Thoughts on Material Art

Posted on April 19, 2011


“What is that supposed to be?” A child asks, while you scribble away on an abstract something-or-other.

“What is this one about?” An adult asks a friend, while gazing onto an abstract painting at the MOMA.

It happens all the time, this search for something concrete to hold onto, especially in art.We want to know why things exist, where they come from, what they’re related to etc. We like to fit our brains over an object or image like a glove over a hand. We want that fit to be snug, and that way it’ll make sense. This is our human nature and it covers all subjects of our making. It’s the way we live our lives.

It’s fun to think, connect dots, figure things out, and come to realizations or explanations for why. I enjoy it on a daily basis. I’m constantly musing about my creativity. I imagine where one interest bleeds into another, and dream how I can connect the dots of my own interests, in my art.

It’s so interesting to hear an artist talk about their art and their processes. Sometimes an artist is very methodical and plans everything clearly before starting in with the creating. Other times an artist will reveal that they realized what they were trying to do during the making. And, if an artist makes a squiggle on a page as a pure expression of feeling you can see them going back to it and making sense of it in different lights. In art we create beauty, and as in the practice of natural science we are attracted to labeling and understanding that beauty with language.

In this blog I will constantly be exploring my own thought processes as an artist, so get ready for a second-hand view of the inner-workings of my mind.

I love nature. The trees are like old friends, the air like my God. I can always return to nature to feel myself as a whole.

Naturally, nature has a strong presence in my art. I turn to its mystery for a point of inspiration and a push into creative exploration.

I feel that my art and I are inseparable and I and nature are too. Therefore I realized a holistic implement was necessary for my practice. It just makes sense. I care about nature, and so I recycle etc. I care about myself so I eat healthy and exercise. My art is as much a part of me as the air I breathe. If I like mountain air, my art should be able to flow freely in it too. Therefore my tools and materials of choice should be natural.

In college I fell in love with sculpture. I loved working with my hands and my body and the tools, but most of all I found a connection between my love for materials and art. I learned a great deal from a wonderful teacher about sculpture. Something that clicked was the use of material as a communicative device. Some materials carry more weight than others, but each prominent material gives off a message about the art. For example gold, bones, meat, or bamboo. These things have specific associations for people and societies.

Aesthetically and personally natural materials became my choice. Now I’m at a point, where in one hand I have a sculpture of burlap and sticks working itself up and in the other I have icky chemical paints and Turpenoid presenting itself on a canvas. I divide my self between both. I have been incorporating natural materials into my paintings, but it’s just not enough.

A revelation occurred; what if my art was completely intertwined with the materials and methods with which I create it. What if these things became as inseparable from my art as I am to nature? What is my creations had as much to do (or more) about my choice of materials and tools, than it does about subject or form?

This is my new avenue for exploration.

To revert back to the original point in this post, the thought process for art making can interestingly come from left field.

(The market is chock full of toxic materials for artists’ use. For reference check out this recent article  from the East Bay Express (Bay Area, CA) :

I just finished a great book called Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay about the history of paints, and where the first color paints came from in this world. I became instantly interested in creating my own pigments like the old masters used to do. Back then they were at threat using poisonous substances, and today we have opted out on those but chosen toxic ones? Doesn’t quite make sense. Regardless, I’d like to try my hand at smashing berries and incorporating their juices, grinding down pigments from sticks, using dirt, leaves, etc.

Posted in: Art