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.
This goes for bosses, cow-orkers, friends, and family. Everyone likes to be recognized, and this is a small way to keep up with the positive ways they all impact your life. It’s also a little bit of a humility check.
None of us get to where we are alone, and we don’t just need each other for the big things. Lots of small acts of generosity, accommodation, and support go mostly unrecognized day-to-day. If you go out of your way to notice them and say something to the ones who make them, you’re ahead of the human game. It can feel like a more angry world out there. We need more love and more expressed recognition.
It’s Kurt Cobain’s birthday, and it’s also the programming language Python’s birthday, according to a Reddit post calling its author’s announcement message the special day.
What joins the two together? Nothing, really. Except I tend to use Kurt’s birthday for online things instead of my real one, and I’m learning to code in Python. It’s a weird coincidence, nothing else, really.
But that’s what we do in art all the time—notice coincidences and things close together and decide they mean enough to inspire a new thing into the world.
Anderson has long been one of my favorite artists, hard to pin down, stylistically, and spanning multiple media. Here, she breaks down the need to change our perspective to embrace the changing humanscape, where cultures meld and millions have to absorb either an influx of new people or being thrust into a new society.
These thought patterns have implications for thinking about and moving forward with your work.
We do long to have meaning in our lives. We yank it from our stories, the fiction, film, and memoirs we consume. We pluck song lyrics and apply them to our existence like bumper stickers.
It’s not always important to know what you mean with your work. People who read and listen to and look at the things you do will find something that applies to them, more often than not. That’s a good thing, but it’s also what humans are good at.
But, if you, in your struggle to find what to say and how to say it every day, it will help you to have a meaningful framework beneath the thing you’re working on. It connects the deeper parts of you with the physical world. You’ll be putting more of you into your work and thus into the world.
If you’re both shy and often exhausted by your day job, it’s tempting to never go outside (except Tito go back to work) and never have guests.
But sometimes a cow-orker or friend says they’re thinking about stopping by.
Do it. Tell them to come on over. You need the practice, artist person. Keeping up your ability to be engaging even when tired will help future interactions when it’s about you and your work, not just the weather and how annoying everyone is at work.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.