Saturday, August 17, 2013

Through the Mirror: Utopia Revisited

Backyard Gaze : Tablecloth Box #1
This week marks the first ever installation of this new body of work at the Montserrat Gallery in Beverly, MA. Leonie Bradbury curated this exhibition of art that walks the line between and immersed in the utopian/dystopian dialogue. At least I hope it will be a dialogue and not a shouting match. As I have matured I have taken a stronger and more committed stance toward a utopic vision. Recent work demonstrates this tendency. As such, this installation includes a dining room table with 12 plates and a tea set on it as well as examples form the Backyard Gaze Project. More pictures will be posted here next week after the installation.

Here is the text I wrote as a companion to the exhibit.

Through the Mirror: Utopia Revisited
Enter the dining room

An installation at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts
by Mary Anne Davis
August 24th – December 14th, 2013

A dining room table is set with twelve plates – each impressed with a line from the opening page of Thomas Moore’s novel. The table is flanked with two benches for sitting. The room includes selected books for related reading and study. Framed photographs of heroes, influential thinkers, and artists are hung on the wall along with a range of quotes that imply utopia. I have installed a series of windows in the form of boxes from the “Backyard Gaze Project,” which are observations of idyllic nature. I have installed a kiosk of souvenirs, an assembly of tokens and small artworks all reflecting some aspect of the utopian ideal. The original Utopia, first published in 1516, describes an island organized for the best life possible for the most people, like life in this dining room.
Utopia, or utopia, might be considered an ideal – a thing or state worth striving toward, like a light to a dining room plant. It may never be achieved but as a vision or beacon, it can inspire better behavior. As a non-religious idea, utopia has its appeal as a condition of life that is without external authority but instead relies upon a true community, perhaps even democracy, not a representative democracy but an actual democracy, where everyone has a voice. Is the opposite of utopia, dystopia? I argue that complete annihilation actually better represents utopia’s opposite. Dystopia has romantic undertones, which complete destruction does not and may even have a place within a utopic mentality.
davistudio is the foil from which I practice my utopian ideals and pursue an optimistic philosophy.  davistudio sustains an active practice that includes paid internships for young artists as a training ground toward independent studio practice. davistudio sells items and artwork through stores and Etsy as a means of supporting the studio and those employed, seeking to further develop ideals hinted at in the economic ideals set forth in Plato’s Republic and More’s famous novel.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Works on Paper

Works on paper, while a medium I use throughout my work, are a particular area of practice in the studio. I just uploaded some preparatory studies for my new Flora and Fauna Investigations, the body of work I have been working on since the fall. Here is an example on the right. You can see more images from this series here.

Sketches or preparatory works can help develop a kind of rhythm in the work, which is how I use them. I create a space for the development of a back and forth, a habitual or practice of mark making. The dots and squares painted here began as these simple sketches and evolved into the more complex works I am referring to as Flora and Fauna Investigations, formerly known as Rhizomatic Foam.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Pink and Yellow Foam

This Foam Series has been occupying a lot of my mind and studio time lately. I had been calling the series Rhizomatic Foam, but as a title have decided to bench the term Rhizomatic. A little too obscure to be friendly and I am opting for friendly. I had thought this piece finished but am in new cycle of sending work around and needed to fully resolve some outstanding issues the piece still had before I felt OK about submitting it to a particular show I am interested in.  

So, I pulled the piece out of the box it had been stored in for the past couple of months and first cut a piece of foamboard a few inches smaller than the drawing/sculpture. I have been covering the foam board with patterned fabric that creates an added layer under the structure of the drawing. This layer is actually a kind of pedestal, a way of asserting the piece forward slightly from behind, thrusting it out into space a bit. The fabric is patterned with dots or in this case stripes. The black and white pattern add another dimension of information, texture and zip that I like under the white paper.

The ceramic and paper-clay balls on top further articulates the objectness I am after. Instead of a drawing, the piece has been transformed into an object or a thing through the added layer of balls and the foamboard. A piece of paper, working through the identity of drawing, then painting and finally becoming sculpture brings the whole affair into new territory.

Drawing as sculpture, sculpture as contemplative moment in time and space, playing with notions of human-ness in the form of bubble, foam or balls of ceramic, paper-clay painted and hanging on the piece, engaged with symbols of nature iterate the impression of nature, standing in reserve, set aside yet participating in the totality of the object, drawing as sculpture, beautiful, mysterious, affectionate and entertaining, adding to the general dialogue about being and time. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rhizomatic Foam Boxes

I have been working on a new group of Rhizomatic Foam dimensional collages. Reading Heidegger of late has inspired me to think about enframing and a particular concept in Heidegger, destining. "Enframing is “destining”, from which "the essence of all history is determined" (The Question Concerning Technology. 329).

Boxes have figured into my work for over 20 years. I looked at slides (remember slides??) of earlier work today and showed Tatiana work I had done in the early 90's. I made boxes out of wood back then, very sturdy and permanent. Now I am making boxes out of refuse, old cardboard and strengthening them with pages from an old encyclopedia. The layering of images over images, revealing and concealing, excites me and also makes me curious about what is emerging.

This piece, as yet untitled beyond Rhizomatic Foam Box, includes several ideas I have been working with for a long time and a few new ones. As I mentioned, I used to make boxes years ago, so that is something not entirely new, but given the time lapse between then and now, is a recycling of an old idea, and certainly new in my use of recycled cardboard and old encyclopedia pages. Cutting birds out of the pages of an encyclopedia, new. The totally novel addition to this piece is the little clamp light on top of the box. They felt a little dark, all boxy and layered so I decided to try adding a small lamp to this piece. I am somewhat happy with the affect, we'll see how that pans out in future iterations.

 Also new is the mounting of the drawing on a square behind the pieces that juts out into space. This makes the drawing, or collage, that much more dimensional and physical, a quality I am also intrigued by. The drawing becomes more assertive in this way. Drawings can be sort of lesser selves of their older kindred -- paintings, sculpture or whatever else the 'sketch' might be preparing for. These are not so much sketches as actual objects, taking up space, more so with their little wall mounted pedestals.

Hopefully the work is not just an assertion but an emergence of a poetic grammar that brings into focus images and objects that ultimately make me happy to make. That is the reason I make art -- to make me happy. It is also a pursuit, a journey, the unraveling of some sort of mystery. Yet, the more I do, the larger the mystery becomes. It isn't so much revealed as the revelation becomes wow! that is so hidden! Maybe if I do this... Sort of a never ending circling around, encircling and enframing, revealing and concealing, a dialectical back and forth over time that inspires, me at least and hopefully another. Art allows us to be with another, sharing the experience of a moment in front of a mutual object.

So, I am back into making boxes. I am making a tutorial, the first of its kind, let's see how it goes. Part one to be published later this week.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dialectical Revival

This week has been another full week. Since the fall I have been developing a new body of work based on the idea of Rhizomatic Foam. Inspired by the idea of rhizome theory in Deleuze and Guattari's classic, A Thousand Plateaus, the image has fed me with countless lines of possible expression. As a maker, I am driven, almost obsessed with the desire to make. As a contemporary artist, I want to participate in the current dialogue and that is strongly conceptual. But, things evolve and art evolves in an amazing and most complex manner making it a very special place to call home.

Last week I had the privilege to participate in a conversation in Chelsea at the Gasser and Grunert Gallery. Artist Alyce Santoro, whose works are on view there through February 16, held a series of talks, no, actual conversations called a Dialectical Revival. As a matriculating student, bona fide PhD candidate, I have been reading my fair share of Hegel. His ideas still compel us because they are so powerful? Perhaps they really touch on a depth of thought that inclines to higher being.

Anyway, it was an exciting afternoon and inspired my week in the studio. I resolved several issues in the Rhizomatic Foam pieces although I still have a ways to go. I bought a box of 1/2 inch foam core and started cutting it up and covering it with fabric. The drawings can then be affixed to the foam core instead of the wall. Hammering nails into walls was a violent act I used 20 years ago in an early work(s) but today I am much less inclined to advocate the destruction of private property, i.e walls––Gallery walls, museum walls or the walls in a collector's home. I think it changes the pieces dramatically to reflect a friendlier me, a friendlier resolution to the issue of how to hang a semi-sculptural drawing/collage.

On another note, yesterday I got my study ready for the new semester. I need to stay focused for the academic work I am engulfed in or I can get really lost. We are reading Heidegger on technology and Neitzche and Junger on Pain this week. I am also making some headway on this semester's paper which will discuss fluid economies vs. static economies and artists whose work I feel reflect a proclivity toward the former. I'll try and post more about that in coming weeks.

So, my goal for 2013 is post something here weekly. Saying that out loud deepens my challenge so forgive me for engaging in such an obvious ploy, but, I think it will help my thinking all around. I hope you will stay tuned. Thanks for reading. :)