Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Should Contemporary Art be Comfortable?

...and what is Contemporary Art anyway?

Contemporary Art is art that has been created from 1970's until now.  Before then, there was Modern Art which is defined as the period of art created from 1860's to 1970's.

So there you have it.  By that definition, I create Contemporary Art.

But hang on.  When I Google "Contemporary Art" in images, this is what I get:

I liked the article called "The Purpose of Contemporary Art" on the TipArt blogger site.  Seems the more sensationalist the art the more attention it garners.  One article I read stated that the purpose of Contemporary Art is to smack the viewer on the back of the head.

How about we narrow our focus?  Contemporary Art of the Animal Genre:

Is this art something we can engage with and relate to?  Perhaps so.  Would we want to live with it?  Some of it, maybe.

I have written countless artist's statements.  They are accurate, those statements, but I have known all along that they were superficial somehow.

The longer I have thought on this subject of WHY I sculpt animals and WHY do I have stories about them all and WHY are they so personal, so "alive" to me that if I were the last human on earth, I would still go to my studio and create them...the more I have known I had to go way back in my past.

I had to really remember my experiences with living animals to more fully understand my perceptions of the universe and beliefs and assumptions and how I look at them and at me and at humankind.  Yes.  That sounded deep ...well.  

I guess an artist goes deep to get real.  And I feel that I have it now.  The WHY.

But first. 

Let me tell you a story. 

Once upon a time there was a young human, and she had a cat. 

I say - she - but really...this was a cat who had a young human.  And to that young human she was so much more than a house cat...she was a dear friend and companion, a confidant, and a parent figure to me (I mean her).

There was communication between us (I mean ...them....oh never mind). 

Of course a cat doesn't have the capacity to communicate in the most common way humans do, by speaking.  But, then again, I didn't talk that much myself back then.

One day, while this cat was sleeping, I was...just a little bit with one index finger...moving the fur between the pads of her paws.  This would wake her up enough for her to shake her paw when what I was doing started tickling her.

Over and over I did this.  I was aware that I was "teasing an animal" but I was bored and it was amusing.  My face was very close to hers as I was lying right next to her as she slept.

Suddenly I was aware that she was very awake...my face was right next to hers and as I looked from the paw I was busy tickling to her face...I saw she was making eye contact  - big time.  I froze. 

In the next instant, she clamped her teeth on my nose!  Quite strategically. 

Imagine my surprise...

She had gently placed her top two teeth on top of my nose and bottom two teeth inside my nose (one bottom tooth fitting perfectly inside each nostril) and she was biting down just hard enough... not to hurt me... but to hold me there.  The unspoken threat was that - if I did try to move - I would indeed be hurt...and I understood this very well.

I did not move.  I did ask, politely, that she stop.  I told her "let go" ...I told her "no...bad cat..."
- quietly of course so as not to startle her. 

Her green eyes stared into mine.  They seemed to say, "I am very irritated with you right now."

Finally I said, "I'm sorry.  I promise I won't ever tickle your feet again." 

And I meant it quite sincerely.

She let go.  Licked a front paw, washed her face, laid her head down and went back to sleep.

So.  Why did I tell you this story?  Because.

How does an artist show who they are through their art?

It is because of this, and countless other stories I have, that I create the animals I create.

Because I have this belief:

I am not so very different as a human animal - to other non-human animals.

I believe animals have the same feelings humans have.  All the same. 

I believe we think about things differently, conceptualize things differently, have different types of belief structures, all perhaps more complicated...

I believe it is probably true that our intellectual capacity for reason and logic and knowledge is more advanced...at least in the way humans measure such things. 

But I believe that - in so many countless ways - we share so much more than we know.

My sculpture is not edgy and created to be "in your face" shouting. 

It is meant to communicate my social and cultural experiences with the animal world.

It is created with the aim of increasing mankind's respect for diversity.

By creating art of animals that are beautiful and expressive and have their own personal narratives, I am saying that we are animals not so very different from OTHER animal species.

And it's okay to think that I'm going all anthropomorphic on you.  As sort of an aside...have you ever seen pictures or film of a Vogelkop Bowerbird and his nest making habits?  Check out this video.  :)

From here, when we come to understand the similarities of purpose and emotion of the human and non-human animal....is it hard to back up and believe that we are absolutely not so very different from the other animals within our OWN species? ...

Ah.  There's an interesting thought.  I will hold on to that...that and the hope that you are having a fantastic day.

'Til tomorrow!

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