Critique; a process, a theory, a methodology.

I truly enjoy critique.  It can sometimes be long and at times exhausting- but it is also exciting and invigorating in that you get to discover and question new art work(s).  I think critiquing an artwork begins for me, through observation.  I ask myself what am I looking at and then along with that I begin to question and wonder about what it is that I am interpreting?  What within the work is making me feel that way or understand such notions?  I’m very much interested in the material or media choices made within an artwork as well, and how that may play a role in its meaning, if at all.

As an artist I am drawn to color, texture, composition, and materials so I love to really seek those things out within a work and comment on their success or possible failure within the work. (When I say failure, I merely mean at a stage in which it could be reworked or pushed further to be more successful – not true failure, but more progress oriented).

I think as artists we have the duty to look at works objectively and evaluate or critique them in that way.  I owe it to my friends to be honest, truthful, and critical of their work.  “This is really beautiful, or your work looks great,” are neither conducive statements to a critique.  You can comment on a works beauty but there needs to be more, why is it beautiful, what makes you say that, how did you get to that conclusion?  These five main questions of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY/HOW, that we learned in elementary school I think are super critical when talking about artwork.  They are all questions that can and should be answered within a critique.

Overall I suppose I critique in with very simple method; first observing, then interpreting, and finally back tracking to understand how or why I got to that designated interpretation.  Through my interpretation breakdown I also evaluate the quality, craft, and material of the work.  As artists we should be prepared to speak about our work and our process.  A critique should investigate such notions by asking questions about both the artist and the art work.

Home as sanctuary?

This article I am reading titled, Tranquil Havens? Critiquing the idea of home as the middle-class sanctuary, written by Moira Donald has really got me thinking about the divisions of a home, and certain places in the home specifically feeling equivalent to a “work place.”  At a point in the article she speaks specifically about the division of spaces within a home, based on gender as well as based on role within the home, i.e. servant versus homeowner.

She says, “when individuals crossed boundaries, their reading of the same space would have been very different.  The role of each person overlaid the physical divisions within the domestic space.  The feelings of the maid who rose early in the morning to blacklead the grates in the upstairs rooms would have been very different from those of the male house-holder first entering the room to the welcome of a blazing fire… the same space held different meanings for those whose lives were lived within it.”

Granted, this article is part of a larger book titled Domestic Space, Reading the 19th Century Interior, so one might say that the principles and focus of the article are a bit outdated.  I would say, yes perhaps, but also, no.  I’m finding this idea of separation of spaces and specific rooms within a home based on gender and work very interesting.  I’m investigating and thinking about how  this applies to today’s homes and domestic settings.  What spaces in a home are seen as feminine, and which spaces are seen as inherently male?  What objects within a home also create that same sort of gender binary or separation?  One that immediately comes to mind is a classic recliner chair.  What is more middle class american than Dad kicked back in his LAZ Boy watching football while mom does the dishes from a Sunday dinner?  I mean, I know that’s what was happening in my house as I grew up.  My Dad may not have been in a LAZ boy specifically, but he was definitely half asleep in his recliner 9 times out of 10.  Even now, just yesterday I FaceTimed my sister while she was visiting my parents and as she panned around the space she was in, my mom was drying dishes, and dad was hanging out in his chair watching football.  My sister lives with her fiancé and I see very much the same sort of happenings occurring there.  My grandfather had a beautiful leather recliner in his living room as well that no one else really sat in, because of course, that was his chair.  Funny how one object can be so universal in who occupies it no?  Wondering when it will be my turn to sit back, relax, and fall asleep in my recliner chair… will it ever be?

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My very own studio, 4.

When it came time to pick a studio at CCAD, I felt anxious, unsettled, and yet also excited.  Drawing number 12 out of 21 meant many were ahead of me and I was bound to not get my top choice for space. (Granted they’re all around the same size, only some with windows and some without, but for some reason there’s a way in which you’re drawn to one particular space over another).  The number 4 holds a dear meaning to my family and me, so initially that was a first pick choice. It also happened to be on the 3rd floor with some nice window space.  I had a few other choices on the 3rd and second floors that I had noted on a piece of paper.  I figured it would be more likely for me to have a second floor space because the 3rd floor is quite popular due to its large open windows.  When I chose my space I was able to get one that I liked and had noted down.  I believe it was labeled as #26.  It was a second floor studio, with a nice window, and I was pleasantly surprised to later find that the 2nd floor studios are actually numbered 1-10 and I had wound up in #4.

When it came time to move in, I was wondering what exactly I would put in the space.  As a photographer who works mainly in digital format I didn’t have much to move in, or so I thought.  I immediately grabbed most of my books that I felt would be beneficial for research and placed them on the top of my black file cabinet.  My larger table was initially up against the lefthand wall and I liked the way it made the space feel open, but also like I was working in a small little nook.  Unfortunately the sun seemed to shine in that space quite a bit-which was good for the plants I had, but I found not so good for me.  As everyone had shared about the 3rd floor, the sun coming in through the windows definitely does bring some heat! So I  moved my table over to the right side of the studio and that seemed to work as well.  I also decided to hang some old pieces of mine, not only so the walls wouldn’t be bare but also just to serve as reminders for inspiration and what had gotten me to this point; to remind myself of where I had come from.

My file cabinet now is full of different odds and ends and material bits.  My first few weeks were spent exploring different embroidery techniques, crochet, and craft oriented works.  So the cabinet is mostly full of those, as well as my hand made paper from the first week.  My large table is organized mainly by having a section reserved for me to be able to sit down with my laptop and work and yet also it has more books, articles, and post its stacked on it.  Lots of post its.  Any time I think of something or find an artist I want to write down quickly, I grab one of my neon post its, write it, and stick it.

I have always been the type to live in a bit of organized chaos and I think my studio is a little bit of that- it actually may be slightly more organized than my apartment and the rest of my life.  I don’t like having things cluttered and all over the place-despite what my family may tell you, so when I find it getting a little too crazy I will take a few minutes to put things in their proper place and organize the space.  (odds and ends in the cabinet, books stacked on my large table or file cabinet, fabrics folded and stacked and put away in the cabinet).  Eventually I’d really like to get a proper chair to put in my studio to have a little more of a cozy place to sit and work.  #goals!

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Books

I love to read.  Always have, and probably always will.  There’s nothing I love more than sitting in bed, or on the couch,  with a book while drinking some tea and so with that, most of what I read is very intentional;  something I know I will enjoy, or get something out of.  Whether it’s a book I am reading just for fun or with the purpose of informing and inspiring artwork, I am always looking and picking up things that are specific to my needs and interests.  So, when asked to think of some books or a book I have read or am reading that take/s “unexpected bearing on [my]work,” I find it a bit difficult to answer seeing that all that I read has an intentionality behind it and usually there isn’t much to be “unexpected.”

…To be continued.

 

Upon thinking more about this topic I have come to see and understand that the unexpected doesn’t necessarily have to mean a book that would be unexpected to influence your practice but rather, how that intentional book may unexpectedly effect your practice!  Below, are examples of two books I have read over the passed two years and continue to read or look to for inspiration.

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Gail Collins’ book When Everything Changed is always a source for great quotes that help me figure out how to bring to light issues that women face/d in society.  This book specifically initiated two photo book projects that took specific quotes from her book as means to begin and end the hand bound photo book I created.

birds-wildflowers-vintage-cookbooks-047.jpgBelieve it or not, I also love to look at vintage cook books for inspiration.  Usually you can find a cheeky quote or two about women in the kitchen and how they are supposed to make the perfect casserole for their husband and have it ready as soon as he gets home from work.  (Something I often now find comical, but it shines a real light on how things used to be for women in our world).

 

A current book I am reading is titled, Domestic Space edited by Inga Bryden and Janet Floyd.  Within the text is multiple articles and I am currently reading Tranquil Havens? Critiquing the idea of home as the middle-class sanctuary.  So far the article has provided some interesting information in regards to thinking about sections of a home as workspaces and/or thinking about the interpretation of space based on who entered them and when.  For example, a servant who woke up early to scrub/polish the interior of the fireplace and then replenish the fire would look at that space throughout the day remembering the hours of labour and hard work put into it, but perhaps the man of the house who enters that same space upon waking up would be proud of his wealth reflected in the shining silver and even welcomed and comforted by the warmth of the fire.  The hours of labour and extensive work are not a thought in his mind.  So, I begin to wonder if we still see these same sort of divisions of workspace and interpretative difference in the home today. Thinking about spaces like “man caves” reserved for men and their buddies, and the bedroom, kitchen, or living space still being reserved as feminine spaces, is this really prevalent now?  What kinds of items within a home are deemed as feminine or male?  What areas would a male look at with pride while a woman looks at with exhaustion and anguish, remembering the labor and work put into it?

So currently, reading about 18th century victorian homes and the division of classes within them, I am “unexpectedly” thinking about how those same principles and ideas are within the world today and figuring out how as an artist I can explore that concept and bring it into conversation.

A trip to Cincinnati

“We get caught up in other people’s worlds, and you never ask yourself how you became.” -Zanele Muholi

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This past Saturday I was given the opportunity to attend a variety of lectures held at the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati as part of the programming for the Fotofocus 2016 Biennial.  There were a number of photographers and curators speaking specifically about their own works and their practices as artists.  This photograph is a work by Nan Goldin– a photographer I have long admired for her raw yet beautiful imagery- and it was one of the first things I saw while walking around 21C.  What an amazing opportunity to see such incredible work.  I was also able to see some wonderful photographs by George Legrady that in a way came to life right before my eyes.  Legrady takes images and overlays them with “generative video animation.”  In simpler terms, it looks like a holograph as the image overlays and changes when you walk by it.  Something I felt was, in a way, similar to my newest interest in the exploration of imagery and Augmented Reality!  Talk about being inspired.

In regards to the lectures, I specifically enjoyed hearing from Jackie Nickerson and Susan Meiselas about their experiences as documentary photographers.  They both explain their practice and work as a “response to what [they’re] seeing, and as a means to “understand a place or people.”  I was extremely happy to hear that Susan’s newest book edition of her Nicaraguan photo series has an Augmented Reality component!  I was keen to speak to her- even if just for 5 minutes- about her experience with AR and learn more about how she incorporated it into her photography practice. I summoned up enough courage to catch her just before she got on the elevator and was able to get her card!

Before heading over to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the opening of Jackie Nickerson, Zanele Muholi, and Robin Rhode’s works,  Julian Cox, curator of Photography for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Sheila Pree Bright, a photographer based in Atlanta, held a conversation about “American Civil Rights, Then and Now.”  Shiela’s latest work, 1960Now, is composed of a series of images documenting the people and happenings with the current Black Lives Matter movement.  Her work is moving, inspiring, and a true document of the divide and sadness that has began to harbor our nation.  Julian Cox spoke more about the history of the Civil Rights movement and the role photography played in the documenting of that time.  Both provided a very real perspective that was combined, nothing short of powerful.

The opening at The Underground Railroad Freedom Center was also another great experience.  Zane Muholi’s portraits of the LGBTQ community in South Africa, as well as her own personal self portraits were extremely striking.  I found myself looking at these people and feeling as if they were truly looking right back at me- and nearly looking into my soul- as ridiculous as that may sound.  One image in particular really struck me.  The subject of the image had beautiful, light colored eyes, that were just impossible to escape.  (below image is not the exact one from the gallery, however it is of the same model/subject).  Within each photo there was a realness and a power to the way in which the model was standing.  As if they were to say, this is who I am, and I will change for no one.  They had a great beauty to them.image2821a

Robin Rhode‘s work was one I had a harder time understanding/connecting with.  For the exhibition, he had 3 videos play for a total of approximately 10minutes.  I particularly found one video interesting (still shown below), because I felt there was the most narrative within this short film.  His work aims to discuss and “express the struggle for equality and dignity with poignancy, humor, and poeticism.”  I would be interested to see more of his work and spend some more time with it.26367

 

 

The photographs that follow are images I took of other works that I found inspiring for their beauty,craft, technicalities, concept, etc.  I was only able to view a small portion of the work that is on display as part of the Fotofocus Biennial (and also some works that are not) but I can only imagine what the rest of the galleries in Cincinnati hold.

An Aura[sma] of frustration.

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Technology is not always my friend- more often than not, it isn’t.  Funny to hear from a 90’s, “millennial” generation kid huh?

The past two weeks of digital culture have been frustrating for me.  I am not a very patient person so when I code something and it doesn’t work, no matter how many times I try, or I follow the directions step by step on an augmented reality site and it still doesn’t work I find myself feeling nothing but aggravated.

John always tells us computers are dumb; you have to tell them exactly what you want them to do.  But what if I am telling it what to do and it’s just not doing it?  What if everyone else seems to have it figured out, except me? (That may seem a bit childish to say, but it is a real question).

I need to find a way to be more at peace when working with these technologies and truthfully, my boyfriend came up with a really cool potential concept for which I could use this augmented reality within my work.  The only thing that would really be standing in my way is my lack of patience and stubborn attitude.  Time to shake that and take a deep breath.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… right?