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on creativity and christianity

Added on by Jourdan.
As both a committed artist AND a committed Christian, I often feel as if I'm floating somewhere between two extremes. Current culture (and general consensus) tells us the two are mutually exclusive... so for someone like myself, who considers herself fully both one and the other, articulating HOW the two influence each other makes for a somewhat sticky explanation. Will my professors/classmates/etc be able to take the work seriously if they know I'm thinking about Christian themes? What will fellow Christians think about my work if they find out how weirdly sexual it is? My work isn't overtly spiritual in the sense that many "Christian artists" strive for: art-making simply as a mode of worship - it's much more complicated and nuanced than that, and its hard to explain. I'm working on breaking things down (thesis, here I come)... in attempts to better articulate how my faith and belief in Christian theology really is central to my studio practice. And in the same manner I am perpetually reminded of how this urge to create, to make something of the world, is simply an expression of my humanness. I am made in the image of the Creator, therefor I too shall create.

Below are some books I've been reading... some of the better ones on the subject, I think.

"Creativeness is a work of man's God-like freedom, the revelation of the image of the Creator within him."
Nicolas Berdyaev in The Meaning of the Creative Act (p. 93) 

"Culture is the result of man's creative activity within God-given structures. So it can never be something apart from our faith. All our work is ultimately directed by our answer to the question of who - or what - our God is, and where for us the ultimate source of all reality and life lies. So our resulting 'culture' can never be something separate from our 'faith.' This is just as true for those that do not acknowledge the true God, the Creator: their cultural activity is coloured by their basic non-Christian faith. For the Christian the problem remains of how we have to deal with the culture around us, often the fruit of a non-Christian point of departure. But then this is dealt with at length and depth in the Bible itself: it is even one of the main concerns, and bound up with its teaching on sin, redemption, and sanctification."          
 Hans Rookmaaker in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (p.36)
"We make sense of the world by making something of the world. The human quest for meaning is played out in human making: the finger-painting, omelet-stirring, chair-crafting, snow-swishing activities of culture. Meaning and making go together - culture, you could say, is the activity of making meaning."

"But aside from the rare exceptions, religion is seldom mentioned in the art world unless it is linked to criticism, ironic distance, or scandal. Art critical of religion is itself criticized by conservative writers, and it is noted with interest by art critics, but sincerely religious art tends to be ignored by both kinds of writers. An observer of the art world might well come to the conclusion that religious ideas are not relevant to art unless they are treated with skepticism."

sartre on the pre-sexual nature of holes (i'm freaking out right now)

Added on by Jourdan.
... it should be said that I can now see more clearly something that I've long guessed at: pre-sexuality. The Freudians rightly saw that the innocent action of the child who plays at digging holes was not so innocent at all. Nor that which consists in sliding one's finger into some hole in a door or wall. They related it to the faecal pleasures which children take in being given or administering enemas. And they weren't wrong. But the core of the matter remains unclear: must all such experiences be reduced to the sole experience of anal pleasure? I shall point out that this supposes a mysterious divination of instinct: for the child who holds back his faeces in order to enjoy the pleasure of excretion has no means of guessing that he has an anus, nor that this anus presents a similarity with the holes into which - immediately - he seeks to put his fingers. In other words, Freud will consider that all holes, for the child, are symbolic anuses which attract him as a function of that kinship - whereas for my part I wonder whether the anus is not, in the child, an object of lust because it is a hole. 
 And certainly the arsehole is the most alive of holes, a lyrical hole, which puckers like a brow, which tightens in the way a wounded beast contracts, which finally gapes - conquered and ready to yield up its secrets. It is the softest and most hidden of holes, what you will - I have nothing against the Freudians composing hymns to the anus - but it remains the case that the cult of the hole is anterior to that of the anus, and that it is applied to a larger number of objects. And I'm quite prepared to grant that it gradually becomes imbued with sexuality, but I imagine that it is initially pre-sexual: in other words, that it contains sexuality in the undifferentiated state and extends beyond it. I think that the pleasure a child takes in giving enemas (numerous are those who play at doctor to have this pleasure: in my own case, one of my earliest memories is of my grandmother's arms raised to the heavens in a hotel-room at Seelisburg, because she'd just caught me in the middle of giving an enema to a little Swiss girl of my own age) is pre-sexualL it's the pleasure of poking into a hole. And the 'poking into a hole' situation is itself pre-sexual. By this we mean it is neither psychological nor historical; it does not suppose any connection, realized in the course of human experience, between orifices and our desires. 
But as soon as man appears in the world, the holes, the cracks, all the excavations that surround him become human. The world is a kingdom of holes. I see, in fact, that the hole is bound up with refusal, with negation and with Nothingness. The hole is first and foremost what is not. This nihilating function of the hole is revealed by such vulgar expressions heard here as 'arsehole with no buttocks' - which means 'naught' or 'nothingness'. To call an enemy an 'arsehole with no buttocks' is to annihilate him, to treat him as an empty idiot, a zero. For in popular imagery, of course, the buttocks form the rims of the anus. I notice, to, that people are bothered by the idea of the bottom of the hole. They talk about a 'well of stupidity', and about 'bottomless stupidity'. There is a seductive ambiguity here, a kind of shimmering of the finite and the infinite; in ever hole one expects to find a bottom - since it has rims - but on the other hand Nothingness is an infinite, since it could be bounded only by itself. So there is a lure of Nothingness - an ambiguous lure. Whence the game of hidey-hole. To enter a hidey-hole is originally to bury oneself in a hole, to annihilate oneself by identifying with the void that constitutes a hole. To protect oneself, it will be said. No doubt. But to protect oneself by annihilating oneself, by withdrawing into the invisible. 
Thus the hole's nothingness is a nothingness of man; it is at once death and freedom, negation of the social. One day I say a Fredian mother gazing tenderly at her little daughter crouched on all fours under the table. She was convinced that this liking of the child's for dark hidey-hole was a desire to return to the pre-natal state; she felt flattered, as if the child were knocking at her door and wished to return to the intimacy of her womb. I suppose she was already preparing to part her legs. But this is all nonsense. The vertiginous thrill of the hole comes from the fact that it proposes annihilation, it rescues from facticity. This nothingness is the attractive element in what is properly termed 'vertigo'. The abyss is a hole, it proposes engulfment. And engulfment always attracts, as a nihilation which would be its own foundation. Of course, attraction for the hole is accompanied by repulsion and anguish. But the hol's nothingness is coloured; it's a black nothingness, which causes another nature to intervene here, another cardinal category - Night. The nature of the hole is nocturnal. That's what confers upon its shady, mysterious, sacred character. And precisely because it is nocturnal, it conceals. Daytime holes are slishes of night. In the depths of the night there is something. The hole is sacred because it conceals. It is moreover, the occasion of a contact with what one doesn't see. The particular situation of the man who delves into a hole is that his hands meets enemies which his eyes cannot see. His ares are still in the kingdom  of light, but a whole blind part of himself has already gone down to hell. 
I have already mentioned that the hole is often resistance. It must be forced, in order to pass throguh. Thereby, it is already feminine. It is resistance by Nothingness, in other words modesty. This is obviously why it attracts sexuality (will to power, rape, etc.). But at the same time, in the act of poking into a hole - which is rape, breaking in, negation - we find the workman's act of plugging the hole. The child who sticks his finger into a hole in the ground experience the joy of (ful-)filling the hole. In a sense, all holes plead obscurely to be filled, they are appeals: to fill = triumph of the full over the empty, of existence over Nothingness. What is involved here is a craftsman's act. Expressions like 'plugging the gaps' or 'stop-gap' indicate clearly enough the human concern to achieve plentitude - in contrast with the vertiginous thrill of annihilation that is black magic. 
To plug a hole is to transform the empty into the full, and thereby, magically, to create material possessing al the features of the holed substance. If I plug a hole in a brick wall with earth, I have made a brick out of earth. Whence the tendency to plug holes with one's own substance, which brings about identification with the holes substance and, finally, metamorphosis. The child who sticks his finger into a hole in the ground becomes one with the ground which he plugs; he transforms himself into earth by his finger. 
At the root of these sorceries I rediscover the craftsman's idea of fitting-together - primitive aspect of necessity. Two bodies which fit together are made for each other. Fitting together magically entails fusion. One can see that the nature of the hole (pre-sexual_ will be very well suited to polarize almost all of sexuality, when the child will be able to think that he himself is the hole which is penetrated, on on the contrary that he can penetrate and plug with his own flesh a hole which lives hidden in a living body. But one can also see that - far from sexuality giving to holes its appeal for the child - it is, ont he contrary, the categorical nature of the hole that will constitute the basic layer of signification for the various species of sexual hole: vagina, anus, mouth, etc. And this doesn't at all mean the hole is not in itself an object of sexuality. It must be noted, however: 1. this this sexuality is undifferentiated, fused in the ensemble of human tendencies and of the human attitude towards the hole; 2. that it isn't directed to the hole derivatively, because the latter's analogy with the anus, but directly as constituent of its very structure. The hole - nocturnal female organ of nature, skylight to Nothingness, symbol of chaste and violated refusals, mouth of shadow which engulfs and assimilates - reflects back to man the human image of his own possibilities, like sliminess or flakiness. There can be - there is - human enjoyment that is not properly speaking sexual in filling a hole, just as there's a human enjoyment in scratching a flaky substance and breaking pieces off.
from War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phony War (1939-40) by Jeane-Paul Sartre - p. 149-152

the world as sculpture

Added on by Jourdan.

I came across this book this weekend in Philadelphia's Free Library... and it so so SO very good! I spent hours poring over a chapter called The Education of the Sense: Child's Play - which talks about early Montessori schools and their emphasis on TOUCH - "The lost paradise of touch could be regained." I love this quote by Walter Benjamin...
Children are particularly fond of haunting any site where things are being visibly worked upon... In using these things they do not so much imitate the works of adults as bring together, in the artifact produced in play, materials of widely differing kinds in a new intuitive relationship. Children thus produce their own small world of things within a greater one.                                                                                    
                                                                                                          Walter Benjamin
This reminds me VERY MUCH of some of the things Nikolas Berdyev has to say about "man as microcosm" in his book, The Meaning of the Creative Act.

The next chapter, which I didn't get to finish (the library was closing, and I don't live in PA so I couldn't take it with me) is called HOLLOWS AND BUMPS IN SPACE! This is thesis  material, no doubt - right up my alley. Hall suggests that while the Neo-Classicists were obsessed with surfaces, the Modernists have been obsessed with orifices.

I love holes... they're a means of escape or access. They're sexual. Holes are really interesting because they're not there. I like the joke about the guy who dug the holes out of the ground and put them on a truck.                    
                                                                                                                      Damien Hirst

Thinking about holes in this way is also making me think about CONTRANYMS - words with 2 definitions that are opposites of eachother... ex. CLEAVE - means both to bring together AND to divide... hmmmm

The first hole made through a piece of stone is a revelation. The hole connects one side to the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional. A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as solid mass... The mystery of the hole - the mysterious fascination of caves in hillsides and cliffs.
                                                                                                                      Henry Moore

This has me thinking a lot about POSITIVE and NEGATIVE space...

reading this

Added on by Jourdan.

I found this book at a used bookstore a few months back - without a clue as to how good it would be. I've only read the first 60 pages, but so far it is SO GOOD. Something like philosophy, theology, creativity, and anthropology all balled up into one.... "ANDTHROPODICY by means of creativeness"
The Meaning of the Creative Act is a seminal work for Nikolas Berdyaev. It adumbrates a number of crucially important themes that he develops in his later works, notably creative freedom as an essential element of human life and human creativeness as complementary to God's creativeness. Berdyaev's aim is to sketch out an "anthropodicy," a justification of man (as opposed to a theodicy, a justification of God); man is to be justified on the basis of his creative acts, inasmuch as he is a creature who is also a co-creator in God's work of creation. This is how Berdyaev puts it: "God awaits from us a creative act."
"In essence, creativity is a way out, an exodus; it is a victory."

on genetic variety and the human body

Added on by Jourdan.
I picked up this book a while back at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia (one of my most favorite places ever) and have been totally engrossed with it for the past few days. It goes into the science of how weird things happen to certain people- why some folks are born with deformities, how some oddities develop over time... and does so with such an unassuming clarity. It's like one minute you're reading a fanciful storybook about some fascinating creature and the next minute you're looking through a microscope at malformed/mutated cells/genes in attempts to determine the cause of such conditions. Perhaps it will inform my work somehow...

 I can't get Asger Carlsen's manipulated photographs out of my mind...

I spent some time yesterday watching this movie (see below)... Freaks - made in 1932. Two people mentioned it to me in one day, so I figured it was a must-see. All the characters/actors are true circus "freaks." I hate using that word in that way...

surreal babies?! am i dreaming??

Added on by Jourdan.

I just ordered this book and can't wait for its arrival!! Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an odd fascination with babies... and that coupled with my burgeoning interest in surrealism has me very much looking forward to learning more about this collection of kooky postcards from the 1920-30's.
^ I think this must have to be my favorite! haha! ^

Here's the description given on
Babies hatch from eggs, bubble from cauldrons, are fished from rivers, emerge in the cabbage patch, sit atop clouds, and ride in zeppelins. They play instruments, drive automobiles, fly in balloons, harvest the fields; an anarchistic world of baby heaven.

The postcards were a source of inspiration to many artists in the 1920s and '30s, in particular to both the Dadaists and the Surrealists. They were collected by Paul Éluard, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Hannah Höch, Herbert Bayer, and Man Ray. The popular images excited inspiration in these artists because of their boundless inventiveness.

These remind me SO much of this Disney Silly Symphonie film from 1935!!

merry christmas to me

Added on by Jourdan.

 I may or may not have an art book addiction. Thanks to some amazon gift cards gifted by loved ones, I now own these books. yay! click on images to learn more!

speaking of books

Added on by Jourdan.
I recently finished Seven Days in the Art World, an entertaining, non-fictional look into the various facets of the "art world" and all of its complexity. I highly recommend it - especially for artists, but not exclusively. Many artists, and art professionals, have loved ones who know nothing of the hard-to-explain world we inhabit (or hope to one day) - I can't help but think that reading this book may be an entertaining way to help them understand - or at least make them realize that they don't.
"Art and business, personal quests and personality cults, big bucks and the triumph of concept over beauty, being cool and in the know—these are the cardinal points in the contemporary art world. Enter Thornton, an art historian and sociologist with moxie and a brilliant game plan. Willing to ask obvious questions, she infiltrates the seven circles of this competitive realm. An astute observer and stimulating storyteller whose crisp sentences convey a wealth of information, Thornton marvels at the military precision of a Christie’s auction and the wild improvisation of an art-school critique.  On to Art Basel, a major international art fair where the “hard buy” rather than the hard sell is the rule since an artist’s reputation is tied to those who own his or her work. Thornton witnesses the final stage in the judging and presentation of the Turner Prize, watches editors at work at Artforum, attends the coveted Venice Biennale, and spends a dizzying day with the wizardly artist-entrepreneur Takashi Murakami. Thornton’s uniquely clarifying dispatches from the art front glimmer with high-definition profiles of artists, dealers, critics, and collectors, and grapple with the paradoxes inherent in the transformation of creativity into commodity." --Donna Seaman's review for 

While we're on the subject... Steve Martin's (yes the actor!) fictional, brow-raising tale of the art world is equally as entertaining (perhaps even moreso). It follows the exploits of a young, ambitious female art dealer and offers a slightly more cynical view of that side of spectrum. A great read! CLICK HERE to read the NY Times' review of the novel.

art as experience

Added on by Jourdan.
I'm currently reading this book, Art as Experience... it's beautifully written and seems to relate to my work in so many ways. I've only read the first few chapters, so I can't give it a full review just yet, but I can tell already that I'm going to need to get my own copy - it's a text I'll be referring to often. I find it to be so relevant to the art of today, which is quite impressive considering it was written in the 1930's! This wikipedia article is quite informative if you're interested in learning more about the book!

 "Impulsions are the beginnings of complete experiences because they proceed from need; from a hunger and demand that belongs to the organism as a whole and that can be supplied only by instituting definite relations (active relations, interactions) with the environment. The epidermis is only in the most superficial way an indication of where an organism ends and its environment begins. There are things inside the body that are foreign to it, and there are things outside of it that belong to it de jure, if not de facto; that must, that is, be taken possession of if life is to continue... The need that is manifest in the urgent impulsions that demand completion through what the environment - and it alone - can supply, is a dynamic acknowledgment of this dependence of the self for wholeness upon its surroundings."
from John Dewey's Art as Experience
chapter 4 - The Act of Expression - p. 59

on public art and site-specificity

Added on by Jourdan.
"... having lost its longstanding faith in the power of architecture and urban design to positively affect the quality of life in social terms, public art has reaffirmed its desire to impact the lives of (non-art) constituencies by other means. Instead of addressing the physical conditions of the site, the focus is now on engaging the concerns of those who occupy a given site."
This book has helped shape my understanding of site-specificity. I often refer to my installations as "site-specific" but I now see that this description is fully loaded and means much more than that the piece was designed for a specific physical location. I am making a point to catch my tongue and instead use terms like "site-based" and "site-responsive," which are, yes, very similar, but now seem better-suited to the type of work I'm doing.

I was excited to read, in this book, about Mary Jane Jacob's curatorial project, Places With a Past, an exhibition that took place in Charleston for the 1991 Spoleto Festival and is still being discussed today. The New York Times said the project may have been "the most moving and original exhibition of contemporary art in the United States" that season. Wow! Jacob brought big-time artists like Ann Hamilton and Antony Gormly to Charleston, which is cool enough on its own, but that fact that this show has had such an impact on site-specific art in general just makes it all the cooler.

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Jane Jacob when she returned to Charleston to curate the Halsey's annual juried student show, Young Contemporaries. She is also on the sculpture faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

PINK: the exposed color of contemporary art & culture

Added on by Jourdan.
I was very excited to finally receive this book in the mail a few days back. I've been thinking a lot about the color pink and its uses in my own work, so I was thrilled to find this book on the subject. This thick pink velvety book is made up primarily of images of, what else... pink art. I was a little underwhelmed by the small amount of writing found inside which consisted of a few essays, some better than others. The over-arching theme is that of the color pink's various contradictions. Barbara Nemitz pretty much sums this idea up in her introductory paragraph saying...

"The qualities we associate with the pastel color pink are quite diverse. They range from sensitive, tender, youthful, artificial or unreal to eccentric, vulnerable, and pleasurable. The color is at home in both "high" and "low" culture... What is unique about pink is that it is assertive in whatever context it appears."

She goes on to discuss the color's rare significance in nature and its ever-presence in and on our physical bodies, which are composed of all things pink. She also discusses the ephemerality of the color. "Pink is fleeting," she says, referring not only to the short life-span of blossoms on plants, but also more visceral things, like the blush of our cheeks.

In my work I've been thinking a lot about the color pink and it's significance in relation to my concepts. I like to think the the color's contradictory nature contributes to what I'm doing in my work. I like to create biomorphic forms that appear to be from nature, but constuct them in a way that is highly fabricated and man-made. This idea is furthered by the materials I choose, which tend to be synthetic and manufactured, yet somehow evoking the natural environment.

Enough about me. Here are some of my favorite images from the book...

visionary environments

Added on by Jourdan.
Santa brought my mom the Outsider Art Source Book. I'm typically not as into folk art as she is, but I found the book to be quite interesting, particularly the section on "visionary environments." Here are some of my favorites...

Adolphe Julien Foure
Les Rochers Sculptes, Rotheneuf
Saint-Malo, Brittany, France

Richard Greaves
Quebec, Canada

Karl Junker
Lemgo, Germany

John Milkovisch
The Beercan House
Houston, Texas

Leonard Knight
Salvation Mountain
Niland, California, USA

I only just now remembered that my professor/adviser Mark Sloan (director and curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art) has co-written a book on this very subject, entitled Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Folk Art Environments. Perhaps I should try to get my hands on a copy!