Pittsburgh's HotHouse is this Saturday the 29th. A few weeks ago I was asked to submit a piece for the art auction portion. It's a somewhat strange event. A "tableau of civic engagement." I can buy that. It's a kind of fundraiser for community projects. Especially The Sprout Fund.
But that's not really what I want to talk about. The theme for the pieces in the art auction was centered around inspiration from the work of Joseph Cornell. I know the basics about Cornell. Definitely one of the more confounding 20th century artists to gain prominence. A very intensely private sort of work; smallish constructions containing objects and (often) astrology images oriented just so.
I happened upon a book about Cornell while killing time before having to work my day job. While I perused it and read some passages I realized that I had missed a mandatory meeting for my department scheduled for exactly right then. Well, I hate being late for anything. Let alone mandatory meets. The embarrassment (and slight disappointment in myself) sent me inward enough to set about building something I really am rather proud of for this auction. I think going inward is the right step for identifying with Cornell's ideas.
Initially I never imagined myself getting so involved. At least not emotionally. I have to start simple. Cornell's little containers seemed simple enough. Here's an old rather deep panel with linen stretched over it and primed which I built six or seven years ago. I actually painted out the image. So I turned it around and started there, a little cove. Each added thing had to be necessary on various levels.
It soon became apparent to me that this piece was begging to be about private machinations surrounding the process of painting. It's sculptural, but, without using any new paint, I knew it had to be a corporeal kind of structure that was a painting. It also became apparent that I had to limit my materials to things I've had in my studio for however long and never really used. Bits and pieces infused with my process and private world. Oriented just so.
I became consumed by it. I had made semi-sculptural assemblages previous to this, but years later I've come to realize how important it is to utilize my mark making. It's been very important in the last four years. I shied away from it in student days because it didn't feel serious. Now it's broadened in very meaningful way. It's a funny and sad thing. Marks are pregnant with the human condition, with pathos and desperation. I've incorporated text in this case as well. It's just more mark making organized to communicate differently.
But from the beginning keeping it simple was the main objective. No goddamn clutter. No smoke and mirrors. It swelled and shrank and writhed in a bizarre gestation in front of me. And I think I love it.
It's titled "Paternity Suit" which is kind of a pun. The piece looks a little like a suit that someone has stepped out of from behind to go use the toilet or eat some granola. It's disjointed with a little elegance and not a little gross. I don't know how else to describe myself. It's also very sincere. Maybe I'll see some drastic shortcomings down the road, but it's opened up avenues for me. Every piece should have that return.