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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What is art anyway?

Lewis concludes in Chapter 1 of Mere Christianity (1952) with two points, "First, that human beings,all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.  Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way.  They know the Law of Nature; they break it.  These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in (Lewis, 1952, p.8).
Having read that, I start to try and understand what this means to me and my work.  From reading this, it seems as if there is a moral standard/code that we as human beings adhere to - I agree with Lewis.  With that, how does this standard apply to and translate to art?  Is there a standard that we are trying to achieve in making art?  I hear a lot of talk these days about how art can be anything we want.  Is this because there was/is a standard but in our human nature have decided to break the Law of Nature?  Is art supposed to break rules or point to a standard? It is the intent of the artist that matters; which to some extent, I agree.  However, I start to wonder what is art then?  I am interested in having these conversations. We are all getting a Master of Fine Arts degree, but we never talk about this in a real way.  We all just say we make art, but why?  If what Lewis is saying is true, it seems as if there must be some rules about art that we strive to adhere to as well.  However, as he said, it is our choice to adhere to them or not.  If art is a depiction of our values, worldview, etc. what are we communicating?
I am thinking about these topics in what I do.  I strive for my work to adhere to a standard and depict my values and worldview, but how are those things being communicated?  I am asking myself, am I being successful?  I think art should lead viewers to consider something greater than themselves and maybe question their current view of the topic being addressed by the artist.  This is all for a purpose so that we can grow, work together, and come closer to understanding truth in this world.  I do not believe it is relative.
Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers.
I will close with a quote from artist Mako Fujimura that I have been thinking about,
"We are today, border-less in more ways than one.  As we have become multi-cultural, we have become "multi-phrenic." There is no true, lasting expression of the sublime in a center-less world.  If there is no center, there is no periphery border in which art can thrive.  Today we need a centralizing vision of our being" (Fujimura, 2007, p.5).
This is an interesting concept - one that I am trying to wrap my mind around.  If there is no center, there are no boarders?  Webster defines border as "a boundary between places" or "an outer part or edge."  With that I ask the question, do we need borders in art?  If we do need borders - why?  If borders are defined by the center, what is the center?  If one says that borders are not necessary, does that mean that a center is not necessary?
Fujimura, Makoto (2007). River Grace. New York: Poiema Press: International Arts Movement. 
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (1503-1517)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bye and Bye

There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet bye and bye,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet bye and bye,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
 38” x 5” x 22” - Tree Nymph butterfly specimen courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History, 23K gold leaf, balsa wood veneer on birch panel, stainless steel pins, brass screws, encased in UV filtering acrylic vitrine fabricated by Faulkner Plastics of Miami, FL
Commissioned by Mrs. Linda Fuchs 
Dasburg President's House at the University of Florida
The title, Bye and Bye is inspired by the cherished hymn, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”
Excerpt from In the Sweet Bye and Bye by Sanford F. Bennett (1868)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

In the beginning...

I began making ceramic eggs last spring as metaphors for the concept of home.  Reflecting on my thoughts have led me to realize that maybe I am thinking about the egg as a metaphor for home in relation to its role of raising children.  Home is fragile and precious.  Like the egg, it is also the container of life and the beginning of all things.  This is the role of the home in our culture and society.  It begins a child’s life and prepares them for the world they will face.  Childhood is also precious and a very fragile time.  It is critical to nurture and protect it.  It affects the way children learn to move and interact with people in this world even into adulthood.  If this development is altered, trauma can happen.  Trauma can be overcome - the trials we face make us who we are.  The good news is that there is always hope for intervention if we humble ourselves and allow it to happen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

"Mom, where do babies come from?"

In reading some from, Children & Adolescents: Interpretative Essays on Jean Piaget, author David Elkind makes an interesting point about the development in children and their question asking.
"One of the earliest themes in a child's questioning has to do with origins.  The beginnings of things, particularly of living things, are a great mystery to children, just as they were to the Greek philosophers."
Elkind goes on to give examples of common questions that children begin to ask around the age of 5 or 6.  Questions like "How does the baby get in mommy's stomach?" or "Who was the mother when everybody was a baby?"
Parents should seek to answer these sort of questions in a way that is appropriate to the child's level of understanding. 
Elkind goes on to say, "If the parent feels uncomfortable about invoking God in answering such questions he can always ask the child what he thinks and the child is likely himself to supply the theological explanation."
Pretty cool.
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20
Works Cited
Elkind, David. Children & Adolescents: Interpretive essays on Jean Piaget. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Leave it To Beaver!"

Leave it to Beaver! Starring: Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver.
In a male commentator’s voice, these are the words that have echoed from television sets across America millions of times since this renowned sitcom’s first debut in October 1957.  Even if one has not heard or seen it himself, he knows of it.  It is familiar.  This sitcom painted the picture of what it looked like to live in 1950s American suburbia.  Almost 60 years later, its influence lives on in our country.  While some people are appalled by this picture of family and suburbia life screaming “women’s rights!” or “end male domination,” many people lust over this ideal.  For those who are attracted to the marriage and family of Ward and June Cleaver, what is it about their life that is so appealing?   Is there an innate desire to live this way or is it merely an image or fa├žade painted by our culture – a social construct? 
We have almost been convinced that if we lived the way the Cleaver’s did, we would be safe and secure.  Warm in our suburban home, surrounded by our white picket fence that formed the perimeter around our plush freshly mowed lawn, setting down to the table to eat a homemade baked apple pie served to us by our mother in a pearl necklace, we would be safe.  Safe.  Yes – safe – for a moment.  A fleeting moment.  Yet, life happens and sometimes we are not given that apple pie. In fact, many of us aren’t.  Then, what do we do?  Give up? Hang up the towel?  No.  There is something greater.  We have never been promised comfort or security on this Earth.  That is not the point of this life.  This life is a journey and sometimes it is a difficult one.  This life is a journey to becoming something greater if we allow ourselves to become it.  One day, this life will end. Then and only then will we experience eternal glory, eternal security, and eternal comfort.  Ward and June Cleaver do not determine where I spend eternity.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This too shall pass....

Security, safety, purpose, and love. Humans are on a search to find these things. Whether they be physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual, we all want security.  In the country in which we live, America, there are many things that seem to provide us the opportunity to be secure -  physical homes, institutions, systems, organizations, and structures.  In comparison to other nations, America is rich.  However, how long will these man-made and imposed orders last?  They will not - they are merely attempts to achieve what is really to come.  At any moment, a disaster could bring it all crashing down and our perfect ideas of security will be no more.  No more white picket fences, perfectly manicured lawns, or even organizations that seek to help those in need.  Everything will pass.  What will we be left with?  I challenge you to consider if the world as you know it were to fall apart, what would you do?
Wisteria Lane from the set of Desperate Housewives
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Standards: Recent thoughts about my work

In my art, I am searching for how to communicate my ideas on the value of the Christian faith and worldview in relationship to the idea of one’s personal security and how it is illustrated through the home and family.  I am seeking to illustrate value, purpose, standards, and truth within these topics, but also the redemption that is available when we fail.  I believe there is an ultimate security and standard to be found.  What does that look like? How can we attain it, then nurture and protect it?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

History of American Ceramics - Where do I fit? Minimalism and Clay

Some studies and thoughts supporting graduate studio practice that will hopefully help me determine where I fall within the history of what we call American Ceramics....
Minimalism - an art movement of the 1950s - 1970s that stripped forms down to the essence of their being. Some refer to it as a reaction against the movement of Abstract Expressionism which brings to mind the work of Jackson Pollock or for us clay folk, Peter Voulkos.  While there is no denying the brilliance of the abstract expressionist... I mean, look at the life that Voulkos brought to the clay... there is for me personally, some sort of comfort that can be seen in more minimal work.
When I think of minimalism, I think of Donald Judd and Carl Andre and I see order. There is repetition and order and for me, it is comforting.  There are modular units that are grouped together to create a larger form or installation.
When we get to clay and this movement... Garth Clark has some interesting things to say about it.  He says in his essay, "Geert Lap - Some Notes on Minimalism in Ceramic Art,"
"The modern traditions of ceramics have tended towards the expressionistic and the hand-made. Minimalism, with its implicit acceptance of the contemporary industrial landscape, has been suspect because of its identification with machine-made objects and materials.  the more obvious the hand of the maker, most ceramicists believed, the more obvious the art content.  The fear of being mistaken for machine-made production ware, in conjunction with a deeply felt anti-intellectualism and anti-conceptualism, has kept ceramics away from the minimalist arena."
Clark goes on to describe the art of Lap in the essay, but I would like to focus and think about what Clark said about clay people staying away from minimalism for fear of their work appearing machine made. 
John Mason began to defy this in the 1970s with his large "X" forms and usage of firebrick to create modular units on the floor.  The brick are yes, machine made....
But my interest is in the production of minimal forms in a way that still appears handmade. Currently, my solution to this is by press-molding... Not the most efficient way.  There is something about the labor that is involved in creating the pieces each individually. I use my hand on each one and they have a story.  Isn't this what is so powerful about clay?  It has a memory. We have a memory. The metaphors that can be made between clay and the human life are infinite. Why is that? 
I don't want to take away the hand and the story from the pieces, I create.  They can be merged with the minimal form in which I personally press the clay. Why am I doing this? I don't have all the answers yet. That is why I am here and that is why I continue to make. If I knew the answer, I might just go try my hand in brain surgery.
Mason's Bricks
My Bricks

Thursday, July 2, 2015

School of Life : Lesson 2 - People Pleasing vs. the Truth and Nothing but It

People pleaser.  I am often guilty as charged.  I have "known" it is not the best way to be, but it seems as if I am truly realizing why it is not good at all as I find myself in graduate school faced with many things that oppose my convictions. 
In every situation, I must hold true to my convictions.  This isn't easy.  It requires a lot of confidence.  I am learning.  If we are not honest with ourselves and one another, no one is ever satisfied.  We will continue to carry around feelings of hurt, discomfort, and miscommunication. We would all be flakes.  I don't want to be a flake.
In a recently watched episode of "Leave it to Beaver," June tells Beaver, "You'll always be safe if you tell the TRUTH."
What does telling the truth and honesty have to do with being a people pleaser?  It has everything to do with it.
Ever just say what you know you want people to hear so they will like you?  Ever don't say what you really think for fear of offending someone even when you know what is right?  What is beating around the bush?  Passive aggressive?  What is love?
"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love NEVER fails." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
This is how we must share truth and discipline.  It is tough - tough love - not always squishy, but it is all of the above.  How do we do this?
"Simply let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no."" - Matthew 5:37
No need to make excuses. I am willing to bet people will respect you if you share your true feelings in love - REAL LOVE.
For it is this I have been commanded...
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."
- Matthew 22:37-39
This love is sharing with brothers what is true even when it hurts.  Even if they may not like you anymore.  It is not condemning, but kind and patient.  It is honest.  It is genuine.  It is forgiving.  It is true.  This folks, is Christ's infinite love.  He is who I strive to please for it is His face that I want to see. 
"Beaver's Bad Day" (1958)
Leave it to Beaver
June and Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver

Monday, June 8, 2015

School of Life: Lesson 1 - Paddle at Your Own Pace

Included in my thoughts and research supporting studio practice during graduate school are my thoughts and lessons in the School of Life.  I will attempt to keep up with this for the Lord has taught and continues to teach me many lessons this year.  By documenting them, I hope to share the good news, encourage others, and most importantly remind myself of the lessons that I have already learned - I often forget them.
December 11, 2014 - I joined some friends from UF Ceramics to take a trip to Cedar Key, FL to partake in some kayaking adventures.  This was to be my second kayaking voyage.  My first, was in Curaumilla, Chile where I kayaked the COLD Pacific Ocean.  I should have learned this lesson then.  I happened to "lose" my breakfast in the great Pacific if you know what I mean.  Not fun.  Well maybe that was a different lesson - one from childhood - don't go in the water for 30 minutes after you eat!!!  At any rate, I was going to conquer this second trip!  I tend to get a little bit competitive at times.
As we launched the boats in the water, I could see the destination island in the distance.  For a rookie kayaker, it seemed to be at least an hour away - not really.  My friends zoomed ahead and continued to glance back at me, "How are you doing, Paige?"  "Oh fine," I would reply.  While inside, I was a little frustrated with myself and I wanted to be further ahead than I was.  I was tempted to pick up my pace and catch up with the troop.  As I did, I could feel my body saying to me, "Slow down!"  I began to feel a little nauseated and was finally forced to stop.  A voice inside of me said, "Look at this beautiful gulf."  I paused and looked and the rays of sun were bouncing of the surface of the water.  There were birds swooping down and flying so close to the water that their feathers just gracefully skimmed its surface. "WOW!" I thought. "Look at what I see when I SLOW DOWN to ENJOY what is before me and RELAX for a change."  I began to paddle again, but this time with a different attitude.  I decided that I WILL reach the island when I reach the island.  Maybe that is not when my friends reach it, but that's okay because maybe it was that kayaking adventure that was meant to teach me this very important life lesson!
I viewed the trip as a metaphor for life.  We're all on this kayaking adventure.  We're going out into the open sea with nothing in sight of what could come across our path.  Through it we learn lessons.  It may be hard to learn them.  Growing pains aren't comfortable.  However, if you believe what I believe, we have been promised by our Lord Jesus Christ that we WILL reach the island if we trust Him.  Be who you are.  Learn as you learn.  Find joy in the experience of it all.  Are we to be diligent at this? Of course, but don't allow trying to catch up with the crowd get in the way of your pace and what you could be learning.  If you try to race ahead, you may get sick (if you're kayaking) or most importantly, you may miss what it is that God is trying to teach you.  His plan for us is individual and I can't expect mine to line up with someone else's.  It is unique.
Are you paddling at your own pace?
Kayak Cedar Keys!!!!

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Manifesto - I Love to Tell THE Story - Part I

In conversation a few weeks ago with my mentor, he encouraged me to write a manifesto for my art.  I was at my wits end, frustrated, and trying to figure out what I am doing.  I think grad school will do that do someone.  It is really hard.  I won't pretend that it isn't.  However, it is good and necessary to experience in order that one might truly own his work.  I have learned that my work can no longer be about what someone has told me to make it about or even what I think it should be.  No, it has to be what One greater than me has commanded it to be.
My second semester of graduate school has been a challenge to figure out that goal.  All I could figure out is that I wanted to tell a story... What story?  I had an idea. "I love to tell the story of unseen things above of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and His love.  I love to tell the story because I know tis true.  It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do."  That's the story I wanted to tell and that's the story that I wanted to sing everyday.
PROBLEM! Not everyone can relate to that story the way I know it and not everyone cares about Jesus the way I do.  HOWEVER, there is something that we all have in common and that is that we are all human.  WOW. Yep. We are.  Flawed and sinful to the core. I know I am anyway.  I need saving.  No matter how hard I try, I can't fix or save myself at all. I must surrender and die to myself daily.  So I have a story - MY story.  It tells the story of Jesus and how He loved and saved me.  Doesn't everyone want to be saved by something?  Doesn't everyone want to be loved?  Can't I show human's desire to be safe and loved? Yes, I can.  That is what I will strive to do.  It won't have a cross stamped on it, but it will seek to share the story of His truth and love that is unchanging and eternal.
In reading a book that was recommended to me by none other than my mentor again, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning, I came across a paragraph that screamed out to me, step it up a notch, Paige!!!!!!!!  You're on a mission!
Christian art should grow out of the robust confidence that nothing is unredeemable - that Jesus himself entered into the darkest levels of human experience and transformed them into sources of life and renewal.  A full-orbed work of Christian art should include all three elements of the biblical worldview: creation, fall, redemption.  It should allude to the beauty and dignity of the original creation.  But it should also be transparently honest about the reality of sin and suffering.  Finally, it should always give hints of redemption.  No matter how degraded or corrupt a character may be, he or she should be portrayed with the dignity of being redeemable.  Some ray of hope should penetrate the darkness....
I seek to...
.....create humane and healthy alternatives that speak deeply to the human condition.
Each and every one of us have a purpose in life.  We are created which means we have a Creator with a purpose.  I pray that I strive to live out that purpose everyday.   I have to tell my story.  It is the only one I have and because I am the only Paige there is, it will be told through a new lens - my lens. 
"I love to tell the Story,  'twill be my theme in glory. To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love." 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Objects are magic.

IIn reading The Syntax of Objects by Tim McCreight, I have been brought to tears more than once.  Admitting that seems to prove Tim's thoughts and statements about objects from Chapter 32...
"Who thinks objects are magic, raise your hand.  Do you need convincing?"
Here is why I raised my hand. Guilty.
"Or think of the rediscovered toy.  You hadn't thought of it for years then see it at a flea market.  What is it?  A board game, or a doll, or a cap pistols in tan-colored plastic holsters?  A child-size kitchen, or a rubber sword, or a sheet metal dump truck, or a potholder loom?  You buy it, of course.  It is an artifact of historical dimensions.  It is COMFORT in a changing world, a familiar face seen across a room crowded with strangers, suddenly precious to you.  Of course you bought it, and you cannot explain why."
Why Mr. McCreight,  you have nailed it right on the head for me - for most of us I think.  My grandmother did this.  When I was in high school I thought that it was silly.  She would frequently come home from a visit to the antique store with something that one of her grandmothers had when she was a little girl.  Once, it was a set of aluminum measuring cups.  They were dinted in places and had lost their sheen.  She was so excited to show them to me.  She said, "Look what I found! Mammie had these when I was a little girl."  I didn't get it.  "So what? I thought." 
Please forgive me, Gran.  I get it now.  Approximately 5 years later, I stumbled across a set of the same aluminum measuring cups at a yard sale and guess what?  I bought them.  25 cents.  You can't beat that with a stick. In the end it doesn't matter how much they cost though.  They are special.  Irreplaceable.  They have a story in them that I know.  My Gran used them and now I know my Mammie, my great-great grandmother who I never met did as well.  WOW!  Well now I use them.  5 generations used the same style measuring cups. Cool.
Maybe I got an extra dose of sentiment in my genes, but this just moves me.  It takes me back to a time in life that was so special.  Not that now isn't.  IT IS!  Then was just different.  I don't know how to articulate it yet, but I long for that time back.  I could just cry.  I smell smells of then.  I feel my Grandmommy's sheets on my legs after a long day of work in the yard and a refreshing bath. 
Can I make my work be about this?  That's what I am striving for.  I want to capture this feeling.  Of course no one gives a rat's tail about my Gran or Mammie that I never met, but you have a Gran and a Mammie and I bet you feel the way about yours just as I do mine.  It's universal you see.  In the end, all I have is my story to articulate this feeling.  I know it best.  Since I do know my story best, I could probably express this feeling in the most powerful and sincere way if I use mine.  So I will...