As artists some people will ask you to do some interesting things. Hey, will you go to the nursing home to take a picture of my mom? Or will you draw a portrait of my dead dog? Usually it’s safe to just say no. Your picture of their mother will look like their mom currently looks – like she is dying in a nursing home. The dog portrait will look like a dog. It won’t be the most stimulating thing you’ve ever done and you will probably not do it to their standards anyway.
Today’s request was an interesting and heartbreaking one. Last weekend a person was beaten to death in this area. The police need some artistic help making a connection with some fibers and came to a dear friend of mine for assistance (so, I got to help her brainstorm and give hugs). My friend referred the police to Lois Gibson (http://www.loisgibson.com/) one of two full time forensic artists in the state of Texas and someone we have both been to workshops by. I really hope they can get what they need and this person can get justice.
Previously in the week I did have a conceptual breakthrough with the knitting I’ve been doing using sheets. Studies show that we spend roughly one third of our life asleep. If anyone has had a visit from the Kirby vacuum people (or done some bedbug research) you know that in every sleeping moment you are depositing dead skin cells into your bed through your sheets. Dead flesh. In Christianity if one follows the ways of the flesh will lead to spiritual death.
The knitting piece I am working on this semester has a working title of Portrait of a Family Consumed. It will be a large scale hanging and will represent how quickly we could become consumed by the ways of the flesh.
While it’s not offensive or breaking many boundaries (there is no flaming poo, after all) it is honest and insightful - or will hopefully be.
One of the questions this week was about what went through my mind to get my failure/offensive art so offensive. The key was what wouldn’t I create art out of? What would offend and repulse me? One of the issues with my flag piece was that maybe it was still too tame, and I didn’t push the boundaries enough. From then it was a natural conclusion to continue with the flag theme and use materials that repulse me. Like seriously repulse me. From then it was a no brainer. The army men comment stuck in my mind about how it doesn’t need to be about a bunch of army men.. so let’s put those in the pile… and then it kind of became like a ceremony. I was walking through the house collecting these items, and laying them out sort of in order and at hand so I could use them when needed. Woodstock is an inside dog, so every time he goes outside he tends to go strait to the right spot to take care of business. I let him marinate in the house for a little while as I set up all materials and lay everything out. I used my Nikon cool pix camera and set it up on a pile of DVD’s pointed where Woody usually goes, turned the camera on and let it happen. I had to choke back some puke several different times. At one point I just sat back and watched it burn and was thinking about how this did not make me feel like a good person.
It was absurd and profound all at the same time. I realized that if my flag art offends people, then it is bringing their attention to an issue I care deeply about. If they think some art about a flag is awful then they should really just think about what it is our country is doing to itself and see how they feel about that.
This is something that I would never do, so in doing it did I compromise my standards? Did I just succeed at another assignment, and what happens if you don’t like my ‘real’ art? I want my flag pieces to have meaning and substance outside of sensationalism.