Like flashes of color from the Redwing's flight, there are moments when our spirit is caught by something brilliant but ephemeral. And most of us recognize that those flashes represent something bigger, more meaningful than what is explained our individual or collective knowledge. Why? and What? and How? So many experiences and people in life we first notice like a sweep of redwings or a murmuration of sparrows. Look! Over there! There is something amazing going on! What more is there to understand?
I've fielded a few questions about my work this month- and am deeply honored whenever anyone takes the time to offer curiosity. I can only believe that the person truly cares about me or that a part of the work is actually snagging his/her attention. What greater reward for my work might there be?! One interesting part of these encounters has been noticing the similarities in the questions; there seems to be a natural order of what is asked. Echoing the layman's own list, John Seed*, the art critic who wrote a review of my work for the Skyline show's catalog, sent me these questions before writing his essay:
Tell me a bit about growing up and your art education. Did you have any mentors? Did you grow up in California? Location and sense of place seem to play important roles in your painting.... right? Tell me a bit about your materials and methods. You have an interest in the way that manmade structures interact with the landscape. Is that a recent interest? Is there a message in the way you are attracted to structures? How do you choose your locations and subjects? Do you want to tell me about two or three works in terms of particulars? (Place, subject, time of day... etc) How do you hope viewers will react to your art? Who are some artists that have influenced you?
These questions are pertinent to understanding who and what I'm doing. They are my introduction. But they got me thinking about what types of questions I might ask another artist. Lately I've been having some technical questions and I'd benefit by sitting down with some particular, but patient, painters and really see how they achieve certain effects. Also, I could really groove getting to know more about the motivations and bigger ideas behind the work of other artists.
And what about artists whose work is outside of my experience and understanding? Like musicians: How do you keep track of your own sounds when joining in a group? How do you retain an individual voice and also know how it adds to the whole? These ideas are such a mystery to me! I would sit, as if at Socrate's knee, to hear more about how this works! Mathematicians, physicists.... I hardly even know how to ask a question of these folk; I don't know where to start! Maybe other people feel that way when approaching visual arts.
What questions would you ask of an artist, anyone whose passion is their work? What do we need to ask in order to understand and deepen our respect for the ephemeral flashes of brilliance in our lives?! By the way- these need not be posed rhetorically. Share a question or two from your lists!
*Full disclosure: the care and curiosity of this person is paid for by the gallery! You'll be able to read some my answers to his questions, and his analysis of my work in the show's catalog... soon to be hot off the press!
Want to hear one of the most uncomfortable versions of Getting to Know You? Rodgers and Hammerstein are probably feeling upstaged, join them here (starts at :27)