This series highlights guest curator invited artist's own words about the work they've done for this year's Seattle Erotic Art Festival. Today's artist: Cable Griffith
Painted on separate layers of clear vinyl, these pieces accumulate linear forms, taken from softcore pornographic images. Individually, these forms reference the sexually charged poses by female models. Collectively, they become clusters of lines and abstract forms, that reveal their sensuality over time. The monochromatic palette separates and unifies each layer to reveal and hide the references and relationships. Once revealed, the individual lines push against their relationship to the whole, yet remain tangled within confused, suggestive clusters.
I'm especially looking forward to SEAF, as I've never even been before, let alone participated as an artist. So, I have no idea what to expect, and I'm looking forward to losing my SEAF virginity. I've also been waiting for an opportunity to wear my leather-studded lederhosen bondage cat suit in public.
Cable Griffith, Softcore Cluster (detail) 2009 acrylic on layered vinyl
image courtesy of the artist
In this series, I'm posting the guest curator invited artist's own words about the work they've done for this year's Seattle Erotic Art Festival. Today's artist: Christian French:
I am convinced there are two pillars in artmaking, which I like to call Craft and Art. People get hung up on terms, and those in particular, so you could use Form and Content or, say, How and Why. It’s important to embrace both of these in your approach to making– or appreciating – art, or anything else for that matter because when you do it gives you extra handles upon which to grip what you are interested in (or to understand why you aren’t interested). Ultimately, it all comes down to a simple thing:
What interests you?
It’s not my job to tell you what is interesting to you. If I’m good at what I do I can learn what interests me, or better yet I can tell you a story of what interests me: one that holds you, one that delights you, one that is grammatically correct in all of the right places and incorrect in all of the right places, and in those meeting points where what I like and what you like come together something wonderful happens. Sometimes accidentally, but that’s ok.
Much of my work is about looking. No, better yet, it is about noticing. Often I have to see something multiple times before I realize I am interested, attracted, curious. What was that? What caught my eye? Why? Can I learn something about who I am by going back and looking at it again? Who am I?
There are plenty of well-produced pop songs sung well and signifying nothing. There are plenty of heartfelt screeches challenging to listen to despite their integrity.
Welcome to my radio.
Christian French, Blue14 (detail) 2009 archival print on Hannamule paper
image courtesy of the artist
Continuing the series of this year's Seattle Erotic Art Fesival's guest curator artists invited by Chris Crites, Troy Gua talks about his work.
Prince introduced me to eroticism at an early age, feeding my adolescent dirty mind. His entire aesthetic of the 1980s dripped with ambiguous sexuality, and as a horny kid from the suburbs, I was utterly mesmerized. He painted a picture of sex as a Utopian destination, a place free of shame and full of possibility. A place where anything goes. A place I wanted to be. And he did it with an irresistible wink and a nod, swaggering through mainstream culture with full frontal innuendo. He brought his own brand of come one, come all sexuality to the masses and invited everyone to get on his purple bus. I got on, and I'm still riding.
For the 2010 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, I made work using my preferred materials of resins and plastics to embody the equivocal libido that attracted me to the early work of Prince. A painting titled after his 1980 song and album "Dirty Mind" employs a study of positive/negative space, fleshy tones and evocative shapes, while a sculpture entitled "Soft and Wet", after his first single of the same name, utilizes supple textures intermingled with reflective, rigid surfaces. They're designed with an abstract minimalist approach as an ambiguous stylization of impending penetration - for example, in the painting the shapes could be various parts of the body or nothing at all but shapes. The idea is to allow the viewer's mind to decide what they want it to be, and get dirty, if that's the case. Both pieces employ a suggestive stylization allowing the viewer to imbue the work with as much or as little eroticism as it subjectively elicits.
This work is designed to reflect, through my hands, Prince's enigmatic world of lusty freedom and potential. And it is designed to be ambivalently erotic. It's for you and your own dirty mind to decide.
Troy Gua Dirty Mind (detail) 2010 acrylic and resin on MDF panel
image courtesy of the artist
It's late Thursday morning and Joey Veltkamp and I have just walked into the former Empty Space theater (now the Michael Peck Space) in Fremont. The smell and sigh of old wood floors is a comfort, reminding me of school and other spaces full of potential. As I enter the main room to see The Louder the Sun, a group show with Robert Yoder, Ben Waterman, and Noah Grussgott, I'm not disappointed - it's an instantly compelling visual, full of potential. The walls they've built (themselves, in one week) to hang the work don't hide their construction of white walls and bare exposed beams, and the work is lit from below via clip-lamps positioned on the floor. As Joey mentions, the presentation is almost raw, but the polish of the work softens the edge and makes it nearly seamless. I'm glad for the rearrangement of a public space to become a gallery, and I'm glad for the rearrangement of the space changing the way I look at the art. It suits the efforts of the artists who, in their own work, are constantly changing the positions of things. The Louder the Sun is a cohesive show of three incredibly thoughtful people who, upon reflection, are not a surprising trio of collaborators.
I spoke with Robert Yoder about how the show came about, and he mentioned with a smile he had intended to pull together a show for Grussgott and Waterman, but the project evolved to include all three of them. There's a general discussion in the art community right now - and my conversation with Yoder was one of these - regarding the gallery system and what artists must do to survive outside the studio. It's not just a Seattle issue, made evident in a constant stream of complaints and questions on blogs based in New York. So how does one stay afloat in this climate of conservative gallery risks or the lack thereof? It's that favoured catch phrase again - D[o]. I[t]. Y[ourself]. So out of this self-propelled motivation to break outside of the normal way we do things - galleries, collectors, curators, legitimized shows in supposedly reputable venues- these three have shown that it's not the only way.
The work of these individuals is a complimentary gathering. Waterman's videos sit comfortably next to Grussgott's weighty ink and charcoal pieces, which also seem to ground Waterman's more chaotic installations. Meanwhile,Yoder's small impasto paintings and delicate collages have enough presence to not be overcome by either of the other's gravitas. And altogether the show creates a narrative about time, piecing together disparate parts, and process (of work) in a language we can easily understand. The work is intellectual, yes - Grussgott's recollection of his residency in Berlin brought up the story of bringing only himself and a pencil, and deciding where/how to conceptually go from there, pushing his work in a new direction - but there is no shortage of aesthetic beauty to back it up. Do not miss this show!
The Louder the Sun opens this Saturday - that's tomorrow - at 7pm and runs through Saturday 17 April (by appointment only). Michael Peck Space 3509 Fremont Ave North, Seattle WA 91803
Kiki Smith, Untitled (Head of Guanyin)
my sneaky shot of the three surveying their handiwork
Robert Yoder, Untitled (Scar)
installation view, west wall 2010
Running in a constant stream along the base of each gallery wall are a trail of postcards. They're snapshots of thoughts, moments, objects, ideas, models, portraits, and footnotes (appropriate then, their placement). In them you'll find teeth, shadows, animals, eggs, moss, fog, light spots, wax wings, studio floors, trees, animal tracks, casts, resin, runoff, waterfalls, and the rest of the world which surrounds artist Kiki Smith.
I Myself Have Seen It: Photography & Kiki Smith is opening tomorrow at the Henry, but if you get a chance to go to their Open House you'll be able to see it tonight. In short, this is a show which highlights the artist's use of photography not just as a medium, but as a tool to record and document as part of her creative process. The tiny postcard-sized photos along the floor are a small part of what Elizabeth Brown estimates were over 80,000 works she and Smith combed through for this exhibition, and they depict nearly everything one might encounter over a period of daily life with the artist. Many of the larger photographs are hyper-closeups of sculptures or wax casts right before a pour, steps in the mold-making/refining/finishing process, or finished works at various angles of interest. Mixed in semi-Salon-style with the photography are lithographs, large-scale prints, and drawings; and of course featured throughout each room are her sculptures. Of particular delight are the Sirens, (scattered throughout one of the main galleries), and the White Mammals on boards with their likenesses in print above them. This is an important show for anyone, but it especially speaks to artists who might, like Smith, obsessively document or take any kind of notes in the studio. It says your observation and the finished work are not separate from one another. They are part of the same thing, and they come from the same place. These not-pieces will each, if not now, have a place somewhere someday.
Despite my fangirl-dom, I won't call her legendary. I have this idea she might either laugh at the title or her eyes might grow big as she defers to artists she admires such as Nancy Spero or Richard Tuttle. The reason I hesitate is because instead of some dusty legend on a shelf, Smith is a working artist who insists on using her own hands and leaving her own marks. In fact, she's using them and leaving them not only on the work she creates, but in the community she nurtures. She says she doesn't want her work to be politically didactic or about anything, but despite her best efforts and claims it is [clearly about something]. One look tells you it's about labour, being female, archetypes and reinventing them. When I look closer I see something about the work itself and about what it means to be an artist. Of her process she says: "I don't believe in being willful as an artist because the work goes in all different directions ... really my emphasis is in craft, material culture, homemade objects, and referring back to an agricultural society where people are more conscious of domestic life and, you know, making things. Politically I'm not a big fan of propaganda...we should all be citizens in any way we want..."
I get the sense from reading others' ideas about Kiki Smith that there's dissatisfaction with her style of artistic nonchalance; that it's irresponsible or lacking in some kind of meat we want to learn from. I disagree. Speaking as someone who overthinks and overspeaks my art on a consistent basis, I appreciate the idea that she "doesn't have much to say" and perhaps would (perhaps we should) rather be making. Why not think that way? She gives credit to talking where credit is due and when it counts. When asked what she thought about the idea of finding our own citizenship and battling propaganda which exists in the art world itself, and do we really need to churn out MFAs and feed ourselves back into academia she suddenly looked very serious and praised the benefits of such a system: "Education is so important! With it you gain access, you gain colleagues, and you become empowered by learning from an older generation ... your peers will hold you through your whole life...but it's important to engage with people in your community with all this talking" Not that she doesn't revert back to the dangers of talking too much. She mentioned she doesn't get too deeply involved with her students when talking about "why they make art", keeping it technical and focusing on helping them find their own voice. This dovetails beautifully with one of my favourite quotes from her lecture where she says "I hate all this junk they teach in art school, where you're supposed to know what you're doing. It's only in the unknown that we get to blossom."
So there we are, right next to the witch with the dark stars and the fruit. We eat from it, we gain some knowledge. It might not be everything we've hoped for, because we've held her so high aloft (if I had been there last night perhaps I would have been disappointed, too?). But she's a contradiction. She's an artist like me, and maybe like you, making things with her hands and leaving a mark. And again like me, and maybe like you, she's obsessively documenting and holding a thought, coming back to it when the idea fits or becomes something beautifully cannibalized in rebirth, blossoming in the unknown.
*the title of this post comes from one of the photographs in the show, a series in which she depicts herself as a witch amidst the leaves