Thursday, February 15, 2007

The sky is earthbloodorange

I have just returned to Austin from New York and am waking up with a book about Tàpies called Witness of Silence by Alexandre Cirici (1972). There is such a freedom in the work of Tàpies that I hope to achieve in my own one day, a kind of trust for the unknown which I believe every artist should embody, walk from, live with. And then there are the colors in his work which move me so deeply. The oranges that speak of something pungent, internal, like blood or love, and also earth. I am staring at this piece called Painting.

Painting, 1954

There are artists that I come back to that I feel somehow related to—artistic ancestors—we have some kind of shared elemental connection—these include Antoni Tàpies, Ana Mendieta and (recently) María Magdalena Campos-Pons. We see their work and think ‘these are my people.’ It makes me think about this idea (this message I heard) that ‘there is no imagination without the ancestors and where we come from.’ And I am thinking of ancestors in all possible forms: blood relations and artistic ancestors as well as place and land.

¿Como Andas?, 2003

While in NY I had this amazing conversation with a friend of mine, Ayano Ohmi, who is a clay artist. She uses clay from all over the world and makes totems with that clay that she often installs outdoors in the same places where the clay was found. The clay comes out of the earth to find a home on top of the earth. How beautiful. So we had this amazing conversation about travel and art and Ayano said something that I keep thinking about: “Clay, fiber and glass are age-old materials, so I feel they should be together, must be together to make something very important.”

And we continued to talk about this elemental connection that we have to materials. The materials know us. We know them, but they have known us longer. Think about that. That the materials have sought us out. So our connection to the materials we use as visual artists stems from something very deep. Ancestral, elemental, fundamental. And so for our work to be powerful form must embody content. The form is history is our past, present and future.

And our deep love and excitement and breathlessness about seeing the color earthbloodorange used on a painting may indeed come from the fact that one of our ancestors was impressed by that color as it painted the sky with the setting sun hundreds or thousands of years ago. We must be incredibly old to be artists.