Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adventures in Making Art

Last Friday I received notice that I had been awarded a good-size grant by the Artist's Resource Trust, a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. I applied seven (count 'em, 7) times for this grant without getting anywhere until this year. The grant is not contingent on my completing a project, but I did describe a project on the application that I hope to complete. It involves building a wall of works on 24 panels in an 8' x 12' configuration. The works would be in my Running Stitch series and I would like to show the wall in a small museum.

The Bing at night, photo by Chris Marion Photography, from The Bing's website

Money Changes Everything
Remember that song by Cyndi Lauper? Well, here's how the grant influenced me and changed my plans. I am having a solo show beginning February 3rd at the Bing Arts Center in Springfield. (I posted about this in more detail on my Art of Bricolage blog, link here.)  Although I have known about this show for a while, I had planned to show oil paintings because the space is quite large and I didn't think I had enough bricolage on panel works to fill the space. But when I learned that I got the grant and might be able to complete the project I envisioned, I was jostled out of my complacency. My thinking was that if I planned to contact some museums and other exhibition spaces about showing my uncompleted project, I had better have some big work to show them.

The Black One, 2011, tarpaper, book parts, patinated metal, oilstick,
tacks, encaustic on panel, 36"x36" (click to enlarge)

I've been gradually increasing the size of works that I'm making from 36" x 36", as above, to two just-completed Running Stitch pieces on 30" x 60" single panels. Waiting in the wings were four panels ready to make two diptychs, each 48" x 60", but I've been stalling on them. The grant has now motivated me to get cracking and get building. I have changed the title of the Bing show to GEOMETRIC BRICOLAGE: Found Materials Transformed and I've planned out the two 48" x 60" pieces so that I can complete them in time to show.

Discoveries of Scale
It's a good thing I've never had to work in a widget factory because I really don't like and can't do multiples of the same thing. Every time I make a piece, I do something a little different. As I've proceeded piece by piece with the Running Stitch and RS variants, the overall size has increased as well as the size of the elements. I have discovered that as the works get bigger, they need more structural elements to carry visually from the greater viewing distance their size requires. This is probably like reinventing the wheel but it's been a slowly evolving Aha for me to realize this.

Look At America, 2011, 30" x 60", painted paper and cardboard, book parts,
patinated metal, record album parts, tarpaper, tacks, encaustic on panel.
(click to enlarge)

The work above is constructed/painted on one panel, but I divided it up vertically and put in those black horizontal bands to give it more structure.

This American Time, 2011, 30" x 60", painted paper and cardboard, book parts,
patinated metal, record album parts, advertising posters, record album parts, tacks
encaustic on panel. (click to enlarge)

In this work, I used the solid red book cover pieces to add structure and unify the various colors, marks and printing.

You wouldn't believe how much looking, reconstruction and time it took me in working on these two pieces to figure this out.

Plan Ahead
So now with the next larger size, I am beginning with a strong structural plan for each of them. The challenge is to add variety and irregularities while maintaining the structure. (As you see with The Black One above, if the structure becomes too regular, it can get dull. However, in defense of this piece, I enjoy the simplicity as a change of pace, and in person, many more irregularities present themselves.)

When I remind myself that I only began making this work at the end of 2010 and of how many pieces I've made this year alone, I find it surprising. It's been very absorbing - I would even say entertaining. Keeping myself interested and entertained in the studio has become my mission in life, so I guess things are going well. And this year, not even counting the grant, for the first year in many years I have made enough from art to pretty much cover my art expenses. I'd call that a successful year for me. I hope it went well for you!


Anonymous said...

Nice post, congrats again. Can't wait to see the show and new work. You really have accomplished a lot this past year!

sukipoet said...

congratulations. I will try to remember about this show as i live only an hour and a half or so from Spgfld if you mean Ma. I would love to see your work.

guess persistence has rewards eh?

Martha Marshall said...

Congratulations on getting your grant. Sounds like the wheels are turning in every way for you for the new year!

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I really appreciate your comment, "slowly evolving Aha". I consider making art is a form of research. One of the fascinating components of any type of research is the way each individual processes and explores an idea, material or process. The fact that you acknowledge that you are still learning in your studio is very encouraging and refreshing. I'm very excited for you and all that is developing in your career.

Rebecca Crowell said...

I agree with Terry, I love the idea of art as research. Great things are happening for you, congratulations! And I really like The Black One..

Jenni Hoddinott said...

Seeing the progression of this work is amazing.....I would love to be a "Fly on the Wall" in your Studio.....

Gwendolyn Plunkett said...

First, Congratulations on receiving that grant! Second, I am with Terry and Rebecca relating art making to research. I always think of my work as investigations.

Wish I were nearer so I could see your exhibition in Feb. Congrats on that as well.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for commenting, everybody! Your interest and support means a lot to me. Yes, indeedy, there's always research going on in the studio if the work (and the artist) is to stay alive. When I read about artists such as Will Barnett having his first retrospective at age 100, I believe there is hope for me. Read about his retrospective here.

debraclaffey said...

Congratulations, Nancy! Really good post. For me too the whole point is to be fascinated in the studio!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your creative process Nancy. Those Aha moments remind us why keep making art. I can't wait to see your new work, so please post lots of pics. I'm sending you my best wishes for long periods of un-interrupted studio time.

Karen Jacobs said...

You're fun to watch ;) A great opportunity to make great things happen... and happen, and happen! Go!

Adrianne in Portland said...

Congratulations on the grant award and the upcoming show. How exciting for you! Thanks for sharing with us!

lisa said...

Great post and so fun to watch the growth and process happen

Toby Sisson said...

Congratulations Nancy, your accomplishments are impressive and well deserved.

I read your comments about creative research as an acknowledgement of art making as a deeply intellectual activity. Thank you for describing the work one does in the studio as "thinking", as well as emotional and physical explorations. The conceptual properties of your investigations, along with the formal experiments you're conducting, resonate with sophistication.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I am glad that you are enjoying my description of the process of discovery and invention in making art.

Toby, that is high praise from you! I've always wanted to be sophisticated but that rude, earthy side of me keeps interfering. The struggle continues.

Tanya said...

Congratulations, Nancy! And thank you for being so generous with sharing your process!
Please don't lose that "rude, earthy side". It's what keeps me coming back. ;-)

Joanne Mattera said...

Toby said it. But I can certainly add to the chorus of congratulations. Can't wait to see the show.

smellofpaint said...

WOW, Nancy -- "Look at America" looks spectacular! Best of luck with your show -- and with the new BIG work! >>PHILIP G.<<