Eisenman works with figures, or more accurately, with the body. She often puts a queer sensibility in her pieces, playing with gender expression and convention. She’s another artist who often puts humor into her work, which I always like to see in fine art.
So much contemporary art takes itself super seriously, and we could all do with occasional wind taken out of our hoity-toity sails. The sculpture, Sketch for a Fountain (2017), is a joyous and life-celebrating piece, something the world always needs more of.
I see echoes of other artists in her paintings, Guston and the realists (usually parodied) are two, historical painters edge in as well. The occasional crudeness—maybe grotesquery is more apt—belies her skill as a draftsperson. Enjoy, Boston.
Vessel: Thomas Heatherwick’s New Point of Argument in the Art Sphere
There’s something exciting about art world controversy. Even in school, and getting angry about some sculpture or painting or exhibition I deemed “fake,” or “insincere,” or “pandering,” I still enjoyed the engagement those works provoked in me and in my fellow students.
So, anew, is the latest in back-and-forth arguments about the relative worth or meaning of a work. Heatherwick installed “Vessel,” a linked set of staircases, basically, in Manhattan, NYC.
For me, it most resembles one of those sets in sci-fi films where members of an alien tribunal gaze down on humans and condemn them to work in salt mines on some distant planet.
I used to really dislike the song, “Santa Baby,” in its many variations. But after hearing the original Eartha Kitt version and reading the lyrics, I’ve turned it around in my head. It’s a grossly materialistic plea, for sure, but it’s also a cute bit of fun, if you don’t take it too seriously.
And, of course, that’s not a bad lesson for life, and for your art. We cringe a little at artists who are really earnest about the value of their own work. Meh. Artists with a sense of humor, and perspective, make me want more of their stuff. It’s a more enjoyable way to experience life and art, both.
Change is all around us. It’s baked into the nature of the universe. Maintaining a little openness to change gives you some flexibility in other areas of life, not to mention your work. It’s the cross-cultural principle that appears in The Talmud, Aesop’s Fables, the Tao Te Ching, and others: be flexible like a reed or a willow, not hard and unbending like a dead branch or a hardwood.
Liking What You Do Is More Important Than What It Is
Speaking strictly about art (although it might apply to other things), what smart people in the distant past have understood is that your passion for your work brings out the deepest levels and the ideas that are most you. And being yourself is the ultimate goal.
We understand it today because it becomes obvious pretty fast—if you look—that imitating others’ success only gets a little traction, professionally and personally. You’ll almost certainly enjoy your work the more it comes from within you. You don’t have to wonder if it fits the current trends, just that it’s yours. It’s sometimes possible to game the system a bit, but it won’t be as fulfilling as following your own path.
We all stand on the shoulders of our heroes and our predecessors. We learn by practicing and imitating. But the most fun and the most rewarding things are becoming more completely yourself. And it won’t matter what that is, it’ll matter how you feel about it.