I’ve cataloged many artists in my series Art AV Club and I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what that series has done for me.
When I started Art AV Club last year I was interested in watching videos of artists talk about their work. I thought it was cool that there was this giant resource on YouTube of artists talking about being an artist, their work, and just stuff. And it’s all there, FOR FREE. I wanted to share that with you.
I also thought it might be cool to talk about how my work relates to their work. But that was a secondary thing to being able to SEE these artists while they were still alive. I have enjoyed hearing them talk about their work, their lives as artists, and just seeing them in the context of their time periods.
I mistakenly thought that putting together any one Art AV Club post would only take a few minutes each week. It never crossed my mind that I would sometimes have to sift through dozens of clips to find just the right one from each artist. And ideally the clips needed to be short! My own attention span dies after about 5-7 minutes so I knew each one needed to be fairly short so people would watch.
Even with those issues, I got hooked on watching these artists talk about what they do and why they do it. And then I got even more hooked on tracing the connections between what I do and what they did; thinking about my work and trying to fit it into the larger framework of these greats.
What I leave behind
It’s probably a bit presumptuous to think anyone will be looking at my work later and trying to follow the thread backwards. Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” That’s me with these artists and Art AV Club. Thinking of these artists as my artistic ancestors is meaningful to me. All art is about conversation. Conversation with the world of the artist, the time period they are from, and/or their artistic ancestors. I talk a little bit more about this in the post “How to see”.
What I’m doing seems so obvious to me right now. But even I forget the progression of events for any given piece after a few years. The connections that are so obvious to me in the moment of making get fuzzy as time passes. Five years later and even I am sometimes stumped by why I made the choices I did in a piece. This whole website is an attempt at holding onto those connections. And then allowing you to see them and follow them too. Art AV Club is a way for me to link that back to my artistic ancestors as well.
Who I am
Spouse and I have been watching a show where the work environment is toxic and they all work a hundred hours a week. I worked at an ad agency when I was fresh outta design school and the 60-hour work week with the Mad Men wanna-bes cured me of my graphic design Addy dreams. So this show reminded me of how easy it is to confuse who you are with what you do.
I practiced saying “I am an artist” for a long time before I could say it with a straight face. While I practice making art and it fulfills part of my soul, I could very easily be in a situation where I would have to give it up to “get a real job” so my family could eat. Would I still BE an artist? I dunno. I’ve asked myself that question a lot the past few weeks as I’ve contemplated this post.
These videos of these artists further confuse that issue because they are these moments captured in time when the people are talking about their life’s work as artists. So maybe there’s some part of me that’s trying to capture that for myself. If I leave records, then I’m an artist. The Lescaux cave painters left records, I suppose I can relax a little bit.
Last week I wrote about working on the Advent devotionals with my father-in-law over the past 22 years. That’s a long time to be involved in a project. I hope my other artistic endeavors last that long and are handled by as many people.
The days are long and the years are short
I’ve always heard that adage in relation to raising kids but my time as an artist feels that way too these days. So many things fill up the day-to-day time in the studio but when I look back, the years are so run together that I feel like I’ve blinked and four or five years have lapsed. Did someone put my life on movie montage mode and forget to clue me in? I wonder if the artists we look at in Art AV Club felt time moving that way too? Is that just a product of keeping your head down and working on the stuff you love?
Maybe the best thing that Art AV Club does for me is allow me the space to breathe and ask questions. I don’t have many answers to very many things. I am looking to these artists to help me answer them. These days when I am stumped I stop and remember my favorite Larry Poons quote:
My only defense against fate is color.
Larry’s answer continues to satisfy my questions in a way that tends to make me sigh in relief. I think that’s maybe enough.
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