Saturday, October 1, 2011

Do Artists Always Wear Black?

Shanna Wheelock, 2011
Ceramic, light, metal
Photo by Leslie Bowman

Hammond Hall, Schoodic Arts For All
Winter Harbor, Maine

Abby Shahn's "Save the World" globe.
Thanks, Abby! You did a great job organizing the "Worlds Seen and Foreseen" show in downtown Skowhegan!!!

Portrait of me.... Photo by Leslie Bowman

Do artists always wear black? I guess that's a silly question. But as I was preparing yesterday morning to head out, sporting black shoes and a long-sleeved (very cool, I might add, Liberty Graphics) black Tee, I "asked" Chris, should I wear my black or purple polartec? I was already slipping the black one over my arms when Chris responded "artists always wear black." He said that when he taught at University of Tennessee that the art department was a sea of black fabric. I remember back to my own undergrad days as a fine arts student at USM. Indeed, my closet was filled with the color void. But for every black item, I owned an opposite, brightly-colored garment. Maybe tie-dyed, maybe bright orange, some sort of funky wild concoction of hues and patterns always took residence on a neighboring hanger.

It is a stereotype that artists are brooding, dark souls who walk around in goth fashion. So yes, yesterday I wore a lot of black, but, black goes with anything! Yesterday it just happened to match perfectly the dark, rainy morning, and yes, I had been in a quieter, more introspective mood this past week while trying to overcome rather than succumb to that change-of-season chest cold. I just happened to need a long-sleeved, relatively warm shirt to wear with jeans. It did have a moon on the design which seemed fitting since I was delivering a sculpture for an exhibit about light. But my interior mood was anything but brooding. If anything, the rainy day lifted my spirits. I love the rain. A mellow ambiance makes perfect for working in the studio.

Rather than brooding souls, artists should be known to be deep and introspective. Most people have a range of emotions that run the gamut from "skippy-dippy gleefully happy" to the "best-not-to-talk-to-me-now-funk". Artists are amongst the most intelligent and caring beings that I have ever met and rather than seeing the world as a depressing pit of near non-existence, they see truth, which sometimes is ugly, and because of that channel a sense of hope to create a better reality. Sometimes the world we live in sparks pain, but art is cathartic and artists have at their disposal great means to work through the pain. I sort of see me as an example of that. For those who know me personally, they know that I am a generally optimistic person who wears a smile. Yet, my sculptural images are sometimes pain and despair-filled. I have come to the conclusion that it is because I am a person that believes we can AND SHOULD work toward a peaceful existence - one that is gentle, caring, loving - that my work exemplifies a more painful and destructive force that I feel needs to be recognized and abolished.

So yesterday, I did wear black, and yesterday, I was in an upbeat optimistic mood: the best I had experienced all week. Chris and I started our day early for a two-hour drive to Winter Harbor. We were delivering my Incendiary sculpture to Hammond Hall, a performing arts center under the direction of Schoodic Arts for All. The show features illuminated artworks that will adorn the space with light as days grow darker heading toward winter. It was a joyful morning visiting with other artists. John McMurray was there, the artist who worked with us this past summer on the Lubec Arts Alive kinetic herring. I also got to meet Mary and Jane who were overseeing the delivery of work. I loved their energy! After the delivery, Chris and I stopped off in Machias for a quick lunch, then it was on to a hardware store for me to pick out some lumber for the sculpture that I am currently working on. I will reveal details of this new piece later on, once it is nearer to completion. Right now it is a hodge-podge of components that make little sense and even to me are mind-boggling. I am looking forward to creating the base structure this weekend so that I can begin to make sense of it all.

I haven't blogged in two weeks. I have been trying to keep up with the demands of a heavily-divided life. I thought that teaching half-time this year would open up all sorts of extra time, which I guess essentially it did, but that time has been quickly filled with more work. I am busy with pottery production for upcoming fall and holiday sales and continue my work in the MFA program at Heartwood College of Art. Slip in a bit of salsa-making, veterinary appointments, pottery deliveries, broken kitchen appliances, everyday household duties, jury duty letters and a "quick" fourteen-hour run to Skowhegan (where artists who were protesting war were very brightly dressed!). All this was on top of a week of Chris being sick then me unfortunately following right behind him. There hasn't been a whole lot of down time. I even somehow fit in the role of interviewee on Geno's Washington County TV, discussing the arts scene in Lubec, which was an interesting event for sure! (Sorry, I forgot to ask when it will air. When I know, I will let you know.)

Chris has been super busy as well, teaching women's studies this semester for UMM and dividing his writing time between the novel and his poetry. Whale Sound (see link below) just posted his poem "Gods Reflect on Creation." It is an audio file read by Nic Sebastian. She does a great job with it! Check it out!

Gods Reflect on Creation, audio file (click here)

Without further adieu, I think I will mosey on downstairs, greet Bello and Bouli, shower, trim pots, then continue work on the sculpture. An hour ago when I looked out the window, day breaking, it appeared to be a bit overcast. I am hoping for another long day of dark and stormy to keep me in this awesome, focused non-brooding mood.

and...keeping with the theme of wearing is some music to help start your day.


Owl Who Laughs said...

This article contains some of the best, most relevant philosophy I have ever seen. It happens to be about the psyche of artists and why they plunge into a full spectrum of emotions, including the most painful ones. Your answer is that it is ethical and also ultimately healthy to do so.

And that is just part of this amazing blog. Wow!!!


Eileen said...

I wore black all through high school, long before "goth" was in fashion (I graduated in 1970) and my closet is still filled with it. As fall and winter approach I get very excited that I get to trot out my best black stuff! Both my husband and I are artists, and while I am definitely the more "brooding" of the two of us, he is usually pretty happy no matter what life throws at him. He never wears black, but his WORK is often extremely dark, in color and in theme. There are times I am the stereotypical brooding, black clad artist, but my work is very upbeat. I guess we balance each other out. Maybe that's how you get two artists to cohabitate successfully!


I would say that's like Chris and me, Eileen. Chris enjoys bright colors and his Hawaiian shirt collection - but boy oh boy can his poetry be dark!

My work has many upbeat moments despite the dark closet :)

People are complex.

Kim Hambric said...

Ah, yes, the brooding artist. I'm very happy wearing my black. I feel confident in black. I feel that something is wrong with me (indeed I do not look well) when wearing light or bright colors.

I'm also fond of dark brown.

Love that Hollies song!!