Friday, December 17, 2010

Meeting with Isabel - December 17, 2010

I had a productive final meeting of the semester with Isabel.
We looked at a range of pieces that I had created in the last few months and decided which were the strongest to show in my space at AIB in January:

1) The latest piece
a) Isabel liked that the piece included the florescent light by the fact that yellow material was situated below and above it. Unfortunately, at night and in the photos, the overhead part can't be seen. The optimal condition for my pieces is with both natural and florescent light.
b) I need to attach the piece (loosely) in areas so that it still looks fresh, but so it can be transported

2) The horizon piece
a) needs some tweeking - with the scrim and with the poles
b) needs to be mounted in its own space - not crowded by its adjacency to new piece

3) The 2 light boxes
a) need to crop and hang the layers of fabric - on dowels

The other work I've done needs to be presented with large photos.

Friday, December 10, 2010

sun on mount and semester summary

This is my last large piece. I wanted to see how freely I could use the silk - how unfettered it could be- how much like a child's drawing it could express the idea of dawn, which I am equating to a child's drawing already with it's accent on the horizon line and silhouetted shapes.

Salley Knight
Professor Deb Todd Wheeler
Summary – Semester 3
December, 2010


This has been a particularly rich semester for me. Not only do I feel that I have found some truly inspirational artists, but I am feeling more on target in my own work. I started off with two ideas in mind: to see how to allow the silk itself to express more in my work, and to find armature that helped support the silk. The pieces that I began with were pure play – with the material and colors. I used old frames to build awkward boxes and used flagpoles to support hanging material. I was working loosely with the idea of dawn and the idea of falling/happenstance. I constructed several more pieces that played on the flat v. 3D theme that came up in this first piece. I experimented with light boxes. I explored adding different kinds of lighting and ended up using fluorescents with my larger pieces. In November, I ended up deconstructing one of my larger works and reassembling the parts into a piece that was inspired by the Ann Hamilton talk and the book on Spencer Finch. Thanks to them, I began asking what it was that really intrigued me about dawn. I realized that it was not just the light, or the invisible becoming visible, but it was the simplicity of it: it was the one time of day when the horizon line was so highlighted. The lack of sun made everything appear 2D. Like a children’s drawing, my art dealing with dawn became the chance to play with the “first” ideas: line as horizon, sun as round, and flat color, a world that momentarily is split between light and dark.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

traditional dyed piece

In the last while I had done some more traditional dyeing - still working with the idea of how light penetrates or doesn't at dawn. I worked on some translucent material and not. I'm not sure what I think of what I've gotten so far -

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

horizon line

thinking about how I/we/ children's drawings/ dawn organize around that horizon line...


I am enjoying this piece because all the color is in the stick/line v. in the round shape (the expected shape of the sun). The lighting does add some color and dimension to the background, too. The ideas that are floating in my head are around: expected/ ideas v. actual, and children's drawings as a baseline for how we still think visually...

Monday, November 22, 2010

responding to Ann Hamilton

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Ann Hamilton talk at Lesley.

It was inspirational in the way that looking at Spencer Finch was for me. Prior to hearing Ann or reading the book on Finch, I now would say that perhaps one of my primary responses to any piece of art was a judgment of its “beauty” – similar to what I gather Dave Hickey or Peter Schjeldahl describe. But what I got from the talk and from the Finch book was the delight in the question. The question was the lure and lived on in the work itself .

When I came back to look at my work, I thought about the question(s) that live in my work, that I constantly strive to answer, and then find more to question. I have always known that my questions center around how something becomes visible. This morning when I took my camera out to photo the light at dawn, what struck me was the there is no 3D at dawn. It is like a children’s drawing- the “horizon line” defined by the coming light, and then the flat shapes against it. A little pink in the sky brought out green in the grass.

When I returned to my studio where I had disassembled my installation piece, I put it back together in a completely different way. What is it that I first see at any dawn? The children's drawing assembling itself begins with the horizon line. Even all fuzzy – blurred by undifferentiated houses and trees – but a dark distinction between air and matter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

talk with Deb- Nov. 7

We talked about my work
1. To take detailed photos of the finished piece for purposes of reassembly
2. To look up Spencer Finch and Christo
3. My next piece - fences (?) - to look up Julie Levesque

And my thesis outline due soon:
Work on 2 forms
A. the personal review/testimonial
B. theoretical
- what am I doing?
- basis for it : process, color, intention
(set up for interesting discoveries)
- look back at mentors/advisors - what they were pointing at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

research paper- November 2010

Salley Knight
Professor Deb Todd Wheeler
Group 3 – Research Paper
November 2010


Seeing –what it is to see- has been intriguing to me since birth. I was born with no muscular control over my eyes, a condition that was corrected by medical intervention at age three. Therefore, for the first years of my life I could not see 3D, and then suddenly I could. My heightened awareness of sight was reinforced later because of the timing of a daily ritual. As an older child, starting at age 8, for years I would go horseback riding with my father at 6 AM. In the winter this meant I started riding in the pitch black of country night. I could feel the horse and the reins, but, aside from the sparks of the horseshoes hitting an occasional stone, the gravel road would only gradually become visible. As darkness slowly faded, I could see silhouettes and then slowly the light of day brought color and dimension. Perhaps it is no surprise that my work is about feeling first, then the shift from 2D to 3D with light and color.
I work with fabric and I create work that plays with dimensionality. The three elements that are key to my work are: fabric, light, and color. For this paper, I sought artists who work in these three areas. Robert Irwin, Do Ho Suh and Ernesto Neto all use fabric in their work. James Turrell and Dan Flavin work with light. In both Turrell’s work and Flavin’s work, color is also prominent. Pippilotti Rist works in video, but concepts of light are also considered in her work.
As an artist, I choose to work with silk organza: it is both material and translucent. The organza is physically present, but, depending on conditions of light and color, more or less visually obvious. I use the cloth as a means to examine perception.
This interest in perception is the driving force in Robert Irwin’s work. Lawrence Wexsler describes Irwin’s 2004 exhibit at the Guggenheim in the Spring 2008 edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review; for the exhibit, Irwin painted the room white and then spread a “pearlescent” scrim from floor to ceiling along the opposite wall to the viewer’s entrance. When the viewers arrived, at first it appeared that there was nothing in the room to see…
But if one lingered a few moments, the far wall would suddenly seem to dematerialize before one’s very eyes: something was there, but what? A sheer fogbank?... Or nothing ?… How, suddenly, was one managing to tell anything at all? And (why was that) such a delicious experience?” (Web)
Irwin uses translucency to create a situation that causes the viewer to question what they see.
Another artist who is well known for his use of fabric is Do Ho Suh. His work focuses on his personal history. Certainly my personal history influences my work, although I do not literally interpret it in the manner that Do So Suh does. Do Ho Suh uses turquoise organza to create a precise replica of his childhood home in Korea in his piece, “Seoul Home”. He chooses organza for its translucent qualities; the cloth reminds him of the rice paper used in Korean architecture. In the exhibition catalogue for his 2002 show at the London Serpentine Gallery, Lisa Corrin quotes Do Ho Suh:
I remember seeing through the rice paper; screen windows on our house in Korea, with the shadows of the bamboo leaves blowing in the wind and lit by the reflection of a full moon… I want my work to blend with the environment it finds itself in (34).
While Do Ho Suh builds life size architectural replicas, the Brazilian artist, Ernesto Neto, constructs even more immense biomorphic fabric installations of fabric. Both artists focus on building structures, which I also do on a smaller scale. Whereas I am playing with the intersection of 2 and 3D in my work, Do Ho Suh is interested in history, while Neto creates an environment that feels different than any other – as if one is entering the inside of a huge being. The cloth softens the work and creates a joyous atmosphere. I relate to Ernesto Neto for the sense of exuberance in his work. In his interview with Louisa Buck in the 2010 issue of ArtNewspaper entitled “I am interested in art, science, and underwear”, Neto describes his work as a celebration of how different each person is on the outside and yet fundamentally the same on the inside – and the importance of embracing the joy in that: “We have to celebrate life- it is a jewel, it is a very magical thing to be alive.”
I identify with Neto's quality of light and joy. My work is sourced very much in a place of discovery –of seeing, of dawn, of light increasing. A sense of positivity is also found in the recent work of Pipilotti Rist. Rist is a Swiss-born artist who, in her 2010 show at the Augustine Luhring gallery, uses layers of filmed images combined with abstract designs of light. In the September 27, 2010 issue of New Yorker magazine, Peter Schjendahl describes the good feelings that he came away with after seeing her show: “(Rist) resolves no critical problems of contemporary art. She just makes you forget there are any.” (Web)
Although Rist works in video, not fabric, she thinks of her art as letting her audience into a box of light – a box within a box. The way that Rist describes her work sounds similar to my sense of dawn creating the world each morning. In her interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist in Phaidon’s Pipilotti Rist, she describes the experience of video: “At first you look at the box, at the (light), but when you concentrate on the sequences you feel as if you are inside the box, behind the glass, within the wall…” (15) Through movement , the viewer is swept into the 3D world of her art: in her work, light defines the space for the art to happen.
Light creates space; the world shifts from the shadows of dawn to 3D. Certain artists have made the study of light and how we perceive it the sole focus of their art. Perhaps the most well known is James Turrell. In his essay entitled “The Phenomenology of Light” in the Geometry of Light, Gernot Buhme’s describes James Turrell’s work as light creating space: “(T) he first experience of light is that it opens up a space. In a sense, that space is even created by light…The primary experience of light is one of … freedom” (73) The light creates the space and in the space we are free to move, both with our eyes and consequently our bodies.
In his art, James Turrell uses constantly changing natural light and plays it against artificial light to emphasize and blur boundaries. In his Sky Works, the glass opening in the ceiling of a room focuses on the shifting outside light while the interior lights come on as the daylight diminishes at dusk; the changing colors of the sky play against the interior lit walls to produce a contrast of the warm interior, which looks yellower as the evening sky turns bluer and darker. These same Sky Works also capture the contrast as it reverses the sequence during the increasing light at dawn.
Dawn is a gradual occurrence– that shift from grey to color is so seamless that it seems imperceptible. Yet that is what fascinates me. I identified with Turrell’s story of coming to a realization of what his work was really about as told to Markus Bruderlin in his essay, “The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld” in James Turrell’s book on his Wolfsburg exhibition. In the 1960’s, Turrell had just spent years working with American scientists on the Art and Technology program. At the time, the moon rocks arrived for display to a largely disinterested American public. Afterwards, Turrell travelled to Japan, where those same rocks were shown. In Japan, people poured out to see them. Turrell was struck. He saw that the Japanese could “…sense the existence of the whole universe in the stones…(that) the quiet contemplation of the stones brought one much closer to the secrets of the cosmos than billions of dollars spent…in science” (125-6). Turrell realized that the seeing that interested him was not through scientific understanding, but rather slower “decelerated” vision.
My interest in light naturally merges with a love of color, especially in its subtle shifts, something that Turrell excels in creating. Perhaps because of much time spent in Japan where low light is favored in architecture, Turrell tends to work with nuances of light rather than the bright white of the western white box. Because of this, his work is rich in expanses of color that make it difficult for the viewer to distinguish whether one is having an internal or external experience. This zen-like space has been described as spiritual. Turrell responds to this: “ I believe in the need and thought of dimensions beyond us but it (is) vital for me to take them away from the vocabulary of religion.” (Bruderlin 143). .” I am close to Turrell on this matter; I believe that art is able to touch on issues of the mind and its intersection with what one sees.
I was curious to note that Dan Flavin, another artist famous for his work in light, resisted any implication of light being about consciousness. J. Fiona Raghels in her essay, “On Situations and Lights”, in Dan Flavin’s The Architecture of Light , quotes Flavin: “Art is shedding its vaunted mystery for a sense of keenly realized decoration” (14). On the same topic, Brydon Smith in his essay, “An Artificial Barrier of Blue, Red and Blue Flourescent Light”, quotes Flavin: “My fluorescent tubes never burn out desiring a god.” (70) Flavin chose to use fluorescent lighting as the means to create an extensive repertoire of light works. Prior to Flavin, in a typical museum visit a viewer would travel from room to room (void to void) looking at art on the walls. Flavin inverted all that- using light along baseboards, corners, and stairwells: areas that had not been considered (Raghel 14).
Of all the artists mentioned in this paper, I am most attracted to Flavin’s use of color – his washes of salmon and pink, and even his more acidic colors are familiar to me from my experiences of the light at break of day. It is in his color, too, that another side of him emerges. Although this softer side can be detected in the titles of his works, which are dedicated to friends and other artists, his real warmth shows in his use of color. Not only are his colors beautiful in themselves, but also his soft peach or brilliant pink, etc., emanate from the work and wash over the viewer, bringing them together in the light. This joining of art and viewer was not lost on Flavin, as evidenced in his conversation with Maiten Bousisset for the May 1991 issue of Beaux Arts Magazine: “By making the space and the on-looker visible, light, in a way, creates them.” (133) Color creating and joining art and viewer – that idea is quite wonderful to me.
In this paper, I have focused on artists whose works mirror concepts that are at the core of the work I am exploring: the materializing of the world each day at dawn, the movement from feeling in the dark to seeing in the light. In Robert Irwin, I find an artist who explores the edges of perception. Do Ho Suh uses fabric for historical reasons; Ernesto Neto uses cloth to create art that celebrates life; the recent work of Pipilotti Rist is also uplifting; James Turrell actually captures the light of dawn in his art, while Flavin uses only artificial light to create the sumptuous light I associate with dawn. It is to these artists that I look while I explore the concepts of visibility and the sometimes-unclear dimensionality of what one sees.

Works cited:

Bohme, Gernot, et al. James Turrell: Geometry of Light. Ostfilern, Germany: Hatje Cantz. 2009. Print.

Buck, Louisa. “I am interested in art, science and underwear”. The Art Newspaper. July/August 2010, n.pag. Web. 27 Sept. 2010.

Bruderlin, Markus, et al. James Turrell: The Wolfsburg Project. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz. 2010. Print.

Corrin, Lisa G. and Miwon Kwon. Do Ho Suh. London: Serpentine Gallery. 2002. Print.

Neto, Ernesto. Ernesto Neto, The Edges of the World. London: Hayward Gallery. 2010. Print.

Flavin, Dan, The Architecture of Light, Berlin: Deutsche Guggenheim. 1997. Print.

Sollins, Susan. Art:21: Art in the 21st Century (Art 21 PBS) (Pt.2). New York: Harry Abrams. 2003. Print.

Turrell, James, James Turrell: Spirit and Light. Houston: Contemporary Arts Museum. 1998. Print.

Wexsler, Lawrence. “Embeddedness: Robert Irwin in His Seventies”. The Virginia Quarterly Review. N. pag. 2008. Spring. Web.

Friday, November 5, 2010

meeting with Isabel - Nov. 5, 2010

Another great meeting with Isabel.
A. She liked my 2 new pieces, especially the new dark piece.
B. She wanted me to finish them:
-get rid of all the pins,
-paint the top support areas so they disappear.
-cut the poles that extend too far out
-figure out how to hang and display the light box pieces.One needs to be re-made to fit the larger light box.
C. She liked the florescent lighting, but I need to get smaller size fixtures. Also, the deeper color (more gels) is richer. I can explore getting just the right depth of color with more or less gel covering.
D. When I finish the work - all the last details - will make a difference in how the work comes together - the delicate thread work can spark the whole piece.
E. Create one more - freestanding(?) - piece.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Talk with Deb 9-26-10

In my discussion with Deb Todd Wheeler, we covered a number of subjects:
1. She recommended I check out Damien Ortega at the ICA to notice how, in his display of camera parts, he guides the viewers' eyes to the parts he wants them to see
2. For my use of flag poles to support my work, all the connotations I can make use of:
a. the flag is how we suspend fabric
b. flags are ceremonial
c. flags communicate beyond cultural
d. reference to jasper johns' flag
3. Lights: that I need to consider them as I do the work, rather than after the fact.
Possible light sources to research: dc neon tubes or fiber optic
Also, to finish the burn pieces I have and consider constructing larger light box(es)
4. Writing:Talk to librarian to get more info on Ernesto Neto and Do Ho Suh. Consider how to write paper on how I am using light and weightlessness- and how the work of Turrell, Flavin and Pippolati Rist contribute understanding (perhaps bringing in Hesse again?)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

meeting with Isabel

I had a wonderful meeting with Isabel today.
We mostly talked about my yellow tower piece. Her response was very positive.
1. She thought it worked as sculpture - held interest from all 3 angles
2. She enjoyed the free form aspects of it and yet thought there were areas that needed finishing : sanding and paint; sewing. At the same time, pinning to the wall is fine - the question is how much to hold in place and how much to allow to shift for each showing
3. Attention to the planes: the back and floor need to be considered. I will get another piece of homasote to paint white to consider part of the piece for the back. The floor? A stand? Flooring?
4.Lighting. At present I am using an external source to highlight the lower part. Do I want to include a light within the piece?

As for my more landscape-like piece, Isabel felt
1. it was less finished
2. it might benefit from being hung lower
3. move my studio around (get rid of the bookshelves) to give myself more space to work larger on both pieces

The light box pieces:
1. She loved
2. The lightbox itself- old and wooden, is great - can I find more?
3. How to attach the cloth (velcro?) so that the boxes can be mounted on the wall

Also look up Pippolotti Rist

And keep going!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sourcing Art (crit theory paper)

Salley Knight
Professor Deb Todd Wheeler
Critical Theory 3
August and September 2010

Sourcing Art

When I proposed to my advisor, Deb Todd Wheeler that I write a paper on Eva Hesse, Richard Tuttle and Jessica Stockholder, I knew I wanted to focus on these three artists because I come back to them again and again. I thought they attracted me because of their unorthodox structures, perhaps the movement from two to three dimensional work. What I came to realize after pursuing that line of research was that it was not the FORM of the work that was compelling to me, but rather, how they sourced their work.
In his essay, “Hesse’s Endgame: Facing the Diagram”. Benjamin Buchloh writes, “Hesse … makes drawing the mere grain of the hand.” (De Zegher150)
Marcia Tucker’s description of Tuttle in the 1975 Whitney catalogue (177 – Tuttle) reads:
Tuttle readies himself as a dancer…That so much of Tuttle’s work is a result of body activity is partly caused by the fact that physical activity is the most direct and common means of translating interior states into external expression. This is Marcia Tucker’s description of Tuttle in the 1975 Whitney catalogue (Grynsztejn - 177)
Jessica Stockholder in conversation with Nancy Doll and Terry Sultan says: “I
value pleasure and appetite in art, and I find that the body is fully engaged. (Kissing the Wall -19)
The hand, movement, the body- these are key to the work of each of these artists. I hypothesize that these artists are creating art coming from a body source that is similar to the way certain dancers use a form of movement known as “authentic movement”. Within the art form of dance, which is completely based on the body, authentic movement is a field that some dancers use as a tool to source material for their art. Authentic movement came out of an exploration by a dancer and Jungian therapist, Mary Starks Whitehouse, in the 1950’s. It was her conviction that any person who was given the opportunity to allow his/her body to move with eyes closed and from a place of listening to the body would create expression equal any dance done by a trained dancer: that the “authentic” birth of the movement gave it power, made it compelling. Authentic movement involves getting quiet enough to “listen” to the body; the movement arises out of that space – rather than the mind or a preconceived idea. The experience of authentic movement is one of feeling, of feeling moved to move. Often, the movement arises from a place in the body that has stored feelings, and consequently the same movement may recur and evolve over time. It is this understanding of the body as the origin of material for art that I see in the works of the three artists I mentioned.
The early years of each artist, Hesse, Tuttle, and Stockholder, reveal the evolution of the body based intuitive style of each artist. By examining each of them in turn, I will investigate how their approaches were formative to their art. Hesse and Tuttle became known in the 1960’s, while Stockholder came to prominence at the end of the century.
Eva Hesse graduated from graduate school at Yale at the end of the 1950s. In Catherine de Zeghner’s essay in her book, Eva Hesse Drawing, she reports that in 1960 Hesse took employment as a designer at a textile factory creating designs for tapestry and drapery (65). Fabric, the woof and weft, the grid were an inherent part of her first work in design. Zegher mentions the suggestion made by Joan Simon in 1992 that perhaps Hesse’s later explorations using string and the grid could be better understood as offshoots of this early background in textiles rather than as a product of Minimalism (69). Simon proposes it was Hesse’s hands on experience that was most influential to her art.
Hesse’s first works were figurative, but, according to Renate Pezinger in her essay “Thoughts on Hesse’s Early works: 1959-1965” in Eva Hesse, even in the early Hesse, “ … we can see that the artist was beginning to anticipate the haptic-tactile quality of her later (art). Matters of color and surface, of form and composition – to which to American Abstract Impressionists had devoted so much of their energy in the 1950’s – were of secondary importance to her.”
In 1964, Hesse travelled with her husband, Tom Doyle, to Germany to the small town of Kettwig an der Weig at the invitation of a textile manufacturer, Arnhard Scheidt. There they took up residency above an abandoned textile factory. According to de Zegher, “Hesse’s breakthrough in finding her own language was bound to happen in her motherland.” (72) It was in Germany that Hesse began to employ signature aspects of her art.
During Hesse’s stay Germany, there was available ample material for experimentation: cords, string, old machine parts, as well as textile remnants left in the dismantled building. Hesse did many drawings of machines and with string, playing with what was at hand. She was able to …”not only trace the past but also trace the present in a way that was her own, with ‘tactile textile’…materials that were hers…” (Zegher, 74)
In her essay,“Child Drawing” in Eva Hesse Drawing, Mignon Nixon addresses another influence on Hesse at this time: the experience of drawing with the Scheidt children. Hesse and the children spent time together and created drawings that included art from the children and Hesse. Nixon points out that Hesse’s interest in children’s art even preceded this experience: “long before her arrival at Kettwig Hesse was accustomed to ‘child drawing’ as an extension of her artistic practice” (48). That she continued drawing with children indicates the value she placed on the art that children make and that play produced. The drawings that Hesse did with the children are included in drawings that she kept and brought back to the United States. In these drawings appear letters and numbers as well as seriality.
Seriality is a feature of child play: Nixon refers to Juliet Mitchell’s research: a child uses seriality to understand his/her place in the world, how someone fits in and is part of something larger. It has to do with the emerging sense of self, and is understood through play; “Through play…the subject of seriality learns to turn another’s existence into something useful to itself.” (Zegher 56)
But Hesse herself may have been looking for something else, something free of the prescribed art world. Hesse wrote in he diary: “Making art. ‘painting a painting.’ The art, the history, the tradition is too much there. I want to be surprised, to find something new. I don’t want to know the answer before(hand)…” (Zegher 90).
Among the works Hesse brought back to this country were drawings of machines and low reliefs using string. In Germany, her work had developed a strong signature style, unmistakably Hesse; the artist Dorothee von Windheim described Hesse as an artist who could “feel through the eye.” (Pezinger 54) However, it was that very personal attribute of Hesse’s work that would handicap it in the art world of New York when she returned in the mid 1960s. Minimalism was in full power and any sign of authorship was considered undesirable. Hesse’s work always “had a hand”, as Tom Doyle put it (Pezinger 54).
It was a few years later when Lucy Lippard curated her show “ Eccentric Abstraction” that she recognized the value of Hesse’s offerings. In his essay, “The Work of Salvage, Eva Hesse’s Latex Works”, Briony Fer describes the exhibition:
Lippard welcomed the bodily, the sensual, the tactile like a kind of triumphant return of the repressed- the doubly repressed in actuality by both the Minimalist rhetoric (industrial registers and hard, shiny materials) and the modernist optical paradigm of disembodied and disinterested aesthetic experience…(Sussman 87)
By then, Hesse’s direction was set: she felt her way to her art which was deeply imprinted with her personal touch: in her layering, in her puncturing, in her grids, all of it showed her bodily sensitivity.
What I see in Hesse’s formative years is an artist who finds her material through movement: her hands on the material. It was her sensitivity to what she was working with and how her body responded that became the key to the formation of her work. In her tactile response to textiles, in her child art, in her serial pieces, her hand and her touch were leading her. At a time when her approach was not popular, she produced the work that would later be recognized for the very reason it was rejected.
Richard Tuttle was entering the art scene during the 1960’s at a similar time as Eva Hesse. According to Madeleine Grynsztejn in her essay, “ A Universe of Small Truths”, she describes the beginning of Richard Tuttle’s career. While he was a student at Trinity College (1959-1963), he made frequent trips to New York City where he witnessed the beginning of what would become known as Minimalism: works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt. What these artists were seeking, in reaction to Abstract Expressionism, was reality as material rather than in interpretation. According to Grynsztejn, “(t)he emerging avant-garde asserted the actual, the immediate, and the firsthand as extensions of the desire for a concrete and irreducible experience freed from history, through which one could access a bedrock of identity and certainty”(22). Although Tuttle would take his own path, that search for “the immediate” became his search. His unique way of pursuing it set him apart.
Ideas from the current art scene combined with ideas that seemed to arise from his background. Tuttle’s family was religious. Grynsztejn credits his Protestant upbringing for the reason Tuttle deeply valued all materials, including what is usually discarded. Furthermore, his Protestant and later, Eastern philosophy, were cited as reason for Tuttle’s stated desire to “get out of the way of his work (20)”, to not let his ego interfere.
With that stance, among Tuttle’s first artworks were a group of perforated boxes, small enough to hold in one’s hand. Right away, Tuttle produced art that favored touch. According to Grynsztejn, “While the paper cubes actually exercise touch, Tuttle’s work would henceforth also actively recall touch – primarily by employing tactically familiar materials drawn from everyday life. This is the prime motivating factor driving his use of fabric and textiles… as a material that speaks directly to our bodies, allowing us to grasp the materials in terms of touch…(24)”
However, it was Richard Tuttle’s drawings that were perhaps most indicative of Tuttle’s approach. In his essay, “Sum in Parts” in the Poetry of Form, a catalogue for Tuttle’s 1992 Amsterdam ICA exhibition, John Cowart discusses how Tuttle elevated the art form of drawing by treating it as an art form in itself. For the 1968 Betty Parsons Gallery show, he contributed octagonal pieces that were made of dyed cloth mounted on eight sided frames and called them paintings, even though they were dyed. Later he took octagonal shapes, cut them and pasted them on the wall; these were identified as drawings. As Holliday T. Day points out in his essay, “Drawing a New Role for Drawing”, Tuttle ignores time honored assumptions of art form definition; for him, paint was not necessary for a painting and marks were not needed in a drawing (Grynsztejn 34). Instead it was his actions: applying dye like paint made it a painting, or drawing the edges with scissors made a work a drawing.
Action is the focus of Cornelia Butler’s essay, “Kinesthetic Drawing”. She observes that Tuttle’s hands are always in motion during conversations (176). She witnesses him during his installation of his wire pieces:
One of the more intriguing aspects of the Wire Pieces is the way in which the artist incorporates his body into their making…This is only worth bringing up to suggest the critical involvement of the artist as a physical, integral, active participant in his work…When he installs the Wire Pieces, by his own account, he conjures a meditative sate, planting his feet firmly on the floor and turning to face the wall before beginning to move his arm to initiate the first mark. He describes the creation of these deceptively simple works as emerging from the memory in his muscles (Grynsztejn 176-7).
Not only does Tuttle aptly describe the experience of authentic movement in those words, but also he lives that experience in his continued involvement with drawing. In Richard Schiff’s essay, “It Shows”, he remarks on his willingness to let his drawing lead him, and admits that his understanding of his own artwork comes later (258-259). Schiff equates Tuttle’s process to dreaming, where it happens from an unknown place in a way that is coherent as it happens, but may not be understood to the conscious mind until later. Tuttle is willing to trust and to follow. This leads to remarkable places, according to Tuttle: “‘Suddenly you get into a whole new world, which is like when you fall in love with someone and even love what you don’t like. ‘ Unreserved, love is beyond prediction and projection” (Grynsztejn 259).
According to Tuttle, his work is ahead of him; he is constantly catching up to what he has created. Like the dancer who is moved to move and then can later assess the dance, Tuttle is moved to create works. The creation of the work is the beginning of the understanding. “Having been created, a work of art just begins.”(Schiff 263)
Even when Tuttle hangs his work to show it, he describes the experience as if the work leads him: “’One remarkable phenomenon of my work is its love of being hung at a height of fifty-four inches from the floor.’” This height, that is lower than the height art is normally hung, activates the body and makes the work more accessible to the hand. The experience of viewing the work changes and engages the viewer more fully, which seems to somehow “…expand a person’s contact with the totality of human existence.” (Schiff 271)
Richard Tuttle’s work started small scale; much of his work continues to be
intimate. By comparison, Jessica Stockholder began large. Her first noteworthy piece was mounted on the side of her father’s garage in Vancouver in 1983 and consisted of a queen size mattress and paint that coated areas of the building and it’s roof as well as the adjacent grass.
Growing up in the landscape of Vancouver was formative to Stockholder; she felt small next to the largeness of the land – the high mountains and vast ocean. Her sense of scale, of being surrounded by a landscape that went wider than one could see, bigger than could be defined is important to her work, as she mentions in her dialogue with Lynne Tillman in Phaidon’s Jessica Stockholder: “…landscape changes us… it is the experience of things too close or too large…” (41)
Furthermore, the way the water met the land; how lines of fog might obscure the horizon line so that the usual way of understanding earth and sky was unclear manifests in her work as well. The colors move beyond borders and flow past boundaries of the objects to which they might have been attached. (Phaidon 40)
But how did Jessica Stockholder get started? At 14 years old, she studied with the sculptor Mowry Baden; she later attended university in Canada and moved to NYC in the 1980s. But I suggest that she got started with a key decision. She had just moved to New York and was living in a small apartment with no storage space and did not want to do installations in her living room. In her conversation with Gerhard Mack for the Kuntsmuseum St. Gallen, she talks about that moment:
After a year I decided not to be an artist because it was too painful having a shitty job and trying to figure out how to earn money for this art that who knew what would happen with. As soon as I decided not to be an artist I was able to work again. (31)
Stockholder had freed herself from the outside definition of “artist”. Released from expectations, she could follow her impulses. Stockholder began to use furniture and light and paint to make art that related to the room as well as the wall. Her pieces read as painting and sculpture. At first relatively small, her work soon grew to include large-scale installation, sourced from her childhood response to the landscape of Vancouver.
Stockholder begins her work from the physical: “ I begin in a very physical place, without a lot of words…When I’m asked what my plans are…I look inside and find a mute feeling.”(Tillman 14) Her work is about her experience in the world and her subjective response to materials and objects. She sees the act of placing objects as equivalent to a stroke of paint.
Stockholder claims not to be concerned about the specific materials she uses when she is working as long as she “…make(s) sure that in the end the experience is right.” (Tillman 28) In fact, she feels strongly about her work not being heightened, but rather open to the viewer - no shades on the windows or special effects - and constructed in a manner that looks as if anyone could do it, according to her in her interview with Klaus Ottman for the Phaidon book (133). She is looking for immediacy. In fact, one of the reasons that she claims to be attracted to painting is because paint can cover the material like a skin and make whatever it covers insignificant: “I like there to be places where the material is forgotten…colour is very good at this, always ready to assert itself as independent of material.”(Tillman 14)
Perhaps Stockholder pinpoints her artmaking process most exactly in this description: “If you can actually be aware of a moment and aware of yourself existing immediately…then there’s room for choice…it’s an ancient struggle, actually to be present …and what that means. “(Tillman 29) Stockholder does not say that creating art is easy – she says she can be in a lousy mood when constructing her work- but that is part of the process that “keeps her moving”. (Ottman 139)
Whereas Hesse and Tuttle were working during the time of the Minimalist movement, Stockholder claims its influence by pointing out that Minimalism introduced the participation of the viewer in the art. With Minimalism, the viewer was aware of himself looking at the work as well as the space around the work as well as the work – all of these. Minimalism included the viewer. Like Hesse and Tuttle, Stockholder leaves her work inconclusive, promoting active participation of the viewer. (Ottman114)
In Stockholder’s description of her process, I resonate with the way in which she sources her art – from a physical relationship to her materials without an attachment to a preconceived outcome. I see the same ingredients in the Eva Hesse’s process and Richard Tuttle. These three artists have produced what I consider to be profound works of art; for those accomplishments, I cite the commitment to their personal process of listening to their intuitive, tactile responses to their materials. I find their process similar to authentic movement, where the willingness to be present without knowing the outcome can lead to some of the most compelling material. I’d like to end with a quote from Jessica Stockholder:
I have faith that all actions have significance. It is impossible to act without reason. Consequently, it is always possible to discover something of interest through action, through making…It is not possible for our conscious minds to be in control of all the meanings generated by what we make. Having faith that that is the case, artmaking is an opportunity to explore the nature of the mind. If you come at it from the other direction, insisting that it all makes sense, you miss an opportunity to really take advantage of the bigness of what we are. (Doll and Sultan 20)

Works Cited

Brockhaus, Christoph. et al, Jessica Stockholder, Dusseldorf :Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum.2002. Print.
De Zegher, Katherine, ed. Eva Hesse Drawing. New York: The Drawing Center. 2006. Print.
Doll, Nancy and Terrie Sultan. Jessica Stockholder Kissing the Wall: Works, 1988-2003. Houston: Blaffer Gallery. 2004. Print.
Editors of Phaidon Press. Jessica Stockholder. New York: Abrams. 1995. Print.
Grynsztejn, Madeleine, ed. The Art of Richard Tuttle, San Francisco: San Fransisco Museum of Art, 2005. Print.
Johnson, Ellen H. Eva Hesse: A Retrospective of the Drawings. Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College. 1982. Print.
Sussman, Elisabeth, ed. Eva Hesse. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art. 2002
Tuttle, Richard. The Poetry of Form. Amsterdam: Institute of Contemporary Art. 1992. Print.
Waspe, Roland, Gerhard Mack and Konrad Bitterli. Jessica Stockholder. St. Gallen: St. Gallen Kunstmuseum. 2005. Print.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I thought I would experiment with burning my organza again. I had done some burning in my pre-AIB work, but thought of going back to it as a way to expose layers of color. I also wanted the method that lacked control - happenstance, the incidental, the accident - I wanted that in my work, just as it is in nature. I also wanted fragility: for the cloth and the light to do the work, with the barely controlled burns sharpening those 2 elements.
Another reason that burning came to mind was that I wanted the burns to create negative space so that the dyed color was describing the surrounding space. In this way the burns/negative space/nothing was the object. The light itself shining through became the object - which intrigued me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

talk with Deb 8-15-10

1.Scale: When working tiny, how to find materials that translate when shift to larger scale.
a) I’ve been making cubes out of matchsticks as maquettes for larger pieces and I love the globs of woodglue. Perhaps expandable foam would do the same for larger work?
b) For larger “matchsticks” – check out Jacobson’s by flower market (flower supports)

2. Writing:
a) Hesse/ Tuttle/ Stockholder : paper makes good argument for trusting intuition and “psychic weightlessness” (Deb’s term)
Need to tie in to how applies to own work, including ethereal quality of my work, and elements of movement or rigidity
b) Next papers: 2 areas to cover:
1. color and weight – look at James Turrell
2. textiles : What is structure for Do Ho Suh and Ernesto Neto,etc. : structure – what becomes structure and innovative v. predictable structure

3. Influences: theatre? Scrims go check out in theatres.
(school next door – kindergarten)

4. Materials:
How choice informs art – bamboo = tropical. How to find right support – look to influences/sourcing. There is bendable /shapeable bamboo

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

first meeting with Isabel

In our first meeting, Isabel and I talked about:
1. work I had done for my last residency and why it didn't work for me - mainly, about how the silk and its color had not been most effectively shown
2. noticing areas in my past work and in the inadverant fallen and hanging silk in the studio: noticing the ways that the silk and color can be compelling
3. discussing ways that I might look for armature: in found furniture, as a clothesline, in print/paper storage hanging devices, with mylar, incorporating sewing
4. artists: Sheila Hicks, Annette Messager, Polly Apfelbaum
5. message: to be simple and to allow the silk itself to speak

summary of June 2010 residency

Salley Knight
Professor Deb Todd Wheeler
AIB Group 3
July, 2010

Summary – Residency June 2010

Color/ light:
John Kramer: Color not working in blue area. Most effective use is in mirroring through the scrim.
Deb Todd Wheeler: Look at artists trying to capture the uncapturable
Check out Mag lights ( the big strong ones)
Laurel: Let the color go viral. Use mirrors and lights.
Jan: Intensify the color with layers. Use layers to play with color possibilities
Annette: Use gouache for flat color as contrast

Materials/ construction:
Hannah: Use video to capture color on silk in ideal conditions
Laurel: Don’t let armature be obvious. Use mirrors, lights.
Jan: Explore ways to hang the scrim so that a person can walk through.
Deb: Look for some kind of thin wire or filament support for overhead hanging

Cesare: What is the action word (looking at “theatre piece”)?
Deb: Look for the accident/unknown consequences. Explore entropy/absorption. Look for the relationship of silk and air. Phenomenology.
Laurel: Become beastly. Structure, then interrupt. Pay attention to Tuttle – the language used in describing his work. Let that inform you.
Regan: Treat material as content.
Edie: Play with it in as many ways as possible. Be a child in your explorations.

Deb Todd Wheeler: Spencer Finch, Bill Viola, Olafur Eliasson. R. Krauss – (Users Guide to Entropy) The Writings of Robert Smithson
Cesare: Nathalie Djurberg
Edie: Yves Klein
Laurel: J. Stockholder, Tuttle, Petah Coyne, Sheila Pepe, Eileen Quinlan
Jan: O’Keefe, Rothko, Shazia Sikander (installation work), Alexander McQueen, Claes Oldenberg
Annette : Alan Saret

Possible directions:
1. Explore the vertical hanging using layers of color on scrim – noticing color and how it can intensify or dull with layering choices – and then the possibilities for spacing to allow light and movement through the piece itself.

2. Explore color as surface and and as translucent – how it connects to what surrounds it, or is altered. So, creating obvious areas or structures of color and then letting them loose – that interplay. As well as how the colors themselves interact as color.

3. Playing around in order to find armature that supports the work.

4. Lights and mirrors: with the work/alone/as reflectors of color

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 2 Mentor Meeting with RPW

I met with RPW for our final critique of this spring term. I showed my large installation work that now was glued and mounted on dyed canvas. I had added significantly to its size with larger whorls at the forefront. I also had added text -I had “painted” around each letter – on pieces of silk. I placed them on the floor as the front of the piece. In addition, I had made a small color chart (which I forgot to bring in) and the first 6 pieces of a larger one, which I disliked because of its strict uniformity. I also brought in my “add water” piece and the boxes that were used for gluing the silk, that make a piece when arranged like a grid (but they had been stored for too long and needed ironing for the sides to stand up again). Finally, I had the beginnings of a miniature piece I’d begun. The critique touched on the following areas:
1) RPW suggested that I explore mounting this newest piece ( as yet unrealized), with its small elements, on the wall with museum wax - a new material for me. I told her I had considered using a hole punch (leather punch?) and mounting them in clear acetate which RPW thought could then traverse through space.
2) We then began to discuss the large piece. I asked her about the text, did she think it worked? She liked the content, said it offered something universal, that it worked to present it in small bits like Twitter or Haiku, and the font felt right. I had put it on the floor to include the words visually with the whole piece. She thought it would be stronger as an adjunct piece on the wall, perhaps mounted as a grid.
3) Next we talked about how I might present the piece in a smaller space. I withdrew one of the sections, which I thought looked strong separately. Althought that might be true, there was another issue on hand: the canvas. Even with it dyed (as opposed to black, as before), it needed better integration with the silk. Although using silk to cover the canvas in intervals could help, RPW felt as if the large piece was crowded – which I had also felt. I had thought to resolve the crowdedness by eliminating some of the whorls. RPW had a much more exciting idea, which was to cut away the path where the bare canvas showed. I had my scissors along and we experimented with one section. Wow! It was exactly what the work needed. Seeing the bare floor and the way the negative and positive spaces started to come alive – it was a very exciting moment. Cutting away the shapes opens up possibilities: with no prescribed path, I can be sensitive to whatever space I install the piece. It also allows me to work with the edges of the space, RPW pointed out. And it makes the piece available to move through, much more so than when it was confined to the canvas.
4) I showed RPW the large pieces of individual colors I had worked on for the color chart. I discontinued them because I was so put off by the emphatic, high contrast exact circles. She encouraged me to complete the set. I forgot to bring the much smaller chart to show her – I emailed a photo to her after the meeting.
5) We talked about my “add water” piece. It reminded her of Frankenthaler. She thought I could pursue more but that the actual frame needed to be much larger – it was too equal to the piece. I had presented it on a stand alone support – which she appreciated because it made it into a piece in itself, allowing the light to come through. She thought there was potential for the “add water” pieces to work with my larger piece somehow.
6) This brought the discussion to the use of the scrim. I had understood my piece to be like a Jessica Stockholder’s that attached to the wall and came forward. But now with the path a non-fixed variable, the scrim was a question. RPW suggested that I perhaps do a piece with just scrims – such as Bill Irwin’s work. I think there is possibility there for me.
7) I intended to show RPW my piece that is made from the small boxes I had used to support the whorls while gluing them together. She could see enough to comment that they had a Chuck Close sense about them. However, I need to iron them so the sides stand tall again- they had been packaged too long.
This last meeting was a rich experience for me. I have much to explore and also feel ready to share this and whatever I can do in the interim with the AIB community at the June residency. Thank you RPW!

Summary – Spring Term 2010

I started this semester with the image of looking down into water from a summer sailboat. This memory led me to the large floor installation of silk whorls that I spent most of my time making: dyeing the lengths of cloth, tearing them into strips that were wound into whorls, then sewn and glued to hold their shape and stand upright. The time consuming process frustrated me since it seemed to take so long to build up a large enough number of whorls to make an expansive piece. In the end, I may have ultimately overdone it for the small showplaces at AIB, but I think that the piece needs size for its impact. At any rate, the piece moved beyond just looking into water to include the path of the boat and then to thoughts/words on what sailing had meant to me, which were painted into an accompanying text piece. I also made 2 pieces making a color chart referencing the numbers of the dyes I used in the large piece. A further work was a byproduct of the process of gluing: the silk boxes I made for gluing the whorls became a piece when grouped as a grid. Finally, I began experimenting with the concept I called “add water”, as in a recipe, whereby I would lay down squares of color, as in a color chart; then, I’d add water and let it run and drip and blend. A final tangent came as a response to Louise’s upset at the size of my piece – I’ve just begun a miniature piece which is mostly conceptual at this point, but deals with multiples, just tiny ones.
In my papers, I wrote about silk, my process, and its history. In my other self-chosen paper, I explored the concept of installation. I found the Japanese aesthetic principles: “ma”, emptiness, a good view, the unfixed gaze all leant themselves to installation art and enriched my understanding of its possibilities.
I would say the strength of this Spring was identifying my focus: water. It is a large subject so I am coming at it from memory of specific memories. I am seeking experiences that highlight distinct sensations – perceiving movement as still, feeling still as movement, or feeling still as very still (heightened awareness). I introduce these ideas as text in simple description.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 2010

I have been solely focussed on my installation piece this Spring but I began to really miss the immediacy of 2D work. My idea was to pursue the subject matter of water. The impetus for this piece was the word "add water", so familiar in a cooking recipe but usually ruinous to any controlled work on silk. So, in fact, that is what I set myself up for: I put down controlled colors - in this case squares- and then... added water. I was thinking of the Japanese term wabi-sabi, which I understand to mean worn or imperfect. The water seems to accomplish that effect right away. I enjoy that.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Installation?

Salley Knight
Group 2 – research paper
Professor Hannah Barrett
April, 2010

Why installation?

Why would I ever want to create an installation? After the second meeting with my mentor, she commented on my hesitancy to go forward. The uncertainty came out of my discomfort with the changing form of my work.

I had come to AIB creating twodimensional artwork and now I was starting to make what promised to be an installation. It would take days and months to create this piece I was envisioning. I could understand putting that much labor into something that would be mounted on the wall and viewed over and over. However, how could I come to terms with an installation made of hand-dyed silk that might be in a gallery for perhaps a week? In this era of fast paced media, it just seemed an anachronism to spend so much time making something static that might be viewed briefly. My concerns about relevancy were only heightened by Michiko Kakutani’s March 21, 2010, New York Times article entitled “Text Without Context” in which she commented on the effects of instant messaging, e-mail, Twitter and You Tube which have served to make velocity all important and to make people unwilling to linger long enough to finish reading or looking at a total piece of work (Arts 1).

The first inkling of an answer to the question of the value of installation for me came in Maya Lin’s book Systemic Landscapes. John Beardsley, in his essay, “Hidden in Plain View: the Land Art of Maya Lin”, describes a term, ma, a Japanese concept which includes both space and time. Ma was first introduced to western viewers in Arata Isozaki’s 1978 show at the Paris Musee des Artes Decoratifs (Isozaki 95). He used steppingstones and also chanting as forms which demonstrated ma, which he defined as the “natural pause or interval between two or more phenomena occurring continuously” (Beardsley, 89). In the example of the steppingstones, ma would be the space between the stones as well as the time it took to take the step. Ma included both perception and action.

Suddenly, I could see how my intention to create an installation made sense. In Maya Lin’s piece, Wave Field, she had built a continuous series of waves. In my silk piece, I was creating a seascape out of repeated spirals that I intended to lay out in such a way that there were continuous intervals of open space. The option to walk through the piece, to feel the time it took to travel from one open space to the next would be integral to the work. This installation would include the concept of ma, an experience of human movement time in contrast to the fast pace of media.

Excited by my new understanding, I decided to further investigate traditional Japanese aesthetics. I hoped to find more ideas as support for my installation. Certainly, I had grown up in an environment where nature was revered, which I understood to be a core principle of Japanese aesthetics; my art was based on nature so perhaps the way that the Japanese expressed their respect for nature would give depth to and help shape my ideas.

To my surprise, I learned in Donald Richie’s book, A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics, that there was no word in Japanese for aesthetic until the late 1800’s when Hegel’s asthetik needed to be translated (20). The lack of a distinct word could indicate insignificance or just the opposite, as was true in Japan. Simple elegance was integral to every part of Japanese life. Art was not considered separate and, as in the western view derived from Kant, valuable in itself. Art was subjectively experienced in such ways as placement of stones, arrangement with a single stem, exposure of the grain of the wood, or “the perfect judo throw” (31).

It was this stance of subjectivity that further intrigued me. Just as I understood the brush stroke in painting to show individual artistry, so could the placement of each of my silk spirals form distinct shapes and group together to form distinct spaces. Furthermore, individual viewers could participate in the serenity of the ma experience by the rhythm of the spaces created, similar to Maya Lin’s Wave Field. There was the potential for perception and action, much like in a garden.

In fact gardens and art have a deep connection in traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Teiji Itoh traces that history in Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden. He notes the16th century introduction to Japan of a Chinese book on painting called the “Mustard Seed Planting Manual” which offered instructions for painting rocks, trees and mountains. Whereas western artists learned by painting the nude, Japanese were challenged to paint rocks. The book listed “sixteen techniques for painting groups of rocks, and these, it is interesting to note, are all surprisingly similar to arranging rocks in Japanese gardens” (48). The book highlights the close connection between painters and gardeners in Japan.

This connection dates from the Heian era (794-1105 AD) in Japan when it was not uncommon for “the painter himself (to be) both a garden designer and a leader in the construction of gardens.” Itoh names several of these painters who established well known gardens: Kose no Kanaoka, his great grandson Hirotaka, and the Buddhist priest, En’en (Itoh 49-50). According to Itoh,

(t)hus in the Heian period, when the fundamental style of the traditional Japanese garden was established, the yamato-e painters played an important role in garden making. This fact in itself is clear evidence of the intimate relationship in Japan between the art of painting and the art of garden design. (50)

The value for me in thinking of my installation metaphorically as a garden stems from my high regard for the art behind the traditional Japanese garden. Several of the concepts that informed their design I found useful for thinking about in my installation: the concept of sky or emptiness, the importance of the good view, and the value of the unfixed gaze.

In Japanese writing, sky and emptiness are the same character. Both sky and open spaces were considered empty and integral to the whole. In the garden and in Japanese painting, the composition of the placement of emptiness was the most important (Itoh 51). I see this concept of emptiness directly addressing installation, which, by nature, is apart from the frame and often the wall, and addresses open space itself. Sky is all around. In fact, this concept helped me see the connection, or rather, interconnection between the piece and the space around it; therefore, including openings internally connects it externally.

The second concept I mentioned is called “to command a good view”. In a traditional Japanese garden, the view from the garden was considered a key element in its design (Itoh 18-21). A good view made a garden exceptional; by contrast it was sad when a “garden depended (only) upon it’s own intrinsic beauty and nothing more” (21). I found this idea of a good view of interest because it takes into consideration what is actually in the space beyond the garden or art piece. In the show at Carroll and Sons with the wife who had sculptural clay pieces on pedestals, the “view” included her husbands painting on the wall. The piece I am creating is set against the wall and I am using the scrim against the wall as a backdrop to indicate a sense of vastness. I am considering still how I much I might want to create for the views from other angles.

A third intriguing aspect of traditional Japanese gardens is “the gaze”. European gardens were designed for one point perspective, or a series of them. By contrast, according to Arata Isozaki in his book Japan-ness in Architecture :”the gaze of the Japanese … garden just as consistently refuses the fixation of any axis in space.” (286) The viewer was assumed to be moving. Similarly, in my installation piece, there is no single point for viewing. It can be viewed from any angle for 270 degrees as well as from within. The endless possibilities encourage the viewer to move around.

I have now committed much time to my installation piece. Although it is not a Japanese garden, the guiding principles of that aesthetic have lifted the resistance I once felt to this new (to me) art form. Traditional Japanese aesthetics not only has given me reason to believe in what I am creating and enriched my appreciation for the possibilities of the form, but inspired me to think even further, to include the space beyond the piece itself in my perception of what I create.

Works Cited

Itoh, Teiji. Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden. New York: Weatherhill/Tankosha. 1973. Print.

Isozaki, Arata. Japan-ness in Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2006.

Kakutani, Michiko. “Texts Without Context”. New York Times 21 March 2010: Arts 1. Print.

Lin, Maya. Systemic Landscapes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Richie, Donald. A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics. Berkeley: StoneBridge Press. 2007. Print.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Melanie's flood

When Melanie was visiting, she noticed the boxes that I used to support my whorls for glueing. She arranged them into a confuguration which I named "Flood" since the flood of dried glue inside each box is distinct. Photos don't do justice to the subtle ways the light plays with the soft greys of the sides of the boxes versus the reflective dark bottoms. Thanks Melanie!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

mentor meeting- April 13, 2010

On Tuesday, April 13, I met with RPW at the Museum School again because the atrium has such good light for my work. I talked about coming to terms with doing installation, thanks to John Beardsley's article in May Lin's book "Boundaries". He mentioned a Japanese term, "ma", which includes both space and time. I write about it in my next research paper - and it led me to investigate Japanese aesthetics, which gave me a way to frame my understanding of what I was aiming for in this work. I will share this in my upcoming paper.

Meantime, RPW and I had a great discussion about my work:
1. The idea of the path through the water: I now have used over 100 yards of fabric. I had arranged the "whorls" in such a way as to establish a path, as if marking the route a sailboat might take, tacking into the wind. RPW thought that the literal path might be problematic - but that leaving open spaces did work.
2. Color of background cloth: She questioned the choice of black, a non-color, for background when the rest of the piece is full color.
3. That led to a discussion of how I use the loose silk which I had positioned near the edge as "run-off". RPW suggested I pursue a piece with just the loose silk pieces flowing one into another.
4. Images of water: We looked at a book on global water issues that had a aerial photo of an expanse of irrigation fields (post that on your wall for contemplation, she suggested) which gave the idea of possibly investigating Google earth for more images that related to water. As for this current piece, she asked me the title and I suggested, "eddy", the edges of water where it laps forward and then retreats again in trickles. She thought that worked and that that description should be included in the writing about it.
5. Finishing the piece: We also talked about my idea of having the fully saturated colors go into grey as it comes forward so the viewer is brought into the piece by the amping up of the color.
6. We talked about lighting and discussed light boxes. However, when I got home and tried my light box on a small batch, it really did not work - the light does nothing for the color and distracts from all the sublties of the cloth.

RPW suggested I might try cyanotype. I have done some work with dyes that react to the sun and loved the results. I'm not sure how that fits in with the water theme I have going now, but will mull it over.

Finally, RPW asked about my book of color swatches which I realized as I was going along that I was not making- I know the colors so well, that I just didn't want to take the time. However, I had brought along a piece - maybe 40" x 40", and I shared with her how gratifying it was to see the color on that scale, especially in contrast to the small work I was doing. So, I plan to make large wall size swatches, so to speak, of the colors I am using in my "eddy" piece. I plan the incorporate the number that refers to the dye into the piece so that it has reference value built in. That idea sounds exciting to me.

It was a great session. I feel inspired to finish the first piece, experiment with a new one using loose pieces, and have fun making the huge swatches.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention sound. I just had seen a theatre piece that used it so effectively. I brought the idea up but am just leaving it open-ended for now.

why hand-dyed silk

Salley Knight

Professor Hannah Barrett

Research Paper – Group 2

March 2010

Why Hand-dyed Silk?

Why do I use hand-dyed silk in my art? I am not from Asia where it has been used in art for centuries. Nor am I working in fashion, where silk is seen more often. I myself had not even heard of silk as a surface for art until the 1990s.

I first explored hand dyeing in the 1970s, when I worked on cotton. I returned to dyeing again in the 90s because I was frustrated with watercolor: I loved the vibrancy of the color of the wet watercolor paint, but often felt disappointed that it faded once dry. I was looking for intensity of color and I found it in silk dyeing. The appeal of silk over cotton, which I had used in previous dyeing work, was its superior capacity to absorb color. I found I could create a range of colors from vibrant to extremely subtle, fully saturated color to more translucent for layering; the silk itself came as opaque or translucent, which opened up even more options for color interaction.

The possibilities for color alone attracted me to silk. However, I am now discovering another aspect: its sculptural potential. In their article, “Mechanical Properties of Silk,” Krasnor et al report that “silkworm silk has a tensile strength comparable to that of steel. But, unlike steel it is also extremely stretchable ... possessing a toughness with a fracture energy much larger than that of a high-tensile steel.” (Web)It must be this strength that holds my silk rolls dependably standing upright in my first venture into silk sculpture.

The history of silk’s entrance into the fine arts in this country at the end of the last century was due to influences on both the East and West Coast. On the East Coast, the French imports of gorgeous hand-dyed clothing popular in places like Greenwich Village aroused curiosity about how the art on the fabric was created. The French silk at the time was dyed using a resist called gutta to make fine lines. The formula for gutta, a substance firm enough to contain dye but pliable enough to make fine lines in hand dyed silk, had been a closely guarded secret among the family members of the czar of Russia, a secret that they brought with them to Paris when they fled during the Bolshevik Revolution. Gutta was important and so was the dye itself. In the 1950’s, the Maison Sennelier, famous for its paints and extra-soft pastels, created a line of 104 dyes branded Tinfix which continue to be favored by artists today, in spite of recent competition. The combination of the Sennelier dyes and the gutta technique of hand-dying produced the beautiful art that was seen on French imported clothing. Information about this technique gradually became available in this country. One person who taught the techniques in New York City in the early 1980s was a French woman, Klara Gordon. According to Susan Louise Moyer in Silk Painting, The Artist’s Guide to Gutta and Wax Resist Techniques, “Within a year, (of Klara’s workshop) other surface design studios began using silk painting...Professional schools such as Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Art...hired silk painters to teach...” (13).

Meanwhile, information on traditional dyeing techniques from Japan were introduced to this country primarily through the teachings and writings of John Marshall in California and Betsy Sterling Benjamin in Massachusetts, both of whom spent years living in Japan. John Marshall’s book Salvation Through Soy, Blissful Dyeing for all Eternity, in spite of its humorous title, contains a wealth of information on traditional Japanese dyeing using gojiru, or soy milk. Betsy Sterling Benjamin not only wrote a book called The World of Rozome, Wax Resist Techniques of Japan, but also organized a world conference in 2005 at Massachusetts College of Art where artists from Europe, Africa, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan and this country gathered to share information on dyeing and resist methods. It was at this conference that I was able to witness demonstrations of a wide range of dyeing methods and applications. This included the traditional methods of Japanese kimono makers, as well as the more recent modernization of those techniques by Susan Louise Moyer, whose two books on silk painting; Silk Painting, Gutta and Wax Resist Techniques, and Silk Painting for Fashion and Fine Art are the most comprehensive I have encountered on the subject of silk painting.

So, what is my specific process of dyeing? I use the French Sennelier Tinfix dyes with the traditional Japanese method. In preparation, I soak dried soybeans for 8-24 hours before putting them into a blender with added water and grinding them to a pulp; I then squeeze this slurry through a piece of cotton, to obtain fresh soy milk. I use a traditional Japanese brush, a jizomebake, which is a deer hair brush that is made specifically for the purpose of applying soy milk to silk and is far more effective than other brushes: it carries liquid well and the bristles are shaped so that no matter how you hold the brush, there is maximum contact with the silk (Marshall vi). I then leave the silk to dry before applying the dye. The dye can be applied in any of the ways that watercolor paint is applied to paper; the soy acts as sizing which stiffens the silk and creates a resistance to dye spreading. In my most recent work, I have been working large areas of wet on wet, but, in the past, I have done more detailed work with distinct shapes and shading.

Once I have finished dyeing, I allow the silk time to cure, the longer the better, according to John Marshall:

Curing allows the protein in the soymilk time to shrink, biting into the fiber and becoming a permanent part of it. Some Japanese artists allow the soy to cure only a few days. I prefer to cure up to three months. The longer you allow it to cure the higher the quality of your product. (21)

After curing, I steam the silk to set the dye permanently; this involves rolling the pieces of silk, sandwiched between absorbent layers of cotton duck, around a cylinder which is placed inside a tall steamer and steamed for at least 2 hours. Finally, I iron the silk, which becomes again as soft and sensuous as it started before the soy was applied.

In a January, 2010, telephone conversation with John Marshall, I asked him to explain why soy is so crucial to the dye process. Marshall explained the chemistry of traditional Japanese soy milk dyeing to me. Silk is primarily a protein; soymilk is also a protein that is cellulose based. The protein molecule of the soymilk in contact with the porous silk entangles protein with protein into the fiber itself as it dries. When the liquid dye is then added, the soy becomes gelatinous and holds the dye, encapsulating it in a suspension that gives the dye much longer time to penetrate the fiber. This produces rich color and reduces the run-off, or wasted dye that comes out in the steaming process.

What about the substance silk itself? The precise origins of silk are unknown, although, according to Shelagh Vainker in her book Chinese Silk, a Cultural History, she refers to a 7th century BC legend that mentions a princess who smuggles silkworm to her wedding destination (8). In Rajat Datta and Mahesh Nanvaty’s The Global Silk Industry, the authors point to another legend of the fourteen year old queen Hi’s-Ling- Shi of the W’Hang dynasty ( about 2,500 BC) who saw the tiny silk worms grow big eating leaves on her mulberry tree. She watched them make cocoons, which she took into the palace with her. When the moths hatched, she dropped several cocoons into her bath by mistake, and out of these cocoons came “shimmering” threads, the threads that would become woven into silk (17). According to Shelagh Vainker, “Some of the mystery that prompted (these) stories was felt within China…both at the level of rural religious belief and, in a different way, at the highest level of government” (8-9).

For about 3, 000 years China guarded the secret of silk (Datta and Nanvaty- 17) and became known from the third to the ninth centuries for the 6,400 km Silk Road connecting China to the Mediterranean. Even though other countries have since acquired the means of silk production, the pre-eminent supplier of silk continues to be China, which produces four times as much silk as the next closest competitor, India. (Datta and Nanvaty 33)

Chinese silk comes in many weights and textures, both variables which affect dyeing. In my work I use two kinds: a sand washed charmeuse silk which is opaque with one shiny and one matte side, and has a weight of 19.5 mm (short for mommes, the measure of weight for silk). I also use a translucent organza, 5.5 mm. I purchase them in 50 yard bolts from Dharma Trading, a company based in San Rafael, California, which buys directly from China and sells to artists and industry. I love the silk charmeuse because it is thicker and heavier than most silks but still stretches evenly and takes dyes beautifully. When sized with soymilk it provides a strong surface for many different kinds of dye effects. In turn, the organza is sheer, and I can dye it for scrim or layering. It also is stiffer and is key to holding the shapes in my sculptural work.

Because I am using such large amounts of organza for my sculpture, I have modified my dyeing process. In order to dye lengths of it outdoors on sheets of plastic on my driveway, I skip the soymilk preparation and thus forfeit some dye retention. I am compromising absorption of color per yardage for quantity of material dyed. Later I wrap the silk in rolls for my sculpture, which creates compact forms with layers of color so I can still accomplish the depth of color I seek. I continue to use the soymilk process with the charmeuse so that it receives maximal absorption of dye.

Learning about silk and hand dying has been an unusual journey for me in which I have encountered artists from other countries as well as teachers who have spent years assimilating knowledge from around the world. My first reason for exploring silk hand dying remains the primary reason I continue to make art with it: color. With the Sennelier dyes and the thirsty silk, I am able to engage in my passion for creating work rich in color. The fact that silk is also a strong enough fabric to offer sculptural potential gives me even more territory to explore.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Betsy Sterling, The World of Rozome, Wax Resist Techniques of Japan, New York: Kodansha America. 1996. Print.

Datta, Rajat K. and Mahesh Nanavaty, Global Silk Industry. Florida, Universal Publishing. 2005. Print

Krasnov, Igor, Imke Diddens, Nadine Haupman, Gesa Helms, Mal Ogurreck. Tila Seydel, Sergio Funan, and Martin Muller. “Mechanical Properties of Silk: Interplay of Deformation on Macroscopic and Molecular Length Scales”. Hasylab, Research Center of the Helmholtz Association. Hamburg, Germany. 2008. Web. 14 March 2010.

Marshall, John, Salvation Through Soy, Blissful Dyeing for All Eternity, California: Whimsy. 2002. Print.

Marshall, John. Personal Interview. 21 January 2010.

Moyer, Susan Louise. Silk Painting for Fashion and Fine Art. New York: Watson-Guptill. 1995. Print.

Moyer, Susan Louise, Silk Painting, The Artist’s Guide to Gutta and Wax Resist Techniques, New York: Watson-Guptill. 1991. Print.

Vainker, Shelagh, Chinese Silk, a Cultural History, New Jersy: Rutgers University Press. 2004. Print.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2nd roll of silk

I am now beginning to dye my second 50 yard roll of organza - that is, I've cut the lengths and am waiting for sunshine. The cloth already dyed is now in the final stages: it's been torn, rolled and glued; it will need a few strategic stitches to make sure the rolls stand upright.
I have been reading Maya Lin lately and was particularly intrigued by her idea of "ma": a theory in Japanese aesthetics (architecture, gardening) that applies to space and time: it is the distance between stepping stones (something continuous) and also the time it takes to make the step. I love that there is the consideration of time in there - and that it is human time. I want my "slow" art to invite reflection, and for the space and the movement through it to somehow bring serenity -to include this idea of "ma".
Ideas about how I might achieve this: to have the the rolls of silk on platforms - suggesting levels of water, even the sense of a rising tide or cresting wave; and along side, various colors of scrim, perhaps hung vertically on dowels (one on top an done on bottom) so a length of scrim would read one way frontally and another as it participates in the line of vision of other translucent scrims.
The viewer would walk through and between these areas of water and light.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

crit theory paper - Irwin v. Postmoderns

Salley Knight

Professor Hannah Barrett

Critical Theory Paper- Group 2

February 2010

Theory for My Preferred Art

In the February 14, issue of 2010 of the New York Times, Roberta Smith complains that New York museums are showing a surfeit of “Conceptual, Process, Performance, installation and language-based art that is most associated with the label Post-Minimalism.” As she puts it, “What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand”(1). She is looking for exactly the kind of art that I love.

In my alignment with Smith, I lack enthusiasm for the writers such as Michael Newman, Rosalind Krauss and Jacques Derrida, who underpin the work of Post-Minimalist artists. For support of my views, I turn to the philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and the artist, Robert Irwin. In this paper, I will compare the ideas of Newman and Krauss’s of the historical importance of “the mark” (which has been considered a qualification of art) with the ideas of Merleau-Ponty and Robert Irwin. Secondly, I will look at Derrida and Irwin’s views on concept in art.

I find that the writing of Newman and Krauss are of little interest to me. I am minimally drawn to theories on the history of the mark. In turn, I am intrigued by Robert Irwin’s process: his years of Zen-like contemplation and commitment to his art that produced what I consider to be profound insights.

Both Newman and Krauss are interested in the historical significance of the mark. In his essay, “Traces and Marks of Drawing”, Michael Newman investigates one of the earliest stories of art, Pliny’s saga of the woman who traces the shadow of her lover before he departs in order that she might preserve his presence. This trace around the shadow is a mark; it is art. It is art because it refers to the lover. According to Newman, the “(s)hadow becomes the mark of a presence…” (11).

Newman’s interest in the mark’s history has parallels to Krauss’s case for the index when viewing the art of Gordon Matta-Clark and Marcia Halif at P.S. 1 in the 1970s. She wrote in her essay “Notes on the Index” the following: “ As distinct from symbols, indexes establish their meaning along the axis of a physical relationship to their referents. They are the marks…in this category we put physical traces…cast shadows…” (213). Both Newman and Krauss point to the historical significance of the mark in describing how a work is art.

Personally, I am a great appreciator of marks and mark making. I love the sensuality, the personal touch of the mark. The last way I want to view marks is intellectually to the point that they are reduced to sterile symbols, which is the direction I find that Newman and Krauss are headed.

Unlike Newman and Krauss, Robert Irwin does not consider the history of the mark to be the key to understanding a work of art. He is looking at a bigger picture in an attempt to understand what really is the most significant aspect of art, or what it is that affects him most deeply. He argues that the mark itself has actually become less significant to art over time. Jan Butterfield quotes him in her essay, “The State of the Real” as follows: “…modern art has been a step-by-step disassociation and disempowering of the mark”(142). Robert Irwin elaborated on this idea in his October 15, 2009, lecture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He said that: starting with the Renaissance when a work of art (an image, comprised of many marks), most likely a portrait of religious importance, could be recognized as valuable across populations and borders. In the progression of art history, as the images became less literal, as the frame became less important, as the means of creating the art became more personal, the mark became less and less universally important. What remains as the expression of art may not include the mark, in the traditional sense at all. “To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings at all. What we are really dealing with is… the shape of our perception.” (qtd, in Butterfield,141).

Irwin is using the word perception in a specific way gleaned from years of contemplating Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy as laid out is The Primacy of Perception. For Irwin, as for Merleau-Ponty, perception is a deeply felt, embodied experience which suggests that all our senses are involved in seeing. According to Merleau-Ponty, “art radiates from the visible” (182):

There is (a connection in) a human body when, between the seeing and the seen, between the touching and the touched, between one eye and the other, between hand and hand,…the spark is lit between the sensing and the sensible, lighting the fire that will not stop burning. ( Merleau-Ponty 163)

Merleau-Ponty’s theories explain the impact that certain pieces art have on me, a matter that Robert Irwin deals with as well. In Lawrence Wechsler’s book, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, he describes a certain period in Irwin’s life when he was drifting in and out of galleries, checking what was being shown. Every once in a while a piece of art would “cut through the fog.” In giving a word to what set those pieces apart, Irwin used the term “presence” : It was not the imagery, it was about something indescribable that a person sensed or did not sense. In one such instance, he was deeply affected by a small Philip Guston painting, which was much stronger than a larger work by James Brooks. In Irwin’s own words, “Well, that goddamn Guston just blew the Brooks right off the wall….by every overt measure - size, contrast, color intensity - that shouldn’t have happened… a good painting has a gathering (force)…a pure energy build-up…” (qtd in Wechsler, 64).

It was this kind of experience with art that Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy served to help Irwin to understand. There was more at work that the marks, the color, the other art elements. There was something transmitted through the art work that was felt on a bodily level.

This leads to the notion of concept, what the artist had in mind for a piece of art, and where that fits in to the picture. Irwin questions the notion of concepts for art but in a way very different from Jacques Derrida, whose whole philosophy was based on a challenge to the certainty of any concept. I find the words of David Hopkins apt in summing up Derrida: “Derrida’s deconstructive strategies consisted in revealing how the self’s sufficiency (and authority) of many concepts is illusory.” (856)

Robert Irwin challenges the artists relationship to concepts (Butterfield 147) but, unlike Derrida, argues that that they have a function. For Irwin , no concept is real, but he advocates seeing them as tools that are useful for the artist’s intention. (Butterfield 150) The concept can be an idea or a feeling, a starting point. The concept launches the creation of the art; once the art is created, it has been imbued with the energy of the artist which the viewer perceives with his or her eyes and body and, in an effort to communicate a response, formulates concepts of his or her own. (Irwin lecture, 10-15-2009) Even though concepts are not real, Irwin says they have weight and importance in art and to an artist because ”when we hold a concept, the world appears to have an up and a down …(it’s okay that) this is all an illusion.” (qtd. in Butterfield 150)

I also believe that concepts have a place. I love the concepts put forth by Merleau-Ponty: that art involves all the senses, that we cannot separate ourselves from our whole bodily perception, and Irwin’s idea that art is a means of expanding that perception. I think that Irwin’s reaction to the Guston painting rose out of the intensity and clarity of Guston’s connection to his concept while creating his painting, a phenomenon that Irwin could sense later in his gut response to the piece.

It was refreshing for me to read Roberta Smith’s New York Times piece. It confirmed for me that others also have grown disaffected by excessive concentration on the art that came out of the intellectual writings of theorists such as Newman, Krauss and Derrida. I was already a follower of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, and felt fortunate to hear Irwin in person at the MFA articulate theories that further resonated with me. I agree with Irwin’s statement that his, “work has never been about abstraction, it has been about experience” (qtd in Wechsler 66). Experience, deeply felt experience is my goal, as well, and the reason that I enjoy and create art.

Works Cited

Butterfield, Jan. “The State of the Real” and “Re-Shaping the Shape of Things”. Art Theory and Criticism, An Anthology of Formalist, Avant-Garde, Contextualist and Post-Modern Thought, Ed. Sally Everett. London: McFarland and Company, 1991.139-153. Print.

Hopkins, David. After Modern Art, 1945-2000. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Irwin, Robert. “The Nature of Abstraction”, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 15 Oct. 2009. Lecture.

Krauss, Rosalind, “Notes on the Index”, Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1985. Print.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Print.
Newman, Michael. “The Traces and Marks of Drawing”, The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act, London, Tate Publishing, 2003. Print.
Smith, Roberta. “Post-Minimal to the Max”, New York Times, 14 Feb 2010, Arts and Leisure 1 and 23. Print.
Wechsler, Lawrence. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008. Print.