Friday, September 13, 2019

BOOKS: 1999/2019 Part 1.

BOOKS: Twenty Years Later 1999/2019 Part 1.

My book series began in my last year of art school at the University of Oregon as I was my persuing my BFA in Painting and it became my terminal project exhibition for my graduation with honours. I already knew at this point that I was an abstract painter and that I had some hard feelings towards the “art establishment.” While I respected my peers in the program, I didn’t want to create the same large scale glossy paintings that they were doing at the time. I wanted to create something more intimate, meaningful, and honest from my work. I wanted to use common materials and somehow make art more accessible. I wanted the viewer to have an experience with the work.

I created my abstractions in found hardback books that I gathered one by one out of the free bin of a local bookstore. I selected the discarded and withdrawn books and their beautifully yellowed pages as they were now somehow without value. I sometimes tore them apart to showcase their skeletons and hidden features while I painted with oil bar, drew with colour pencils and graphite, and commandeered their stories making them into something new. I assumed personalities and told other people’s stories, while creating small abstractions within the taped, stitched, and bound pages. These books were rough, raw, and dirty though the concept and belief behind them were fully considered. These were meant to be read and handled like any other book. The story received was meant for the viewer alone and could be closed up and left for another. Each person handling the books became part of the story and the story became part of the viewer as they walked away. They had just touched modern art. They had just had it in the palm of their hands.

For my terminal exhibition at the University’s Laverne Krause Gallery, I set up a sofa, a woven rug, a coffee table, end tables, and chairs. Turning the gallery into a familiar setting, a place that invited you to sit and relax without having to say it. My books littered the coffee table overlapping, some open, some closed. No instructions, simply relying on human nature, curiosity, and comfort to encourage the viewer to experience the art, to turn the pages and be.

I have always had a problem with the exclusivity of art and sadly the idea by many that art requires specialist skills, knowledge or education to understand and appreciate it fully. For many, there is an imaginary barrier between themselves and art, especially when it comes to abstraction. All art requires is time and the willingness to see but before that can happen, it must be accessible. The guard of the viewer must be lowered, the defenses calmed and soothed to foster understanding. If I can put art into a format that is more easily understood and accessible then I can change people’s experience of art. If I can take something that might be seen as scary or intimidating on a gallery wall and put it in the hands of the viewer, they are now dominating the art, the art is no longer dominating them.

photo by Mairi Brown taken at Art Walk Porty

Most viewers will understand books even at their most basic level they will understand picture books. If I put modern art in books that they can touch and feel, smell, read, feel the weight of the work in the books, then I can get them to slow down and have an experience. The average time people spend looking at paintings on a wall in a museum or gallery is 17-27 seconds. That is not an experience. We have been trained that art is not to be touched. It is revered, fragile, valuable, untouchable. We view it with our hands jammed in our pockets, behind our back, behind a rope, behind a taped line, we do not gesticulate towards or talk loudly about it. The art becomes void. The art becomes detached from reality and it’s humanness. Some humans will also detach from it or never even attempt it. I find this thought deeply wounding.

Join me here again next week on my Friday Studio Blog for Part II of the written discussion of my books. Until then you can hear me speak about by books on this week's video visit. Thanks again to everyone who came to see my books art Art Walk Porty last weekend. It was a joy to meet you and share my passion for this work.

Thank you.

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