Beginning: At Last

When the unconscious speaks, I listen with trepidation. For when it talks, I will have to respond. Sometimes the message comes in the form of a dream. It might be the remains of a disturbing image that lurks beneath my eyelids when I awake. Sometimes it is a missive disguised as a poem or song fragment. Other times, there is only an inkling, an itch, a sense of an unfinished moment that runs rampant throughout the day. I know it is time to go inside myself. And then, I proceed. www.joisraelson.com

Making art is often lonely. I sit in my studio (or more often when I am driving) and jot down ideas, make a quick sketch. Mostly I think. Ideas sometimes come from something I read or a lingering image from a dream. I think about the space; about possible designs; about materials; about the feeling of the work. All this takes place in my mind – alone. From the outside observer, making art can appear to be selfish.

I’ve been watching Art 21- a PBS program featuring artists of the 21st century www.pbs.org/art21/. As I listen to William Kentridge or Louise Bourgeois describe their work or discuss their process, I grow more comfortable with my own approach to art making. I often look to history for the origin of my ideas and link seeming disparate “memory artifacts” into a whole. I draw (no pun intended) great solace knowing that I have kindred spirits, even though we  work in separate worlds.

BUT

Creating public art requires a different process, a different set of skills and a different way of working. Creating a public art work can not be idiosyncratic. When creating a public work, I attempt to integrate the history of the place and sense of the space with a conceptual foundation based on research. When working in stone, frequently the stone will also ‘participate’ in the creation of the work.

At a Visioning Meeting with the Carroll County Pubic Library Sculpture Garden Committee, the ideas generated were as diverse as the community from which they arose.

The members shared images of favorite sculptures and brainstormed artistic styles that ranged from figurative to abstract; historic to futuristic; organic to formal; monumental to life size.  There seemed to be no common ground.

There are more than 175,000 residents of Carroll County. 17,000 of those inhabitants live in the city of Westminster. Countless folks enter or walk by the library everyday. The performance area and a completed sculpture garden will encourage patrons to spend more of their time outside, as well as inside, the library.

At this point in the process, it seems an impossible task to integrate all the ideas from a 7-person committee – let alone a city of 17,000 – or a county of 175,000 to create an integrated sculpture. But that is the task before me.

Fortunately, when members of the committee described the ‘space’ in which the piece would ‘reside’ – they generated these common elements:

  • a sense of openness
  • a gathering place
  • a focal point, an anchor
  • a peaceful feeling
  • a sense of whimsy and surprise.

The inkling of the idea I had while in my tree pose combines with the sense of space. Now I must trust the process.

To be an artist is to trust in a deep and profound way in the process of creation. I must be willing to discard the work that does not feel complete. I must be willing to disregard first attempts. I must be willing to be gentle and not berate myself. I must be able to persevere in the path of disappointment or to revel in the exaltation of achievement. I must believe the process is the meaning, not the product. And then, I work.  www.joisraelson.com

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