One of my MFA cohort was asked by her Spring mentor: Why do you make art? Why do you work with a particular medium?
She then asked the rest of the cohort why we make art and why we work with certain mediums.
For me, this demanded a critical response. Not a “because I love it” or “because I’m driven to” response. Obviously we love it, or are driven to it on some level, or we wouldn’t be pursuing an MFA. We wouldn’t continue making work.
What I asked myself in response was, why do I really do it? What is the method and methodology behind my studio practice?
Why I make work:
I subscribe to the idea of artist as scientist, or artist as philosopher.
I enter my laboratory (studio) in order to investigate a specific problem or hypothesis. I conduct tests, run experiments and analyze raw material in the process of developing theories. My investigative methods unearth ways of presenting visual data as conclusions, or data as open investigations, often allowing me to work through broader social and philosophical issues. I then present my results to the world in whatever form they need to take.
I make work, therefore, as a method of investigating a specific problem, a hypothesis, a whirl of ideas and associations. As a science-detective, I’m digging for connectivity, unexpected relationships, vetting my original, predicted outcomes and finding ways to present this new information to the viewer. The work is a kind of infographic, in a way, a process that allows me to present ideas for consideration (or entry). Sometimes the angle is more philosophical, other times it’s a map of connections between disciplines.
Why I make work in my particular medium:
The body of work I came into graduate school with dealt with the emergence of matter (being) from non-matter (non-being) and made use of archaeological method and symbol. Since printmaking is about building layers, laying down the trace, or memory, of the original surface, the medium suited the concept. The viewer peels away the layers, like brushing away dust to find hidden pottery shards. The shards are then combined to generate a form.
For new work, I’ve added photography and digital manipulation, since it’s moving into more 21st century concerns about deep digital space, networking and relationships with constructed geographical and cultural “place.” In this case, printmaking alone does not serve the concept. Appropriation and digital output are necessary to bring it into the right kind of forum for analysis.
For me, the choice of medium is dictated by the concept. I don’t just work in a medium because I feel I’m good at it, or because it’s what I always do. I decide if the medium suits what I’m trying to say. If it does not, I choose the appropriate medium for the job.