last week i had the wonderful experience of going to an artist talk at the mccoll center of visual arts in charlotte. at the beginning of each new residency period, the center hosts these talks, and the incoming artists each give presentations about their history, their work, what they’ll be doing while there. i’ve meant to attend numerous times but never seem to get out the door. being a little reclusive aka introverted, i’m uncomfortable around a lot of people, especially people i don’t know. but i’ll be starting my residency in april and i wanted to prepare for my turn.
i love artist talks and if you’ve never been, i highly encourage you to go. if you’re an artist, i recommend it even more. and go often. (this was actually my second this week. the first was vic muiz, most recently known for the movie “waste land”, at the mint museum.)
for me, these presentations are very stimulating, and would account for my being up all night. yes, all night long i considered this one takeaway – the concept of fragility. it is one i deal with every day.
my work is comprised of long strips of wax, a rather delicate material. there are no armatures, no material embedded within to give them strength. no fabric or paper. just wax. there are other materials added to the wax to make it stronger, but in the end, the surface areas are still fragile. i’ve fought this perception, trying to reassure collectors that the surface isn’t really that fragile and they shouldn’t be afraid the strips will break off. in the end those attempts sounded like a justification of my work. the reality is, all artwork is fragile. think about installations in museums and the care taken to preserve them. think about how one places delicate objects in one’s home. cat owners can testify never place the easily breakable christmas bulbs at the bottom of the tree within the easy reach of a paw. artwork is placed in a location with the same consideration.
after the talk, this concept of fragility seemed to extend further because life is fragile. not in xenophobic way. not in a constant risk assessment way. but in a “things happen” way. illness, accident, deteriorating health possibly from exposure to things which we probably shouldn’t be exposed. life is fragile. and not just our life, but our environment as well. this is at the core of my work; this sense of fragility, this literal and conceptual tie between the human species and the natural environment. our exposure to toxic chemicals means a host of potential illnesses, reduced birth rates, increased death rates as the exposure oil dispersants have on coral. studies of combined Corexit and oil when exposed to baby coral larvae, found the larvae ‘were unable to settle in rock where they should have flourished but instead died’ according to a mote marine study.
bearing that in mind, this work should be fragile. the work should break apart and degrade. as we with studied ignorance, recklessly bound through life, thinking only of our desires and need for immediate gratification; this work should have that capacity to degenerate over time, even as we realize our own fragility. and maybe once we fully know this concept of fragility instead of the detached view we maintain during our busy busy days, we’ll learn the reverence we should have for life and all things.