Sunday, April 19, 2015

Relevance: Choosing symbols

There are fleeting moments when I fantasize about being satisfied painting still-lives or landscapes from observation...then I remember who I am and what drives me as an artist. I piece things together, whether it be collage, assemblage or a conglomeration of symbols, trying to find a delightfully puzzling way to tell a story - for those who can take the time to look at it long enough. 

As I embarked on my current series a few months ago, I felt a longing for RELEVANCE, more than I ever have before. I've always been a bit 'old school' in my choice of materials and exhibition venues because I want folks who may not regularly look at art to feel comfortable to check it out and have an individual response without feeling irritated that they don't 'get' it. That's the educator in me.

This time around the message was clear first, so the conundrum was...what symbols and imagery should I use? JUST START said my intuition. Adjust it as you go along and learn from the process. 

Then I read something helpful. I really dig maps and the process of mapping things out, from statistics to ocean currents. While reading Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information by Manuela Lima (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011), I was particularly impressed by the advice on starting out a new line of work. We are urged to consider the individual or universal relevance in advance and throughout the process. The greater the processing effort, the lower the relevance. 'Spare the viewer the gratuitous effort'.  Check this book out, both the imagery and the commentary on changing world behaviors are captivating.

I winced as I remembered a critique at the Boston Drawing Project years ago, when the coordinator told me not to dump everything I had to say in each piece. Ok, so I'm working on this issue in this new series. It's hard for someone with a voracious appetite for making connections.

I knew I wanted to design some tile designs. I chose black swallows for their status as migrant creatures that mate for life, and that frequented my line of sight during my first few years in Spain. You will see other shapes emerge in upcoming posts, like this one... Can you tell what it is?

The continued challenge for me is to leave well enough alone, edit and simplify the final images. I hope for an immediate visual impact followed by a slow understanding that only comes from having seen a hybrid.

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