Seeing is Forgetting

That’s the difference between being a West Coast artist and a European. A European artist really believed in himself as part of the historical tradition, that archive…Obviously, you think what you do is important, or you wouldn’t be pursuing it with the kind of intensity you do. But the minute I start thinking about making gestures about my historical role, I mean, I can’t do it, I have to start laughing, because there’s a certain humor in that.

It has taken me a long time to realize I don’t have to make art that engages with the artistic canon. Growing up it was natural to go to the museum and draw the statues. College was more of the same. Your work wasn’t anything if you didn’t know what came before you, if you didn’t know what everyone else was up to, if you weren’t reading the theory. That made a lot of sense to me, so I sunk into the history of art and writing about it. I engaged in ‘the discourse’. But, I think in the end it starved my projects of life. I made work that seemed ‘right’ and ‘good’, but burned out on it. I found that while I took great joy in fabricating the work, the pieces were somehow dead.

I stopped making things for a while after that. And I started to think that maybe I didn’t have it in me to be an artist, or a creator, or whatever it is that we do. That thought made me sad, but it passed. Eventually though, I realized that not making things was making me, not unhappy, but numb.
So now I try and make things again. But I try to keep a blind eye to ‘the discourse’ and ‘the canon’ (at least, compared to before, I can’t seem to stop loving to argue about art). I’m trying to focus on things that are fun, or funny. Things that will help people I can see around me in my neighborhood, or people I know. It feels so much better to think of every object as an iteration or experiment and to be free of any place in history or expectation of it.

One thought on “Seeing is Forgetting”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Jess. It’s hard when you’re younger not to be influenced by (or bullied by) a cannonical approach to things. Glad you found your voice again.

    The best art is the kind that feels really good making it. It’s not easy. But in the end it feels good.

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