|Artist Jimmy Talarico|
I thought it'd be fun to show the beginnings of an idea. I've had a 'hankerin' for trying a piece with saw dust or cardboard and wax to give my pieces a lighter base. This idea came to me during my morning 'quiet time.' It's funny, you can wait for days to hear inspiration and when it comes it comes like a flash. And if you're not ready to receive it, you'll miss it. But this morning I got it. It was the sketch in the image above to the top right. I was asking, "Why am I so hard headed and unwilling to give in to something outside of myself?" And at that moment was the flash of this image and the text Hard Soil Broken.
Now, I'm a Christian, and I never intend to force my beliefs on anyone. I believe that God is bigger than man's dogma and if you sincerely search for truth, He will reveal it to you. If God is afraid of us questioning Him, He is no God. That all being said, this is my story and it includes my beliefs, so bear with me.
I was floored to think I was getting an answer to my question in the form of an art piece. Why not just a word? Why not a story? It was like God was speaking to the core of who He made me to be. Now I don't believe this is some sacred piece. It's just the result of a conversation. You may have as equally significant a conversation spoken in an entirely different way. This is how my conversation was spoken. Anyway, this was about a week ago. Today I finally pulled the canvas off the shelf to get started.
It was very interesting grabbing that canvas tonight. It was surprising the feeling that I felt. It has been a few weeks since I started a new piece and it felt the way you feel meeting a great old friend after a long absence. Really cool. Ideas always evolve, and this will be no exception, so where we end up is anyone's guess. Either way, here I go. Off again to further discover who I am...
Here is the final image of my latest piece. The title was taken from a line in this poem I wrote:
I sing in silence to my soul
Wind through leaves on trees and ground
Enamored heart now takes it's toll
Before you even make a sound
A taste so sweet I feel it's flavor
Touch so pure it's fragrance found
Unbound by mercy laced with favor
Echo in a distant sound
With lightning's flash and thunder's roll
The glory of a kingdom crowned
As freedom laughs at self control
A quiet whisper of a sound
This piece was a great emotional release as I felt "free" to simply create. I kept the John Coltrane Pandora station blasting and let the music influence my decisions on color and textures. I wanted it to feel like it was just pulled out of my mind so multiple layers of color were applied to keep the direction of my brush strokes as ambiguous as possible. For more information on this piece follow this link.
First of all, I realize some of you who follow this site may not follow our Facebook page so you may not have known I was off social media for a week as a part of a media deprivation exercise I was doing. It was a task for a study I'm going through on increasing creativity. I look forward to sharing more about it later. And now, on with the show...
So this is a recap of the Dear Mike project I completed a couple of weeks ago. I'm writing this blog to give some insight into the symbolism and decisions I made throughout this process. To begin with, this was a project I was asked to create as a wedding anniversary gift from a wife to her husband. I was given a box of letters the couple wrote each other before they were engaged and was given complete liberty in finding an appropriate way to express them.
I'd done another project where I used wedding cards to create paper mâché, but for this project I felt it was important to retain the letters to some degree. The letters were private, but I wanted some words to be discernible so the couple could be reminded of those memories while reading the few words that would remain. The interesting thing about our memories is that we tend to fill in the blanks as we see fit. We never truly remember an experience as accurately as it happened, there is always conjecture. I wanted to give a place for that conjecture to stir up old memories. To do this I decided to fold the letters up line by line and infuse them with wax so they would hold their form.
I had seven years of letters and one group with no dates so I split up the letters into eight groups. Then I took the maximum number of letters from one year and divided it by 18" (the height of the canvas) to get 3/4". So I created jigs out of aluminum angles to form 3/4" wide folded letters.
The density of each letter within this 3/4" jig showed how long the letters were. This mathematical approach seemed appropriate since both my client and her husband are engineers. I used a similar approach for the width of each letter so each column was 4 1/4" wide. I then melted each letter to a canvas to give the basic layout.
I filled the rest of the canvas with wax and ash, which has become my current medium of choice.
The wax is repurposed from thrift store candles and the ash is from burned consumable waste cardboard. I know this may sound weird but it really becomes a terrific metaphor for hope and beauty. The candles were most likely originally purchased to celebrate an event centered around love; birthdays, weddings, romantic dinners, etc. But for some reason they lost their value and were given away for nothing. The burned cardboard is symbolic of purifying something that would otherwise be deemed garbage. Both products are then used to create a new object of beauty.
After the wax and ash were applied to Dear Mike, I covered them with acrylic paint in colors that complimented the colors of the letters, but I wasn't completely satisfied with that layer.
During a critique with Melinda she said, "Why don't you just try black and white?" I thought about it for a while then realized it fit well with the concept. There is a certain naïveté that comes with new love. It blinds us to certain shortcomings in our partner and allows us to simply be enamored. This is represented by the white paint covering most of the beginning sets of letters. But the black comes in from the side of the future as a way to represent uncertainty or times of struggle. See, the truth of love is not found in the black or in the white, either one alone is incomplete. The truth of love is only realized when the two meet. Because any of us who have been married past the honeymoon stage have at some point come to the realization that love is a choice. It's not a funny feeling you get when you're around your partner; you learn that that feeling comes and goes. No, the real strength and beauty of true love happens the moment you recognize that flutter has faded and you decide to remain in love anyway. And with that you get Dear Mike. Congratulations Kathi and Mike on another wedding anniversary and here's to many, many more. Thank you so much for giving me the honor of contributing to your story. And to everyone else, thanks for taking the time to read this. We sincerely appreciate it.
Continuing the study of the book Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland brings us to Chapter 5: Finding Your Work. This is all about honesty and making real things. Or should I say making things real.
"In the ideal -- that is to say, real -- artist, fears not only continue to exist, they exist side by side with the desires that complement them, perhaps drive them, certainly feed them. Naïve passion, which promotes work done in ignorance or obstacles, becomes -- with courage -- informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles. Foremost among those obstacles is uncertainty."
The authors make an interesting assertion on the difference between the art viewer and art maker. Clearly there are limits and liberties to both; for example, art viewers are not limited by place and time. But for art makers, their work will always reference a very specific place and time, a moment. Art viewers are 'moved' by experiencing great art, but art makers are changed through the process of making. And the artist finds honesty and truth in discovering his or her process. Power in art making comes from letting your art express who you are, instead of copying someone else's style or intent.
From here the authors discuss the importance of creating a body of work that will end up being an evolution from one idea as opposed to continually finding 'new' ideas. This keeps art makers engaged in the process which will ultimately lead to great creative works.
"There's a difference between meaning that is embodied and meaning that is referenced. As someone once said, no one should wear a Greek fisherman's hat except a Greek fisherman."
"One of the best kept secrets of art making is that new ideas come into play far less frequently than practical ideas -- ideas that can be re-used for a thousand variations, supplying the framework for a whole body of work rather than a single piece."
From here the concepts of form and technique are discussed as a way to suggest how an art maker must stay engaged with his or her ideas. There is a practical side to honing technique. It produces boundaries within our work that allow us to explore a host of ideas within a familiar framework.
"The discovery of useful forms is precious. Once found, they should never be abandoned for trivial reasons... The hardest part of art making is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over -- and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.
Your voice will come through honing the familiar. Only you know what to say about your art, and only you know how to say it. Keep saying it, and sooner or later the art viewer will acquire an ear to recognize your voice.
Quick progress update. The letters are stacked and getting melted onto the canvas. Their height and density show how many letters were written each year and how long each letter was.
What's the black stuff? Good question. It's a combination of ash and wax.
Really?... Why ash and wax? Another good question.
They are both symbolic and functional. You see, my overarching interest with my art right now focuses on Value and Memory.
I use ash from burned cardboard and paper waste; fire and burning has always been a metaphor for purity. So it's a way to repurpose something of no value to give it new value.
As for the wax, I prefer to use candles I find at thrift stores. Thrift store items are compelling to me. Yes, Melinda does think this is weird. :) But let me explain. Everything in a thrift store was once purchased by someone because they valued it. Then somewhere along the way it was discarded as waste.
If you look at candles specifically, they were typically purchased for very special moments: birthdays, weddings, romantic evenings, etc. But at some point they were given up.
Why? Was there a death or did a relationship end or did the kids move out of the house? Whatever the reason, it marks a point in someone's life when that purpose for buying the candles lost value.
So I like to think that I'm honoring those initial memories by using these materials for art. Specifically for this piece, it's the perfect marriage of concept and material as a way to preserve and display these love letters which may never be discarded.
Jimmy & Melinda Talarico
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