Hands down, the hardest part of the creative process for me is trust. Each time I embark on a new artistic challenge, the time-devouring thoughts of doubt, fear, insecurity and deficiency rear their gnarly heads.
They poke around into all of my business. Day and night. They linger for a time. They stir up all the feelings. They wear me down. They almost make me want to abandon the art, to throw in the towel, to quit the whole dang thing…maybe get a stable day job, go for safe, settle into the typical life, you know? The feelings tell me its just. too. hard.
I know all the while that I am only torturing myself. After years of keeping these demons at bay time and again, my brain can intellectualize how ludicrous this silly, taxing (but necessary?) cycle is. To grow, and to create new and dynamic work, I must move beyond what I am doing, have done. I must move into the unknown. And that. is. terrifying.
[So far] I always emerge on the other side of the inner tantrum focused, engaged, inspired, [fairly] confident, and ready to go. I just never know how long it will take to get there.
This time around, I arrived late last week.
The added challenge here is that I am not going to purchase or otherwise acquire the materials I need/want now that I have found a trajectory. Instead, I will rifle through garbage week after week, grab at items spontaneously, hoard, and troubleshoot my process feverishly with unfamiliar materials, often not even knowing what those materials will be until they find me at the dump. This takes a LOT of trust.
In the midst of my existential tornado, I have been tinkering around with numerous bent, mutilated metal scraps. This particular item I knew from Day 1 was gold:
It has become the base structure for my first piece.
This one will accompany it, a second tier:
These ones have yet to define their intentions to me, but I know they are integral to the bigger picture nonetheless:
And finally, the outlier:
Another golden find from gleaning Day 1. I have dreams involving this one…
When the inner turmoil that precedes a new body of work sets in real hard, I hunker down and turn to my “bible”. Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland reminds me of all the things I can’t remind myself. Like this line from the chapter “Fears About Yourself”:
‘..whatever you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have- and probably no worry more common.’
Obvious, no? So hard to see from within the tornado.
Here’s to sticking with it. Over and over and over again!
We’re just about a third of the way into the GLEAN residency, and I’ve been regularly stopping in at Metro couple of times a week to see what materials might be of interest for my project. It’s a sweet journey that has developed some routines that I love.
I live in Northeast Portland, so it’s usually about a 15 minute drive door to door. I listen to whatever’s on our local jazz station KMHD on both drives which gets me in the mood. This is a trick I sometimes use in the studio when I need to force myself into a place where I work more quickly and intuitively. Portland is so lucky to have an amazing jazz station.I always bring along my sweet companion Weegee, who’s always up for errands. He’s also come to know that there’s treats in the mix for him at the booth you pass when you both enter and exit the Transfer Station. In fact, as soon as we pull up, he’s in my lap leaning out the window. Here’s Candy giving him his entry handful.In other news, I built a shed so I could store all of the materials I’ve been gleaning this year. It’s made almost entirely from stuff I grabbed out of the dump, including some wheels I removed from a discarded stage, a well-built palette for the floor, ripple roofing, and the walls were made from these two discarded sets from the locally-shot TV show Grimm.At first I thought it would be funny to have the police lineup on the outside, but then I realized that they were made using temporary decals and the plywood was indoor grade, so I just used to to do the initial framing because it was easier for me to build and lift the structure by myself. I ended up buying three sheets of exterior plywood to further clad the structure, decorated the sides a little with some cutouts leftover from a public art project last year that are also on the facade of my adjacent studio, and used some leftover house paint to finish it up. I still want to trim it and find some interesting panel to add in the space above the door.here’s the front view with some of my current large-item stash neatly stored insidea metal shelf with gleaned plastic storage bins holds smaller materials I’ve gleaned. You can also see the flowers and birds on that outer wall.Here’s a better shot of the wall…..some of the simple design elements from the inner studio sideThis is the back side that’s pushed up against my fence–I added a little art for the neighbors so they didn’t have to just look at a gray wall.
Excited to be able to spend the rest of the month actually playing in the studio! I had a great visit last week from last year’s Gleaner and friend Brenda Mallory, who gave me some great feedback on the few pieces I’ve made already. Even though I watched her go through it last year, it was really helpful to have a critique at this juncture.
Lastly, I was hoping to find a weird patch or something to fancy-up my safety vest and found this sweet pin in a pile of costume jewelry. Weegee approves!!
I haven’t gleaned in a few weeks. It has become very clear that I needed to take a break from gleaning to actually make art with the massive amounts of materials that have accumulated in a corner of my studio. Now I am in art making mode, spreading out my materials like a messy little mouse making a nest in her house.
So, here I am currently lost in a sea of materials. I am making lots of art, but I feel a bit directionless at the moment. My instinct is to explore and play with the materials, making components for my sculptures, sewing, embroidering, stuffing polyfill into things, and sewing more. I’m feeling unfocused about where the sculptures are going and what they are going to be, which is pretty normal for me. I’m taking it as a sign that I need to lose myself in the process. I am trusting that I am meant to let the materials guide me right now. I always think of Jackson Pollack as the ultimate example of an artist who can lose himself in his materials and process. Sewing is not as given to immediacy as is painting, but I’m trying to channel my inner Pollack in my stitches. I’m trying to stay loose.
Here I am wearing some of my sculptures. Sometimes you have to wear your sculptures when you work in fiber even if they are not technically meant to be worn.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens out at the transfer station (the “dump”) when you drop things off, check out this short article from Metro.
to remove upholstery tacks from a previously discarded item.
“She expertly depillerated the chair she found in the Metro Transfer Station.”
early 21st century: from middle French or Medieval Latin and North/Northeast Portlandian; de-, depil- meaning to remove (upholstery tacks nee hair) + North/Northeast Portlandian; -piller, referring to GLEAN resident Dan Pillers, known for his inspiring removal of upholstery tacks from objects found at the Metro Waste Facility, and, whom, also happens to have a name with the connective link of hair.*
First Known Use: 2016 by fellow Glean artist Hilary Pfeifer, after removing approximately 38 upholstery tacks in the same fashion. She stopped, laughed, took a photo, shared it on Instagram and Facebook, and then continued to depillerate the two chairs she found that day.
*it will be noted that no errant hair was detected in the depillerating of this chair.