When I was younger, like most people, I lived very differently than I do now. I guess for me you could say I lived very very very differently. Partying isn't a word that could apply to the desperation that drove me to seek continued oblivion through drugs and alcohol like I did. Of course it didn't really start like that but that's where it ended up. In fact I remember exactly where I was the day I realized that I couldn't pretend that it was about having fun anymore. That I had to try and feed something that could never get full. It started like a party though and that's around the time that I met Jim. (Jim isn't really Jim's name. I'm just using the name Jim cause his real name isn't really anybody's business.) Jim and I got along well at that time. We both were coming out of some very difficult times in our early teens and were both finding a solution to life through chemistry. And we did… we did a lot and as often as possible. Jim was funny as hell, very smart and liked to do very dangerous things for attention and adrenalin. I had several close using friends over those next few years but Jim was the one that I had the most in common with. And at the end of those days we were in very similar circumstances. Fast forward four years or so. Neither of us can hold down a job, we both are on a daily bases trying to find a way to cop and then find a place to sleep. Hopefully someones couch. It was in that time that I found a way to get out of that life and so far I haven't been back.
When I moved back to Chattanooga, after being gone for 11 years, I got a call from Jim. He was homeless and in a wheelchair because one of his legs had been removed. He wanted money, He told me god had told him to call me. He wanted money for dope. I told him that I wouldn't give him any money but I would be glad to bring him food and blankets. Stuff he could use. And he didn't want any of it. It was a conflicted night for me and in retrospect I really wish I had gone to see him that night. Not that I think it would have helped him. It would have just given me the opportunity to see him one last time.
I did hear from him for a long time, well, since then. Recently I started thinking about Jim and had an uneasy feeling. I was pretty sure of what I would learn if I looked him up. I found his brother on facebook and from him got the news. Jim had died in 2007, apparently very soon after the call. He had O.D.ed in a hospital on meds he had gotten a hold of while there. He was there for infections that resulted from him shooting up with tap water.
I found out about this tonight. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings mixing around and I am terribly sad about it. I loved Jim very much and i have always known of all the people I used with we were the most alike. and I have known that his path very well could have been my path. It is a haunting feeling seeing
Jim's brother has worked all over the world, with a truly amazing set of life experiences. He as taken Jim's ashes with him through all his travels and left a little of Jim all over the world.
Harmony and Hostility is a body of work exploring and describing diverse and sometimes oppositional experiences. Many times, these conflicting experiences are happening at the same moment and the duality can be both baffling and wondrous.
Connecting spiritually, mentally and emotionally with people and the wider world have always been of great importance to me. When my uncle passed away recently from a sudden and aggressive lymphoma, I was deeply struck by the finality of his death and the complexity of my emotions. Like most of us, my uncle was a multifaceted person. While very intelligent, creative and wonderfully witty, he could also be rude, argumentative and many times just hard to get along with.
Two things struck me about his passing. On one hand, I had a lifetime of dealing with the conflicts that resulted from his difficult personality. On the other, there was a terrible sense of loss based on the fact that I loved him. This push-pull of memories, events and emotions is an integral part of life and something that we often wish to avoid. But awareness and acceptance of this complexity, I believe, is vital for us to truly be present in life.
For many, a walk in the woods brings about a sense of peace and a spiritual connection. It usually does not come to mind that all around us, at that same moment of introspection, thousands of organisms within our immediate sphere are being eaten alive. On the other hand, most of us view the process of aging with apprehension; yet this is the very point at which a human being can share the wisdom and beauty of character that time and experience have developed.
My sculptures are to be viewed as individual personalities expressing what it is like to experience these divergent forces that accompany our lives. They are not meant to explain why, but to acknowledge that both profound beauty and deep pain often exist in the same space and time. I believe acknowledging this duality is important for us to truly be present in our lives . . . being able to walk through difficulty and at the same time truly enjoying our connections to each other and to a world that is both terrifying and beautiful.
Last night I looked threw a book of the painter Joaquin Sorolla that Mia wanted to share with me. While I’m not so into the formal portraits, I loved most of his work; observations of Spanish coastal working people involved with their lives. Going through his work there were some extremely powerful content driven paintings, one called “Sad Inheritance” and one called “And They Still Say Fish is Expensive!” It hit me how his work shifted so fluidly from observation to an idea that he felt important and how academic art is so deeply focused on content being more important than anything else. I am grateful for the art education that I got in college but I cant help but think that I didn’t get any real technical training there. And how many times I get the impression that artist pushed to show something new, or the idea that something beautiful is assumed to be shallow. I am no art historian by any stretch but I think this subtle and sometimes not so subtle expectation seems to have come about in the last one hundred years. Maybe a reaction to the fact that before the rules of excepted art where constraining in other ways previously.
For me it is important to explore with my work both cerebraly as well as aesthetically. And not necessarily at the same time. As time has gone on I look back and see my methods shifting between an aesthetic intuitive exploration and content driven work. And at times the two collide together. There has been a little voice of judgment, created in college, “Is this edgy enough?, deep enough?, blah blah blah.” Don’t get me wrong, I dig content driven work, I dig seeing new ideas, but soulful observation and exploration and beauty for it’s own sake stand as important and are worthy of sharing.
This is the second piece in a new body of work that I've started. Aside from enjoying the the exploration of content, it's damn fun melting steel. It started by reading Rodin talking about how it is the abnormality or decay in nature that stands out to us and identifies a form as truly unique. It alludes to the history of a being and the experiences that formed it. I believe that this brings us to an empathy that comes with shared understanding of personal flaws and mortality. Therefor, beautiful!!! I based "Dissolution" on trees in a state of disintegration. This combined with the sacred spiral (which I am fairly obsessed with if you didn't know). The golden mean is a repeating proportion that is tied to biological growth patterns. I wanted to give a since of this push-pull between growth, expansion and vitality with decay and the dissolving of the physical. I created "Dissolution" by welding pieces of thick steel plate together to build up a rough form. Later, I used a plasma cutter and a grinder to carve the spiral into shape. When it was all finished and clean I started burning it up, melting it and just tearing it up from the inside out.
It's been a while since I have had time to sit in a coffee shop but that's what's happening this morning. Pretty day with Jane's Addiction in the ear phones. Several days ago I wrote a blog I guess to introduce the idea of me starting a blog but I kept having trouble posting it so i got really frustrated and walked away. So here goes again.
Last week I went to an opening at the Front Gallery here in Chattanooga for Savanna artist Jerome Meadows. I walked in with him giving a talk about his work and I gotta say I really dig his work and his approach to creating. He came over to my studio the next day and we talked about our different experiences in Africa ( his in the Ivory Coast, mine in Morocco and Mali), and of course about our different processes with creating and why we make stuff. We had a little drum jam in the mixx of all this. Needless to say, I had a blast. One thing thing that really stuck with me from his talk was him saying that he tries to imbue each of his pieces with it's own since of spirituality. Not in any religious since but as a root of spirit. Not only could see that clearly in his work but it articulated one of my approaches to my sculpture so beautifully. I so strongly related and up to that point I haven't found the words to describe this particular approach to work.
I'm not sure if this sounds obvious or not. The source and content of my work is something that I ponder quite a bit. It's just interesting and also important to question. For me, making is a diverse experience. I could say that I made a piece and that that piece is to communicate about the idea of community. But also involved in that one piece are all of the experiments with balancing forms to give an object with great mass a since of weightlessness. Play with how geometric and organic forms interact. A love of materials and how far they can be pushed without them just falling apart. Then under that all of the subconscious decisions that go into the work that are the totality of my life experiences up to this point.
When I start a piece it generally happens in three different ways. Sometimes, I have a complete sketch and intension of what is to be communicated. Sometimes it is a partial idea; play with form relationships that are experimented with as I work. Then at times I just start and develop a relationship with the material with the intent of, as Jerome described, giving it it's own spirit.
I hope everybody has a great day!