Saturday, October 25, 2014

Move Over, Richard Serra

When it comes to big egos in the art world, let's face it, there is a lot of competition.  In fact, it is kind of a given because, again let's face it, when no one gives a damn what you do or make, it takes a pretty strong sense of one's own vision and worthiness to actually express that vision.  It's a delicate balance between having a healthy amount of self-esteem to keep going in the face of continual rejection and having a massive ego that is always whispering in your ear, "I must express MY vision, do MY work, me, me, me....and screw you."

I have known plenty of excellent artists who didn't have enough of the former to keep going and I have known plenty of terrible artists who had too much of the latter who are still out there,  Naturally I like to think of myself as the humble but strong artist, working away for the simple love of making things.  But if I am honest with myself, there have been some pivotal moments when I had a choice between making other people happy and making my work and I chose making my work.  I suspect that, for anyone who is serious about making art, this will happen eventually and more than once.  Maybe it isn't even about having a big ego, maybe it is simply knowing that this is what you are here to do and then, doing it.  In yoga, we would say it is following one's dharma.  There is a line in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna tells Arjuna that it is better to follow one's dharma with faults than to be wildly successful at something that isn't one's dharma.  (Chapter 3, verse 35, for those who care about that kind of thing.)

And so, with all my faults, I carry on.

Several years ago, the Metropolitan Museum had a show of drawings by Richard Serra, an artist whom no one ever accused of having a deferential nature.  It was an excellent show, and despite myself and my feelings about Richard Serra and his ego, I really loved the work.  They were monumental drawings made black oil stick covering (almost) every inch of the paper.

Courtesy of the New York Times, April 14, 2011.
I really loved them,  except.

Except, the oil stick caused a kind of reflection of the light, a shininess that bugged me.  "How much better these would be if they were made of black wool that would absorb the light!" I thought.  Indeed, I have thought about this idea for these several years and it has not gotten old or died from boredom.  Indeed, this idea has insisted that I purchase 45lbs of black wool and begin to spin it so I can make my response to those Richard Serra drawings.

But a fraction of the boxes containing said wool.

As I have finally put my money (and time and energy) where my mouth is, I can't help but laugh at the notion that little ol' me, the one who has taken vows to serve and be a bodhisattva, is taking on one of the biggest egos in the art world.

You can draw your own conclusions!


Helen Griffin said...

if you don't yet have an Ott (or other brand) of natural white light (vs other colors of light) head to a craft store (or a home depot!) and buy one. Working with black call for good lighting. (I really like the new LED ott lights, light weight and portable. (and expensive, but so worth it)

Robyn said...

Thank you Helen! Great advice...working with black is killer on the eyes.

Patti Blaine said...

I have a white/unbleached bit of muslin I put over my lap when spinning the dark stuff. Helps me see. You will take on the big man with humor, grace and humility. And wool. That's all you need. May the force be with you? :)

Robyn said...

Haha, thanks Patti! And, really, who knows what will result once it all gets going. Those drawings and my reaction to them are just the beginning. What happens next is anybody's guess.