Thesis Anyone?

May 27th, 2008 § 4 comments

The graduate office finally sent me the approval notice for my online thesis, meaning the PDF is in the VCU archive and readable for all. I also had to make a few hard copies for the c/ms office and other various peoples, so there is also a bound version of it if anyone besides M wants to buy it from LuLu. Unfortunately it will come with a blank front signature page because I can’t tolerate the page number nightmare of trying to upload a new version, but otherwise it is very nice copy (despite the strangeness of LuLu’s sale preview). I can also email a PDF for anyone who would rather read it that way. Keep in mind I am posting this notice because friends and family alike have been asking to read–and those that have read want the final version–“precarious loss”. So, take what version you like, I only want to know what you think, if I have not already heard at length, in return. Comments can always be posted below…hint, hint, hint.

VCU Electronic Archive

Paperback Version

“Everyone wants to be an Artist”

May 22nd, 2008 § 1 comment

(on Dominique Nahas)

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with the critic we “voted” on to write the essay and description in our thesis catalog. Since I don’t waste my time going to GAA meetings I had no idea the critic had to meet with us, I was somehow under the impression he was simply writing an essay as a sort of credible decoration to our badly color balanced images (this idea being based on viewing last years booklet). It was sudden and unexpected when one of the grads came around with a sign-up sheet telling me that ‘so and so was here’ and ‘when did I want to sign up’. It was my understanding that painting had him the day before us and sculpture the day after, but other than that I had no idea who this “critic” was or what I was supposed to show, since my show was not yet up. I hung some work the night before and went in the next morning unsure of what to expect but rather unconcerned as well.

Following my meeting, needless to say, I did some research. So and so turned out to be Dominique Nahas, a NY based critic who is currently the critic-in-residence at MICA, reminding me of Volk’s role at VCU. All good art programs need a well connected critic-in-residence. I am also going to assume, although I could not find much biographical information, that Nahas has a degree (probably more than one) in Philosophy from somewhere prestigious. After my meeting, which went so strangely I was forced to prowl the school in search of gossip, I found out how he had behaved with others. There seemed to be mixed reports, some grads thought he was interesting, pretentious, mean, etc. One nameless printmaker in the second round was told that her problems were now his because he had to write about her work.

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Theft & Plunder

May 14th, 2008 § 0 comments

The Rape of Europa seems to fit in with a discussion myself and others had somewhat recently with a certain nameless historian (Shem) about if art simply reflects the condition of a culture, or if it is a force in changing that culture. As a documentary I thought the film was sporadic, unfocused and somewhat pointless, but it illustrated what in culture is valued and at lengthy costs preserved. Most artists I know argue against the idea that we are reflectors rather than innovators or the illustrators of perspectives otherwise unseen, though each side seems to depend on how the role of art is perceived within a particular society. The effort taken (during the second world war) to destroy, preserve, hide, restore, and protect works of art and monuments, proves to me at least that art is more than reflection. In Europe, something I found rather interesting, the self-identity of each city rested with a particular church, building, or museum. Thinking of our own country I know I am more compelled by landscape, it seems more a part of my “American” identity than any particular place.

Having studied in great detail the art of the Third Reich and the “artistic” minded tactics of Hitler as a politician, I find this a compelling argument for art as a leader of change. He was infatuated with mediating and controlling the art of his time, on keeping its potential danger away from the general public, perhaps because certain artists were “reflecting” the wrong vision. Many of our most recognized Modernists were seen as a threat to the dominant party, and those artists were part of a wider movement that was pushing ‘thought’ of all kinds, not just art, into new territories. As the film pointed out, the list of artworks Hitler wished to possess predated the countries he chose to invade and occupy.


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Between Writing and Making

April 18th, 2008 § 0 comments

Finishing what I call the first draft of my thesis, although it has been edited more times that I would like to imagine in the past few weeks, felt like losing a vital part of my body. I am not sure if it was just the stress of trying to get it all out and done and ready to read, finishing a paper of any sort always comes with a kind of relief. Writing long essays reminds me of giving a speech, it is really hard to remember exactly what you said and why, even if you have it printed out and can read from it. The words seem alien, different somehow when they are spoken. Reading through my thesis I read things I did not even realize I thought. It is a process that leaves me wondering a little how I got to the end result, when did the words mutate and change, when did new thoughts appear and why? I would say it feels like I am making things up were I not convinced that the great downfall to my writing, or perhaps its only strength, is its honesty. When I at last printed and sent all those words, hopefully with some amount of interest, it seemed like a part of my mind had been let go. Like dumping the trash on my desktop, my computer always runs a bit faster, I think I might be running a little different. Maybe there is something to seeing your thoughts on paper, stated without a way to back out or deny, that is like creating a new person from my thoughts. Editing is like assessing what that person is saying, trying to figure out if I agree enough to leave a sentence.

Making work on the other hand, feels like the complete opposite. Perhaps because I am making something hard and fixed, a cloth I can touch and hold, I experience it as something made rather than something lost or given. When I finish a project I feel like I have made something I can keep forever, even if the thing itself is far away or gone. I don’t think better of either, but I don’t think I could be a writer. It would seem like such a consistent drain. It would take years to be able to fill enough pages without feeling completely empty after. Perhaps writers, unlike myself, don’t like to collect information and hoard it away somewhere invisible, they like to release what might feel like pent up thoughts, stories, and words. My line of month seems to be “I never thought about that before” and perhaps this is what comes of writing more than I ought. While I think a good many people are driven by similar impulses, alike questions, I am interested to see how certain ways of knowing suit certain people. I hate the labeling of professions like that is all you are, or can be, because there is a huge amount of similarity between the inquiries. This seems like an example of that, while writing might be perfect for someone asking the same questions, it is not perfect for me.

Talking Art World Talk

April 12th, 2008 § 2 comments

At least one person is thrilled that we are moving to New York, and that would be Gregory. I always feel rather disconcerted when talking to him, I choose my words and meanings very vaguely, I think this is why we have such miscommunication. We spent a good amount of time talking about life in general this week, my future prospects I suppose he would call them, he told me if he were a “lovely, talented young photographer” he would want to live in Sunnyside Queens. He asked about my thesis and wanted to know what artists I was including. Laughing, I told him a lot of old, dead men, and then qualified it with, they might not all be dead. He shook his head and said that I need to be looking at women, young women.

It was a point I had never thought of before. Not only do I have to put myself within a medium specific category, and in line with its given history, but I also have to consider a gendered history of that medium. I don’t tend to think of myself as a woman in the context of “art”, only within the context of the world. I never realized photography was masculine, or rather I never considered it more masculine than anything else—most professions are, even ballet is ruled by men. They get all the freedom it offers, they break all technical rules, they are the directors, choreographers, and teachers. From Volk’s point of view I can see that it is very important that I follow in line, and break specifically with, a tradition that is suitable to me as a person, and that my sensibilities as an artist and my aesthetic of making should follow accordingly. He often comments that I am very strange, but when I ask why he never really says. What he sees, who he sees, must look very incongruous with what he thinks he ought to. When I started thinking about it I wondered if “people” is the place where women have made a their own tradition in photography, and that is why Gregory thinks I should move away from objects, landscape, etc. and photograph people. When I think about the women photographers I know and am interested in, they all photograph people in some manner or other.

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