work table : narrowing down the essentials in an art practice

January seems to be the time when most artists sit down to think about goals for the upcoming year. After a month of crazy health issues, which I might add I feel 100% fine during all of it, I've been thinking about the bigger life issues of really living the fullest life one can lead. I decided to really cut to the chase (which happens to be the title of my upcoming solo show at Stripe in Santa Cruz, CA) about what really makes me the happiest in my studio. If I'm going to spend the next few months not feeling great (and I'm still not sure about that yet since we don't know what I have), I at least want to make the most of my time when I'm making art. I always keep my eyes open to new ideas which involves a lot of research (yes, Pinterest counts as work!) and a lot of pondering and questioning. Over the past week, I've narrowed down the essentials of what I want from my art practice to six points.

1) I love sewing. When I'm not sewing, I wish I was sewing. Therefore, whatever I'm making in my art, it needs to involve sewing.

Albuquerque Quilt in progress.

2) I love the process of making quilts. But they have to be quilts that are really art, first and foremost. The quilt is a medium for me, like paint or collage. There's something about the measuring and cutting and organizing that I adore.

Quilt blocks for Albuquerque Foreclosure Quilt before piecing.

3) I want to work on a larger scale. I keep coming back to certain works of art that spellbound me. They are all large. Really large. Mark Bradford, El Anatsui and Dorothy Caldwell all work on a larger scale. There were two things that happened last week that got me thinking about this more seriously. First, this review about my work in the Houston Sprawl exhibit. I loved this review. Then I came across the image below on Pinterest of Dorothy Caldwell's studio. Something about this image has stayed with me.

Dorothy Caldwell's studio. Image from Trout in Plaid.
4) My work must relay a message. I can not put pen to paper or needle to fabric without having some reason behind each stitch or line. And not just any message, I want to deal with the big issues, the powerful world altering issues that affect all of us globally. Ai Wei Wei has got that point down.

Installation view of ‘according to what?’ featuring ‘dropping a han dynasty urn’
1995/2009 and ‘colored vases’ 2007-2010. www.Designboom.com

5) Research. If you know me by now, you know I'm always mentioning some statistic or pouring over some book that no one finds interesting but me. I love sifting through data to find a bigger message to summarize to people.

I'm embarrassed to share this but here's all of my research
on the Foreclosure Quilts. Eep!

6) Aesthetics are important to me. Always have been, always will.

Aboubakar Fofana courtesy of Selvedge Dry Goods.

7) A little wit or deeper meaning needs to be in my work. I love the reaction people have when they suddenly 'get' the foreclosure quilts. I'd really like to work more with humor in my next body of work too. It's time for a little humor in my life!

Feral Pidgeon Eating Crisps by Clare Sams. I love this!

Now that I've really been able to hone down the essentials I've been trying to come up with some new ideas. I actually have a good one too! It's nice to have other things to think about than upcoming tests and doctor's visits. My next test is tomorrow and we will hopefully have some results by mid-next week. It's been over a month I've been living in limbo but thankfully, feeling perfectly healthy. And all the tests so far this year have been normal, which is great. So get creating!


Christine said...

Your goals are most important and they resonate with me. I wish you well and hope that your year ahead is filled with a positive outcome to your health issue and amazement, happiness and joy.

cauchy09 said...

Gosh, I hope they figure things out and that the process thereafter isn't too terrible. I love your work and hope that your plans work out smoothly!

Neiley said...

What a fantastic post, Kathryn. So inspiring. Indeed it's important to boil it all down to the essential question: why do (I) make art? Sounds like you have a fantastic plan. Thanks so much for sharing. PS I'm so happy to hear that time spent on Pinterest is work! Yay!!

susan t. landry said...

thank you for this wonderful summary of what you are thinking about. it is so inspiring to read about a creative person who has become newly recharged,and who wants to delve even deeper, to make art that resonates personally and on a humanitarian level. all good wishes to you in your medical journey. i would suspect that the whole healthcare experience may be a stimulus for your broader aesthetic expression.

Claire Brewster said...

what a beautiful post. I can't wait to see how your work progresses xx

kathrynclark said...

Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments! The surgery went really well and I'm just on the mend now but so eager to get back to work! Keep on making and push yourselves!

Lari Washburn said...

So fantastic! You do so make me think, and provide an example of stability and purpose that are very touching. You remind me that people, and especially artists, really want to contribute something good to this world. It is heartening to remember that. And I'm grateful that you are out there coming back to your full power more strongly every day.

kathrynclark said...

Thanks for your kind words, Lari. I love seeing your freedom in experimenting in your work. It reminds me that artists can have fun making work!

Lisa Solomon said...

i'm very late here but YES. to it all. xo

Lindsay said...

Hi Kathryn. I know we have not connected in awhile but I wish you well! Hope your tests all come out exactly the way you want. Lovely comments here and of course, you know I admire your work so much!

Karen said...

I've been meaning to thank you for the picture of Dorothy Caldwell's studio via Trout in Plaid. Dorothy was one of my early teachers and I'm glad that she's still at it. Through Trout in Plaid I found Jane Low Beer's work (stitched collages of prints) and surprisingly, my husband's cousin's (Curt Driedger) mandolin society.


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