Thanks to everyone who left comments on my last post! That was very helpful.
I thought things through a little more, and came up with a diagram that illustrates the problem I’m trying to solve:
Anywhere in the fuchsia circle is acceptable to me, of course, but I’m striving to get more of my work into the yellow circle, too. (Let’s sidestep for now the question of what constitutes good art, and who gets to judge it!) Extra bonus if I can get it into the intersection of all three circles.
There are unanswered questions in all three problem spaces, starting with the very basic ones:
- What do I want to make?
- What are other people likely to want? (to see, buy, etc.)
- What makes for good art? How can I make my art better?
The answer to the first question, at the most basic level, is textile art. (This, to me, means a textile itself – like tapestry – or else an art piece made with cloth.)
This helps narrow down the second question: what kinds of textile art are people likely to want (see, buy, etc.)? I don’t have an answer to this, but digging through the links Melissa Leventon sent me will give me a good start on my research. I plan to chat with some of the gallery owners, if I can wangle my way into a conversation, to see what they’re buying/selling and what they look for in new artists.
Finally, once the first two questions are answered, the third question comes into play: given the genre of art that I want to make and that people want to see/buy/whatever, how do I make that kind of art better?
It’s not that sequential, of course – one answer enlightens another, and opens up yet more questions to be answered – but I think this lays out the basic shape of my investigations. It also suggests that courses in specific topics of design might be more useful than the OCA course – which (from what I can see) is intended to survey both textile techniques and design. (Thanks Judy for the input on OCA! That was very helpful.) I’m not particularly interested in exploring technique – I’ve done a lot of that so far – so a few courses targeted at three dimensional design, color, etc. might prove more useful than the OCA class. We’ll see. I still have ten days to decide before OCA tuition hikes kick in.
Meanwhile, I have put myself on the waiting list for a three-dimensional design class at De Anza Community College. I’m first on the waiting list, so I think there’s a very good chance I’ll get in. Classes don’t start until the end of September, but that’s fine with me – it means I won’t miss anything during the week I’ll be away for Seminars.
For now, I’ll probably continue on as I have been – finishing the Celtic Braid Coat, exploring mixtures of weaving and surface design, and working out the design for Phoenix Rising. I’ll also investigate the gallery market, and maybe experiment with textile art beyond wearable art. (Who knows, Phoenix Rising may transform into something else entirely!) I think it will take me some months/years to work out the answers to those questions – as impatient as I am, there’s simply no way to skip to the solution. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet:
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
I think Rilke’s right. Some problems you can analyze and solve in a day, others are longer, more experiential – more a gradual process than an explicit answer.
Off to work on my quilting design class homework!
Stephanie S says
You have touched upon a point I have been considering too. The ‘what other people want’ is a huge subject. The quick easy answer is that the artist creates something that other people want before they know they want it. But that answer does not further our investigation in my opinion. One thing I have observed is that ‘other people’ are not attracted to the thing that the artist maker/weaver community as a whole finds to be interesting. Perhaps because art appeals to ‘others’ through the heart not the mind and that is what an artist does – takes the cerebral ideal and runs it through the heart.
The OCA is in a sense about technique, but only ever in the service of your purpose. A rather long but relevant quote from the introduction to the section I’m just starting on structure (and as we know, technique is big in weaving):
“… you may need to practise in order to improve your technical abilities, but keep in mind that the effect of what you are doing is paramount. Don’t let the technique of how something is made overwhelm your creative judgment. The skills are there as a vehicle for your ideas, giving form to your thoughts and designs”.
When I mentioned the practical / theoretical mix earlier, I meant my own creative work / research on the broader textile world, textile artists etc.
Julie S says
I like the way you’re approaching this dilemma and working your way through it; it’s something I’ve been pondering for a while now and still haven’t sorted through for myself.
It seems to me that there is a big disconnect today, perhaps always has been, between what people want (people in a very broad and general sense) and what makes good art (as far as good art is currently defined by the “art world” — the critics, curators, etc. who are the arbiters of that scene). I’m not sure that the vast, general public appreciates much of what is celebrated as cutting edge conceptual art today. So there’s that huge question of what is good art and who is defining it, but there’s also a question beyond the general one of what people want, and that is what particular group of people you have in mind.
I would love to hear what you learn from gallery owners about what kind of work they’re carrying, what they see people most interested in, what kind of people are attracted to what they offer. To me, they’re the people sitting on the edge of that dilemma, figuring out what art will appeal to whom.