Friday, October 9, 2009

Art is for Nerds

Recently I received an invitation to join the Bookish project from my fried Stephanie Beck, and since then books just seem to be appearing all mixed in with my art viewing. Text in artwork has made me nervous in the past, and I find, as I get older, I am starting to develop a taste for it. All of the books I have read by Haruki Murakami have fed my imagery and fueled my artistic practices, and even inspired me to take up the pen. My most recent drawings have been inspired by poetry, song lyrics and conversations about theories of existence.
I have been lucky that in recent months I have been exposed to some outstanding works that involve looking at literature not only as an inspirational tool, but also as a building material, a physical medium. Chava has constructed an entire playhouse (would she be offended to hear me call it a playhouse?) about 5 or 6 feet high, comprised entirely of the rolled pages of romance novels. I was instantly tickled when I saw the images of the finished piece. In my imagination, Chava has kept all of the adult-themed sections of the novels in a binder somewhere and only used the boring storyline to construct the awe-inspiring building. I just love the piece. It seems so serious and so time-consuming, and the material takes it to a place that is much more joyful and giggly. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Hoffman at Bambi Gallery at First Friday last weekend. We had a great conversation about utilizing new media, teaching, and creating, and when I got home I had the pleasure of attaching a name to some amazing artwork. The giant elephant head protectively hovering over a stack of love-worn books punched me in the heart. It is just the right amount of something I cannot describe.
There are few things I find more potent than the image of stacked books, piled written pages, or notebooks crammed with handwritten text. In high school and college I would frequently fill notebooks with class notes, and intentionally spill out into the margins so that every inch of page was bursting with words. I would fit two lines of text into one barred line of the paper, keeping my lettering small, and my pen pressure hard. I would segment the paper into little boxes or more organic shapes, separating ideas from drawings from the information from lectures. At the end of class, if I was without a friend in the classroom, I would run my fingers over the tortured paper. It was so satisfying to know that I had recorded so much, and at the same time, I couldn't bear to look at the pages again. Studying was a nightmare, pulling out the necessary bits and mining for questions that may or may not appear on final exams.
It was an obsessive habit, and I occasionally find myself falling back into it, sacrificing order for visual pleasure. There are few things I enjoy more than running my fingers over a handwritten page, and feeling the work that I have done.