friday afternoon meanderings

folk art faceA folk art face, or a bit thereof. I don’t know a lot about folk art, except that realism it is not, it is meant to be flat and outlined and highly stylised, and every flower/symbol/animal/person is repeated in similar ways with similar meanings over whole cultures and periods of time. Kind of a pictorial language? I don’t know what this chick is meant to be saying, other than Megan, please spend some money on thinner brushes.

Medieval art is a kind of folk art – I came across an academic article the other day on the medieval anatomists and their art, and I haven’t read it yet but I am very much looking forward to second half of August when I will have more time to spend on that kind of thing. It’s literature meets history meets medicine meets art and what’s is not to love about that?

they’re very tiny paintings

melancholy2

This is my third attempt in twice as many days to write a post: I find if I write about the papers I am reading, it’s all the harder to make myself write about them again in a report/article/thesis, and I have enough trouble motivating myself without adding to it. I’ve also had a constant nagging pain in my left arm for aaaaaaaaaages; it seems to have moved in permanently.  It’s such an aggravating pain because it’s too quiet to take heavy drugs for, or even really complain about, but too persistent to ignore. In medieval times I would be diagnosed with an excess of black bile and were I rich enough I could perhaps sit around in my pretty frock and look all melancholic, much as the young lady above. Instead, I find myself in frumpy clothes, looking cross, and telling the bastard to just shut the f**k up. Please. To no avail, alas. It doesn’t seem to understanding language.

graphic collage

It still understands drawing. I spent Saturday drawing with paint; big bold graphic faces. I do love the style, very much, love the bold colours and the clean lines, love the challenge of expressing some kind of emotion in a few simple strokes. I didn’t notice the nagging pain for the whole afternoon I was making these, or if I did, I can’t remember it. I have been reading about manuscript illumination and medieval calligraphy and it’s quite obvious I don’t have the time to fully illustrate a journal/bestiary type of book in a full medieval style – such detail!. That would take the three years all on its own, so I am going to mash the idea with the idea of this simpler more graphic style, so that I will be able to finish the journal in the next few months and get marking done on time and sleep and maybe paint more faces, because one can never have too many painted faces. And finished is good, yes? I think finished works very well.

an aphrodisiac how though?

crocus

Not procrastinating this time, rather rewarding myself with a 20 minute painting after I did some of the less colourful kind of work. It’s a crocus, in case you were wondering, inspired by the rather lovely book sitting behind it. The book is on the ‘meaning’ of flowers, because once upon a time people took the hidden symbols in nature very seriously (that is, God’s signature was in everything, and he talked to us through his creation. The crocus, for instance, is supposedly a symbol of the Resurrection and heavenly bliss. Also an aphrodisiac, apparently…)

I’ve been re-reading some of my autoethnography papers to help finish the re-write of my confirmation report, but in truth they completely bore me and I have trouble not falling asleep. I just don’t see the controversy in using the method; what did one paper say about it? Something like autoethnography is where passion meets analysis.

I would hope that’s true of a very lot of things. I know for certain it’s true of a 20 minute painting of one lonely little crocus.

only my sister ever calls me Meggie

pull yourself together rippedIt’s just a small drawing, and an incidental one at that. I had been sketching faces and hated all of them, ripped them out of my sketchbook and started again. When I had drawn a nice-enough-but-actually-quite-bland face, I started playing with the torn pieces, gluing them together, drawing over them, rebuilding from the rubble. Her name is Sofia and she is coming apart at the edges, showing the cracks, torn, sad, rough, incomplete. Also, to me, quite beautiful.

I ask myself what this has to do with my work, how I can justify the hour out of my day, blah blah blah, wasting time, just the expressive bit, yada yada yada. Then I stop and I look at this small incidental piece of nothing much really, and I remember that, Meggie, sweetpea, this is your work.

just because

 

bits and pieces.JPG

Lawrence Weiner. Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2005

I woke up this morning feeling so good, actually happy rather than the neutral I have been cruising along at for over a year now. It’s not that the pain has gone away – it’s worsened a little since the confirmation seminar actually and I’ve been going back to opioids to be able to get some sleep – but that I’m feeling a restored sense of self-confidence. Ironic that a rejection deferment would do that? I like ironic. Ironic is my jam.

I put Lawrence Weiner’s artwork up there just for my own amusement. I also like the human imagination. Madly in love with it, actually.

because innovation by definition means something new

david shrigley 3

As well as regretting not being born Cy Twombly, I also regret not being born David Shrigley, because he has managed to make conceptual art funny and politically pointed.  I love him, as has been well documented in the past. I also have often wished I had the kind of courage to present that sort of work against the inevitable backlash of ‘it’s not really art’.

I panicked yesterday that my PhD work is just too conceptual for an academic setting, where it’s important to be explicit in everything. The first paper, it actually has a lot of background literature, pulling together ideas and theories from many different sources, taking my blog and diary and integrating my memory of the experiences of the past year into all those ideas, and adding in new aspects and a few new theoretical ideas (the body as palimpsest is a major one that will be extended further over the next few articles). I took great care to present it in a way that is conceptually important to how the project will develop over the next couple of articles, a project where all the disparate ideas can work individually but when put together will be more than the sum of their parts, as well as being well-crafted pieces of writing and artwork on their own merits too.

That was hard, and I’m damned proud of it. And the intellectual effort that went into doing all of this has been missed, I think, (though I have been grateful and appreciative that the craftmanship has mostly not). I have been smiling and nodding when people say it is ‘light’ academically, or it’s good for me to have to do more on the background etc., and I want to stop doing that, because the self-deprecation and implied agreement is dishonest: it’s just a habit I developed as a kid, and I’ve never learned how to argue my point back appropriately. (On those days, I wish I was my eldest sister, because she’s awesome at it.) I think I’ve been very deeply academic, and I know I haven’t been wasting time, have not neglected my background understanding of the literature, and I absolutely don’t need a kick up the ass. All I have missed is an explanation of the conceptual nature of the work in a way that resonates with its academic audience as suitably researchy/comprehensible enough.  I thought it was there, and I was mistaken, and I’ll cop to that bit. I’ll cop to being late on deadlines and all around generally less than communicative enough, and I’ll cop to the doubt and frustration both of those engender. It’s been hard to do the work itself on top of the pain etc., and having to explain myself just made me feel too damned tired. It’s not excuse enough for it, by any means, but in retrospect it is what has happened.

I won’t apologise for the difficult to understand nature of my work anymore though. It is ambitious and, while many of the individual aspects of the work have precedents, the combination is unlike anything that has been done before. Nothing I have come across anyway. Talking to Veronica helped me a lot with deciding not to rework what I have done already into a more standardly academic format (thank you) and today I am sorry I ever doubted myself, and I’m very sorry I haven’t stood up for my work better. It has the potential to be methodologically innovative, theoretically useful, and creatively engaging, and I would rather fail the PhD entirely than reduce my ambition into something lesser.

I feel better now. Onward.

 

 

 

 

the confirmation that wasn’t

lighthouse

It was meant to be a confirmation of enrolment in my PhD today, but I walked away with a deferral instead. This is okay, I’m pretty sure I deserved it and with just a bit more writing, a bit more paperwork, it’ll all come out in the wash and Bob will be my Uncle.

One thing really bothered me: a panelist  was confused as to why I included examples of artwork in my report. I said it was to show a basic level of artistic competence, she said that to her that didn’t matter. That’s just the expressive bit (cue dismissive wave of hand).

I still can’t really respond with anything but stunned silence about that. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. Huh.

I brought this lighthouse on my way home in commiseration. I was after a book but I liked this better. He thinks that developing skill and valuing craftmanship matters, that the choices around the artworks are intellectually and academically important, (and a hell of a lot more difficult than a literature review) and now he sits forever on my windowsill to remind me so. I say thanks lighthouse. Thanks for getting it.

handywomen

handywoman.png

I ordered this book the other day. I’ve been a fan of Kate Davies’ knitting designs for a while, long before I ever heard her story. I knew something about a stroke – she posted a message on her Instagram page one day that she had been getting criticism of her atypical body shape (she is very petite and models her designs herself) but wanted everyone to know she was very happy with her not-dead post-stroke atypical body, thank you very much.

Just recently she advertised a book she had written, and I learned more about her, and the origins of her current career as a (very successful) knitwear designer. Pre-stroke she was an academic, an historian, until a previously unknown congenital heart disorder caused a devastating and near-fatal stroke at the age of 36. Her once fit and sporty body was now a paralysed, weak, but thank-god-still-alive body.

She writes this in the introductory blurb:

This is not a book about Kate’s triumph over adversity. Rather, it is her account of the ordinary activities and everyday objects that stroke and disability made her see differently. From braiding hair for the first time to learning how to knit again; from the lessons of a working-class creative childhood to the support of the contemporary craft community; from the transformative effects of good design to developing a new identity as a disabled walker; in this engaging series of essays, Kate describes how the experience of brain injury allowed her to build a new kind of handmade life. Part memoir, part personal celebration of the power of making, in Handywoman Kate reclaims disability as in itself a form of practical creativity.

You can see why I had to order it. Honestly, the embroidered anatomy on the cover page would have been enough to sell it to me.

 

She’s also filmed a TEDx talk on the subject of her book. Favourite line? Slowness can lend free reign to the pleasures of the imagination. I think I need to learn for myself a lot more about that.

more small things

colour inspo.jpg

My goal is to allow readers their own experience of whatever discovery I have made, so that it feels new to them, but also familiar, in that it is a piece with their own experience. It is a form of serious play.
― Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work

The photos and the quote aren’t particularly related, except that I read a while ago how the personal is deemed feminine and non-serious, and this is one of the reasons I like to keep my focus on the personal, on the ‘feminine’ (not quite sure what that latter actually means though, truthfully). It is also why methodologies like autoethnography have a bad reputation, especially the kind that focus more on individual experience than on cultural critique. I.e., my kind. I hope the work I do will challenge that, but more importantly I hope that I will be able to give readers of the work their own experience of whatever discovery I have made.

I’m writing this down today, because I forget. I get caught up in worrying too much about how well done a thing is, and forget to focus on what kind of experience it has to offer.

I forget to play.

an idiot with great taste in art

Just popping in while some assignments print: hello.

nunzio p

I love this work by  – oh bugger, I forgot to save the name again and can’t remember it off the top of my head (I clearly thought I would, I clearly am an idiot). I love the contradictions in this piece, the softness and vulnerability, the brutality, the suggestion of human existence as wonderous and mortality as ordinary, the idea that we are as situated in the seasons of nature as a flower, as a bird, as a bare-leafed tree is.

Printing done, gotta go.