Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Short: What I have Gained and Where I am Going

Working with Kay has been a deeply rewarding and stimulating learning experience. I have learned a great deal about how artists manage to work and live in Philadelphia, about the importance of community and how one can be both civically and culturally responsible locally, been forced to evaluate my goals and work ethic, and ruminated on what I am aiming to do with my own work.

I recall a conversation that Kay and I had on the last day of my fellowship on the way home from lunch at the Italian Market, where we both pined for the return of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, which marked a remarkably unlikely period in American history. For that brief moment in time, the arts were a socialized institution. Kay is committed to making art a public, accessible experience. I agree that all of life's necessities, one of which is having access to cultural information, ought to be free and public. Right across the street from her studio, there is a public pool that both Greg and Kay take advantage of on a regular basis. She says that she drinks tap water for the same reason that she visits the public pool - because we must demand via consistent use and participation that what our community makes publicly available be good. I feel that, in some way, Kay makes work with the idea that art (like drinking water and swimming pools) ought to be a public thing for local communities instead of a private commodity for a wealthy minority, in mind.

Her largest installations have been in public institutions - the Free Library and the Philadelphia Int'l Airport. Earlier in her career, she would make large prints of her furniture drawings on paper and wheat paste them around the city, so that they could be observed and enjoyed by people in public, rather than confined to the insular world of galleries and museums. Printmaking, particularly screenprinting, is a process tied closely with the idea of mass production, and is implicitly accessible by virtue of being an affordable means of reproducing large amounts of information. The interview stage of Kay's process, in which she garners the stories of Philadelphians to make up a collective narrative for her installations, requires her to engage directly with the public, making them critical to the work. The sentiments that Kay shared about involving the community in her artwork has resonated with me deeply, and made me think very hard about the context in which I want my own work to belong.

I have also learned a lot about making, and know that if I had not worked with Kay this summer I would be in a much less prepared place creatively to start this school year. Since learning how to properly operate a sewing machine, I have begun working on several studies for a series of dolls I have always wanted to make. They are 3-dimensional realizations of my figure drawings, which have grotesquely absurd proportions and carry the bulk of their weight in the womb region. I am always trying to imagine how these figures might exist in 3-d as I draw, because this kind of thinking allows me to believably record what these figures, which only exist in fantasy, actually look like. Here are a few images of the first doll I made, which I gave to Kay as an end-of-fellowship gift,


I hope to continue working on the dolls throughout the school year, and have begun making notes and drawings for a large scale installation featuring life-sized dolls, screen printed wallpaper, and a doll house that I built when I was eleven. It will be about the impossible "search for home" that Kay so often finds herself contemplating.  

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like Kay has really opened you up to a lot of new ideas and processes of making! I admire how thoughtfully you have written and taken to heart her ideas about public access to art and information. I look forward to seeing your doll installation!