I’m not one to go quoting rock lyrics—oh, all right, yes I am. Mostly I do to myself, but if some unsuspecting cow-orker or friend accidentally quotes a piece of a song I know or something close to it, I’ll jump in there and finish a line. Usually I’m just the weirdo being weird, and I have to explain what I’m talking about.
I thought a long time ago that it was easily as valid a choice to apply some lyricist’s rhymes to my life as any random philosopher. And I still do, mostly. Snippets of philosophy rarely do justice to the thoughts behind them pulled out of context. We apply phrases and lines to events and situations to graft our own extemporaneous meaning onto those things, anyway. So what does it matter the context of the original?
Art making is sometimes similar. Our influences and favorites sneak into our work all the time. Usually it’s not wholesale, but just a hint of the thing it came from. It’s a method of brushstroke. It’s a melodic quirk. It’s a metaphor stretched in a peculiar, but compelling, way.
Little pieces of out-of-context art from fellow artists, like lyric snippets, have stuck in our souls. When they emerge, it’s because they’ve become part of us, and therefore shape our own work. Embrace that weirdness, because it all makes you, you.
You can get plenty of weird ideas while you’re falling asleep. And weird ideas—or unexpected, if you like—are what you want if you’re an artist. But execution is missing. You’re tired, drifting. It’s nearly impossible to bring an idea to reason, never mind fleshing it out.
But ideas are valuable just to keep handy. They’re easy, fruitful, and full of possibility. That’s all they need to be on their own.
It’s sort of secret because it’s not talked about much. Artists who are just beginning to learn how to do what they want to do usually have periods of elation and frustration as they practice and discover. The funny—or scary?—thing is that experienced artists still have those phases when they try new directions.
Novelists, painters, musicians: if they’re beginning a new book, series, album, go through that push and pull of feelings, too, even though they might have done it many times.
The fear of the unknown isn’t just fear of failure. It’s primal. Creating truly new things than you’ve made before puts us into a weird and vulnerable state. That’s okay to feel, it’s normal. Just something to be aware of, that we all have those stages of growth. If we’re lucky—and willing to expose ourselves all over again.
Sometimes a cheap, pandering title is just the thing to tangent from.
We obsess over stories like nothing else. It’s another essentially human thing. Obsession is good, in moderation. We have to have some measure of it to stick with anything when it gets hard.
Just as it’s hard to watch made up people you care about get killed off on screen, it’s hard to watch your ideas fail to find a firm place to take hold and then fade. But there are always more ideas. If we keep on making them, there will be a few that make it.
Amanze works with surrealism and figure—mashups? There’s a mystical element to many works, finely detailed figures and things floating in the white space of their surfaces.
It’s disturbing and charming at the same time. The sense of myth or spirit world imbues the drawings that also show us the plain, real, everyday. The open spaces have a quiet, meditative structure, where anything could happen, but for now the moment of stillness stretches.
I see a lot of comments online to the effect of “[animal1]—what did we do to deserve them?” Or, “we totally don’t deserve [animal2]s,” followed by a charming video of [animal]. I’m not immune to such memes.
But if you’ve read Rudyard Kipling’s “The Cat That Walked by Himself,” in which the prototypical titular cat gradually ingratiates himself to the woman—this was published in 1902, so, cats were naturally a girl thing—you’ll note that bargains are struck for a give-and-take relationship. Everyone gets value for their contribution.
It’s certainly possible to think of art, the work you make yourself, in this mutually beneficial way. And, like the cat, it’s wild, and aloof, and we don’t fully understand it.
But we strike the bargain, and we both give to and get an insane level of value from art. “Pet” is probably an inept label. Let’s say “companion.” We walk side-by-side and get closer the more effort and time we put in.
A few days ago, I was leaving work in a very light rain. The sidewalk slopes sharply down outside the parking lot of this particular strip mall, and I started to slip and fall. I caught myself, just barely avoiding falling or sitting down, hard, with a drink in one hand. A regular customer at my store, someone I’ve greeted and said goodbye to on a regular basis.
I turned, after catching myself, and caught his eye. I could see the concern on his face, then the relief, reflecting my own, that I hadn’t fallen completely.
This simple, very human connection seems to me the central concern of art. It’s essential to connecting the things I make to the people I want to see them (which, to be perfectly egotistically honest, is everyone). We can’t be creating things too far outside the relatable, because what makes art relevant is that connection to experience. Keep letting your thoughts run wild, but remember we’re making these things to express our common experience.
There are lots of sculptures to marvel over at Sailstorfer’s web site, and they range from static, pedestal-bound allegories to machines in motion to indoor-specific to outdoor manipulations. Expectations are twisted and new connections made in brilliant presentations that are simple on the surface but full of ingrained substance.
Take some time and poke around, Sailstorfer is masterfully repurposing things of contemporary society and rethinking their places.
The more you resist the urge to stop, the easier it is to keep finding your path. And maybe that path wanders a lot, but you will feel at ease on it, more often than not.
Lots of people talk about making art. Most don’t. Most who start making it at some point quit, or just dip into it now and then. If you aren’t one of them, you’re making things to put into the world, beautiful, affecting, amazing things. New things, that haven’t been experienced before. That’s the important part. It isn’t how brilliant everyone else thinks they are. That’s nice if it happens, but if it doesn’t, you’ll still feel a connection to your being in a powerful way.
I’m always fascinated by artists who interact with the physical world in various ways. Especially when they turn the familiar upside down. Magda Sayeg does this sort of thing a lot, creating what I’d call interventions more than merely installations.
Using yarn as a medium has some deep connective salience. It’s familiar, but outside the context of a home or apparel, it brings a sometimes unnerving resonance to both natural and human made objects. Simultaneously, it adds touches of humor and cozy familiarity, drawing us in with bright color and warmth.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.