My Wife Thinks About Art, Life
Now, let me say that my wife is an incredible woman. Nimble of mind, stout of heart, magnanimous of spirit, lovely of countenance… She has big thoughts about my artwork. I do not agree with all of them, but there you have it. Marriages are like that. Recently, I began teaching a drawing class at my alma mater, UCF. It has been a lot of fun. It has been rewarding, it has been challenging, it has been a shot in the arm for my artwork, it has been at night, twice a week. While she is at home. With all of our kids (six and counting). This leads to big thoughts about my artwork!
I have been teaching with my teacher from my undergraduate days, the great Robert Rivers. Seriously, this guy taught me how to draw, how to make prints, and helped me find reasons to do it. So, as I’m teaching this class, I draw along with the students. One night we were drawing many things and one of those things was a ceramic head that Robert had made. The drawing was good, but it was done on newsprint (which is terrible because it will deteriorate almost immediately upon contact with sunlight, moisture, Earth’s atmosphere or harsh thoughts). In order to keep developing this image, but not to waste my time on newsprint, I went so far as to make it into a linocut.
In fact I did several things all at once. There was the linocut that I was working on and the drawings in my drawingbook that I was working on simultaneously. The drawing on the linoleum block was just not coming together, so I took to the drawing book to work it out. This is what I came up with:
What I think this piece is about is unclear to me. The head is a piece of artwork that I encountered at my job. The job that keeps me out at night and the one that puts me in contact with some really good artists. So, conflict. It’s also a job and therefore provides me with additional income. You know, it puts food (fish) on the table. So I want to go to the job!
However, I want to go home to my wife even more. She says I should be at home, where my chickens are (which also put food on the table). Obviously she doesn’t say this with words; her eyes are just so communicative. So I want to go home! This is a conflict. There is conflict between the fish and the bird.
The thing is, pieces like this take a long time to make and many, many hours are spent hunched over the block just cutting and thinking. So the meaning of the piece evolves in the making. It also evolves in the looking and as it is placed in relation to other pieces I am working on.
A friend of mine once told me that his music critic father told him that the worst person to ask about music was the artist. He said they rarely had a clear idea of what their music was about. They are too close to the process of making it and can’t always see what’s going on clearly.
He might just be right.