Last month I was walking through an art gallery. This sudden thought hit me, or maybe it was more of a gut-punch:
“I’m sick of 2-D art.”
Now, that’s a weird thing for a mainly 2-D artist to feel down deep.
I’m not exactly sure where that thought came from. Something about the particularly static 2-D art I was surrounded by at the time? Some sort of flatness in my own life, my own paintings? A need to create pieces that engage with space, art that possesses a tactile quality? Some major shift in my own artistic vision?
Well, I’m still making 2-D art. In fact I’m in my studio daily working towards a solo show that opens October 7th. I’ve got a dozen fresh paintings in various states of completion working toward that end. The disgust I felt in that art gallery moment is gone, but the phrase lingers.
Related: I’m back on the clay.
I took a pause from clay for a couple months while launching a downtown shop with my partner. LUCAH has been open for over a month & is now on auto-pilot. Interestingly, we’ve sold just as much local art as antiques.
With 25 lbs of dirt to work with, I decided on a series of Funky Pumpkins. They’re seasonal, easily recognizable as distinct objects, and are decidedly not 2-dimensional. They allow me to play with variations on a single form, all with the shared techniques of wheel-throwing closed forms, altering, refining until they’re smooth, unique & magical.
Are these pumpkins craft or are they art? That’s a conversation I love having with folks. Where is this imaginary demarcation? What makes one thing High-Brow and another Low-Brow? At what point does this line blur so that the arbitrary distinction is rendered moot?
I consider all my creations as Uni-Brow.
Nearly 25 years ago I lived in Killeen, TX. My wife was stationed at Ft. Hood. I was a “Full-Time Artist” & stay-at-home dad. Surrounded by all things military, I of course sought out creative connection. Artists are always around if you look hard enough.
I got involved with the Killeen Civic Arts Guild. They had a co-op gallery nestled in your standard American mall-gone-downhill. One Saturday while working my gallery shift with another artist, she said something that still resonates with me after all these years.
No, it wasn’t: “I’m sick of 2-D art.”
Her name was Ramona Newell Batchelor. She’d been mentored by a guy who made highly detailed technical drawings for NASA or some such. Her realistic art showed a precision. The image that sticks out is a pencil-drawn cowboy on a horse. Both animal and rider twisting in motion. Bodies taut. Dust swirling around hooves. Lasso curling in space around the cowboy.
We chatted about art. About making a living at it. About the tension between manifesting the passion inside us wanting to be freed, versus what might actually sell.
Her mentor, the one who maybe worked for NASA, once told her something. Years later, she told me. I’ve passed this idea on many times to many artists.
“There are the things I have to create. The things that come from here.” And she pressed her fist into her chest, over her heart. She held it there for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 whole silent seconds. “Those are the things I must make.”
She dropped her hand. The intensity in her eyes faded a little, but her sincerity remained the same. “Then there are potboilers.”
I can still feel the confusion on my face.
Ramona Newell Batchelor smiled. “There are your passion projects, yes, always. But then there are other things you can make. Works that people can easily buy. Works that make enough money to keep the pot boiling. Little things that earn the electric & water payments so you can keep boiling potatoes and eat, so you can buy more art supplies.”
“The potboilers allow you to keep making your true art.”
So these are my funky potboiler pumpkins. They’re pleasurable enough to make. I’m excited to see what glaze colors & surface decorations I come up with to make them truly funky. [Hopefully I don’t go so funky as to make them un-potboilerable.]
Early interest at this stage tells me these pumpkins might just help me keep the pot boiling. But I’m in no way convinced that they are craft at all. In fact, they feel as true as any other art I’ve ever made – 2-D or otherwise.
p.s. I searched for Ramona Newell Batchelor online. I sent her a message out of the blue letting her know how much that single day ~25 years ago still means to me. Check out some of her art here: Ramona Newell Batchelor Art