The Laws of Nature

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Self interrogation

Acting upon the recommendation of an artist friend, I decided to read the book "The Shape of Content" by Ben Shahn. His candid analysis of his own art reminded me of how difficult it is for an artist to produce work that's a true reflection of one's self. In his book, Shahn asks himself "What kind of person am I?" and "What kind of art coincides with who I am?" I think these questions are essential to original expression. In answer to the first question about what kind of person I am, I can say that,outwardly, I'm drawn to vivid colors and reflective light. I love to see light dance on moving objects, like water or rotating crystal or ... falling eggshells. I don't care much about local color, but rather the enhanced colors of my imagination which I seem to impose on everything. Inwardly, I'm analytical and prone to see my weaknesses and flaws rather than my strengths. Yet, I feel self-protective about the few good traits that I do possess, especially my ability to endure great difficulty. I guess eggshells fit my inward personality - they're very strong, but break easily when inward force is applied outward (self-criticism), rather than outward force applied inward (criticism from others). Therefore, in answer to Shahn's question: this kind of art DOES coincide with who I am.

8 comments:

Mike said...

Interesting observations, Kathy. If we were in a room together, this subject would carry the conversation for hours. Of that I am certain. There is much to debate about it!

Kathy said...

Mike, I'd like to hear your views on this. I have no doubt that you and I would have a rip-roarin' discussion :)

Celeste Bergin said...

Ben Shahn! I know his work...! I thank you for letting me know that he wrote a book...I will definitely look it up. I always think it is comical when people say illustrators weren't/aren't "real" artists. Shahn was a brilliant artist of the first order. I happen to think that communication art *is* fine art..but I know that I am in the minority.
I love your eggshell series and I enjoy learning how you relate to the strong/fragile aspects of the subject. It is rare when an artist devotes the kind of consideration that you have to one subject. Then, of course, we find out that this one subject is not really ONE subject--but a metaphor for all of life. So interesting. Stellar work!

Kathy said...

Thanks for your insightful comments, Celeste. I agree with you about Shahn.

-Don said...

Wow, Kathy, great blog! My mind is reeling right now as I consider what you've written and how I can relate it to me as an artist. I'll be giving it some serious thought. I love what you had to say about local color. I feel much the same way, as I'm sure you've noticed in my work... More later after I've digested this a while longer. -Don

Kathy said...

Don, Shahn's insights are incredibly helpful to me, and others. I'm happy that this touched you as well, and welcome further discussion once you've had time to mull-it-over.

Mark Sheeky said...

I'm not sure that analysis is always helped for the actual creation process... at least I often find that the most "true" works come almost by magic straight from the subconscious without analysis or modification. It's only later when the meaning becomes clear that it shows itself as an accurate reflection of personality. In a way every artist paints themself, but I'm increasingly thinking that the more the idea is "pushed about a bit" the less personal it becomes. Whether good art is personal art is another question. To be popular it seems we need to be personal AND have an average personality (so that many people identify with it). All I can say to that is "Doh!"

Kathy said...

Mark, You raise some very interesting points! Shahn would argue that "the subconscious may greatly shape one's art ... but, the subconscious cannot create art. The very act of making a painting is intending one. Man's most able self is his conscious self- his intending self." As for my work, I spend lots of time deliberating about it and getting to the heart of my individual statement. This is because I'm aware of the fact that my instinct is to imitate what I have seen and liked and I don't want to do that. So, I spend lots of time thinking about my unique relationship with the world and how I want to reveal it to others in two dimensions.