Wednesday, December 05, 2012

More compelling ways to stay busy

[B. papyrifera bark + persimmon-coated Cleveland hanji.] Whenever it's time to update my artist statement, I struggle. This has always been a horribly difficult task for me, even though I enjoy writing and am accustomed to writing about myself. This morning while preparing tea, I realized that what I do comes directly from what I learned from childhood.
Before I knew that other people judged the behavior, I thought it was normal, and frankly, smart, to scavenge. If there was a perfectly functional teapot sitting outside next to the trash, it was fine to pick it up, take it home, scrub it with steel wool, and return it to its former self, a pretty silver kettle. Scraps of everything were saved, food never went to waste, no one consumed more than they needed, lights were turned off when not used, holes were patched, and there were more books than you could ever read in a lifetime in one library. This is probably why I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and later was entranced by the possibilities at thrift stores and never understood why I had to go to the store to buy a bunch of stuff to make art.
Because wasn't everything I needed already with me or easily found and transformed? I remember marveling in middle school when we learned about bartering societies, and wondered why progress meant leaving those practices behind. Currency seemed so unnecessary; why did we invent money when we functioned for so very long without it? Of course, I didn't fully understand human greed and power intoxication then (nor do I now). But I finally understand why I enjoyed conceptual art at first (all you have to do is read and write! No materials if you wanted to be a purist), and then made books out of found objects, and later was more attracted to papermaking from raw materials rather than half-stuff.
Part of the reason that writing the artist statements makes me want to jump out of my skin is that the way that I think and feel about my work is so fully embedded in me that I often can't access it (the whole thing about not being able to see under your own nose). When I am able to grasp the words to articulate what the rest of me has known all along, they seem so obvious as to not be interesting enough to write in a statement. I still wish that my friends could do it for me because they understand what I do—I am further away from the space right under their noses. These days, I also feel like a relic, having been raised by a family that survived a horrible, horrible war that happened in their own country. Being frugal was cultural because it necessitated survival, not because it was trendy. Transforming scraps of paper and twists of bark gives me great pleasure but also provide my hands a life's work, without which my mind becomes dull and dark. It's not the only work I need to do, but it's solid ground.

Update: I thought I could get by for a day w/o book promo, but a new interview is online, via Italy.


  1. Good thoughts, and a lovely interview: congrats!

  2. onesmallstitch3:30 PM

    love the first photo, it doesn't need to become anything else, perfect just as it is.

    we were brought up at a different time and a very different place but I understand and agree with your philosophy completely

  3. oh my god, i haven't even finished reading and i'm dancing around and whooping this vessel is so beautiful!

  4. Too bad that can't be your artist statement. This sentence is so beautiful: "Transforming scraps of paper and twists of bark gives me great pleasure but also provide my hands a life's work, without which my mind becomes dull and dark."


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