*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Proclaiming that the object in Surrealism was fundamental, [Andre] Breton suggests a radical transition in surrealist creation, one that liberated the poet-artist from all constraints in the making of the artistic object. Breton’s text calls for a “revolution of the object,” suggesting that in the placing of an object into a new context, and thus attributing it with a new meaning – also called a “detournement” – which takes precedence. Drawing in his interpretation of Hegelian subject-object relations, Breton describes the “object” as a work of art that relies on a philosophical procedure, affirming the surrealist process as one that is realized in the experience of apprehending the object through a dialectical method. Citing the work of Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, Breton explains that an object may become a product of surrealist creation through the simple “manipulation” of it. Here ”manipulation“ is defined as a procedure which reveals the object in its original and new state at the same time. If taking an object out of its original context and placing it in a new space creates the potential for a creative act, then this text seems to validate the surrealist practice of collecting. As the collector acquired objects and unites them in a gallery or a home, they assume new significance contingent upon their physical juxtaposition to other objects.
Moon Dancers: Yup’ik Masks and the Surrealists, edited by Jennifer Field, Introduction by Christina Rudofsky
Comments are welcome!
A: I continue working on a large pastel painting that combines some of my finds from Oaxaca and Mexico City, Kandy (Sri Lanka), and Panajachel (Guatemala).
Comments are welcome!
A: I am in the very early stages of a large pastel painting. I have never painted any of these figures before and they originated in different parts of the world. The bird (left) is from the Brooklyn Museum’s store, although it was hand carved in Guatemala. The standing figure is carved wood with beautiful painted details. It was a lucky find on a trip to Panajachel, Guatemala. The armadillo (red and grey) was made by one of my favorite Mexican folk artists (now deceased) and I believe it’s one of the last pieces he completed. It is a papier mâché figure that I found in a small shop in Mexico City. The figure on the upper right is a wooden mask bought from a talkative and talented artist at a hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka. It depicts nagas (cobras), although you can’t tell that yet in the painting.
Comments are welcome!
Q: In your earlier “Domestic Threats” series, you liken your paintings to scenes in a movie. Is there an audition process? What qualities must a figure possess to be cast in one of your paintings?
A: There’s not an audition process, but I do feel like the masks and figures call out to me when I’m searching the markets of Mexico and Guatemala. Color is very important – the brighter and the more eye-catching the better – plus they must have lots of “personality.” I try not to buy anything mass-produced or obviously made for tourists. How and where these objects come into my life is an important part of the process. Getting them back to the U.S. is always an adventure. For example, in 2010 I was in Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. After returning from a boat ride across the lake, my friends and I were walking back to our hotel when we noticed a mask store. This store contained many beautiful things so I spent a long time looking around. Finally, I made my selections and was ready to buy five standing wooden figures, when I learned that Tomas, the store owner, did not accept credit cards. Not having enough cash, I was heart-broken and thought, “Oh, no. I can’t bring these home.” However, thanks to my friend, Donna, whose Spanish was much more fluent than mine, Tomas and she came up with a plan. I would pay for the figures at a nearby hotel and once the owner was paid by the credit card company, he would pay Tomas. Fabulous! Tomas, Donna, and I walked to the hotel, where the transaction was completed. Packing materials are not so easy to find in remote parts of Guatemala so the packing and shipping arrangements took another hour. During the negotiations Tomas and I became friends. We exchanged telephone numbers (he didn’t have a telephone so he gave me the phone number of the post office next door, saying that when I called, he could easily run next door). When I returned to New York ten days later, the package was waiting for me.
While setting up a scene for a painting, I work very intuitively so how the objects are actually “cast” is difficult to say. Looks count a lot – I select an object and put it in a particular place, move it around, and develop a storyline. I spend time arranging lights and looking for interesting cast shadows. I shoot two exposures with a 4 x 5 view camera and order a 20″ x 24″ photograph to use for reference. I also work from the “live” objects. My series, “Domestic Threats,” was initially set in my Virginia house, but in 1997, I moved to a six floor walk-up in New York. For the next few years the paintings were set there, until 2001 when I moved to my current apartment. In a sense the series is a visual autobiography that hints at what my domestic surroundings were like.