takes up an entire large room right off the main entrance of the gallery. But once you get past the wow factor there is nothing left, or at least there was nothing left for me. I also saw a sculpture by Damien Hirst, this piece was of a pregnant woman, you can see the baby inside and a skull is at the woman's feet. It was impressive as well, but once I walked around it and thought, "Oh that's a Hirst," I simply walked away.

This exhibition did get me thinking about what art is and what it does and what I need it to do to reach me personally. Perhaps the simple fact that the work confuses me or leaves me feeling ambivalent may be its sole purpose. It leaves me wanting more. It also leaves me wanting the past. Call me old fashion but you can give me some abstract expressionism any day. To see some of the highlights from this exhibition including A Girl, click here.

While some of the work I saw today left me a bit cold, seeing the beautiful buildings housing the art, the sun streaming through the gallery windows, the Gormley Sculpture knee deep in the Water of Leith, the recreated studio of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and so much more left me feeling warm, bright and inspired.

And that is what art does. The good, the bad, the ugly, it makes us wrestle in our heads, it moves us, shakes us and even appalls us. It leaves us wanting more and better and sometimes it leaves us wanting to make our own and that is a victory for all of us on the planet.

Make your art, shake us up.


  1. Hey, looking forward to your journal during this trip. I know lots hs changed. Change is good. What a perfect time for a trip.

  2. Beautifully written. So excited for your journey. So glad to see you living again. Love hearing about the art you are witnessing and the excited way in which you describe it.

  3. I am excited about this chapter in your life!
    Can't wait to read more.
    You will fall in love with Edinburgh, I guarantee it!

  4. So glad you're enjoying the architecture--make sure to get over to Glasgow as well!

  5. I had a similar conversation with an artist just the other day and summed up Hirst as above; I kind of put it to him in the context of a 'pun' or a 'clever joke' once this has been realised.. it's a case of 'ahhh...!' I get it now... and then.. there is nothing left.
    However; Ron Mueck's work I feel does have more substance, having been to an exhibition of his at Mcr City Art Gallery; and having seen 'A Girl' (who for a long time lived in Liverpool) - she had a certain sadness and isolation about her; that stayed with me.

    Kurt Schwitters; amazing work, stunning mind & one of my favourite & continuing inspirations .. a true outsider in every sense and his work always resonates very deeply within. (you need to visit Ambleside)
    I am very interested to read your continued visit and your blog is a fascinating way to express your travels and finds.