Amber M.

Week Two: Exploding and Exploring Squares

I find myself recoiling at the word "rebel." Of course I know why: in high school Mom called me a rebel whenever I did something I later came to realize was actually "discovering my own identity." 

In some ways I've never been anything bu a rebel. I skew every single statistic I'm a part of. One time a boyfriend broke up with me while I was busy doing something else. He said, "I can't stand your smoking [I smoked then] and YOU CAN'T QUIT, so I'm leaving you." Only half paying attention, all I heard was..."Uh..can't? CAN'T? Excuse me?" I quit smoking that week, and stayed a non smoker 3 years, then a personal best. Oh, and I noticed he'd broken up with me a couple of months later; when I wasn't so busy anymore, I looked around and said, "uh..didn't I start this semester with a boyfriend? Oh...yeah, I remember...bummer." Give me a direct order and watch how fast I undermine it.

Part of my background of people-pleasing has stayed with me. Because I have trouble with trust, this rebel is still a fastidious follower of the rules, the ones I know and the ones I've made. I'm the self-appointed grammar Stormtrooper, for example, a born proofreader and stickler for saying it clearly. When the rules are hazy, I get a little freaked out -- especially when part of what I'm expected to do with them is to break them. It's not as simple as ending a sentence with a preposition (ooh! Bold!) or refusing to make every sentence a complete one. Words I get; *art* not so much.

I never got the Rules to Art By that the other kids got, nor did I get the lingo. Any terminology I got was by accident, or osmosis, or down at the pool hall where the shaggy people hung out. And no matter how many times they said "HUE!! VALUE!! CHROMA!!" I still couldn't quite make out what all three meant. Till about a year ago. So when I got to this section of Jane's book I wrote down the Rules To Art By that I've picked up over the many years and many failed-to-complete art classes. This is a not-exhaustive list.

1. Coloring inside the lines is acceptable; sloppy is not.

2. If you are drawing a cow, it should be easily identifiable as a cow.

3. If it's not hanging on the wall, it's not as highly valued as the other kids'.

4. You're not allowed to call yourself an artist. People will roll their eyes.

 4a. You are allowed the moniker when you've sold a piece or won an award for one.

 4b. Unless your art is of the Fine Art variety, however, you need to add a qualifier to the type of art you're winning prizes for, as in "Fiber Artist."

5. ART is the stuff people appreciate and get pretentious about. It's hung on walls, literally put on pedestals, set apart as a Special Thing: A -- R -- T .. When I say my pretty things on T-shirts qualify as "wearable art" I get snickers. T-shirts? Hah!

 5a. Therefore, T-shirt "art" is just a "craft" and therefore a lesser talent. 

 5b. Craftsmakers don't get into the rarified floating city where the Artists dwell amongst the angels.

Rule 6 was the harshest of all: Don't bother taking an art class. You can't draw things, and it will be humiliating when the other students (and the teacher) find this out. Before the end of the first lesson, everyone knows your cows look like potatoes. By lesson 3 you're always supposed to be looking for shadows on an apple from some invisible mysterious light source. My shadows made my apple look sort of cylindrical. Creative, perhaps, but only by accident. By lesson 5 you're talking about vanishing points like it's something you've always noticed, hey sure, parallel lines meet on the horizon, groovy, makes sense, but your lazy eye means you've never seen actual 3-d in your everlovin blue eyed life except in the ViewMaster when you were 6 so you just sort of creep away and stitch down some pearls on some satin silk. "I embellish! Pearls on Elizabethan costume in flashy patterns!" Hopefully that will be of value somewhere down the line. Well, at least I can do *crafts*.

How do I break down a square, then? I played with this when I bought the book, made a bunch of them. The later ones looked more streamlined and were better glued than earlier models, and I just turned them out feeling a bit like a monkey doing tricks. With the pain in my hands, each took almost a day to cut and glue. Apart from making spiffy things to fill my sketchbook and probably turn into Thermofax screens later, what was I learning? Positive space and negative space. I've come across these before, and now I'm getting a clearer handle on what they mean and how they look. Cool. Appreciating just how painful it can be to use scissors, even with the adaptive cutting tools I've acquired over time. These are what I learned from cutting out paper squares.

So to the questions. Oh my good gracious what is she *asking* me? First a hazy rule about not cutting through the middle and now what if the little bits of black paper were a form of poetry?! Say what? Thinking outside the box, yeah I get it, even giving us boxes to think in/out of, but *poetry*? Sigh. Flashback to performance art exercises, and "what does yellow smell like, man?" What if the squares were dimensional? Oh heck, what a thing to ask a person with amblyopia and a generally poor sense of space. Argh.

I think I believe that the making of Art is taking an idea, a notion, a concept, a condition, etc., and making it into something tangible. If Andy Warhol had to envision "cow," perhaps he'd use the Laughing Borden cow in six different colors in screen print. Mark Rothko examined the notion of "red" and invented a whole school of art, the Color Field School. So why not take "dimension" and see where it goes?

I'll see you in a bit, when I've got something to show. Meanwhile, these are the spiffy images I got from the bits of paper.

 
Following the Rules. I think.

Following the Rules. I think.

 
Breaking the rules. I made a fish-like thing.

Breaking the rules. I made a fish-like thing.

Making a Thermofax. Probably.

Making a Thermofax. Probably.

So, I was thinking about how to make little bits of black paper dimensional. I happened to glance over at some fabric I had on my table. I'd cut off the corners from a dyed piece where the corners were the only part I liked. I was looking at these four triangles of cloth, and then had to shade my eyes from the intensity of the light bulb going off over my head.

This is what I made. I had to rush it to get it done in time, and also worked through a fairly significantly awful flare, so it's a bit sloppy.

 
Dimension

Dimension

 

It's a little hard to see the actual square in the centerpiece, so here's a closer view:

 
Close Up

Close Up

 

This is pretty simple, just a little window for a picture; I could see a series arising from it though, with each piece becoming more fragmented and less like a square. It could happen. And someday I vow, I *will* learn how to use Angelina fibers successfully! At any rate, this felt a whole lot more authentic to me than cutting out bits of paper, however much I liked the spiffy things. Spontaneous and authentic.

Screw pain. This is fun.