Youth. On the surface, it isn’t special; it’s a common denominator that we all share. Yet, we still revel in frequent bouts of nostalgia. When we’re young, we want nothing but to grow up, and sometimes, after we’ve grown up, we want to return to days when life was nothing more than a small blip nestled on the horizon. What is it about youth that is so enticing? And what can we uncover about the human condition in its examination?
It is a rare contemporary conversation about the arts that is not, at least tangentially, also about pedagogy. The arts are obsessed with education. Creatives must understand their craft, be aware of their current and historical contexts, have the skills to write about and explain their work eloquently and effectively, and possess impeccable social and political skills. Educators, tasked to impart these skills and knowledge on to the next generation of creatives, have their work cut out for them, and they know this, because they are still learning all of it themselves.
They go by many names. Tall-tales. Folklore. Myths. Legends. They’re so ingrained in our lives that sometimes it’s impossible to tell their origin. Historically, the myth offered an explanation to that which, otherwise, might have gone unexplained; it offered answers to our most existential questions. Today, ancient and modern-day lore shapes our understanding of ourselves, and our past, in new and imaginative ways.
Where is the room for still life artworks in the scope of new and mixed media? What means are there still to pack, and unpack, into a genre of art that has been practiced since before the common era? How much further can we push Still Life, and how much further can it push us?
For some it is a way of life and for some it is merely an occasional indulgence. For others… well, they are just better at hiding it. We all have our guilty pleasures, our vices. We all have weaknesses that we can’t say no to: we are reprobates.
These bodies we’re in, they are incredibly well oiled machines. We breathe without thinking; our hearts keep a steady beat throughout the day and while we sleep. With each new generation our bodies search for new ways to improve their efficiency. We grow taller and live longer; we change constantly. We are strong, we are self-reliant, but we are not immortal. Like any machine, we are not meant to run forever; our bodies will eventually fail. Sometimes, we donate parts of ourselves to another. Sometimes, our parts are dissected, studied, placed in jars, so the world can see how they work: how we work.
We exist in a world of algorithms and codes. Defined systems are involved in almost every interaction and activity we participate in daily: a strategic placement of zeros and ones allow us to make calls, search the internet, watch the nightly news, and play Angry Birds. Seasons progress, spring summer winter fall, as they have since we began recording them. Everything is born, and everything dies. We are creatures of habit; we live within a pattern.
Life always pushes up through the cracks. Over all of Earth’s landmasses and its shallow waters, plants survive in the harshest conditions. The shear diversity of life on our planet is mind blowing, and it cannot be tamed. And yet, we are in a daily struggle to do just that. When we look at the natural world, we see the reflection of ourselves, and the wild within.
Winter 2012 (2)
The “death of the artist” supports the viability in audience influenced and generated art. We no longer are exclusively viewers, but active participants in work being created. Today, we see creatives working in collaborative collectives outside of a defined medium. We’ve become more interested in mining for information and sharing it openly, hoping to complete the one way conversation occurring for centuries in galleries and museums. We’re looking for interaction.
We’re constantly purchasing and supporting art, whether we realize it or not. The cookbook you read, the ceramic bowls you mix ingredients in, the ergonomically pleasing water bottle you drink from, the apron you wear and the clothes you’re hoping to protect. Even the food you prepare holds merit. Behind each of these items is a skilled and accomplished artist, author, or designer.
We want control. We are not being anal, we are not being de- manding, but rather stating the quintessential want of every breathing thing on this earth. We want to have dominion and conquest over the matter at hand. But, when we are not given such a right, all hell breaks loose. Hearts broken, faith questioned, the validity of our existence comes to question. Maybe we have no control, no right to be creators of the decadent? But, perhaps this is needed to wake us up, to reveal the endured spirit that has sprinted after trial and trial, to show that the profane abomination, resulting from the loss of strict control, is glorious. The Glitch has made it perfect.
Location is integral to the art one makes. A painter in San Francisco is almost certainly making work different than one in based in New York. An author in 2012 is ap- proaching their work differently than they would in 1912. A stack of maps in an artist’s studio after returning from travel is not only a record of where they’ve been, but a resource of visual language and design capable of returning you immediately to where they’ve just been, both literally and emotionally. Your location can give you landscape, community, or an artistic culture to refer to. Most importantly, where you are, and where you’ve been, gives your work it’s very content, context, and meaning.
Art, in any form, is a shared experience found somewhere between artists’ intent and viewers’ perception. Scores of artists place a system of limitations or condi- tions on their work in order to create an outcome; and yet, this process is lost in the conversation between art and observer. For some artists, the process is just another step in the equation; for others, the entire equation is about the process.
In the past, food has been considered a staple of our suste- nance: we eat breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening. Yet, universities specializing in the Culinary Arts and the students they embody have begun asking the same questions that artists have asked themselves for centuries: How do we break from these traditional forms, create something new and relevant, and change the way people think about both food and art. In their essence, they’re not so different.
Imagine seeing yourself. Not just a photo or your reflection—a representation—but
imagine actually seeing yourself. “How long do you plan to be content?” you ask yourself, or it asks you.
It’s not you, right? That’s a strange question to ask anyway. You hear about being places that you haven’t been, or at least don’t remember having been. You weren’t walking through the field yesterday were you? That person was just in your imagination, a dream. Then, as quickly as it began, it ends.
Well, rather, YOU end.
The people that you have connections with, in no small part, help to form your identity. These people could enter your life without your consent, such as blood relatives or even the people that live in your neighborhood. The phrase “kith and kin,” from its roots, means “native land and people,” and these genetic ties and cultural traditions in many ways define who you are and where you have a sense of belonging. Plants and animals have the simplest form of kin: it is their genetic makeup—where and when their life began.
It’s like breathing. We do it constantly, everyday. We look at things, we look at each other, we look into space, and we look into ourselves. If we belong to the lucky majority who posses the ability of sight, we can’t fathom life without it. And just like breathing, every once in a while we notice ourselves doing it. The eyes linger, and all of the other senses and motor skills fade, even just for an instant, and it happens—the gaze.
Invariably interested in the places we aren’t, transience has become today’s norm. It is rare now to find someone that is content to simply live and die in the same town. Whatever the reason people find to get on a plane, a boat, or in a car, we are a people of tourism. There are global icons, famous places and objects, that are widely known and can be easily called to mind. Such destinations have an aura about them, if for no other reason than people are going there, seeing it, and talking about it.