This was the first week of my last semester in grad school. Over break, I was pretty absorbed with my own thesis project – I’m on panel 12 out of 16 now! It’s the home stretch. Coming back for seminar yesterday caused me to remember that there is a whole network of projects happening around me and a platform where their progress is being shared. I haven’t blogged on here since my 3rd critique last semester at the beginning of November… Now, I’m going to take some time to catch up with what everyone else is doing as well as share with you what has been rattling around my brain.
Although I have not been very active on WordPress lately, I have been keeping a private log of reflections as I complete each panel of my project. To reiterate what my project is, I am creating a 550 square foot painting (that’s 13’9″ tall, 40′ wide), which will be an abstract depiction of the apartment in which I currently live with my fiancé, Nick, and our cat, Dahlia. The apartment is 550 square feet, hence the specific scale.
The entire painting is not going to be one giant piece – it is actually going to be 16 pieces displayed next to each other to form one image. I have 11 panels “finished” and a 12th on the way. After #12, I will only have 4 to go! So exciting. The reason I quote-unquoted the word finished is that I plan to circle back on older panels once I have all 16 “finished” to fine tune or add more details.
To make the scale of this thing more clear, here is a photo of me laying on the floor next to 4 “finished” panels:
This is just one fourth of the final image!
So I have been keeping this running document as I work on my project, and in this document I record when I work on each panel, what is going on in my life at the time, what the images in a particular panel mean to me, what kinds of techniques I’m trying, and various other thoughts, inspirations, and influences. I thought it might be interesting to extract some snippets of these reflections and share them here. These reflections are very candid and informal, so it would be a little too personal for me to share them in their entirety. Also, please excuse grammatical errors.
Note: I included some images, but not all of them. I don’t want to give away too much before this project goes live 😉
“I think I was trying to be spontaneous and quick, in the moment. Was I in the moment? Or was I rushing the moment? How is time experienced? Does our experience of time matter? Or is it just a long wave that crashes over all of us all the same? Can time slow down or speed up based on how we perceive the moment? Just because I’m taking longer to contemplate a moment doesn’t mean I’m not in that moment.”
“I thought it would be nice to pay attention to moments on an even closer level, but I also think about that Kurt Vonnegut quote about the Tralfamadorians:
‘There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.’
Are there moments within moments? Can we experience moments simultaneously? What defines a moment? We are always trying to grasp time, to name it, to quantify it. A moment is a significant (or insignificant?) experience of the ‘now,’ but a lot of times ‘a moment’ also refers to something that already happened.”
“It feels like I tried to keep this panel tidier and more organized than the other two. Even as I look at it now, I’m seeing spots that I want to touch up. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that I am more anal about this part of the apartment. It’s the first thing I and others see when entering. […] I try to be loose and carefree in the painting, but some parts get painted over and over or they get really tight. I find myself constantly struggling with wanting things to be perfect […] and allowing things to just be. […] I have these struggles constantly. Just let it be, Danielle. Let the shoes pile up next to the door. They aren’t hurting anyone.”
“It feels open and airy, like when you look up at the walls, the ceiling. My mind wanders.”
“There is less ‘gravity’ in this piece, I guess. Absolutely no drips… interesting. I was thinking about how it feels to be in this part of my apartment, looking up at the wall, the corner of the living room with the lamp and shelves of knick knacks on the wall. I wanted it to feel light and open.”
“I don’t know why I kept thinking over and over again, ‘you paint like a printmaker,’ as I worked on this panel. Is that good? Is that bad? What does that mean? What do I do with that? Own it? Push it more? Pull it back? I know that my style is more graphic, and I like to use printmaking techniques in painting and collaging. Do I need to look at where I sit among traditions/trends of painting and printmaking? There are some implications of the printmaking medium that I identify with – repetition, everyday context (printing press), the relief process as it relates to memory. Am I a printmaker or a painter? Once again confused about how to define what I do. I think that makes the work more interesting, though.”
“I feel like the areas of my panels that have more detail and more layers represent the process of rumination, which is something it think about in conceptualizing my work. Going over something repeatedly in my mind and on the canvas in a circular pattern. The same marks, the same thoughts, swirling around my mind and my composition. The carpet is a great place to represent this thought pattern. Staring at the floor, noticing the fibers and then letting my mind wander. I’m on the floor a lot in my apartment, playing with Dahlia. I look to the floor often, finding clumps of cat hair, fibers, pieces of paper that I collect and throw in the garbage. It’s the part of the apartment that needs maintained the most, always needing a vacuum. Aside from the kitchen and the bathroom, the entire apartment floor is covered with this rough, very commonplace beige carpeting. My feet touch the carpet as I walk around, Dahlia scratches and digs into the carpet when I come home or when she gets excited about playing, the furniture leaves imprints, ‘crop circles,’ in the carpet. We drop food, cat litter, dirt from the plants, rain from our boots, and the carpet catches it all. I stare at the floor, and the carpet is an anchor for my mind to float.”
“As I work on these panels, I find my vocabulary for mark making growing, developing, and changing. The hashes, the carpet, the stamping/printing, collage used, the treatment of the black and white drawings. I think this will be balanced by the fact that I’m moving back and forth between the two sides of the final composition.”
“I enjoyed playing with the fabric and experimenting with new ways to make a mark. I find that, lately, I tend to let the material do its thing. Take the curtain fabric on the left side of the panel, just above the orange window panes, for example. I mixed acrylic medium with a little bit of yellow pigment and spread it on the canvas. Then, I took the fabric and laid it on top of the medium very lightly without pressing down or spreading it out. It created these beautiful wrinkles in the fabric that are kind of… musical? Why do people use the word musical or lyrical to describe visual art? I can tell when something feels musical or lyrical, but what is it that I’m sensing? So weird. Any way…”
“I have been thinking a lot about this short story that I read recently – The Yellow Wallpaper. The story is told through a first person narrator, a woman who spends three months staying in a room with this god awful yellow wallpaper. The woman narrates the story through her diary. She begins to see things in the walls, almost like hallucinations. These reflections and notes that I’m keeping make me feel like this woman. I am the woman who sees things in her apartment walls.”
“What does a mark look like when I’m not thinking about it? I like hashing, I like repetition, and there’s something soothing about just dragging my brush gently across the canvas in a line that curves and whips and trails off whimsically. I like to respond to shapes that are already there. I can see in one section, my marks are very organized and thoughtful at first, and then I realized I was still thinking too much. I can see where the marks start to derail. I like it.”
“I have been thinking about how, when I make marks, I tend to respond to what is already there. In this case, I painted around the drips. Isn’t that what we do when we make a home? We respond to what is already there – whether it is the natural landscape, the size limitation of a room, the placement of an electrical outlet, the layout of our walls, the direction our windows face – it all plays a role in where we place our things and where we place our bodies in the space.”
“I’m not sure if I mentioned this already, but Boryana once said that the word to describe my work was ‘Accumulation – Accumulation as material, as mark, as meaning, and as a bi-product of domestic life.’ I find myself accumulating a lot of different material in my studio over time. The objects that fill my domestic space have also been accumulated throughout my life, shaping this place that I return to at the end of each day.”
“I have been thinking about what happened on Saturday. I still feel a little mentally fatigued. Today, I decided to fall into routine. Lay down the paint according to the sketch. Follow the instructions you made for yourself. I just noticed that I addressed myself there. Is that a calming mechanism? Talking to oneself? Is it so one feels less alone?
Yesterday, Nick and I checked out that new Black Mirror movie on Netflix. The main character develops an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style video game all by himself in his bedroom. Because the player is meant to make choices that affect the trajectory of the game, there are hundreds and hundreds of various paths that the developer has to program. There is a moment in the movie when the developer declares that he will write the game all on his own without a team. Another character responds that, because the game is a concept piece, there needs to be a bit of madness. That madness is better achieved with only one mind. Is that true? About madness? I have heard that some people make their best work when they are at odds or perhaps losing their mind. I do not function that way. When I’m losing my mind or slipping into an unhealthy sandpit of anxious thoughts, I am absolutely useless.”
“The outer panels are definitely dominated by cool colors. This is an exciting shift in color! I also want to note that the organization of space is clearer in this panel. This is a very wonderful and peaceful moment to me, so I think it’s fitting that there is less confusion here.”
That’s all from me for now. 🙂 Happy last semester!