Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sojourn, we're only visiting for a short stay

Sojourn, Kiki Smith

I am sixty years old and each day I become more aware that there are less years ahead than behind me. It changes my attitude toward life. My mind leads me through each day with curiosity, reflection and self determination. I don't see this as a change although the activities have changed. I suppose I made a decision to 'become' an artist because why not. I'm told it takes more sweat than talent and I know how to sweat. I want to learn the craft and create with this new knowledge. So I am sweating every time I do a new painting and gradually I am learning the craft. I came into art class with no previous experience as a painter although I created in video so I wasn't completely foreign to the creative process. As an activist I never let not knowing to stop me from creating because I knew how to research and knew that practice was the key to better quality creations, as activist practice led to a better quality of life.

When I came across Kiki Smith's new exhibit, Sojourn, now at the Brooklyn Museum, it really struck me because it reflected my own life experience at this moment in my time here. The inevitability that life is impermanent. Yes I always knew that but now it is experientially different and I was in awe how simply Kiki Smith's pieces work to tell this human story.

For my final project in Narrative Painting, I knew I needed to go outside my comfort zone in order to make a leap to the next phase of my painting. I need practice doing human figures and also to vary perspective. Each painting represents a piece of human existence over a life span - Barefoot in the Grass, Human Scar, Old Hands Creating, Funeral Urn (oil on canvas) and large scale Self Portrait (ink and charcoal on brown paper). They are hanging from the ceiling staggered various distances in front of the self portrait.

The Human Scar I added the night before critique. It is a representation of a scar across my abdomen. It is a reminder of a close to death experience as a result of a burst appendix which literally poisoned my body into septic shock. It was an emotional decision to include it but I thought it added the element of the body's fragility emphasizing our stay is not forever.

The piece still needs work and I will continue working on it during the summer. On the scar piece I have begun to sand away at the ochre. My original intention was to use the antiseptic used for surgery and I will get some to splash on after I finish sanding but only covering the scar leaving the rest of the canvas raw. I think this will be closer to how I want it to look. I haven't finished the hands nor my self portrait so I will continue until I am satisfied. I will post updated versions of each and will assemble them again and document with another photo.

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